Vol. 2 No. 1; January 2012
The Malaysian Experience in Developing National Identity, Multicultural Tolerance and Understanding through Teaching Curricula: Lessons Learned and Possible Applications in the Jordanian Context Dr. Fakhri R. Khader Chairman Dept of Educational Sciences Petra University Amman - Jordan
Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarch located in the heart of Southeast Asia. It covers an area of 329,847 square kilometers and the total population is over 28.3 million. It has about 5,407,865 students and about 405,716 teachers, with an illiteracy rate of about 5%. Ninety nine percent of children between the ages of seven and twelve are enrolled in schools nationwide. This can be attributed to the provision of proper infrastructure which lead to easier accessibility in rural and remote areas. A total of approximately 15 billion US dollars (about 21% of the total budget allocation) has been allocated for the expenditure on education and training development. During the 18th century, Malaysia became subject to the British Empire and achieved independence in 1957. After Malaysia's independence, the ruling party decided that Bahasa Malay was to be the main medium of instruction in all national schools. This was done with the belief that this would promote national unity and a Malaysian identity (Andaya and Andaya,1984). Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, Malaysia was quite homogenous as far as the demographic distribution was concerned. It was a singular society of Malay, the indigenous people. The history of ethnic pluralism began with the British who colonized the country in 1726, and their "divide and conquer" policy laid the foundation for communal division in Malaysia. Under colonial rule, from 1874 – 1957, primary and secondary school education was almost entirely ethnically segregated (Abd Rashid, 2002). During the British colonial rule, they encouraged migration, especially from China and India and changed the nature of their ethnically homogeneous society to a more pluralistic society (Santhiram, 1990). In the decades following Malaysia's independence, the government focused on nation-building and developing a national system of education (Watson, 1980). The government funded education system was centralized and the Ministry of Education established the national curriculum to be used in all state schools. There are three main races in Malaysia: The Malays (53.3%), who are Muslims and form the majority in the country; while the other two main racial groups are the Chinese (26.0%), who generally follow Buddhism and Confucianism, and the Indians (7.7%), who mostly follow Hinduism. The Chinese community, for example, uses a number of dialects including Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese and Mandarin. For the Indian society, the language spoken is Tamil, and for the Malay, the language spoken is Bahasa Malayu (Hassan, 2005) These three groups follow different cultures and traditions, and commonly profess different religions. They have different codes of dress, customs, value systems and beliefs (Jamil & Abd. Razak,2010). Although each of these ethnic groups has its own culture, and has vigorously maintained its traditions and community structures, these cultures have also blended together to create Malaysia’s contemporary and uniquely diverse heritage. Other groups (13%) that make up the population include the Eurasians and indigenous groups in the Sabah and Sarawak regions like the Kadazan, Dusunus, Muruts, Ibans, Bidayauhus, penans, just to name a few (Ishak, 2009). Islam is the religion about 60.4% of the total population, Buddhism 19.2%, Christianity 9.1%, Hinduism 6.3%, others 5.0%. Language varies widely from Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil, to Kadazan, Murut and Aboriginal. Many nations with a less complex mix of people and cultures have taken much longer to develop a national character. As a matter of fact, Malaysia...