‘Expanding Rukun Negara Clubs in schools will not work without accompanying syllabus’

Rukun Negara

Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong says the Education Ministry’s initiative to increase the number of Rukun Negara Clubs in schools is a “knee-jerk” reaction.

A firm believer of the Rukun Negara, Teo said students now merely memorise the five principles instead of “infusing them into their everyday lives”.

He welcomed the decision to require students to now also recite the five national aspirations that precede the five principles.

“Remembering is only the first step. We should move to the second step, which is to understand and embrace the Rukun Negara fully,” said Teo, a principal fellow at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies.

“Having more Rukun Negara Clubs will not work if the authorities do not develop an accompanying syllabus to help students understand what they are reciting in schools.

“The Rukun Negara is a form of national ideology, a national belief. So, we must teach the students to believe in its aspirations and principles.

“The problem now is that the Rukun Negara is mere words to the students. They do not live, or apply it.

On Monday, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek said she wanted to increase the number of Rukun Negara Clubs in schools to help instil a spirit of unity.

She also wants the students to recite the five national aspirations to foster a better understanding of the importance of unity, tolerance, the sanctity of the rule of law, shared prosperity, and a progressive society that embraces science and technology while holding on to its rich and diverse cultural heritage.

The national aspirations are:-

  • Achieving and fostering better unity amongst society
  • Preserving a democratic way of life
  • Creating a just society where the nation’s prosperity can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner
  • Ensuring a better understanding of our rich and varied cultural traditions
  • Building a progressive society underpinned by science and modern technology while retaining its rich and diverse cultural heritage.

Currently, they only recite the five principles:-

  • Belief in God
  • Loyalty to King and Country
  • Supremacy of the Constitution
  • Rule of Law
  • Courtesy and Morality

“Increasing the number of clubs is a knee-jerk reaction and will not solve the problem of unity,” said Teo, who added that students now needed to remember 10 points instead of five.

He said the students would not be able to grasp the ideals espoused in the Rukun Negara if they don’t understand and appreciate it.

Teo said that when reciting ‘Belief in God’ for instance, a child in a nursery or kindergarten may not be able to grasp the concept.

“We need to give them understanding, some context. We can start by teaching them to give thanks for what the country has given them,” said Teo.

“That understanding will progress from kindergarten to primary, and then to secondary school, where the students can move into applying the five principles in their daily lives.

“For instance, ‘Courtesy and Morality’. How do we be polite in speech and in our actions to create a national character?”

He said the Japanese are seen as concerned about cleanliness, as they pick up rubbish, even in sports stadiums. Malaysians could use the Rukun Negara to develop a culture of politeness.

Teo said he has been calling for the establishment of a task force comprising academics, and community and religious leaders to validate the Rukun Negara and ensure that it is not just rhetoric.

Separately, Teo recognises sports have the potential to bring people together, but only when used as a tool to achieve a larger goal.

“Sports promote unity and teamwork. It can also build character. It can be a vehicle to promote unity, but the best way to do so is through education,” said Teo.

“As the minister said, teachers are agents of unity. They are the ones who will also be involved in the Rukun Negara Clubs.

“So, while I am all for more sporting activities in school, it is merely a vehicle and cannot be the driving force or platform to build lasting unity.”