Half an Education is No Education at All

 Teach For Malaysia’s co-founder, Keeran Sivarajah, shares his view on the nation‘s conscience based on the thoughts of Malaysia’s Father of Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Tunku during his later years, at his home in Penang. Source: The Star

The right to an excellent education is one of our fundamental liberties as children of this country.

This past February 8, our nation celebrated what would have been the 109th birthday of Bapa Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj. The Tunku was a fan of educational excellence, and often lamented that good education remained beyond the dreams of the masses. “Half an education is no education at all,” he once said. “This young, newly-born nation of ours depends so much on good leadership and this can only come with good education.”

In what became his final speech as Prime Minister of Malaysia on the eve of Merdeka in 1970, the Tunku said, “A few of the well-to-do can simply pack up their belongings to escape if they wish to do so, and find new life in new lands. But for the rest of us, here we live and here we must die. But where there is life, there is also hope.”

Here we are now, in a country with 13 million children – where only 2 of 10 go on to university – with a vision that one day, very soon, all 13 million children will receive an excellent education. How do we solve this puzzle? What’s it going to take to reach all 13 million children? How can our movement’s impact be thundering and infectious? How do we build what we need…which is really strong, ethically and socially responsible leadership across schools, the government, companies and civil society?

How can we ensure that the Tunku’s ideals live on in our classrooms and communities long after his passing ? How can we operate with hope, and a clear sense of possibility to not only believe in education for all, but also to believe that all can be educated and shall succeed if they are afforded the right opportunities?

21 years since his passing, the Tunku remains this nation’s conscience. It is said that the only possibility of falling to tyranny is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

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