Seeing red over black-or-white school shoe debate

School shoes

It was a sweeping statement that raised eyebrows and caused certain quarters to break a sweat.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, had during a programme organised by Sinar Harian, announced children will wear black shoes to school starting next year. And he went on to discuss other matters.

He had earlier today said the ministry will give students a “one year grace period instead of enforcing the directive from next year as announced earlier.”

So what’s the issue, some ask? Quite a bit, actually.

For starters, Maszlee said the decision was made following “complaints by many parents, especially mothers”.


What were the parents complaining about? Was it because they can’t get their children to wash their shoes? Or the quality of shoes are so bad that they get worn out easily?

Many parents?

How many is many? Was a survey carried out nationwide? If yes, when was it carried out and by whom? Or was it just some parents complaining to the minister over coffee of how life would be less stressful if they didn’t need to nag their kids to get their shoes cleaned?

Type of shoes?

Will it be back to canvas? Or leather? Or some other material? Will there be a strict design or as long as it is all black? Will a Nike Dangeruss Wilson 1 be acceptable?

What about hygiene?

There are also those who questioned the rationale of black shoes given the hot and humid weather in Malaysia. If personal hygiene is overlooked, the children could return home with sores or fungal infections. Then again prefects and librarians in most schools do wear black shoes.

Here’s the deal breaker.

Those who will be severely impacted by this decision are the school shoe manufacturers. They were clearly not consulted, as reported by Twentytwo13 yesterday.

However, the deafening silence is mind-boggling. The highly paid executives, who are seeing white over this black shoe issue and sweating profusely in their offices, prefer to keep mum. They are worried about sales but want to be in the government’s good books at the same time. Shouldn’t they be asking the questions and highlighting their concerns instead of the consumers?

It remains unclear what their immediate plans are. Many white canvas shoes occupy the shelves while production for the next schooling year has started.

Perhaps the ministry should do away with white school shoes since the manufacturers prefer the “no comment” approach and parents are complaining over God knows what. Kids too will be happy as they will be spared the chore of cleaning their shoes. Discipline and being responsible are so old-school, right?

This is not about team white or team black but the manner in which the matter was presented. The lack of facts, justification, with no attempt to clarify the matter, does not look good on the decision makers.

And to now say a one year grace period will be given before the directive will be enforced goes to show no proper thought was put into the matter in the first place.

It was the same situation when Maszlee’s colleague M. Kulasegaran said there will be no more foreign cooks in restaurants starting next year only to ‘clear the air’ days later by saying “it was only a proposal that requires further discussion with the relevant stakeholders”.

During the close to two-hour programme, Maszlee spoke about the current paranoia of getting As when education should be about happiness, love and mutual respect. He insisted it was not part of Pakatan Harapan’s 100-day pledge to acknowledge the UEC examinations and that the stakeholders should be consulted before a decision was made. He insisted the teaching profession must be glorified. Interesting issues were raised and explained.

Alas, it was the black shoe announcement that became the talking point.