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International Conference on Education and Regional Development 2016 (ICERD 2016)

Cross-Cultural Education for Sustainable Regional Development


Bandung, Indonesia.
31 October & 1 November 2016

THE SPIRIT OF PATRIOTISM AMONG ETHNICALY


DIVERSE STUDENTS OF SARAWAK
Noralam Iderisa, Mohd Jasmy Abd Rahmana

a
Faculty of Education, The National University of Malaysia, *noralamidris@gmail.com

Abstract

In unifying the various and colourful ethnic groups in Malaysia for the purpose of national betterment, patriotism has
always been the back bone in achieving this stance. It is the key to the very existence of peaceful and harmonious living
among diverse people, especially in colourful states like Sarawak. Therefore, this paper is to discuss issues and challenges
in achieving patriotism within the youth in the largest state in Malaysia containing the biggest variety in ethnicity,
Sarawak, the Land of the Hornbills. Upon crossing the bridge of modernisation and globalisation, there has been an
abundant amount of challenges that has had to be overcome in order to instil patriorism among the students. The absence
of unity among the diverse Sarawakian students would act as a barrier preventing the state to appear as one which
revolves around peace and harmony. Hence, this paper shall also cover discussions on suggestions to further instil
patriotism among the ethnically diverse youth of Sarawak and to identify, if any, the difference in knowledge, perception
or understanding of the very concept of patriotism within the youth. This research, which will be done via distribution of
questionaires, will be conducted in five different schools in the state of Sarawak which will consist a number of 350
students chosen at random as subject samples to the research. Documents used as reference shall include journals, thesis
reports, related books, proceedings and reports which were obtained within and outside Malaysia.

Keywords: Patriotism, Issues and Challenges, Suggestions

1. Introduction

Being the largest state in Malaysia, Sarawak is formed of various uniquely diversed ethnic groups. Patriotism
born from the love they feel for the country is what gave birth to unity in diversity among these ethnic groups.
Hence, the question now would be, what are the issues and challenges that they have had to overcome in order
to instil patriotism among the ethnically diversed students in Sarawak?
According to Ku Hasnita Ku Samsu (2013), patriotism is defined as ones love and loyalty to his nation,
enough to instil the willingness to sacrifice his life to defend the sovereignity and honour of his country,
regardless of his race or religion. This opinion was later supported by Sayuti Mukhtar (2016) whom had the
opinion of the close relation between patriotism and the sacrificial love, gratitude, and pride in defending the
dignity, sovereignity, morality and credibility of ones nation.
Therefore, patriotism is something that should flow within ones soul, and not just merely something
symbolic on Independence Day. However, it is sad to say that the level of patriotism has declined among the
people, especially among the said uniquely diverse students.

