Name: Andrew Loh Zhu An
Date of Birth: 2nd June 1987
Nationality: Malaysian


SMK Damansara Jaya 2004

Swarthmore College 2010

From the Andrew's Heritage Dictionary:

Andrew (AND-roo)

1. noun. common name.

2. adjective. smart, dumb, intelligent, retarded, clever, stupid, bright, dull, witty, tounge-tied, shrewd, stuttering, slow, quick-witted, moronic, autistic, lively, outspoken, eloquent, dense, daft, idiotic, foolish, thick, spirited, sharp, vigourous, rude, arrogant, pompous, bloated, ostentatious, boastful, inflated, direct, brave, cowardly, gullible, free, free-spirited, burdened, depressed, optimistic, pessimistic, defensive, creative, innovative, irritating, annoying, impossible, infuriating, shy, loud, displeasing, norm-challenging, harassive, irksome, troublesome, vexatious, worrisome, provocative, impatient, pleasant, diplomatic, unreserved, trouble-making, short, defiant, fickle, shallow, timid, audacious, brainless, indoctrinated, indoctrinatory, proud, exploitative, zesty, humourous, anal-retentive, rebellious, lame, innocuous, dangerous, explosive, spontaneous, adaptable, stubborn, pig-headed, nervous, offensive, pestering, useless, ironic, paradoxical.

Usage: You're so Andrew! [Interchange with any of the above definitions]

And yes, I did look at the thesaurus.



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Saturday, March 04, 2006
The Paradox which is Pengetahuan Moral

"Orang yang tidak bermoral skor dalam Pengetahuan Moral." (Students who aren't morally inclined score in Moral Knowledge.)

This proverb was coined by some wise classmates who reflected upon the irony of the situation: nice, hardworking, pleasant, respectful students would generally do badly in their Moral exams while mischievous students who procrastinated, talked a lot in class and did last minute rush jobs generally seemed to walk away from the exam hall with As.

We all realized that Pengetahuan Moral in secondary school was a paradox in itself, where being a good boy did not necessarily mean that you will get an A in the subject, and where getting an A in the subject did not necessarily mean you were a good boy.

The first indication of the change from the primary school subject in which everyone managed to get at least a 90% to the monstrosity we now know was its name. It was no longer called Pendidikan Moral, or Moral Education anymore; rather, it was now Pengetahuan Moral, or Moral Knowledge. Its focus was not to educate students in being good, morally upright citizens, but to test our knowledge in spewing out morality as defined by its syllabus.

Classes were normally boring and dull. We spent hours memorizing the syllabus - 36 official "Moral Values"1 in 7 "Categories" and their fixed definitions, word for word. We called it the most useless/asinine subject ever invented. We hypothesized about the extra three class periods per week that we could use for other subjects if Pengetahuan Moral didn't exist. We cursed the formulators of this wretched subject.

Textbooks drummed propaganda and improbable, they-lived-happily-ever-after stories into our young and impressionable minds. But still, there were the occasional spicy themes like human and civil rights and blind patriotism and acceptance where I couldn't help but challenge the textbook's whitewashed views which led to exciting, lively, quasi-thought-provoking class debates.

Worst of all was the examination itself. O, how much sleep hast every non-Muslim Malaysian student lost over fretting and worrying about Pengetahuan Moral? It was the bane of our existence. The agony of having to memorize 36 Values and their respective definitions word for word. The splitting headaches and lapses in memory and sore fingers plaguing our feverish quest to regurgitate every single Moral Value in two and a half hours. The disillusionment that set in once we found out that we used a synonymous but wrong word. ("Darn! It was Melindungi Hak Kanak-Kanak, not Menghormati!" or "Which of these combinations is right: Patuh/Taat/Setia/Cinta  pada/kepada/akan  Negara?")

Our greatest foe was the sneaky answer scheme. Despite our teachers' assurances that it was holistic, encompassing and comprehensive, we all had our doubts. Time after time, students would come up with Moral Values that would fit the questions and substantiate them with logical reasons and examples only to find that their answers weren't accepted. When confronted, most teachers would just shrug and say something along the lines of "Sorry, nilai itu tidak dalam skemalah." ("Sorry, that Value wasn't in the scheme.") This led me to conclude that the minds of Moral students and teachers just weren't wired the same way. Us students always had surprise Moral Values for the teachers to reject.

