History should be an interesting subject, but I dislike it when it comes to the history of Islam or whatever things that are related to Islam. It is not that I am being racist because at my own perspective, in order to study well in subjects related to history, one has to have the interest to explore it and find out what caused such historical moment to occur, and I have the least interest to explore Islam. However, things go the other way round when it comes to the history of my motherland, Malaysia and our neighbor, Singapore.
When I looked at the world map for the first time when I was young, I was shocked to see the size of Singapore, which is almost the size of Selangor, one of the state in Malaysia. Despite of its size and lack of natural resources, Singapore still could manage to overtake Malaysia in lots of aspect, such as economy, political stability, advancement of technology and cleanliness. As a Malaysian, I felt ashamed, but at the same time, I am curious on how did Singapore manage to achieve such result.
Although generally Malaysia and Singapore are different, still they share certain amount of similarities. Both Malaysia and Singapore are similar in term of their historical background. In 1800s, both Singapore and Malaysia were previously under the British colonization. During that time, Malaysia and Singapore were sharing the same goal, which was to be independent and build up a strong political and economic society. Hence, leaders from both countries attempted to bring their countries towards independence.
As for Malaysia, British promised to grant Malaysia independence with a condition, which was to ensure people in the country to live peacefully and harmony regardless of their difference in races. For example, Tunku Abdul Rahman put a lot of efforts to convince and unite the political parties such as UMNO, MIC, and MCA because he believed that all leaders can ensure the safety and welfare of their respective people. Not only Tunku Abdul Rahman and political party’s leaders worked hard, all the residents in Malaya also sacrificed a lot. For example, Malays were willing to accept jus soli which was to give citizenship to non-Malay.
As for non-Malays, they were to admit the privilege of Malays (Awkhalid, 2010). At last, Malaya was granted independence on 31 August 1957. Similarly, Singapore was under British colonization in 1800s and Singapore wished to be independent too. Before 1961, Singapore was led by Lee Kwan Yew. During that time, Malaya was granted independence while Singapore was not. One of the reasons that British do not grant Singapore independence was because they feared communists will take over Singapore after it was granted independence (Sadman Ridoy, 2009).
In 1961, Tunku Abdul Rahman proposed Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak to join Malaya in a federal union. The main purpose of the proposed of this merger is to build a closer political and economic co-operation between all members of the merger (About Singapore, 2013). Hence, Lee Kwan Yew took this opportunity and agreed to join the merger with federal union in order to free Singapore from colonization since Malaya was a strong anti-communist country (Sadman Ridoy, 2009). In 16 September 1963, Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya were merged and form Malaysia.
However, Singapore was forced to opt out from the union in 1965 (Malaysia – Independence and Onward: 1957 – Present , 2007). This was due to Lee Kwan Yew was believed to be politically stirring up racial animosity (Bowring, 2005). Singapore was finally granted independence in 9 August 1963 (About Singapore, 2013). Malaysia and Singapore share the same root in terms of education since they were both colonized by British in the 1800s, but they took different paths when Singapore was opted out from the federation of Malaysia on 9 August 1965.
Taking University of Malaya (UM) in Malaysia and National University of Singapore (NUS) as examples, despite that these two universities were branched out from the same root, they developed and applied their education policy in different ways. Singapore government started to focus on developing tertiary education when they realized the importance of the universities in economic growth. NUS started to focus on research excellence other than teaching when the labor-intensive strategy gave way to a higher value technology-intensive strategy in 1970s (as cited in Mukherjee & Wong, n. . ). In Malaysia, due to the ethnic riots in 1969, the Malaysian government came out with the New Economic Policy with education served as the core instrument. Bumiputras were given the priority in education as the New Economic Policy imposed the ethnic quotas for student admission at a ratio of 55 to 45 for Bumiputras to non-Bumiputras, whereby this quotation was never been seen before in Singapore (Mukherjee & Wong, n. d. ). Language policy is the main difference in the education system of Malaysia and Singapore.
The first post-independence prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew imposed English as a common language to be used in school while keeping the native-language to be available as well. Therefore, English is used as a common tool to communicate among students from different ethnic backgrounds. It is also the language of instruction throughout the education system. As a result, students will be well prepared for international participation. On the other hand in Malaysia, the main language of instruction of the education system was English initially, but it was replaced with Bahasa Malaysia in 1971.
Although Chinese and Tamil schools are still available for primary schooling, yet they are not available for secondary level in government school. The change of the language medium benefited the Malays instead of other races and language-training programs were implemented in order to train teachers to teach in Bahasa Malaysia (Mukherjee & Wong, n. d. ). Financial commitment to education in Malaysia and Singapore is different as well. Singapore government’s financial commitment to education has sustained about the same amount since 1962, whereby the proportion of public educational expenditure for university education increased from 10. % to 19. 8% in between year 1962 and 2007, which is approximately US$1. 31 billion in year 2007. In Malaysia, although public expenditure for education is around 25% of the government budget, the actual amounts are not comparable to those of Singapore. Based on the GDP per capita in between 1970 and 2005, in 1970, Singapore GDP per capita income was 913. 8 and Malaysia’s per capita income was 394. 1, but it was more 5 times of this amount by 2005, which were 26892. 9 for Singapore and 5141. 6 for Malaysia (as cited in Mukherjee & Wong, n. d. ).
These figures show that Malaysia has lower financial resources available to all sectors, including education level as compared to Singapore. As for the economic aspect, Malaysia and Singapore are different in the economic activities involved and the extent of their economic growth. Malaysia is around 478 times larger than Singapore and Malaysia has more natural resources such as petroleum, tin ore, and lands as compared to Singapore. This had enabled Malaysia to carry out a variety of economic activities which include manufacturing industries, agriculture, and trade.
On the other hand, Singapore is having lesser resources and Singapore even used to import drinking water from Malaysia. Since Singapore is lack of resources, thus the Singapore’s government tend to focus purely on trading especially in entrepot trading (Singapore Local Economic Development, n. d). Even though Malaysia is having a lot of resources and have been carrying out more economic activities than Singapore, but still the growth is slower than Singapore. “Singapore has grown 189-fold in the 45 years since independence, and saw its GDP per capita rise dramatically from US$512 to US$36,537 last year along the way.
During the same period, Malaysia’s economy expanded at one-third the pace, only managing to boost GDP per capita from US$335 in 1965 to US$6,975 in 2009. ” said by Chieh(2010. para. 11). In fact, the economy of Singapore is expanding even more rapidly than before as Singapore had been successfully transformed themselves into a regional hub recently, not just for service but also manufacturing sector, in order to reached full capacity in their productivity (Chieh, 2010). Consequently, their high growth rate in productivity had lead their economy to reach a higher end.
RAM Holdings chief economist, Dr Yeah Kim Leng agreed to the comments made by our former prime minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, that Singapore is facing a rapid economic growth and even will overtake Malaysia because Singapore only focus in growing the economy. Unlike Malaysia not only grows the economy, in the mean time Malaysia yet needs to set for the “social restructuring goal” such as equitable distribution of wealth between all races (Chieh, 2010). However, if Malaysia wants to achieve its vision 2020, the Malaysia government should learn from Singapore on how to create a high-income and high economic growth nation.
In short, Malaysia and Singapore are very similar in terms of their history background. However, as Singapore opted out from the federation of Malaysia, their education and economic activities went toward different paths. Judging from the current status of Singapore and Malaysia, Singapore will still remain ahead of Malaysia be it in economic growth, political stability or degree of bribery. Malaysian government should serve Singapore as an example in many ways in terms of managing a country, especially the rate of bribery among the ministers as Singapore is renowned for its low bribery rate.