KUALA LUMPUR, 23 October 2020 – A new report says that educational programmes for the Orang Asli must better involve community input to ensure the initiatives meet the unique needs of indigenous students.
The report by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) looked at current education programmes, assessed their limitations and recommended changes that IDEAS believes will allow for wider and more complete Orang Asli education.
Ya Shin Wan, social policy research manager at IDEAS and author of the report, said during an online presentation that indigenous consultation would allow education systems for the Orang Asli to be guided by those who know the community best.
“The voice of the community and their right to self-determination must be respected and included in the formulation of policies and programmes.
“We do see some consultation at the national level, but it’s also important at the state, district and school level to find ways to work with the communities.”
She also said there were holes in the current programmes that fail to address the barriers faced by indigenous students, as tackling issues such as literacy and numeracy failed to solve the underlying problems.
IDEAS CEO Tricia Yeoh said there was a need for schools to adapt their values to align better with those of indigenous communities.
“There has been a mismatch between Orang Asli values and culture with mainstream education, so there should be a re-examination of the system which currently emphasises competition and competency. Competition may not necessarily be the thing that Orang Asli communities aspire towards,” she said.
Ya said there was also a lack of emphasis on getting those who had never been to school to attend, as current evaluation methods only collected records on dropouts, numeracy and literature rates, which did not take into account the rate of students actually enrolling into schools.
Other suggestions included directing better resources and training for teachers at Orang Asli schools, auditing current programmes to make sure their targets and methods adapt to new changes and aligning teachings outcomes with Orang Asli values.
Yeoh said the paper laid the foundation for future research into Orang Asli education, with their next stage of research to involve engaging in surveys and primary research, and talking to Orang Asli communities with regards to the barriers they face in education.
First published in Free Malaysia Today, 23 October 2020