February 9, 2003 - New Straits Times: Drawbacks and benefits of national service

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: 02 February 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: February 9, 2003 - New Straits Times: Drawbacks and benefits of national service

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, February 17, 2003 - 1:57 am: Edit Post

Drawbacks and benefits of national service

Read and comment on this story from the New Straits Times on national service that says that the drawbacks could overwhelm any potential benefits. In short, national service could be a proposal brilliant in concept but lousy in implementation. What is especially interesting about this article is that it isn't written about the United States but is directed towards the policy question now being debated in Malaysia. Read the story at:

Drawbacks, benefits of national service*

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Drawbacks, benefits of national service

But unless it is implemented properly, the drawbacks could overwhelm any potential benefits. In short, national service could be a proposal brilliant in concept but lousy in implementation.

Successful implementation could depend on how policy makers handle several critical issues.

Should national service comprise solely of military training? Or should it include Peace Corps type work? Should young women be required to do national service? Undoubtedly, some will be exempted from national service. But what kind of illness or disability — physical or mental — will qualify for exemption? Should national servicemen (and women) receive payment? Or will payment of even a token sum undermine the concept of national service? Should national service be spaced out over several years or undertaken in one go? In theory, requiring young Malaysian men to do a stint of militarystyle training — anything from three months to two years — could foster a sense of patriotism.

Living and working together in camps could also promote greater tolerance and understanding among different ethnic groups as well as instil a sense of discipline.

In reality, these benefits could prove illusory. For a start, fostering a sense of patriotism takes time; it cannot be bud grafted instantly.

And if patriotism has failed to take root after 10 years of schooling, is it likely to germinate after two or three years of national service? Second, if young adults have failed to interact with other ethnic groups during their 10 years of schooling, national service is unlikely to repair this failure. Indeed, requiring young men to live and work together without adequate preparation could aggravate racial tension.

Third, suggesting national service could instil a sense of discipline among the young may well be wishful thinking. Perhaps I have been reading too many Beetle Bailey cartoons.

I believe a person as incorrigible as Beetle Bailey — irreverent of authority and goofing off from army duties — is unlikely to become a model solider.

Fourth, parents who are materialistic or hard-pressed to make ends meet may well object vigorously to the prospect of their offspring spending years undertaking non-income generating activity. And if only men are required to undergo national service, they will lag behind their female contemporaries in terms of career advancement.

Fifth, national service could generate unintended opportunities for corruption.

According to news reports, young Malaysians with health problems certified by a medical panel recognised by the Government will be exempted from national service. Even if the criteria for exemption are clearly spelt out and the process highly transparent, unscrupulous parents will still try and persuade the medical panel to exempt their offspring.

Science, Technology and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Law Hieng Ding has suggested the Government consider exempting from national service students undertaking science and technology courses. While the intent is praiseworthy, such an exemption could create tremendous resentment.

According to Law, South Korean students who undertake courses in science and technology are exempted from national service, a move that has encouraged more South Korean students to study these two subjects.

By 2010, Law estimates Malaysia will require 140,000 scientists. Given the fact there are only 30,000 scientists in this country currently, the need to ensure another 110,000 Malaysian students undertake courses in science and technology over the next eight years is compelling.

Such an exemption, however, could disadvantage students from rural schools. Lacking laboratories and other facilities, pupils from rural schools may score poorly in examinations for science and technology subjects. If so, a disproportionate number of young Malaysians under-going national service could come from rural schools.

Sixth, will national service help de-velop the free-wheeling creativity and lateral thinking essential in nur-turing a Knowledge-based economy? Admittedly, in terms of time spent, military training may comprise only a small component of national service. But if national service is intended to instil a sense of discipline, the type of training, activity or courses undertaken is likely to instil in participants undue respect for authority and for established norms.

But scientific, artistic and entrepreneurial creativity requires participants to challenge the existing status quo.

Lastly, policy makers would do well to remember that some members of the VAT 69 gang in this country were ex-commandos who received training in jungle warfare, abseiling and unarmed combat, skills that may have proven useful in their career as urban robbers.

Similarly, two former US Gulf War veterans gained notoriety: Timothy McVeigh, the 33-year-old Oklahoma bomber responsible for the most deadly peacetime attack on US soil prior to Sept 11 and John Allen Muhammad, one of the two snipers who terrorised Washington over a three-week period last October.

I am not suggesting army training or combat experience breeds peacetime killers.

However, those who receive training in handling guns and other military equipment should be carefully screened to ensure they are emotionally and mentally stable.

Furthermore, I do not believe national service is the solution for present ills or to meet future challenges. To my mind, a far more critical need is a revamp of our national schools.

Students in national schools should be articulate in Bahasa Malaysia and English, able to think for themselves, open to new ideas as well as tolerant of cultural, religious and social differences.

Confucius said: "Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous." In short, what we need is students with toprate brain power, not firepower.

A lawyer by training and currently a Visiting Fellow at Isis, the opinions expressed in this article are the author's own idiosyncratic views and should not be attributed to any organisation she is linked with.
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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Speaking Out; COS - Malaysia; Special Interests - National Service



By arieL (brk-24-93.tm.net.my - on Monday, February 02, 2004 - 2:54 am: Edit Post

National service??? what does that mean actually????
torturing? i TOTALLY DISAGREE bout national service.. firstly, it is wasting teenagers time... they need to study~!!
secondly, they'll be seperated from their family for a few months..... does this mean good???

By lee Chin Chin ( - on Thursday, April 22, 2004 - 8:07 pm: Edit Post

I think if the national service could be well implemented, it would be a pretty neat idea. The government should make it as optional decision to the teenager or let their parents to decide. If want to convince people to join this program, government should make it a pleasant good start, there is pointless to force people to do something that they are unwilling to do. I know leaving the option on people hands for going to national service would lead to unattainable ideal number of participant. Yet, government could use the extra fund as compensation or some sort of reward. By giving soldiering strict training, it can discipline the young people. Therefore, in future when those youngsters thought of doing something bad which could be even against the law, they would think twice for their actions. Indirectly, unlawful action like committing criminal case would then be reduced. Just take it easy and treat it as summer camp.

By TrutHurts (202-58-80-91.uitm.edu.my - on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 1:09 am: Edit Post

I think NS is good..so our teenage could spend their time doing good thing for the country rather than lepaking and fooling around..
for Ariel..why are u so panick about being separated from ur family? u r not a kid..try to be more matured..sooner or later u will leave ur family..let's say if u study in oversea..is ur family goin to tag along wif u? And if u getting married,r u gonna live with ur parents? u have ur own life rite?
So girl, grow up a lil' bit ok?

By seng hwa lie (static-202-133-101-83.mykris.net - on Saturday, March 04, 2006 - 9:50 am: Edit Post

hope can help u ...

By BigaPic (cdif-cache-2.server.ntli.net - on Monday, July 03, 2006 - 12:32 am: Edit Post

NS is not the right solution for the counNS is not the right solution for the country’s problem of delinquent youths or the disparity of race. Especially the NS that is going on now with it’s rushed plans.
TrutHurts, if you have a daughter or son, could you so easily let them rush headlong into this? Not to mention the various reports of mob-like fights, uneasiness of trainers due to delay in payment, army like training and punishment. This is not a trip overseas; this is a twisted idea of forcing teenagers to rush into maturity. Next national dilemma -- the psychological trauma of NS youth.

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