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Functionalism is developed by Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer who viewed the society as a living organism that composed of many parts and each part has its own functions. The society is in the "normal" state if all the parts of the society fulfil their roles. Otherwise, if any parts of the society are malfunction, the society is in an "abnormal" or a "pathological" state (Henslin, 2005). At the later time, Robert Merton defined functions as the beneficial consequences of the people's actions. In Henslin's book mentioned that there are two types of functions: "manifest functions which is the intended beneficial consequences of people actions; Latent functions which is the unintended beneficial consequences of people's actions." (p.26).
Functional perspective on education
Functional perspective emphasizes on each part of the society play their roles and serve their functions. Education serves its function in the society as a system to teach knowledge and skills, transmission of values, integrate the society (helping people to be part of the mainstream culture), social placements (channelling people with different abilities into various roles in the society), replacing family functions and as a platform for networking (Henslin, 2005; Theories of Education, n.d.).
Conflict perspective is developed by Karl Marx concluded that the society is a class struggle after he observed and analysed the European society in the Industrial Revolution era. He saw the small group of capitalists (bourgeoisie) is controlling and exploiting the massive group of workers (proletariat). The capitalists are the people who hold political power which is able to subdue the people who rebel. Today, conflict theory can be seen in the relations that involve power. People in authority are trying to enforce rules to foster conformity. As a result, there will be resistance and resentment which creates the struggle of power (Henslin, 2005).
Conflict Perspective on education
Very different from functional perspective, conflict perspective viewed education as a tool with hidden agenda for the elites to secure their status in the society. The hidden curriculum in education contain "unwritten rules of behaviour and attitudes" is taught in the school so that children learn about the "right" way to act and react in the society according to their social status (Henslin, 2005, p. 494).
In analysing the education in Malaysia, I would like to look at the development and impact of the educational philosophy before independence and at the initial years independence compared to after the introduction of education philosophy. After many readings, I realize the pre-independence and at the initial years of independence have set a very strong foundation in our education system. Most phenomenon in the society in Malaysia has significantly owed to early educational policies instead of the later ones.
Malay Peninsular Education System and Philosophy before Independence
Before we look into the impact of Malaysian educational philosophy, let us analyse the history and the development of Malaysian education system. A few years before Malaya's independence, the leaders realize that we need to have comprehensive education system and policies to replace the system that was implemented by the British (Dasar Pendidikan Kebangsaan, 2008).
In the era of British colonization, Chinese and Indian were immigrated in a big scale basis to provide the cheap labour for the economic gain industries like tin and gold mining; agriculture and plantation. According to Lim (1984) and Kratoska (1982) (as cited in Hirschman, 1986), due to land policies, the races are not mingled with either ethnicity. The Malays are encouraged to be in the rural areas, Chinese gathered at mining areas and Indian at plantation areas. Moreover, the British colonial at that time were reinforcing the Malays xenophobic attitudes, and Chinese Indian were thinking that they will go back to their homeland one day, the antagonism attitude is gradually rooted especially among the Malays and Chinese (Hirschman, 1986).
In order to control the people and maximize the economic gain, British was allowing each races to administer their own education system using their own mother tongue in teaching (Masariah, Johara, & Ridzuan , 2009). The establish of vernacular schools is still exist until today.
The education system that British colonials implemented can be explained in both functionalist perspective and conflict perspective perfectly. In the functionalist point of view, the education system at that time is to maintain the social function of every races. The transmission of knowledge and skills to the Malays enable them to be teacher, police and fulfil some low level administrative tasks in government department. In the other hand, curriculum, books and teachers were all from China to support the Chinese communities' education. The function of the Chinese education is to pass down the culture, values and even mentality that one day they will return to their homeland and the British fostered that (Hirschman, 1986). In the other hand, Indian education was remain in the plantation area and using the curriculum, books and teachers from India (Masariah, Johara, & Ridzuan , 2009). The manifest function of the education system in that era is to maintain the social stability and social function of every races in their occupation and contribution in economic system (Santhiram & Tan, 2010).
Although different school system is allowed, the British did not prepare middle school for the Malays because their intention was to remain the Malays as farmers and fishermen. The existing education at that time only allowed the Malays to perform low level tasks (Santhiram & Tan, 2010). Furthermore, as Chinese school bloomed like the mushroom after the rain, the British implemented The Enactment of School Enrolment 1920 to control the development of Chinese schools (Masariah, Johara, & Ridzuan , 2009).
Obviously, the British colonial has the hidden curriculum for the people as according to the conflict perspective. "Education was seen as a mechanism of social maintenance rather than a social mobility" (Hirschman, 1986, p. 350). According to Wertheim (1968) (as cited in Hirschman, 1986), the society is moulded according to racial basis to maintain the white upper caste prestige and power. Therefore, education is served as a system to introduced or even maintained the teaching of obedience to authority and conformity to preserve the white caste status and power (Hirschman, 1986; Henslin, 2005; Masariah, Johara, & Ridzuan , 2009).
