EDUCATION FOR SOCIAL COHESION: PROMOTING 1R+3R THROUGH SCHOOL CURRICULUM

Puay Liu Ong, Sivapalan Selvadurai, Puay Hoon Ong, Mohd Asyraf Ariff Mohd Najib

Abstract


This article is part of an ongoing project on education for social cohesion. The article aims to present the findings of fieldwork carried out in selected primary and secondary schools in four States in Malaysia (Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Kelantan). The aspects to be discussed are the views of the student-respondents regarding the meaning of school and benefit of schooling, the subjects that enable them to learn, know about and respect their own religion, community and home state, as well as other religions, communities and other states in Malaysia. Data analysis will be based on a spatial framework to see if there are differences between States, rural-urban, and types of schools. Education and the schooling system in Malaysia are constant agenda in the discourse of nation-building and national unity. This is because education is regarded as an important avenue to inculcate national consciousness and social cohesion among the people. However, in a multi-ethnic country like Malaysia, it is important to have an education system that promotes inclusion and participation of all citizens, where diversity of learners is recognised and acknowledged. An inclusive education aiming to promote social cohesion, that is, greater understanding, respect and interaction among students of diverse backgrounds, should be grounded on these four principles/pillars of education: learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together. As social beings, students need to learn to interact and relate with people from different backgrounds. The school is thus an important avenue to learn about diversity and how to live with such diversity. What is the relevance and effectiveness of the education system if it is unable to provide the basic requirements to train the students about the four learning pillars? The demographic plurality of Malaysia calls for our education system to provide such opportunities for our young generation to learn and know more about themselves and others. In the context of social cohesion, failure to take into account the diversity of the national population, and exclusion of some ethnic populations from the schooling and education system, will give a one-sided picture of the real demographic situation. The school as an important educational institution can be the place to foster respect and sense of responsibility towards others. In short, does the education system produce students who are ‘academically-literate’ (competent in 3Rs – reading, writing, arithmetic) so as to serve as manpower resource for the labour market? Or, does the education system also play the role of producing ‘culturally-literate’ students, who are competent in 1R + 3r [Relationship + recognise, respect and reconcile)? The findings of the research project indicate that the education system in Malaysia serves the dual role of providing academic competence (3R) and inter-cultural understanding (1R+3r). Through the responses of the student-respondents, irrespective of type of school (national, national-type, private; primary, secondary; rural, urban), we can say that there is hope for our schools to develop the four learning pillars and the value of 1R+3r among our young generation through the school curriculum.


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