How different is education today, I was asked, compared with education when I was an educator?
Well, if I lasted 19 years as a teacher, it must have been a tolerable profession. Key operative word is “tolerable” despite the fact that in the mid-1960s, we teachers throughout the country went on strike to seek better remuneration.
When I opted to come back from Singapore after her separation from Malaysia to continue to make teaching my career my late meter-reader father warned me about the responsibility the job entailed.
“I already got you a job at LLN (now Tenaga) through Raja Zainal (then CEO)," he said.
He continued: "As a teacher you are responsible for ALL students in your class. They spend more hours with you than with their parents. If one goes astray, you have failed as the teacher!”
He sure threw a bucket of cold water on my vocation. I stuck to teaching, emboldened by the challenge that I had, to emulate my former teachers, the men who nurtured me for this noble profession. I spent 10 years in a Sentul school after which I was assigned to another to stem the drug indiscipline in that school.
So, why did I throw all this away, besides the loss of pension and gratuity after 19 years?
After 1970, all schools were converted into government or government assisted schools and the Bahasa Kebangsaan (Bahasa Malaysia) would be the medium of instruction.
Three months of inservice course to learn Bahasa was deemed sufficient for one to be proficient in this new medium of instruction. I plodded on, even on occasions when I was just three pages ahead of my students.
That was the policy and I tried to do my best. And then I witnessed the insidious part race and religion snaked into the profession.
When handball was introduced in the sports curriculum I purchased the necessary. I was called into the office to justify why I purchased handball made from pig skin. I produced the ball that had the offending word “pigment” imprinted on it.
When the omnipotent words - race, religion and quota - took precedence over merit that resulted in shameless polarisation that then divided our student body, I wanted no part of this system and forfeited one month’s salary in lieu of immediate resignation.
They say that once a teacher, always a teacher. I continued teaching as an internationally certified corporate trainer and coach, where race and religion could not find a foothold in multi-national corporations but lost a lucrative contract with a statutory body when it was revealed that I was an anti-establishment blogger.
So what’s new with this latest episode of the dressing room canteen?
The politicising of race and religion will continue unabated so we former teachers just pray that one day this beautiful country and its people can live together in harmony and undivided by people who use race and religion to control. - July 25, 2013.
* Bernard Khoo is a retired teacher who reads The Malaysian Insider.