In recent months, a series of controversies have erupted around the Malaysian education system, culminating in the surprise resignation of the current Education Minister, Maszlee bin Malik. To some, the writing on the wall were Maszlee's controversial policies \u2014 such as the inclusion of Jawi into the national school syllabus. All of this appears to be a misdirection of the real issues at hand: For some time now, the quality and standard of our national schools have been on the decline. But why are we dissatisfied with our education system? Here\u2019s what Malaysians have to say: When teachers have to do homework Suzanne is a teacher at a government school. She has been teaching for 5 years. Now in her late twenties, she divides her tasks between administrative duties and teaching her class of 40 students. Sitting with her on a sunny day outside a cafe, I could tell she was tired and stressed. \u201cEven in the holidays, I don\u2019t get a break. There\u2019s lots of marking to be done. Sometimes, I wonder if I\u2019m really a teacher or a glorified admin assistant,\u201d Suzanne said, with bags under her eyes. Because of this, the standard of education provision slips, based on how well a school manages its teachers\u2019 roles. Apart from that, there was the added stress of teaching to students from lower income backgrounds who had no interest in learning as it did not apply to their life situation. Rough schools with rough crowds Everyone knows at least one or two \u2018rough schools\u2019 who were infamous for their gangs and delinquency. Leo went to a school in a shady neighbourhood, where his father was the head discipline teacher. Now a successful banker, he remembers his schooling years with some bemusement. \u201cEvery other week, you\u2019d have incidents of defaced school walls, smoking in the boys\u2019 toilets, and one time a desk was set on fire,\u201d chuckled Leo. \u201cThere were abortions and births in toilets, and tampons left on the floor. It was very chaotic,\u201d he reminisced with some embarrassment. Leo acknowledged there\u2019s only so much the teachers could do to manage the students, short of bringing in armed guards. \u201cI grew up in a poor neighbourhood. I sense that we were put in school just to keep us out of trouble. Gangs used to roam about causing fights, and keeping them in school was the only way to curb social ills. It felt like Grand Theft Auto in real life,\u201d he explained. Shortsighted policies One of the reasons for the poor handling of government schools was the multiple policy changes between 2000 to 2020. I spoke to Tan, a retired headmistress who used to manage a Convent of 2,400 students. \u201cDuring my time, in 2003, they made the switch to Maths and Science in English. Then in 2012, they switched back to Maths and Science in BM,\u201d she explained in between sips of Earl Grey. Under Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the policy of \u201cTeaching Of Science and Maths in English\u201d was replaced with the policy of \u201cUpholding the Malay Language and Strengthening The Command of English.\u201d \u201cWe\u2019ve had years and years of education policy changes that have had mixed results. Basically, this whole thing with Maszlee and the black school shoes is nothing new,\u201d Tan said. Tan was referring to the recent controversy around changing the official colour of all school shoes from white to black. The reasoning given was that it would help students spend more time on their studies and less time on the exercise of keeping their white shoes shiny. But detractors have voiced out their disapproval, saying it was a non-issue that didn't need addressing, and that Maszlee should have focused on more pressing matters, such as preparing students for the digital economy. The constant flip-flopping of the policies have led to an education ministry in disarray, with many ideas half-implemented, some discarded and many others swept under the rug. What do Malaysian parents think? With the standard of national schools as they are, most Malaysian parents do not care about current issues like whether school shoes should be white or black. They simply want the best school that provides the results (a mindset that is problematic in its own way, but this is a discussion for another day). Selvi sends her two sons to Chinese school because it has the reputation of producing students who scored well in their UPSR. \u201cIf we could trust the government schools to provide an optimal environment for our son to learn, we wouldn\u2019t have put him in SRJK(C),\u201d Selvi pointed out. \u201cPrivately-run schools seem to be more efficient without all the bureaucratic red tape that government schools have to endure,\u201d mused Carol, a student who went to both SRJK(C) and SMK. The future of education in Malaysia For those of us who have lived in Malaysia, all of this feels all too familiar. But is there a silver lining? \u201cMalaysia\u2019s education system is failing our youth. But with the internet, there\u2019s been an explosion of literacy amongst the kids. Especially Gen-Z, who grew up watching Youtube like it is second nature.\u201d Advances in technology are filling the gaps that our education system are lacking in. For example, JuaraUPSR is the brainchild of a Malaysian guy called Cikgu Lan, and it provides online classes and resources for kids from underprivileged backgrounds. \u201cThrough our webinar classes, we have reached over 24,000 students,\u201d said Cikgu Lan. Supported by EdTech-driven data, JuaraUPSR\u2019s digital platform tracks each students\u2019 improvement index. Cikgu Lan, pictured above on the right, with his students cheering behind him. Come listen to him speak at Malaysian Confessions happening this 7th March 2020. This explosion of online content catered to the curious middle- or high schooler includes Khan Academy and Udemy. All sorts of online teaching courses are right there for anyone with a smartphone and a wifi password. Our nation\u2019s kids will find a way to learn more about what they\u2019re interested in. That gives me hope for the future. What do you think are the most important issues surrounding our education system? Let us know in the comments! For more stories like this, read: It took a lot to make me leave the education industry. Here\u2019s my story. and Should You Study in Co-Ed or All Girls\/All Boys Schools? Here\u2019s What Malaysians Think.