Last night it was my son Kevin’s award ceremony held at the Grand Stand in Flenmington Racecourse. While waiting for the ceremony to begin I can feel a sense of joy and growth in confidence that moving my kids to Melbourne is worth all our efforts despite having to leave our comfort zone and giving up our careers in Malaysia.

I was really impressed by the opening speech delivered by Christopher Stock, the Principal of Emmanuel College especially with his following remarks:

1. Our aim is to help the young women and men of the College to be their best and become highly functioning, resilient and successful adults in a world characterized by change – adults who can think independently and make a meaningful contribution in society.

2. Our focus with students is on their development as a whole person, their growth in strong values and in care and consideration for others, particularly those who need our help.

3. Academic achievement is an important part of students being their best. Learning how to learn, gaining feedback on learning progress, and setting new learning goals are important components of students achieving excellence, their personal best.

4. We are what we repeatedly do – excellence is not an art but a habit. Working in partnership with parents, we aim to develop the habit of excellence in the young men and women of the College in helping them live life to the full.

He has pointed out that success is not about individual achievement in gaining high position and makes tons of money, but make meaningful contributions to the community extending a helping hand to those who are less fortunate. That’s the true meaning to live life to the full.

This is totally in contrast to what I have been taught as a kid in the 80s as I remembered growing up in a culture that emphasizes on personal achievement and secure a job that pays tons of money. Caring for society is noble, but definitely not a priority because we are too poor to give living in the third world country. May be the previous generations before me have been deprived from all the good stuff we are enjoying today or they have been affected by years of living as an underprivileged second class citizen in Malaysia. I presumed living as a marginalized minority means extra efforts are needed to make ends meet so this has created a culture of less caring for those who are less fortunate or perhaps the majority of them are Bumiputras who has access to special rights in Malaysia so why should we bother to help.

But my point is, has Malaysia changed since I was a kid? I think the country has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources and benefited from the economic prosperity of the 90s, therefore we can afford to be a more caring. But instead of instilling our kids with strong values and in care and consideration for others, they are splitting them because of racial and religious difference. You hear non-Muslim students were forced to take their lunch in the toilet instead of at the canteen. Recently it was alleged that some national school officials took matters into their hands by dividing non-Muslim and Muslim kids in different classes instead of integrating students from various backgrounds to study together. Are they teaching our kids strong values and in care and consideration for others? I think the answer is obvious and my kids are far better off growing up in the school that is free of racial hatred and not subject to influence by those who are trapped by backward thinking and easily manipulated by BN political propaganda.

The post by YB Lim Kit Siang challenging the government by asking this question “Are your kids abroad because our education system ‘sucks’?” which I have shared on my Facebook page has garnered reading interest of 1,418 people. It is so unreal to have our Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, to claim that the Malaysian education system was better than that of the United States, Britain and Germany, but in reality all top BN leaders are lacking faith in the national education system. Lim said it was an open secret that Cabinet ministers have for a long time sent their children to private and international schools where English is the teaching medium. The DAP veteran asked if it was because “Malaysia’s education system sucks” and that Malaysian schools have continued to trail behind in the bottom third of countries surveyed in a number of international assessments. “I have been informed that one of the first things a minister in the Najib Cabinet did on his appointment was to transfer one of his children to an international school,” Lim claimed in a statement.

It is also a known fact that Malaysia’s poor education system is far more worrying than household debt. This is because the country’s substandard education system would affect the pool of skilled talent it needs to grow its economy to become a high income nation, while high household debt is not necessarily a problem if the economy continues to grow and citizens are gainfully employed as pointed out by Dr Frederico Gil Sander, the Wolrd Bank economist. He said Malaysians should be “alarmed” that their children were doing worse in school than children in Vietnam, a country that is poorer than Malaysia. Malaysia’s poor PISA results spotlighted the weakness of Malaysia’s school system, despite the fact that education gets the largest share of funds every year from the national budget. Critics have also questioned the real worth of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) which produces many students who scored As, but who can’t compete with their peers from Singapore, China and Taiwan.

It was also reported by OECD that Malaysia had more than half of the share of low achievers, which means the students tested lacked the skills needed in a modern workplace. In contrast, Singapore only had 8% share of low achievers. This showed that only one out of 100 Malaysian students, aged 15, is able to solve the most complex problems, compared with one in five in Singapore, Korea and Japan. Asian countries like Korea, Japan, Macau-China, Hong Kong-China, Shanghai-China and Chinese Taipei make up the top seven of the list. Students from Canada, Australia, Finland, England, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, the United States and Belgium all scored above the average. “Today’s 15-year-olds with poor problem-solving skills will become tomorrow’s adults struggling to find or keep a good job,” said Andreas Schleicher, acting Director of Education and Skills at OECD.

The Times Higher Education (THE) top 200 global rankings show Malaysian universities again failed to make the cut to this year, while our southern neighbor Singapore’s National University leapt into the top 25 schools list. The latest index shows a significant drop from last year’s ranking where Malaysia’s second-oldest tertiary school Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) at least made it to Asia’s top 100 list at 87th spot. During my time in the 80s only the top notch students from my school are able to secure a precious space in the local universities and an average performer like me being fortunate enough to receive higher education overseas in the UK. After 25 years instead of growing from strength to strength our local universities have not only lost their shine in the international arena but scored bottom in the global ranking. What a shame. The more I read about the stuff appearing in the media the more I felt sorry for the next generation having to bear with the leaders without foresight and do not take their interest at heart.

I have also witnessed the contrasting difference between the Australian politicians and Malaysian politicians. Jill Hennessy, who is the State Member for Altona District in the Victorian Parliament, has also delivered her speech as the guest speaker of the night. One notable difference is, unlike her Malaysian counterparts who just read from the scripct and half the time do not even realize what they are talking about whereas her speech was very inspiring and she spoke freely with an open mind. She was able to connect with the students by sharing her past experience in school and how she has overcome her challenges turning to a successful lawyer. So what is my point? Well, this proves a point that the students here are trained to develop their lateral thinking so that they can communicate more effectively. Obviously, without a doubt that you can see a huge difference judging from how the Aussie authorities handled MH370 incident compared to their Malaysian counterparts .

We were told that some of the Year 12 award recipients are absent tonight because they are in Cambodia doing community works to help out the poor and needy in Phonm Penh. At such a young age the kids here are exposed to strong values with care and consideration for others, particularly those who needed help. I am deeply touched by their good deed and strongly believed that this is the right path to build credible and caring future leaders.

I believe my kids now are in good hands and glad that they are also given the opportunity of learning a new culture. I truly believe that if my kids still remain in Malaysia they will never have the opportunity to pick up the experience of living life to the fullest. So this reaffirms that we have made the right choice, bringing our kids here in Australia.

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