Are the digital, financial, and accessibility gaps the only areas of concern for a comprehensive “Post-pandemic Orang Asli Education Plan”?

… There’s not one solution, and it is not possible for one person to know the best resources and strategies.”

In the midst of a pandemic like COVID-19, defining a new norm for Orang Asli education has only been about adapting to novel circumstances. However, it must also be about not being re-infected by the “that is how it has always been” plague.

Specific areas that I propose to be re-examined are the preference of government and non-governmental organizations to work in silos, the Orang Asli community not being central in decision making and capacity building, and the misrepresentation of data in decision making.

Therefore, I present three needs that calls for a systemic review and a paradigm shift to how Orang Asli education has been and will be constructed. 

The Need to Develop a Shared Community Vision

The focus of coming up with a shared community vision implies constructing the problem based on the community. Though research, data and observations are extremely useful they could lead to taylorism or solutionitis

Yes, a top-down, we know what is best for your community attitude is prevalent at the absence of an organic and inclusive process. This not only forsakes the voice of the Orang Asli, but also jeopardizes sustainability and eradicates the sense of belonging.

Though frequent community engagement sessions are helpful to elicit response from the indigenous community, the common way of having meetings and filling up questionnaires may not always produce useful findings.  Hence, community engagement sessions must be more personal, built on the foundations of strong relationships and trust.

A shared community vision will pave the way in the development of holistic education programs inclusive of the community. Thus, addressing the need for fitting curricula and teaching and learning materials, select media of instruction, and multilingual education programs to be tailored for specific Orang Asli contexts. 

Read more:
United Nations (UN). (2017). State of the world’s indigenous peoples: Education. 

The need for Evidence-Based Decision Making

Data and evidence are the fundamental elements of decision making. Improvement Science indicates that we cannot improve a scale that can’t be measured, nonetheless improvement science also gives value to differences of context, emphasizing on how local conditions can influence the process and findings. 

Data not only serves as a core principle, but also as an imperative mechanism in critically evaluating impact and proposing new interventions for Orang Asli education. In addition, comparing research and international findings with findings from the community sharpens execution as the ideas and plans generated will be problem-specific, and user centred.

In tracking whether change equates improvement, the data derived from and shared must be mutually shared with every stakeholder. Therefore, data and evidence are mutually inclusive and must not be a forlorn uncollaborative venture. 

Read more:
Park, S., Hironaka, S., Carver, P., & Nordstrum, L. (2013). Continuous Improvement in Education. Advancing Teaching–Improving Learning. White Paper. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

The need for Inclusive and Radical Collaborative Action

Assembling a group of enablers must include engaging with experts, especially since the wicked problems of the indigenous community are multifaceted and require efficient collaboration. Therefore, stakeholders and various organizations must maintain engagement, build alliances and learn from each other. Experts in the field of community service, assessment, business and commerce, technology, content building, data analysis, and pedagogy are relevant to the root causes that afflict Orang Asli education.

Nonetheless, equal partners to the experts are community teams who are from the indigenous communities themselves. These teams are not only involved in the planning but must also play a crucial role in implementing  plans. Thus, assuring that aspects that are important to the community such as the value of indigenous languages and cultures in education are prioritized.

Read more:
Sumathi Renganathan (2016) Educating the Orang Asli children: Exploring indigenous children’s practices and experiences in schools, The Journal of Educational Research, 109:3, 275-285

Conclusion

Though the gaps mentioned in the title are imperative concerns regarding the discourse of Orang Asli education, they obscure deep rooted systemic problems.

At present, learning is very much detached from supporting the educational and wants and needs of the community. Hence, learning processes are not supported by meaningful activities where the community plays an active role in deciding what is relevant and necessary for them. 

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