The education portfolio was always known to decide the rise and fall of an Umno leader, former Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam said.
Musa, who was the education minister from 1978 to 1981, said this was the reason many political aspirants wanted the education portfolio.
“It offered visibility and popularity, as well as the opportunity to score brownie points,” he wrote in his book titled “Frankly Speaking.”
In a chapter dedicated entirely to education, Musa admitted that the matter was very challenging politically as there were detractors “who were only too happy” to add a racial twist to every decision that was taken by the ministry.
One other challenge he noted was dealing with Malay Muslim scholarship students who became involved with deviationist Islamic groups when studying overseas, namely in Britain, Australia and the United States.
The problem, Musa said, was attributed to culture shock and the lack of contact with government officials to enable students to keep abreast of developments back home.
Many of the Malay students who went overseas, he explained, were from rural areas and a majority of whom had never set foot in the capital prior to furthering their studies in big cites like London, Melbourne and Chicago.
“The culture shock was compounded by the fact that they did not have anyone to talk to, let alone find others of the Islamic faith that they could relate to in such foreign environments.”
To help deal with the problem, Musa said ministers and education officials were encouraged to visit students overseas regularly to explain government policies and current affairs.
The government, he said, later decided to make Islamic studies a compulsory subject for Muslims in local schools to curb Islamic deviationism.