CHALLENGER Malaysia

-What do you think should be Malaysia’s policy priority?-

Abolish Bumiputera rights. Simply because as long as you have multiple classes of citizens, the country is never really going to grow, socioeconomically. Because people will never feel like they have a fair chance, which leads to brain drain. For example, something like 400,000 Malaysians have migrated to Australia in the past 20 years and that’s a lot, just Malaysian Chinese. I know a lot of people there who are doing great things right now, they could have been doing that here, but because of lack of opportunities in some form, they are not. I think the bigger issue would be the racial divide. I understand why it is being instituted, because you control the people and stay in power, same thing with education, so from a political point of view, it’s fine, but, for the betterment of the country, not so much. And also better social services, to provide more of a security blanket to our ageing population – not that it’s ageing now, but for us when it’s our time, at least.

Do you think it would create a bigger divide by abolishing bumiputera rights?-

I think it would, at first. Some people would not be used to it, but when it comes down to it, the urban population who have grown up with different races, would understand and within the next 15 years or so, the urban population would become the majority. It will take a long time to change, but overall once you start making the change, education and development of culture is something that can only come with time and we will have to accept that it will take a long time, but it will have to happen at some point of time, so why not now. When we were kids, we were already taught that this is a multicultural country, it’s not too far a step to say that we’ve been here for 60 years now and even before that, so why can’t we all start doing things together at the same level.

Do you think it is easy for youths to gain information or access to politics?-

No, I see it from a different perspective, there isn’t a culture of curiosity being cultivated in youths, we see politics as ‘oh it is happening, we don’t really have anything to do with it’. We might see a few snippets on the news but there’s nothing that really makes me want to go online to find out more about it. In that sense, slightly more unbiased political coverage would help people take interest. It would be great to have something like the vox.com, where I can search for anything I wanted about politics, like I do with US politics.

-What change do you want to see in Malaysia?-

Complete reformation of the education system. I don’t think any country has perfected it just yet, the Scandinavian countries are on a different level, because of homogeneity, like Japan. That’s something we cannot hope to achieve here so we need to approach it from a different level. I think higher pay for teachers would go a long way, to make it a much more attractive career option because it is one of the most important things and a lot of very capable people don’t want to be teachers, even if they have the passion for it, because it’s tough to live a middle class lifestyle on a teacher’s salary. If you look at Singapore or Hong Kong, they pay their teachers much better because it is one of the most important things. And then it comes down to the syllabus, I believe that it should be more diversified. I like what Germany is doing, where when you are 15, your only options aren’t just arts or science, but also vocational. Because a huge problem that we are facing right now, or will face in the next 15 to 20 years, the problem that developing countries are facing is the lack of blue collar workers. But if it becomes a more attractive option, something that people are willing to take, and not just see it as a dirty job, then we could see more advances there.

It’s also about a shift in culture. And therefore, this is also something that someone has to take the first step. I think our standard of education is extremely low, not only universities but also in high schools and primary schools, for example, we read Holes by Louis Sacher or SPM literature which kids in the US read when they were 9. When it comes to study materials, we are still lacking far behind. Though I wouldn’t want it to become as academically focused as Singapore, I would like that to be an option, where you can choose between vocational jobs, artsy careers or academically inclined jobs.

Isaac Miranda, 22, Artist Manager