PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has failed because the government, through the education ministry, has not gotten its priorities right in focusing its efforts on the fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0), says Daim Zainuddin, Putrajaya’s chief adviser.
Speaking at an international conference on emerging issues in public policy at Universiti Malaya’s Institute of Public Policy and Management, he said to participate in IR 4.0, Malaysia must go through a knowledge-based economy.
But he scoffed at how the country is still arguing over something like whether Maths and Science should be taught in English when the rest of the world has focused efforts on introducing “advanced curriculum” that focuses on IR 4.0.
This, he said, makes their youth more competitive and relevant in a world that is going to be dominated by artificial intelligence and robotics in the near future.
“While we are still mired in the political rhetoric of languages, others around us have moved beyond English or Mandarin or Bahasa Malaysia into the language of programming and coding.
“When will we realise just how far behind we are and lacking?” he said in his speech which was published in The Edge print’s edition for next week.
For the record, coding and programming are currently taught in Year 6 for students taking the ICT subject. From 2020 onwards, coding will be taught to Year 4, 5 and 6 students.
Coding is also currently taught in lower secondary schools (Basics in Computer Science or Asas Sains Komputer) and upper secondary schools (Computer Science or Sains Komputer).
Developing proper human skills
Daim said there are many things to consider when preparing youth for the future, such as how technology can be used to improve human life or identifying the “uniquely human skills” that can be developed for the future of the workplace.
“By asking the right questions and taking them into consideration in policy formation, we can create an environment where people are allowed to maximise their potential and pursue creative pursuits that are complemented by technology, not replaced by it.”
He, meanwhile, said while some are blaming foreigners for taking away their jobs, the reality is that technology will impact the most on future employment as robots replace humans in menial tasks.
But where one window closes, another opens, he said, noting that fields such as robotics, supply chain logistics and big data will still need skilled workers as technology advances.
“So the question is, ‘Are we in Malaysia ready for this leap?’ Let’s be brutally honest here — we are not. In fact, we are far from ready.
“We are still playing catch up with IR 4.0 training when others are already gearing for the fifth industrial revolution.”
“Education of the soul” should also not be sidelined, he added, saying a new generation of leaders and great thinkers, “not of sheep and cowards”, must be raised, who can think critically and logically.
“Is it moral to drill into students that other students are not entitled to certain privileges simply because they are not of a certain race, even if they are economically disadvantaged?” he asked.
“Is it right to think that if you are of a certain race that is economically successful, then you can look down on others?”
Daim also noted that while educational reform is part of the Pakatan Harapan’s agenda, “the snail’s pace” at which these reforms are taking place “gives credence to the grumbles and complaints that perhaps the political will to push through real changes is severely lacking”.