I bumped into this after reading my uncle's email.
Updated on someone's blog.
To the Editor,
"Pendidikan Moral" or Moral Studies is a compulsory subject in the KBSR, PMR and SPM level for non-Muslim students. The subject aims to instill moral values, as well as to occupy non-Muslim students' class schedules when their Muslim counterparts are in Islamic studies class.
I would argue that the needs of our students would be better served if Pendidikan Moral were replaced with a general religion class. I propose a curriculum that would cover, at the very least the basic tenets of Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism so that students will understand better the different ethnic and religious groups that comprise our country.
As a product of the Malaysian education system, I am sometimes embarrassed by my ignorance of my peers' religious beliefs. For instance, I remember once offering a cup of juice to a Malay friend of mine during Ramadan, not realizing that the Ramadan fast required abstinence from water as well as from food. I had somehow remained oblivious of this fact despite having lived in a Muslim-majority country for 18 years!
That may have been a fairly trivial example, but I am certain that more grave misunderstandings can occur. I feel that this mutual ignorance of each others' religious beliefs is a main cause of tension in this country. When we as a people are ignorant, we become susceptible to prejudice, lies and hearsay, a process that can lead and has led to strife in this country. In particular, it is easy to see that for non-Muslim students basic knowledge of Islam is important in a country that has a 60% Muslim population
I am also skeptical whether Pendidikan Moral's emphasis on secular morality is effective in instilling values in students. I believe most Malaysians consider their religious beliefs the foundation of morality, and so I feel that a religion class, tying in morality to religious tradition will be more relevant to a majority of students.
The curriculum of this religion class will have to be very carefully designed, as handling it wrongly could potentially upset and offend large groups of people. Nevertheless, I feel that replacing Pendidikan Moral lessons with a general religion class will be greatly beneficial to our country as students would grow up understanding each other better. This is a far more effective way to promote tolerance than memorizing the dictionary definition of "toleransi" word-for-word, as is required in the current Pendididkan Moral curriculum.
Darren Ong Chung Lee