National Service: All set to go?

on Thursday, 19 June 2003
My first blog entry! err... second... anyway, woohoo!! (cause: sleep deprivation)

This is something I thought about yesterday (I think). I can't help but get the feeling that this whole national service thingy is gonna fail. I'm not trying to be against whatever the government proposes, it's just that history is repeating itself. The government's not putting in enough research, surveys, and planning; similar to the education- and English-related problem which I'm not going to get into for fear of ISA threats.

Sure, the whole instilling patriotism and cultivating racial tolerance and harmony is a noble and worthwhile pursuit. But the fundamental question has not been answered: Will it work? Ideally yes, but human beings are far from ideal. The common argument, which no one in the government seems to have even attempted to debunk, is what can a 3-month stint in army training do where an 11-year education period failed. At least they're starting to admit that there is a problem.

My main concern is this: why are they attempting to cure an 11-year-old disease at the age of 18, rather than attempting to prevent it at the age of 7 (or the age where primary education begins). I've been through school in a private school, and even there people have been seriously afflicted by it. The bias, falsely perceived or otherwise, is the main cause. It's aggravated when they return home and are influenced by family and friends who are in turn afflicted by a variant strain of it in the workplace.

Our PM, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahatir, has several times exhorted the proponents of war against terrorism to tackle the root of the problem. They listen, but never heed. It's the same problem locally. The public says, the government listens, nobody heeds. Shouldn't we tackle the root of the problem of racial polarisation? Since 11 years of education seems to have worsened it, isn't it logical to start re-examining the system? Apparently not. The government is more concerned with the language used rather than how it is moulding the students.

As for public opinion, none are sought. No professionals (in sociology, psychology, whatever) have been consulted, no parents have been invited for discussions, and no students have been asked for opinions. This is an RM500 million (right?) project. If it were me, I'd do everything I could to make sure it goes smoothly and with popular support. But no. The government appears set on bulldozing the idea through to the people, again. Three months can significantly affect a family's lives. A poor family needs even the small income that a part-time son or daughter brings in. A scholarship offer for a student could be a one-time deal. Sure, the student could apply for postponement, but who's to say that particular aspect won't be like all other aspects of civil service: slow (unbelievably).

And more, random selection on who's to go first? Wow! I wonder who came up with the idea. If they wanted to segment the population of 18-year olds, they could've suggested it go by their IC number. Randomisation? What for? So some small software house can come up with some crap software and earn big bucks for it? And with the level of transparency our country is famous for, who's gonna guarantee that it will be random and not biased toward the not-so-prosperous segments of society?

Ahhh... nice length for a first-timer eh? Hee*2. Anyway, I just hope that rationale wins this time and not idealism and whim, but... I wouldn't bet on it. I just pity my sister who'll have to go through this. I just hope that it won't disrupt her studies and that all the necessary precautions against harassment, bias, and segregation will be taken (again, I wouldn't bet on it).