Time to review Moral studies?

Is it producing the desired results?

By V. Shankar Ganesh

Ever since Moral studies was introduced in school, many have had mixed feelings over it as they wonder if moral can ever be taught through textbooks.

Some felt that students were simply memorising some terms and examples just to pass the exams.
At the moment, Moral studies is a compulsory SPM subject for non-Muslim students and word-for-word definitions are required.

If it is really working, the best gauge will be for us to judge it ourselves by asking this question. Is our society “morally” better now as compared to some 30 years ago?

Moral is very subjective and there’s much ambiguity as to what it entails. Many parents feel that times have changed and the archaic moral subject now needs to move with the times.
The subject has also been a divisive factor as students are segregated during the class. Only non-Muslim students take it as Muslim students take Pendidikan Islam.

The recent case in Sabah highlights the fallacy in this. In this case, Form One students of a school were segregated according to their religions. The reason cited by the school was to facilitate the Moral and Pendidikan Islam classes.

While Moral is supposed to go beyond race and religion, and actually touch on human values, instead at times it becomes a divisive factor.

The Melaka Action Group for Parents has suggested the subject be replaced with a “common class” focusing on issues such as human rights, the environment, caring for the needy and on corruption.

The group’s chairman Mak Chee Kin reportedly said that teaching students to avoid corruption would be “far more useful in educating our children to be morally upright people”.

It must be noted that Moral is a core subject for primary and secondary schools as outlined in the Education Act 1996 and it cannot be removed arbitrarily without amending the Act.

While the intentions may be good, its probably time for the ministry to review if the subject and the issues surrounding its implementation was still achieving its aim or if its counter-productive.

Many have realised this issue and there have been proposals for it to discuss and address issues like bullying, mental health, online behaviour, drug and alcohol abuse, and gangterism.

However, getting the teaching fraternity to agree to it is another issue as fatigue over curriculum change often overwhelms them.

Teachers usually have mixed feelings to changes as some are not well-thought of before being shoved to them. This means countless hours of retraining only for it to be scrapped when there is change in leadership at the ministry level and “better and different” ideas come abound.

So while the government intents to inculcate better values in students, it should also move with the times and ensure that it does not drive a wedge among students.