The impact of British Education philosophy is deep rooted in the people of Malaysia even after more than 50 years of independence. From the study done by Hirschman (1986), he concluded that despite we are now rejecting the superiority of the white castes and the stereotyping of own community, we still tend to accept the "unfounded generalization of innate racial differences about other communities". Racial ideologies are still governing the actions of Malay and non-Malay leaders until today (Hirschman, 1986).
Malaysian Educational Development and Reformation upon Independence
Upon independence of Malaya, the leaders realized we need a national institution to foster a common knowledge using a common language and unite the different communities of the society (Hirschman, 1986). The first effective implemented policy is Education Ordinance 1957 based on the Razak Report 1956. The main philosophy of Razak Report 1956 is same education system with consistent national curriculum for all the citizen to foster unity from different racial communities (Ramlah, Shakila, Abdul, & Muslimin, 2010).
Therefore, according to the Razak Report 1956, there are two main stream of school: national school using Malay language as medium of instruction and national-type school using English, Mandarin and Tamil as medium of instruction. For secondary schools, Malay and English language is used as language of instruction for Malay and English secondary school respectively. However, both language had to be taught in both main stream secondary schools (Pong, 1995 ; Ramlah, Shakila, Abdul, & Muslimin, 2010).
On 1960, the Rahman Talib Report suggested a few more addition to the Razak Report. The addition are all children regardless of race and religion are given free primary education; Conversion of all English-medium primary school into Malay-medium primary school by compulsory change of Malay language as the language of instruction for all the English-Medium school; Malay language will be the official language for all the public examination (Ramlah, Shakila, Abdul, & Muslimin, 2010).
On 1961, Education Act 1961 was implemented based on the framework of Rahman Talib Report 1960. The most significant amendment towards the education system to build up a national identity that foster unity among all the races are as following:
Mastery of Malay language as the main medium of instruction
Using the standardise curriculum for all the schools
All the students are to take the standardised public test and the official language for the tests is Malay language.
(Ahmad, n.d; Kolej Matrikulasi Negeri Sembilan, n.d)
Now, let us look at the reformation and development of Malaya Education system from the functionalist and conflict perspective. Besides teaching knowledge and skills, the Malaya education system was focusing of uniting people from different racial communities since independence. It fits very well the functionalist perspective on education as tool or a place to promote social integration (Henslin, 2005). Malaysia sows the seed of unity through standardizing the common language, the curriculum and the public tests. Besides that, the transmission of culture and values of unity, loyalty towards the king and the country, respect and tolerance are to pass down to our younger generation (Henslin, 2005).
On the other hand, based on conflict perspective, the effort of the leaders took to standardise the curriculum was another intention to mobilize the social status of the Malays and to create the equal social status among the three main races after the British colonial pull out from Malay Peninsula. Due to Malays are the largest population and predominantly staying at rural areas living below the poverty lines, many educational policies are the benefits of the Malays at the implementation level. The evidences will be explained in the following writings.
The Education reformation and development in the age of New Ecomonc Policy Implementation.
Although these education policies that implemented at the beginning of independence impose significant impact toward the society in Malaysia, apparently a few researches has shown that the New Economic Policy (NEP) that is pairing up with the implementation of New Education Policy synergize the impact towards Malaysian Society. In order to analyse the impact of Education Policies, we cannot ignore the impact of the economic policies because the relationship of the two policies is intertwined deeply.
Here's the brief introduction of New Economy Policy (NEP) that implemented in 1970 with the goals of eliminating poverty; increase and variate job opportunities for all races; eliminate social inequality and the identification of race with economic function. (Dasar Ekonomi Baru, 2008 ; Ramlah, Shakila, Abdul, & Muslimin, 2010). Among the strategies in education that the government has taken are:
Establish MARA Institute to help rural Malays to undertake science, technology, engineering, and vocational courses so that they can take up jobs in commerce and industry (Santhiram & Tan, 2010).
Establish Fully founded residential secondary schools that only offer pure science electives for rural Malays. (only 10% of non-Malays students are accepted in these schools) (Santhiram & Tan, 2010).
Establish Matriculation collages and ethnic quota system (on a ratio of 55:45 for Malay and non-Malay students) to ensure enough qualified Malays students enter funded local universities (Pong, 1995; Santhiram & Tan, 2010).
With the above efforts in education, the NEP targeted Malays and the natives are able to own 30% of the economic share by 1990 (Dasar Ekonomi Baru, 2008).
