Enough with the shoes already

TOO much time has already been wasted on debates about the colour of school shoes.

Parents want the Education Ministry to move on to more important issues now that a decision has been made to allow both black and white shoes when school reopens on Jan 20 next year.

After two years of heated discussions that set social media ablaze, parents are calling on the ministry to move on from the trivial topic to matters that impact their children’s educational progress – like the reopening of schools.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim (pic) said the reopening of schools, especially for Forms Five and Six students, should be the ministry’s immediate focus.

Schools have been closed since the movement control order was implemented in March, before briefly reopening in July and then shutting down again in September due to the rise in Covid-19 cases.

“It is with great relief that the matter of shoe colour has been resolved.

“Now let’s ensure that the standard operating procedure (to curb the spread of Covid-19) is better enforced next year, ” she said.

The shoe colour, said Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin, was a non-issue right from the start.

Agreeing with Noor Azimah, he said the ministry must restrategise and get their priorities right.

“Look instead into how we can allow a smooth transition for teachers and students who are willing to return to schools for face-to-face lessons.

“To go back and forth on a trivial matter like this reeks of incompetence especially when many parents were beginning to accept that their children would have to wear black shoes from next year.

“Who decides on such matters?” he asked.

Now that the matter is resolved, educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said the ministry should ensure that other more important policies for the country’s education system are properly implemented.

The shortage of teachers, for example, has been a perennial problem, he added.

“See to it that the headmasters and principals appointed to head a school are competent in managing their schools.

“Problems that occur in schools often happen due to bad management, ” he said.

Siva Subramaniam, who was the former National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general, former Human Rights Commission of Malaysia secretary-general and former Public and Civil Services president, said superficial decisions such as the students’ shoe colour should be left to the schools to decide based on feedback from students and parents.

“There is no need to treat something frivolous like that as though it is a national policy.”

The black shoes saga

Dec 2020: A circular signed by Education director-general Datuk Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim stated that school students could use either black or white shoes when schools reopen next year. She said the ministry was concerned about parents having to provide for their children before the new school session starts so to make it easier on them, all students are allowed to choose whether to wear black or white shoes, and socks according to the colour of the shoes.

Nov 2018: The then Education director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin issued a circular stating that from 2021, all socks would also have to be black. And, the black shoes must be made from canvas or synthetic material such as nylon and polyester which are highly-absorbent and breathable. Voices grew angrier as many felt that the ministry had misplaced its priorities.

Oct 2018: With many, including politicians, questioning Maszlee’s priorities and slamming him for making a hasty decision, the ministry issued a statement that the black shoe ruling for government schools would only be fully enforced in 2021, meaning that students could wear either black or white shoes in 2019 and 2020.

July 2018: Former Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik announced a new ruling that from 2019, students would step out in black shoes instead of in white. He explained that the ruling was made following suggestions by parents, who complained that white shoes were easily soiled and difficult to maintain. The announcement, which saw him being dubbed Menteri Kasut (shoe minister), led to an outcry especially from the B40 group as it meant that they would have to buy new shoes. While some parents argued that white shoes were a good way to teach children responsibility, others were annoyed because they felt that there were other more pressing issues that an Education Minister should be looking into. Traders calling for a grace period and more clarity on the ruling had also complained about the loss they would have to incur as their stock of white shoes would be wasted.

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