Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik has been receiving tonnes of negative comments ever since he took on the portfolio. In July, he announced that all white school shoes would be changed to black so that students would no longer need to spend hours to wash them every week. Last month, he proposed that leisure hotels should open their swimming pools for students to learn how to swim.
Both of which have been used to ridicule him by fellow Malaysians and other politicians, especially the latter.
However, one of the Education Ministry’s employees couldn’t stand the pressure and the good intents behind Dr Maszlee’s implementations. Therefore, she took it to Facebook to shed some lights on the conundrums the Ministry faces.
Suet Li Liew said she was offered a job in the Ministry seven months ago after Pakatan Harapan came into power. Excited over the New Malaysia euphoria, she accepted the offer from the Ministry without second thoughts despite not knowing how much she would be paid.
“…because I truly, truly believed all my experiences and passion for education have led me to this point. I’m on the cusp of history and a chance at real reforms like this don’t come often,” wrote Liew on the 675-word viral post.
Liew said when she met with Dr Maszlee, they had an extensive talk on the visions the Ministry wishes to see changed in Malaysia education system.
“I’m extremely critical generally, and I didn’t agree to all his ideas, but most of them are very aligned to what I wanted,” said Liew, which are a higher education quality, more autonomy and accountability among students and an education that educates holistically.
She said these visions require drastic structural and cultural changes, which are difficult tasks but “sorely needed”. She said Dr Maszlee also aims to instil strong anti-corruption notions into the students, something he described as a quality that has disappeared in our leaders.
“But as most of you know, things have been extremely rough especially for him since we took office.
“He’s been accused of petty ideas because he thought black shoes would help students and parents to not have to worry about having to constantly scrub and whiten their shoes (not knowing that it’ll be such a big deal).
“He was laughed at because he thought life-saving and swimming skills are crucial in light of the hundreds of lives we lose to drowning cases every year (500+ kids a year).”
She continued saying that those issues were what people only focus on but when the Ministry talked about something more complex, such as instilling autonomy in decision-making in schools, providing educations to everyone including those undocumented children, cultivating values through education and more, she said “these things just fly past people’s heads.”
“We’ve inherited a large and messy Ministry with layers upon layers to untangle before we can introduce new changes.
“There are thousands of people in this Ministry and hundreds of thousands of teachers and lecturers, many of whom are tired of constant changes every time a new leadership comes in,” Liew said as she questioned how the Ministry could handle the expectation from the stakeholders and the public.
She added that she appreciated the experience working in the highest level of public service but she said she didn’t know the job would be so “demoralizing”.
The academic who graduated from the United States and England said the Ministry is putting a lot of time to course-correct the public perception, thus shifting the efforts away from the issues that really matter.
“I sometimes look at the Minister and wish he didn’t say the things he said, but I saw the small corner he was pushed into every single time and wondered if I would’ve reacted the same.
“This game of politics and perception is breaking him apart, and slowly doing the same to all of us here too.”
She admitted to thinking of giving up the job and go back her old life as she watches “the painful circus from afar” but she couldn’t cross herself into allowing some children not having a school to go to, or students who fail throughout their years in primary and secondary schools, or the funds that have disappeared when channelled into the schools, and among others.
She ended the post by thanking netizens for reading and words of encouragement. She said she would appreciate any constructive advice and wisdom in the comments.
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