KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Unesco Day was celebrated for the first time on Friday 50 years after the country became a member of the international organisation.
The celebration, aimed at highlighting Malaysia’s active involvement and successes in Unesco, was declared open by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Friday evening.
To enable the public and foreign tourists to view closer Malaysia’s involvement in Unesco, an exhibition was held at the Central Market here from 10am to 6.30pm on Saturday.
It showcased various cultural performances, traditional dances, costumes and games for about 3,000 visitors.
The event aimed to increase the visibility and role of the Malaysian National Commission for Unesco (SKUM) as well as strengthen cooperation between the commission and government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the public.
SKUM consists of six permanent sub-committees.
They are Education Ministry; Higher Education Ministry; Information, Communications and Culture Ministry; Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry; Women, Family and Community Development Ministry; and Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Students of international schools also showed off Middle Eastern traditional costumes and performed traditional dances.
The celebration was proposed by Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, on April 12 after chairing the 37th annual general meeting of the Malaysian National Commission for Unesco.
It was apt for Malaysia to celebrate a day to highlight the nation’s successes in Unesco and to honour and award those who have enhanced Malaysia’s image, considering the country as being so active in Unesco.
November was picked to hold this celebration because Unesco was set up by the United Nations on Nov 16, 1946.
Malaysia (then Malaya) joined Unesco on June 16, 1958, a year after achieving independence.
Malaysia sat on the Unesco executive board six times and had just completed a three-year term from 2008 to 2011.
The executive board is an important body in Unesco which discusses issues and implementation strategies of programmes of the organisation, which recently was the focus of attention over the membership of Palestine.
Muhyiddin also launched the Malaysian IPT Unesco Club at the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations here on Friday evening.
In his speech, Muhyiddin, who is also president of the Malaysian National Commission for Unesco, said celebrating Unesco Day in the country for the first time was proof of the commitment to enhance the relationship between Malaysia and Unesco.
“I believe every step that is taken to achieve the aims of Unesco will be meaningful to make the world a better place for everyone.
Since we became a member of Unesco 53 years ago on June 16, 1958, Malaysia always worked together with the organisation to achieve its goals and guidelines,” he said.
As a member of Unesco, the Deputy Prime Minister said Malaysia had played an active role in all the programmes and activities of the organisation which were important to the country.
Since 1978, Malaysia has sat on the Unesco executive board six times and had just completed a three-year term from 2008 to 2011.
Malaysia was also a member of several sub-committees of Unesco.
The country recently sat on the World Heritage Committee (WHC) for the first time and was a member of Council of the Unesco International Bureau of Education (IBE) and Inter-government Oceanorgraphic Commision (IOC).
Two institutes were set up under Unesco Category II Centre in Kuala Lumpur in 2008.
They were the Regional Humid Tropics Hydrlogy and Water Techonology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation (ISTIC).
Unesco Malaysia is also proud that the Kinabalu National Park in Sabah and Mulu National Park in Sarawak have achieved the Unesco World Heritage status for the Nature Category; Melaka and Georgetown for the Cultural Category; Tasik Chini, Pahang as Unesco Biosfera Reserve Site and Langkawi as the first GeoPark in Malaysia and South East Asia.
“Sixty-five years after the setting up of Unesco on November 16, 1946, the organisation still continues its mission to promote and build a peaceful culture in the world through its education, science, cultural, social and communication programmes and activities,” said Muhyiddin, adding that the Malaysian Unesco Day would be celebrated annually to allow people the opportunity to evaluate the nation’s ranking in Unesco and the organisation’s contribution to the country.
He also said the country had almost reached its target of Education for All (EFA) earlier than the original target year of 2015.
“Unesco not only covers matters in education but also culture, science and such,” he added.
The Deputy Prime Minister said it is the right time for Malaysia to promote Education for All to eradicate poverty, enhance tolerance, fight for peace, ensure gender equality and share aspiration and challenges of Unesco, especially with the younger generation.
“In addition, the celebration is also to show our achievements in Unesco.” According to Muhyiddin, one of the biggest challenges faced by Unesco is to achieve the target of Education for All which is in line with the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) by 2015.
The factors hampering the achievement of the goal are global finance, inflation and instability in some countries due to war, poverty and natural disasters.
At the same time, Malaysia wholly supports the efforts of Unesco to plan a strategy to oversee the implementation of EFA beyond 2015.
As a member nation of Unesco, Malaysia always gives its full commitment to ensure the aim of EFA could be achieved by 2015.
He said based on Unesco’s 2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report, Malaysia ranked 65th of 127 countries with a 0.945 percent EFA Development Index in the Middle Category Group compared to its previous placing of 69th out of 128 countries.
Malaysia is taking various steps and conducting comprehensive programmes to improve and upgrade the education outcomes, in particular the achievements of students, through providing quality educational opportunities under the Government Transformation Programme.
The government is reviewing the education system to make it stronger and transforming the technical and vocational subjects to produce more skilled and innovative manpower in order to achieve the Economic Transformation Programme.
Muhyiddin also said Malaysia truly appreciated the expert assistance from Unesco through the signing of a memorandum of understanding to review the Malaysian education policy at all levels from pre-school to higher education here on Friday.
The review was initiated to ensure that every Malaysian could realise their potentials, as well as preparing future work force with the required skill set in line with various government transformation programmes to achieve a developed and high income economy by 2020.
The objective of the review is to evaluate the policies, strategies and achievements of the Malaysian education system.
The review is expected to focus on priority areas such as curriculum development, technical and vocational training, information and communication technology (ICT) in education, teacher training as well as school-based assessment and examination.
At the same time, Malaysia is also working closely with Unesco to assit less developed countries to achieve the aim of EFA.
This will be achieved through the Malaysia-Unesco Cooperation Program signed by the government of Malaysia and Unesco on November 15, this year.
In conjunction with the opening ceremony, 20 Malaysians who were recognised by Unesco in various fields since Malaysia became its member, were feted.