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The National Philosophy of Education (NPE) was formulated in 1988 after the Cabinet Committee Report on the review of the implementation of educational policies. The NPE is the outline of the goals, policies and educational practices of our country's educational system. The NPE states that:
"Education in Malaysia is an on-going effort towards developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonious, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God. Such an effort is designed to produce Malaysian citizens who are knowledgeable and competent, who possess high moral standards and who are responsible and capable of achieving a high level of personal well-being as well as being able to contribute to the betterment of society and the nation at large."
According to the NPE, education is an on-going process. Education is a lifelong process of acquiring and transferring of knowledge and skills from early age until death. Early childhood education is important for the character building of young children besides preparing them for their formal education at the primary level. The individual's character building continues throughout their formal schooling. Most of the individuals pursue their studies at the tertiary level upon completion of their formal education to deepen their knowledge in the specialised areas of their choices while individuals who do not opt for tertiary education enter the workforce. Individuals are encouraged to learn new knowledge and skills autonomously for self-enrichment and lifelong learning purposes. Lifelong learning enables learners to adapt to various kinds of societal demands and future challenges.
Developing the potentials of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner is one of the goals of Malaysian educational system stipulated in the NPE. Every individual has his or her hidden talents, potentials and abilities. These hidden talents, potentials and abilities might originate from any of the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains. These hidden talents, potentials and abilities should be discovered and realised to the fullest to enable such individuals to contribute to the society. Without education, these talents, potentials and abilities would not be identified. Holistic education refers to the education which emphasises the production of well-rounded graduates who are competent intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically. Well-rounded graduates hold several characteristics such as being literate, practising moral values and possessing good health. Integrated approach is the simultaneous enhancement of well-rounded graduates' intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical development throughout their formal education. Well-rounded graduates are nurtured with these 4 elements via thematic approach in the overlapped subjects especially languages to ensure complete learning.
Besides, the NPE gives strong emphasis on a firm belief in and devotion to God. Belief in God is found in the first of the 5 principles of the National Ideology or Rukun Negara. The NPE believes that every individual's hidden talents, potentials and abilities are gifts from the God while the National Ideology states that Malaysian citizens should believe in God and accept the God as the creator of the mankind and the universe. Every religion teaches its followers about positive moral and ethical conduct and righteous living. Religious education and the inculcation of moral values are needed to create peace and harmony in a multiracial society. Therefore, Islamic Education and Moral Education are incorporated into the Malaysian school curriculum for the spiritual character building of Muslim and non-Muslim students respectively.
The Malaysian educational system aims to produce citizens who are knowledgeable and competent as stated in the NPE. Knowledgeable citizens are literate in languages and science and mathematics upon mastering 3Rs which comprises of reading, writing and arithmetic. Knowledgeable citizens are also able to think critically and creatively. Thinking is a mental process that requires an individual to integrate knowledge, skills and attitude in understanding the environment. A critical thinker always analyses and evaluates an idea in a systematic manner before accepting it. A creative thinker has a high level of imagination and able to generate original and innovative ideas. In line with Malaysia's aspiration of being a future contributor to scientific and technological developments, there is a need to produce citizens who are competent in science and technology. Hence, science becomes a core subject in the Malaysian school curriculum. Science provides students with the essential knowledge and skills in science and technology, thus enables them to solve problems and make decisions in everyday life.
Apart from that, Malaysian citizens who are capable of achieving a high level of personal well-being are to be attained by the Malaysian educational system. A responsible person is trustworthy as he or she is able to perform the assigned tasks sincerely and efficiently besides accepting responsibilities over his or her words and actions. The citizens who are capable of achieving a high level of personal well-being are not only literate, but they possess good communication skills and also physical and mental resilience to face real life challenges. They are able to complete their duties of their personal career and solve problems independently and efficiently together with the essential knowledge and skills possessed. Most importantly, the citizens have to master a balanced proportion of knowledge from academic and vocational subjects as well as curriculum and co-curriculum for well-rounded achievements.
Furthermore, the educational system looks for Malaysian citizens who are able to contribute to the betterment of the society and the nation at large. The citizens are anticipated to be willing to contribute to the society and the nation at large in terms of efforts and time. A productive employee works hard and diligently for the economic growth of the country. A responsible and trustworthy scholar is willing to share his or her knowledge with the others honestly together with adequate evidence for societal betterment. A patriotic citizen strongly abides by his or her country's constitutions and laws and conforms to the societal norms. He or she also strives to foster national unity through tolerance, respect and consideration.
In conclusion, NPE gives the educators a big push to betterment and great improvement by outlining the policy statements and implementation strategies as guidelines in their noble route in impart knowledge to produce well-rounded graduates.