There is a lot of positive but also negative effect of these educational and economic efforts that have been taken by the government. To narrow down our focus, we are going to look at the impact of these policies based on the achievements of the objectives and goals set at the initially stage of implementation.
Let us look at the positive impact of the New Education Policy and New Economic Policy. Owing to the policy that education is made free and compulsory to all the citizens in Malaysia, the primary attainment rate for are above 90% for despite ethnicity. The Malays achieve the greatest growth in secondary attainment which is surplus of 13% as compared to non-Malays in the late 1960's. As years passed, the social class differences no longer the main determinant among Malays in secondary attainment (Pong, 1995; Mahani, n.d.). Today, Unexpectedly, the latent function of the policies implementation diminished the gender differences for all races in primary attainment and achieves gender equality in secondary attainment among Malays, but that is not the case for Non-Malays who born in between 1960's cohorts (Pong, 1995). This is matching up with the New Ecomonic Policy goal to close up the education inequality between city and rural children who predominantly is Malays.
On the other hand, let us look at the negative impact of New Education Policy and New Economic Policy towards the development of society. The policies have successfully close up the education inequality between the Malays and Non-Malays, they even reversed the colonial situation in which Malays were educationally disadvantaged (Pong, 1995). However, it increased the social inequality among the non-Malays in assessing secondary education. Furthermore, gender inequality in among non-Malays in secondary attainment still remain substantial because there are limited opportunities, as Asian families always reserve the opportunities for boys in the 1960's (Pong, 1995).
Besides that, the policies that favours the Malays actually did not achieve the ultimate goal of the New Education Policy which is build up a national identity that foster unity among all the races. How does it say so? Non-Malays view the implementation of the New Education Policy and New Economic Policy as a form of racial discrimination whereby single out what they believe as their educational rights (Pong, 1995; Santhiram & Tan, 2010). Due to the resentment between the Malays and non-Malays over unequal opportunities, any effort of the government in promoting unity is perceived as not sincere intention (Santhiram & Tan, 2010). This has further segregated the society towards protecting their own races and identity instead of uniting the different races communities.
Furthermore, unequal assess to education opportunities further promote the segregation of races through enrolment choices. Chinese will send their kids to Chinese vernacular school, then national-type or Chinese independent secondary school. Due to limited opportunities, non-Malays usually send their kids to private institution to further their education. This has a very different path compared to Malays where they attend national primary and secondary school, further studies through Matriculation or Islamic school. Even though all the schools are using the same curriculum, the Malaysian children still are living in their comfort zone of the homogenous society instead of having opportunity to understand each other. The blooming of different private institution like international school, home-schooling will eventually increase the gap of enrolment choices, which defeat the original purpose of having national school to promote unity (Santhiram & Tan, 2010).
Our government has realized these issues soon and come out with a few corrective measures towards the situation including established integrated primary school in which bringing three language media primary school into a school in which socialization of all the races are promoted. In 1990s, vision school (primary school) with the same intention is introduced. Lastly, the government implemented programs to make the national school are the school of choice among all the races by incorporating Chinese Language and Tamil Language into the curriculum (Santhiram & Tan, 2010). All these actions taken by the government are not favoured especially by Chinese.
According to my opinion, this segregation of races is deep rooted since the age of British colonial. The distrust among races is further strength due to the implementation of the perceived unfair policies. The beliefs and attitudes that pass down through generations has become the reality in their eyes, it will take not only a few simple measures to change it but a long journey to go.
On 1988, the educational philosophy is introduced (Kolej Matrikulasi Negeri Sembilan, n.d). It was a long journey and tough experience for the country to set their visions and goals; get redirected to a noble and comprehensive cause in education. Our Educatoin Philosophy is (Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan) as following:
"Pendidikan di Malaysia adalah satu usaha berterusan ke arah memperkembangkan lagi potensi individu secara menyeluruh dan bersepadu untuk mewujudkan insan yang seimbang dan harmonis dari segi intelek, rohani, emosi dan jasmani. Usaha ini adalah bagi melahirkan rakyat Malaysia yang berilmu pengetahuan, berakhlak mulia, bertanggungjawab, berketrampilan dan berkeupayaan mencapai kesejahteraan diri serta memberi sumbangan terhadap keharmonian dan kemakmuran keluarga, masyarakat dan negara."
(Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia, 2001)
Align with the Malaysia education philosophy, the goals of the Ministry of Education Malaysia are as following:
Melahirkan bangsa Malaysia yang taat setia dan bersatu padu
Melahirkan insan yang beriman, berilmu, berahklak, mulia, berketerampilan dan sejahtera.
Menyediakan sumber tenaga manusia untuk keperluan kemajuan negara.
Memberi peluang pendidikan kepada semua warganegara Malaysia.
(Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia, 2001)