2. Definition/ Theory And Previous Research

Patriotism originated from the Greek words patriots bearing the meaning of fellow countrymen, and
patrice which means fatherland or country. Therefore, as stated in Kamus Dewan (1996) and the
Oxford English Dictionary, a patriot is a person who is loyal to his country and is willing to do anything to
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defend it. New Websters Dictionary, however, gave a slightly different perspective on the definition of
patriot but with close similarity to the ones given by Kamus Dewan and the Oxford English Dictionary, as
one who would go to any lengths to defend and fight for the freedom, sovereignity or rights of his nation.
Based on the research conducted by Aziz Ujang et al. (2014), they found that the level of patriotism
awareness among the youths of the generation scored a relatively low reading of merely 66.5 percent. This
seems to be alarming as although it achieved a result which settled a position above the 50 percent
benchmark, if coverted to a scale of 1 to 10, it would seem that out of 10 teenagers, only 6 appear to be
patriotic countrymen.
A quantitative study on patriotism awareness among urban youths was conducted by Sarjit. S. Gill et al.
(2015) in western regions of Malaysia. The study found that, in the sense of patriotism awareness according to
ethnic groups, Malays stood ahead of the other ethnic groups with a score of 89.03%, followed by the Indians
at 76.9% and the Chinese at 52.17% within the high category. In the average category, however, the
Chinese appeared to be in the lead at 46.0%, followed by the Indians at 20.0% and Malays at 10.32%. Among
the other ethnic groups, the study obtained a reading of 60.0% in the high category and 40.0% in the
average category. The study had also obtained data which potrayed that among students, 75.5% of them had
potrayed high levels of patriotism and 22.9% and 1.9% of them scored average and low scores of
patriotism awareness respectively. This study by Sarjit S. Gill underlines the same subject matter, patriotism
among youths, which shall be the main topic in the researchers study. The only difference would be that the
study which is to be conducted will be conducted in Sarawak specifically.
Refering to Nordin Kardi (2003), one is considered a patriot when his actions and principles match the
features of patriotism which underlines the love and loyalty felt towards the country. Patriotism is a principle
and faith the brings people together in a community or a nation. Indirectly, this has a huge impact on the
behaviour of mankind.
The previous statement is supported by Bill Tottens which mentioned that patriotism comes hand in hand
with the love for one feels for his country. According to him, no community, family, team or group in any
form whatsoever may be perfectly functional unless every soul in it is bonded by a single principle, love for
the nation.
Awang Hadi Salleh (1995) mentioned that the history of patriotism had long existed in mankinds
civilisation, before smaller communities developed into bigger ones. Abdul Latif Abu Bakar (1996), on the
other hand, stated that historians observed that patriotism in Malaysia began since the dawn of the Melaka
Sultanate Era and then further ignited during the 17th century. In Malaysia, patriotism exists as a product of
the will and spirit of previous generations whom had given their lives to protect the country at all cost for the
good of the nation.

3. Issues And Challenges

The Chief Executive Officer of the National Civics Bureau (BTN), Tengku Khairi Abdul Rahman (2016)
released a statement that BTN is currently preparing the National Patriotism Index. He also mentioned that in
the early studies for the National Patriotism Index which involved students in tertiery levels as subject matters
scored a low reading of 3.8. Of course this was an alarming issue.
In his study, Azizan Bahari et al. (2004) gave a reason for this issue. He mentioned that patriotism among
the younger generation is fading due to the fact that the youth are more occupied by the constantly changing
global cultures compared to national issues. This showed much similarity to the study conducted by Aziz
Ujang et al. (2015) where it was found that patriotism and national unity among young Malaysians are
decreasing by the minute.
Despite the long period of education of 13 years, Rizal Uzir (2002) was of the opinion that the spirit of
patriotism among students is still fragile and is seated on the average scale. A good example can be seen
through the lack of enthusiasm among the youths when the national anthem, Negaraku, is played in any
school events.
In Malaysia, instillation of patriotic values and its appreciation begins in primary school levels. This is
parallel to the contents of Buku Panduan Patriotisme Di Sekolah Rendah (Kementerian Pendidikan: 1994),
where patriotic values are said to be instilled via curricular and extra-curricular activities. An understanding of
the contents of the Rukun Negara has to be prioritised. Teachers and educators need to make ascertain that the
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values of the Rukun Negara must be understood and upheld completely in order to discourange negative
elements to spread among the students and the youths.
The previous Prime Minister of Malaysia has witnessed the vitality of the instillation of patriotic values
among the people to avoid the nation from crumbling due to false manipulation techniques by foreign
influences. According to him, this country needs a generation that is not only disciplined, but also productive
as they are the pillars to the growth and sustainability of the country and its rulers in the years that are to come
(Mahathir dan Belia; dalam Saifuddin; 2002).
Most existing studies revolve around the focus of instiling patriotic values in the educational syllabus by
school teachers and educators via subjects like History. Hence, this study shall focus on answering the
question whether or not this technique falls short in satisfying its purpose. The results of this study shall be
refined by observing the data obtained from the largely ethnically diverse students in Sarawak.
Nazri Muslim (2004) stated that the spirit of patriotism among non-malay students are relatively low
compared to malay students. With reference to data obtained in 2002, the amount of malay students involved
in PALAPES mounted up to 856 persons, marking a high percentage of 93.4%. The remaining 6.6% is further
divided among the chinese with 3% (27 persons), the Iban with 3.3% (30 persons) and the Indian with 0.3%
(3 persons). There is a huge possibility that the same percentage can be observed in Kadet Tentera in
secondary schools, according to Siti Azizah Abod (2002).
Hence, the study that will be conducted will include aspects such as demography, social environment,
involvement in social activities that ignite the spirit of patriotism, perception on the spirit of patriotism and the
understanding and knowledge on the meaning of patriotism in their practices and daily routines.

