“Success, to me lies in the ability to positively role model oneself to the rest in the community. To exude the qualities of hard work, resilience and most importantly progressive thinking within the bounds of the religion and the context of our current society is to me the true essence of success.” – Dr. Mohamad Shamsuri Juhari
RIMA: Aside from the lack of financial resources, what do you think are real problems behind educational underachievement of the Malay/Muslim community?
MSJ: Many arguments have been put forward which touch on reasons behind Malay/Muslims’ educational underachievement. These range from the way we interpret and practice the religion to the more sinister conspiracy theories. While these notions remain debatable, my observation nevertheless tells me that these issues and the perceptions that they create has resulted in the prevalence of negativity within the cumulative psyche of the MM community. At its extreme, one may even say there is the presence of a group subconscious which, for all intents and purposes, is oppositional to achievement. While a few individuals have been able to create their own ‘success stories’ by breaking through these mental barriers, I fear that many are still trapped by such defeatist mindsets.
RIMA: What are most visible and practical mechanisms to overcome such problems? Also, what special programs and schemes will you suggest to our self-help Malay/Muslim organizations to increase the number of Malay/Muslim graduates in polytechnics and universities?
MSJ: In principle, I do agree that current programmes which aim to enhance the cognitive literacies of our students have and will continue to be helpful in enabling our students to better understand the subjects taught in schools. Similarly, motivational courses and workshops that have been made available are also conducive for their development as students. What concerns me is that most are, unfortunately, piecemeal efforts. There is a lack of continuity in the momentum created by the completion of these specific programmes. For instance, while there may be anecdotal accounts of the benefits that a MM individual has experienced in his or her participation of a specific course, it does not generally translate into long term success as the positive effects tend to wear off as the joy of achievement lapses in one’s memory.
In my mind, what is required is not so much in the form of special schemes or programmes (of which many we already have undertaken) but an overall design which ensures continuity, consistency and clarity in the individual’s commitment towards educational excellence. For that, we need to organise an entity which functions to provide oversight into the flow of activities and experiences of our learners. Just like any other community, I believe that ours is capable of producing motivated learners and achievers. The secret is in first creating a critical mass which will be seen as role models by the rest in the community. Imagine a Malay-Muslim student being surrounded by peers who are motivated to excel in their studies. The ‘energy’ which they exude will then push the rest into wanting to reach the same objective i.e. to strive to be the best they can be!
Once such a spirit is ignited within the community, I see no reason why we cannot tremendously up the number of graduates from the polytechnics and universities within the next few years.
RIMA: How do you describe “success,” to attract the Malay/Muslim community to strive and to aspire the level and quality of education that the society needs today?
MSJ: While success can generally be equated with higher levels of educational achievements, it need not necessarily be so in my eyes. Success, to me lies in the ability to positively role model oneself to the rest in the community. To exude the qualities of hard work, resilience and most importantly progressive thinking within the bounds of the religion and the context of our current society is to me the true essence of success. Why? Because inevitably, these qualities will have a ripple effect in the community leading to the individual achievements of others in areas such as education and career. Cumulatively, this will lead to a rise in status quo of the community.
Dr. Mohamad Shamsuri Juhari received his PhD in Education in 2011. He had been an educator where he amassed more than 15 years experience teaching students from a variety of backgrounds and academic talents ranging from ‘at-risk’ youths to those in the Gifted Education Programme. Currently, Dr Shamsuri is the Centre Director of the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA).