Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia or the Malaysian Social Science Association (PSSM) as a professional social science body takes note of the growing concern expressed in public debates regarding the draft Ethnic Relations Module recently approved by the Cabinet for use in the teaching of all first-year university students from 2007. However, we are not in a position to offer substantive comments on the module as it has not been made available to the public. We welcome the statement issued by the Minister of Higher Education a few weeks ago that his Ministry would take the initiative to place the module on the website for scholarly input and public comments. We regard this as an important step towards a transparent culture and openness in engaging scholarly and public dialogue and contribution on this important topic for the good of our universities and the nation. We hope the module’s final draft will soon be available.
We very much welcome the good intentions and effort of the Government in giving priority to harmonious ethnic relations and national unity and in finding ways of enhancing it. We also appreciate the contributions and hard work of our colleagues, the module’s authors, particularly the chief coordinator, who have correctly stated that their objective in formulating the module is to inculcate critical thinking among undergraduates. We feel that such critical thinking is necessary so that our students would have a better understanding and appreciation of ethnic diversity and would regard it as an asset, thereby, strengthening ethnic relations and nurturing a culture of inclusion so necessary for a modern civilised multiethnic nation such as ours. It is in the nature of critical thinking that we have to objective and analytical in our approach, and be aware of and acknowledge various versions or facts of history and social existence besides the dominant and obvious ones. It is in this spirit of mutual understanding, respect for and acceptance of each other, as well as acknowledgment of various versions and facts of existence that we should together celebrate Malaysia’s golden jubilee this year.
As a professional body of social science scholars and practitioners recognised nationally and internationally, PSSM has a wide range of expertise within and outside universities on the subject of social science in general and ethnic relations in particular. We are prepared to make our humble contribution by giving our cooperation in providing scholarly feedback and input on the final draft if invited to do so, and when the module is officially available. We are happy to note that the draft module will be a ‘living document’ which is open to revisions, improvements and changes, and that criticisms and comments would be taken positively in the spirit of critical thinking which is the guiding philosophy of this project. We feel such scholarly engagement is important in order to promote a transparent academic culture and constructive discourse as well as to maintain the integrity of the academic profession and of social science. This is vital in our effort to benchmark our universities with the best in the world and to earn their respect. PSSM is also prepared to use its goodwill and expertise to contribute towards building a healthy and substantive scholarly and public dialogue on various national and social issues including ethnic relations in the interest of nurturing and developing critical thinking and in advancing social science and national unity.