This could be us in 20 or 30 years’ time.

Alice Loi speaks for civil disobedience in the classroom.

In 2010, when I was only in Form 4, I stood up against my high school principal for what I believed was right, and was punished for that.

Earlier that year, we were assigned a new teacher for the subject Mandarin, and almost everyone in the class was very unsatisfied with the teaching methods conducted by that teacher (let’s just call him Mr. Lee*). Despite being a qualified and experienced teacher, he appeared rather unmotivated every time he entered the class. Instead of properly teaching us the outlined syllabus and preparing us for examinations, he would spend the good two hours talking about stuffs that are totally unrelated to academics. Moreover, whenever we passed up our essays to get checked or marked, he would tell us to hand it in next time because he didn’t have time to read them.

Hence, throughout the entire year, we had none of our essays marked, except for those that we did for exams.

And hence, more and more of my classmates started skipping POL class (which was scheduled as extra classes after Friday prayers) because it was a waste of time.

And because of the terrible attendance, the entire class was called up by the principal. We were scolded and threatened with demerits (even for those who had never skipped classes) if “we don’t change our attitude”, according to the principal. That was when I stood up and tried to explain the situation, and requested for some sort of measure to be taken. However, not only that the principal refused to regard it as an issue, he asked me, “Do you think you are better than the teacher then? Why not you step forward and teach?”

What made my heart sank even deeper was the fact that NONE of my classmates, despite the fact that they had been criticising Mr. Lee behind his back and skipping his classes, stood up for me. NONE.

I was very disappointed, and even doubted whether I’d done the right thing at that time. Was I supposed to stay silent, and never question authority? Was I supposed to only listen, and not say a word even when I was not at fault?

There are so many things wrong about the present education system in Malaysia. And if there is one thing I regret not doing back in high school, it has to be questioning authority. Instead of complaining about how ridiculous it was to memorise all those 36 moral values and taking pictures of us holding a broom or a mop to complete the moral project, I regret not asking my moral teacher why and how all these things would be beneficial in grooming us into better persons. Why can’t we question what was written in the history textbook when the facts were written by a historian, himself a man with his own opinions and the tendency towards biasness? Why is it bad to counter a teacher’s opinion, and that doing so is regarded as being biadap?

Schools are not factories. We need to create future leaders, not followers, not robots.

This could be us in 20 or 30 years’ time.

If the system is not effective in delivering what it is supposed to deliver, nothing is going to change if everyone keeps quiet. Nothing is going to change if criticisms are whispered among your friends. Students should question their teachers, and teachers should be receptive enough to view it in a positive way. Teachers should question the authorities too – why continue to force the students to memorise those 36 moral values when they themselves are clearly aware that Moral Studies should be taught in a more practical manner?

Why are we afraid of speaking out? What do we have to lose?

Would you rather shut up and stay safe, or be at odds because you defended your rights and your ideals?

*Name altered.


Currently a first year undergraduate studying Architecture in the University of Bath, UK. Passionate about everything under the sun, a proud Malaysian and a true cookie monster.

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