My late parents were both teachers. My father was a headmaster of a school in Perak for 26 years.
My mum and family moved to Penang when I was 5 years old and she taught in a Penang school ever since until her retirement. My dad continued to head the school in Perak and he had a Austin car and he drove back home every weekend to be with us. We moved to Penang mainly because my parents thought the children — there were 3 of us , I am the youngest — would get better education and hence better job prospect later on.
I can still remember in the 60s, when i was in a primary school, there would be a few students of my mother– supposedly the weaker ones who could not understand well her lesson– coming to our house in the afternoon and my mother would give them extra lessons to make sure they understood what she had taught in school, without any charge for the students.
That was the dedication of the teachers then.. They treated the students as part of their own responsibilities, and many teachers did give extra lessons voluntarily without thinking of monetary rewards. For that, sometimes they would be rewarded with gifts like durian, chickens, etc brought to the house by the students’ parents.
Such was the respect of the teaching profession then. Teachers, though not rich, were well-respected members of the community. This respect , however, was earned because of their selfless dedication to their profession. Teaching, my parents used to tell me, is not for everyone, but only for those who treat the profession as a calling, not a career.
My dad , a university graduate from China, was also well schooled in the Confucianist tradition. One of the things he told us children was the Confucian teaching that ” within the four seas, everyone else is a brother”. We were told to treat everyone equal, respect other people’s culture and religions.
Teaching profession is one of the noblest professions. Students entering schools are like white sheets of papers. Whether these papers would turn out to be important documents, or textbooks, or comic books, or waste papers, or become totally black and dirty, depends a lot on the teachers. Teachers are said to be the engineers of our souls; they mould our thinkings ; they determine to a large extent what we would eventually turn out to be.
In the old days, even though there were a few teachers who smoked or gambled or were racists in their thinking, they would never exhibit these bad behaviour in front of their students. Even though they were black and dirty, they would still try to keep the white sheets as clean as possible, and tried not to rub their dirt onto their students.
With the change of time, teachers nowadays are very different from those 4 or 5 decades ago. There are still many dedicated ones regarding teaching as a calling, but many others have become very materialistic and treat teaching as just another career. Many despite being trained in teachers colleges, had not understood the meaning of teaching, and they have no qualm to pass their own dirt to their students, thereby making the white sheets black and dirty like they themselves.
To them, teaching is just another career, and they could not care less how their students would turn out to be, as long as they got the remuneration, which are now many times better than their counterparts many decades ago.
The recent incident in which a principal passed racist comments on her students shows the ugly side of some of these people, who have no qualm at all to hurt and insult these young minds. While a true human being should always practice the oriental axiom ” respect your own elders and also the elders of others; love your own children and extend the same love to the children of others”, these group of racists teachers not only would not love the young children of other people, they would even go all out to hurt their feelings. They try not only to rub their own dirt onto these white sheets, but also create holes to render such sheets into rubbish. By doing so, they have not only disgraced themselves, but the schools and the whole education system as well.
While there are many calls asking that stern action be taken against this teacher, and i think the calls are justified, we should go one step further and ask ourselves why are there such teachers in our schools.
The answer is simple. It is the system. The whole system is wrong. The system influences the minds of these teachers. The system in turn is moulded by the policies. The policies are wrong. The policies that have been in place for more than half century have resulted in a milieu in which everything is defined and determined by colour of our skin. These policies have also divided the country ; divided the people. These policies have also resulted in mediocrity and loss of excellence in almost everything we do.
Without the majority race recognising this and takes steps to correct these policies, the country will go further down the path of polarisation. But to change the views and thinking of the majority race, political will power must be there. So far, it is lacking. The present PM may have realised this, but even if his mind is willing, he may not have the clout to pull his ideas of a fairer society and his economic agenda through.
That is the sorrow of Malaysia!