‘Rempitism’ And The Crisis In Malaysian Education – OpEd


Malaysian schools are at risk. Is it now governed by the ideology of ‘rempitism’? What is this ideology? How do we prevent it from destroying the country? What are our educational leaders doing about it? I proposed some remedies based on the relationship between education, economy, and technopoly, but this ideology is of pressing concern.

The Malaysian phenomenon of youths racing illegally on public roads on customised motorbikes after midnight to that rob peaceful citizens of their restful sleep is a phenomenon akin to a capitalist economy of a struggling showcasing Third Word nation, that hypermodernises beyond the ability of its people to cope with its sensationalised designs of ‘economic miracles’.

Both phenomena rest upon idiotic pride and arrogance that endanger a peaceful, ethical and sustainable future. Both present clear and present danger on the equally dangerous highway of globalisation.

A ‘rempitised’ economic and education system ‘rams’ human beings into different ‘pits’ of the conveyer belt of the capitalist production system; creating what looks like a natural progression of meritocracy in education and social evolution. The foundation of this system is neocolonialism, structural violence and the alienation of labour (like participants in the global rat race, mat rempit always want to finish first in the deadly race and be the first to do a wheelie for the world to see).

Is our public education system failing? Is it producing more and more mat rempit, anak Abu, bohsia, bohjan, and alienated youth put at risk by our education system?

Are we creating class systems in education the way we have created varying types of classrooms that correspond to different classes in society? Why are we seeing the tuition industry becoming a billion-ringgit business, helping our children memorising more and more but understanding less and less of what they learn?

Do we have people in the education ministry well-versed enough in analysing the phenomenon of our rempitised economy (speeding it up illegally) and how this is directly related to how we are ‘schooling’ our society?

What is our national agenda in education, not only to ensure no child of any race or religion be left behind but seeing through that they will love learning as a lifelong pursuit? How much planning, scenario-building, analysing, big data-gathering, futuristics-thinking, and innovative strategizing is the Education Ministry doing to address this issue of alienation in schools?

Do we now have an entire system of higher education inheriting the children of our rempitised economy and contributing to the low quality of graduates – who cannot think critically and are always subjected to the whims and fancies of a totalitarian regime only interested in tightening the stranglehold on our universities?

British and American scholars like Paul Willis, Henry Levin, Peter McLaren and Martin Carnoy who studied the phenomena of schooling in capitalist societies observed the nature of the learning process in countries in which the rapid and unreflective industrialisation and post-industrialisation process have created one-dimensional citizens out of youth.

Schooling teaches these children to become good and obedient workers in an economic system that reduces the larger population into labour, while enriching the upper class into people and property-owners in a rempitised economy.

‘What’s lacking in teachers’

Is our education ministry training teachers well in urban education and in the schooling of our at-risk youth? Will it study enough of the issue of class and social reproduction in order to shift the way we think about student success, learning engagement, and closing the achievement gap between the rich and the poor?

Do we actually know the root cause of rempitism and gangsterism in schools, and are we able to design better learning systems for those who are already marginalised and left behind by our rempitised economy? How many schools are today classified as troubled, especially in the infiltration of drugs and drug traffickers in schools?

I have a sense that the cases of gangsterism and bullying of teachers will continue to increase. More private schools will be built and Malaysians will lose confidence in their public schools. More private schools mean more divisions in society. The rich will produce better schools and the poor will be left behind in this rempitised system we have all created in the name of newer versions of the New Economic Policy.

Teachers do not have the necessary concepts and skills to deal not only with millennial children (high-tech, high gadgetry, low attention span, low school-tolerance), but also the rempitised children who have low skills of reading, writing and computing.

Children left behind will be those who become mat and minah rempit and even those alienated at a very young age, in estates and city slums. They will be destructive to the classroom process and will translate their social anger into counter-productive and destructive activities.

These are the ones who will be made criminals as a result of an uncaring education system that criminalises the human mind by placing unmotivated, uncreative and unprepared teachers to develop the untapped geniuses in our classrooms.

Criminals are made, not born. Each child is a gift. It’s how we design the system of equitability, peace, and justice in schooling that will determine the nature of ‘social conveyer belt’ we are using.

Should we rename the mat and minah rempit as mat cemerlang (excellent ones) as suggested by an Umno Youth leader some time ago? Should we build a racing circuit for them to continue drag racing in places such as Johor Bahru and Kuala Terengganu?

I do not think we should. I think those who propose such names and measures of glorification need radical counselling on the meaning of education. I think it shows a clear lack of understanding of the root of the problem. Wrong diagnosis of a social ill.

Rehabilitation programme

I think we should beef up the highway police force and stop illegal drag racing, round up the mat rempit and send them for six-month rehabilitation in rempit camps near Perlis, guarded by graduates of the once glorified National Service.

We should build a safe motorcross clearing/ zones and let them drag-race happily in these areas until they are exhausted.

In between these sessions, we ought to give them a good and safe motorcycle education so that they will understand what it means to ride safely and not endanger the life of others.

We can have the National Civics Bureau write the module so that good indoctrination programmes will be used more on these rempitised youth instead of those who do not need to be indoctrinated into any form of totalitarianism.

Peace-loving, rest-needing, night-sleeping citizens affected by the activities of rempitism will appreciate this radical programme of reconfiguring the mind of the rempitised youth.

‘De-rempitising our schools’

In the meantime, how do we deal with the leadership of the public education system? We need to start by selecting only those who are well-versed in the entire spectrum of education.

We have ministers, educational experts, specialists and educational representatives who either have minimal classroom experience or none at all – let alone have much-needed knowledge in the history, theory, post-structurality and possibilities of education.

We place them in this ministry based on political considerations. They mess things up and show their inability to understand where our youth are heading, or how to design an education system good enough to reflect the dream we have – a dream of a just, equitable, environmentally sustainable, intellectual and ethical society. Regardless of race and ethnicity.

We need the English language, the lingua franca, as the main medium of instruction if we are to succeed in the globalising world.

We are more concerned with having our students and teachers pledge blind loyalty to the signs and symbols of power; one-dimensional thinking; and politically correct behaviour instead of developing, celebrating and further grooming good teachers who can radicalise the minds of the youth of tomorrow.

We force our university students to ceremoniously recite loyalty pledges, and round on those who protest against corruption and social injustice. We have failed to teach them citizenship skills and show them what a good political culture which honours the separation of powers and put the constitution as the most supreme law of the land looks like.

We train the mind to be absurdly obedient, against the backdrop of our speeded-up, hypermodernised economy – one we rempitised in the name of any rebranded New Economic Policy.

The question for us now is: how do we de-rempitise our society?

What kind of educational leadership do we need to address this issue?

Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman is an academician, educator, international columnist, and author of nine books He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master's degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here.

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