Friday, 17 May 2013

Early Education

The earliest education for the Malay people is Quran classes. Many little Malay children learn the Quran from young, This is the first time they attend 'school' and obtain education. In the old days, the Quran teachers were middle-aged ladies, often unmarried, some were their own mothers. After they learn the basic Quran reading, they then read the entire small book (Muqadam) and then progress to the big book (Quran besar). Malay children complete Quran reading before puberty, before they complete primary school at standard/primary 6.

Most boys continue to read the quran at the mosque, guided by the imam or some guru Quran. Girls don't go for any Quran classes once they have their menses. Some do continue to read the Quran on days when they don't have their menses. Often an ustazah or an ustaz comes to the house to teach but girls are uncomfortable about this arrangement.

This early form of home education is mentioned in almost all the early Malay doctors' biographies.

Today, boys and girls go to private Quran classes organised for them by school teachers or private teachers. There are many to choose from. These Islamic institutions mushroomed in the early 1990s. Now we see so many of these schools. Most have uniforms and require the kids to wear them. Some leave the clothes alone and focus on Quran reading skills.

Beside Quran reading, the modern Islamic institutions also teach Fardhu Ain, basic self responsibilities in Islam. Though Fardhu Ain is taught in Malaysia's national schools, Quran reading is not. Arabic and Jawi writing are not intensive subjects taught in schools, so children are not so skilled with these (which is a setback).

Without a good foundation in Quran reading and understanding, without skills in the Arabic language and its usage, the Malay child today is a bit handicapped to perform in a challenging world. A Malay child may excel in all 9 subjects in the SPM exams but it means nothing in the Islamic context.

Islamic banking is a challenging field today. Without proficiency of Arabic language and skills in mathematics, the Malay child is left out from an interesting field. He stands no chance of becoming a player or worker in Islamic banking.

The same with the Hajj operations. Without a sound knowledge of the Hajj and skills in the Arabic language, the Malay child is left out from an interesting field.

Without adequate skills, Malay boys fall out of practically everything the world has to offer from A to Z. It is indeed a pity.

It seems that early home education (Quran reading) is not well-supported in Malaysia's national school system. There is no path where a Malay child can follow through and be sufficiently equipped to compete in the  Islamic world when he completes school. The same with medicine. The Malay doctors may perform well in Malaysia but maybe unable to collaborate with an Arab-speaking team of doctors, be it in Saudi Arabia, Gaza or other places where Arabic is spoken. So the Malay child has limited roaming space that is limited by his language skills, of which Arabic is now the most important (Chinese is the other). Without Arabic, the Malay child is weak. With a working knowledge of Arabic, the Malay child is able to find wider space to roam and make a living.

My father's class at Jasin English Primary School, 1961-62, Malacca.
He is standing in back row extreme left.

Dressed for mengaji session in Alor Star, Kedah. 1964-65.
I'm standing with my sibs. I'm second from left.