(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 136-137, Note the Copyright!)
There are both state and private schools in Malaysia. State primary and secondary schools are free, and most children attend these. There are only a few private primary and secondary schools, but very many private colleges and universities.
At primary level lessons take place in three different languages: Bahasa Malaysia, the Malay language, Tamil, an Indian language, and Chinese. At the secondary level Malay is used for lessons in state schools. Private schools usually follow the British or American system and teach children from expatriate families or from families who intend to send them to train abroad. State education is planned centrally by the Ministry for Education, which stipulates both the curriculum and the teaching manuals to be used. Teachers are trained at state universities and told where they must teach.
Education for pre-school children is divided into day-care centres for children up to 4 and kindergartens from 5 to 6 years. Most kindergartens and day-care centres are private. The Ministry for Education is responsible for kindergartens and the Ministry for Social Affairs for day-care centres. Both are less regulated than schools.
Since 1999, however, the Ministry for Education has been working on developing a curriculum for kindergarten education. And the Ministry for Social Affairs prescribes obligatory training seminars for directors and staff at day-care centres.
Educational trends and public opinion
Malaysia is an ambitious developing country which is concentrating on economic growth. This has a noticeable knock-on effect on the education climate. Intellectual ability is seen as a key qualification. Many children receive extra tuition either alone or in groups because parents believe “head work” as young as possible will be decisive for their children’s future. Kindergartens are booming and compete against each other to achieve the best early intellectual development. The government recommends the introduction of information technology at kindergarten level, and computer skills are regarded as essential for the New Economy.
Taska Nania and Waldorf Education in Malaysia
Waldorf Education began in Thailand when the Taska Nania Kindergarten was founded in Penang in 1997 by the married couple Ong Kung Wai and Junko Suzumoto. Kung Wai had studied tropical agriculture at Emerson College, Britain, from 1985 to 1994 where Junko Suzumoto also trained as a Waldorf Kindergarten teacher between 1990 and 1994. They founded Taska Nania a few years after their return to Malaysia with the help of the Friends of Waldorf Education and of Professor Nakasawa and others from Japan. “Taska” is a Malay abbreviation for “day-care place”. The kindergarten was registered as a day-care centre because there is no obligatory curriculum for these centres which thus have greater opportunities to develop Waldorf Education. Taska Nania is the only Waldorf Kindergarten in Malaysia, where Waldorf Education is little known. Even the parents who send their children to Taska Nania have never previously heard of it.
The first year began with a mixed group of children. Japanese, Malaysian and Australasian children played together and communicated with one another in English. Japanese families living in Penang have meanwhile become so interested that 24 Japanese children attend the kindergarten which is now full up. Now the language most used is Japanese, and even the holidays are arranged to suit the Japanese school calendar.
School on Saturday
Children attend the Waldorf Kindergarten from age 3 to age 6. The 6-year-olds learn writing on one afternoon a week to help their transition to school. So as to offer something to Malay children of the district, lessons in English have been offered since the end of the year 2000. Primary-school children of mixed ages learn painting and doll-making. Strong contacts with other Waldorf initiatives in Asia are cultivated.
The Taska Nania Kindergarten was fully booked by its second year and now has a waiting list. A new building and another trained kindergarten teacher would be needed to start a second group. At present the kindergarten is supporting the training of a former student at the Melbourne Rudolf Steiner Teacher Seminar in Australia.
There are now increasing numbers of parents in Malaysia who question the wisdom of one-sided concentration on intellectual learning because they see that it makes their children unhappy. However, the time is not yet ripe for a Waldorf School.
ONG KUNG WAI
Waldorf teacher, founder and director of the Taska Nania Kindergarten in Malaysia.
Ong Kung Wai
Director of an advisory service for biodynamic agriculture.