According to Jerome Brunner (1997) in his book Culture of Education, culture forms the core of development of education in individuals. Hence, it can be concluded that culture significantly influences not just the students, but also the whole nation's education system. I would like to talk about our own cultural values of Malaysia, which I learnt in the previous semester.
I listed down 5 Malaysian cultural values , as stated by Zawawi (2008):
Believing in God is a must in Malaysia, with the concept being ranked first in the national ideology Rukunegara and Islam is the country’s national religion. Also, Islam has a substantial implication to Malaysia because it forms the core component of the Malay ethnicity.
It means that the individual identify is associated with the ‘collectivity’ or group which the person belongs. The group is the person’s ethnic community. For example, the person is identified as Malaysian Chinese, Malay, or Indian. Note in English language, the ethnicity term comes after the nationality (ex. Malaysian Malay rather than Malay Malaysian) to denote the importance of the concept of collectivism in the Malaysian psyche.
3. Social Hierarchism
It means the respect is paid to the elders or higher authorities. The level of respect is deemed absolute, tagged with set of informal, formal, and honorary titles unique to Malaysia such as Datuk/ Datin/ Tan Sri/ Tun. This comes from the filial duty which the total respect to the parents is common among all ethnicities in Malaysia together with the Malay culture which the people are expected to do the same to the sultans.
This is an extension to the collectivism. Malaysians have their lives centring not just on their respective ethnicity, but also family, village, states, and social group ties. This would lead to the mutual and reciprocal obligations to one another in order to bind the relationship.
5. Concerned with ‘Face’
This is about maintaining a good image or dignity. Malaysians generally would avoid humiliating themselves or others in the public. This concept is an enforcer to the social hierarchism. For example, the ‘face’ (air muka) of people is maintained when they hold to the status quo established in the country. This would cause the Malaysian people to be conservative and any change to the status quo would be regarded as potentially harmful to someone’s ‘face’.
From here, we can safely deduce the plethora of Malaysian educational issues such as the language usage, vernacular schools, public university admission, teacher workloads, and constantly-changing curriculum.
For example, the existence of vernacular schools might due to our collectivism. The inefficiency of the people to galvanize a concrete action to change the curriculum/education system might due to our concern with saving 'face'.
At least, now we know why we in Malaysia act in certain ways. Hence, we should see these cultural values as a matter of perspective in order to take actions in order to achieve pragmatic results.
It is up to you to ponder what the actions would be.