4. Challenges In Instiling The Spirit Of Patriotism Among Ethnically Diverse Students

In the study carried out by Nazri Muslim (2004), there were a number of challenges that had to be overcome
in instiling patriotism among the people, especially in a colourful community formed by various ethnic
groups. The first appeared to be individualism and the selfish characteristics of certain parties that seem to
turn the other cheek when it comes to issues of importance to the country. For example, those who choose to
leave and migrate to other countries when the Malaysias economy takes a plunge. If individualism is allowed
to exist and no proactive action is taken to solve this problem, it would result in individuals who resort to
autonomy. He further explained by stating that the second problem was the globalisation era itself which
promotes the non-existence of borders, allowing exposure to foreign cultures and more. The third was the bad
habit of assuming based on false stereotypical statements without further evidence.
Racism also plays a role in limiting patriotism among Malaysian youths. Racism is the practice of
prioritising ones own ethnic group over others. This unfortunate phenomena exists within economical,
political and social aspects in the country which later results in an imbalance and huge gaps among ethnic
groups econimcally and education-wise. According to Lee Wei Chan (2013), obtaining national unity is a
complex process whereby there are bound to be conflicts directly or indirectly in the process of solving
problems caused by socio-cultural differences among different ethnic groups.
According to Abdul Rahman et al. (2014), on the other hand, previous studies conducted to measure
behaviour changes towards unity values and national intergration which focuses on the level of patriotism,
perceptions on interracial relationships and unity and spirit of nationality derived from the Rukun Negara and
the Federal Constitution among adults show that patriotism among students are below average and will still be
if no stern action is taken to ignite unity and national intergration among the students by school authorities.
With close reference to the said previous studies, this study will identify the challenges faced and
investigate if the same challenges affects patriotism among ethnically diverse students in Sarawak or if there
were any other problems that act as a barrier among them which threatens patriotism among them. Among
other things, the awareness, perception and understanding of patriotism among these culturally diverse
students will also be studied.

5. Suggestions On Solutions

Based on the challenges and problematic issues that surfaced during the process of the research and studies
done by previous researchers, suggestions on how to solve said challenges and problematic issues have been
made. One of them is through the national anthem, Negaraku, and patriotic songs. According to the study
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conducted by Mahat Jamal (2016), in the 50s to the 60s, Malaysias national anthem, Negaraku, was not
only played duting assemblies in primary and secondary schools, but also in the cinemas before and after any
movie was played. This exhibits the high patriotic awareness among the people between the 50s and the 60s
compared to the community after the 70s. Students were well aware of the importance of patriotism that they
automatically stand up in honor when the national anthem is played on the radio, despite not being in a public
area. Other than being a medium to instil patriotism among the people, patriotic songs can also become
symbolic songs inherited by the nation, just as Dont Cry For Me Argentina was for Argentina and
Bengawan Solo and Jambatan Merah were for Indonesia. Over the years, Malaysia has made a few songs
like Bahtera Merdeka, Selamat Tinggal Bungaku, Gemilang, Standing in the Eyes of the World and
Keranamu Malaysia symbolic songs close to the heart of all Malaysians.
Education-wise, the Education Department which designs and decides the contents of the school syllabus
need to be aware of the need to update and upgrade the syllabus of subjects like History to contain more
patriotic values. The same needs to be done within Uniform Body Units in school. Most informants have
agreed that education on patriotic elements need to begin as early as pre-school and continued on up to
university level. This idea is parallel to Mahat Jamats (2016) action of agreeing to Keranamu Malaysia
singer, Nur Ahmad who gave a statement saying teach our youngsters the history of our nation, so that they
will respect what our nation had done to them.
Understanding and embracing patriotism enhances racial unity to avoid elements that have the potential to
threathen harmonious living in Malaysia. This is to avoid the repitition of the 13th May incident and the
Kampung Medan incident on 4th March 2001 altogether. Within this matter, all informants agreed that the
National Service (PLKN) appears to be an effective instrument in the process of educating the youth and
teenagers to constantly carry patriotic values in them at all times wherever they go as a weapon against any
seditious challenges and problematic issues that occur within the nation in this new era.
Ahmad Tarmizi Salleh et al. (2016) stated that the fact that the involvement of the ethnically diverse
youths of Malaysia in the National Service (PLKN) for a period of three months for the purpose to enhance
patriotism and nationalism in the souls of the younger generation shows that patriotic values flows within
them at a very high pace. Hence, the government should continue to uphold this program as a mechanism to
sustain a properous future of the country within the contex of patriotism and nationalism among Malaysian
youths.
Apart from that, the Education Department need to make it compulsory for all schools to celebrate
National Day on the 31 st of August or Malaysia Day on the 16th of September annually as a means to further
instil the spirit of patriotism among school studnets. Program Rancangan Intergrasi Murid Untuk Perpaduan
(RIMUP) among public and vernacular schools should also be continued over the years to strengthen the spirit
of unity among students of various ethnicity.
The involvement of the students parents play a huge role in instilling love towards the country in the
students themselves. They should be encouraged to join the joyous celebration of National Day and Malaysia
Day. They are the closest beings to the students and are the biggerst role model in their childs life. Therefore,
they play the perfect role to plant patriotism in the hearts of their children.
The spirit of 1 Malaysia encouraged by our Prime Minister needs to be embraced in all of the young, so
the love and loyalty they feel for their nation would always be a flame ignoted within their souls. As the
saying goes, hujan emas di negeri orang, hujan batu di negeri sendiri, baik juga di negeri sendiri. Though
times have changed, patriotism must always remain in our hearts, especially among the students of the racially
diverse Malaysia.
Ezhar et al. (2006) stated that teenagers are agents that make ascertain harmony and unity in the country is
sustained. Because of that, racial toleration and nationalism needs to be contantly enhanced over the years. He
also mentioned that teenagers nowadays have a different attitude towards diversity compared those of decades
before them as they were raised in a much different environment. He then further explained saying that an
everlasting stabil social environment, economy and politic depends heavily on how much the young are able
to show toleration towards one another.
Najeemah (2006), however, stated that teenagers need to be made aware about unity and to practice it as
national unity and intergration are the core of education policies. Therefore, they need to be given the chance
to interact among each other in diveristy. Indirectly, this will create compatibility and abolish racism among
the people.
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6. Conclusion

The seeds of the spirit of patriotism have to be planted into the souls of Malaysians at young age. It is hoped
that this study may be able to identify the challenges and issues regarding patriotism among ethnically
diverse students in Sarawak. The uniqueness of racially diverse students in this state is potrayed by the
patriotism and racial intergration that exists among them. Hence, hopefully this study may be the beginning of
paths taken by any other party who wishes to conduct a study or research on patriotism or racial intergration
among the indegenous groups of Sarawak in the near future. May this study act as a catalyst to all Malaysians
so they may be aware of their roles to contribute in enhancing patriotism among the general citizens of the
country and ethnically diverse students in Sarawak specifically.

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