All in all, Pengetahuan Moral is the epitome of the rigidity of the Malaysian education system. It squashes thinking out of the box, fostering conformism among students. It mass produces memorizers instead of independent, critical thinkers. It gives us an ultimatum: Don't even think. Just follow, just toe the line. Only then will you be rewarded. Disobeying meant punishment.

I challenge the objectives of having Pengetahuan Moral as a subject. Obviously the ability to quote 36 Moral Values and their definitions will not make anyone a more morally inclined citizen. I will go so far as to assume that this subject was implemented for the sake of implementing a subject, not to mold better Malaysians. I speculate that Pengetahuan Moral is here for non-Muslim students as a mere substitute for Islamic Knowledge for Muslim students.

In typical bureaucratic manner, the essence of educating students into upright, virtuous individuals has been lost in the haste of assembling a hodgepodge of "Moral Values" and government doctrine into an examinable subject.

However, it would be unjustified to say that Pengetahuan Moral is an entirely useless subject. It is very interesting to see how good can still result from the most ludicrous of actions.

For example, I feel that I had learnt more about Malay in Pengetahuan Moral than in the Malay Language classes in school. Without Moral as a subject, I most likely would never have known that amanah was, in a way, synonymous to bertanggungjawab and memikul kewajipan. I would never have equated melindungi with mempertahankan and menaungi. Moral gave me an expanded vocabulary and a more solid foundation to write my karangans with.

And then there was Sastera, or Literature, where I could reuse these Moral Values whenever the exam questions asked about themes or values or lessons from the text, modifying them if need be.

As much as I hated the subject and the farcical way that it presented virtues, I still memorized its entire syllabus. Every Moral Value and its definition. Word for word. I guess it was my way of challenging the system: I wasn't going to lose to it. It could torture me by boring me to death, but I was still going to excel in it.

Moreover, memorization had its own benefits too. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my brain could process scattered, nonsensical bits of information, word for word, and that I had the ability to recall them when needed! It was a personal victory over the subject itself. I imagined myself scoffing at the failed plans of the evil Moral inventors to confound and overwork my brain.

With all the Moral Values memorized, I could spend more time revising for other more important subjects during exam season. Indeed, Moral Knowledge was third on my list of "Subjects needing Least Preparation" after English and Mathematics. Free A1, anyone?

Furthermore, the occasions when I raised my objections to some of the Moral textbook's politically-motivated themes was my way to challenge my classmates not to accept everything as it was. I wanted to expose my classmates to different perspectives and point-of-views to situations, to tell the other sides of the stories which the textbooks don't tell.

But most importantly, I have personally been through a subject which is utterly incapable of fulfilling its own objective of developing students into Malaysians of virtue and character. I know personally how blatantly absurd and insubstantial Pengetahuan Moral really is. It is a sorry excuse for a school subject. However, I also find it extremely fascinating and ironic that only after going through Pengetahuan Moral myself can I truly identify its faults and flaws.

Looking back at it and with my A1 in SPM Pengetahuan Moral, I now stand proud to have triumphed over the beast that Moral Knowledge is. Perhaps someday, someone in power will have the common sense and courage to remember the essence of character education and repeal Pengetahuan Moral.

Until then, we'll just have to make the best out of it.



  1. A review of Pengetahuan Moral changed the syllabus to 36 Moral Values in 7 Categories for SPM 2004 takers. Batches prior to SPM 2004 had to memorize a whopping 80 Values and Subvalues.
  2. Take note, however, that the batches for SPM 2004 and 2005 memorized 80 Values and Subvalues in Form 1-3, and then switched to the current 36 Moral Values in Form 4.

Posted at 03:25 pm by andrewlza

March 5, 2006   09:17 AM PST
I'll try hard to ignore the picture.

Was this an article or your blog? Haha it's in the form of an article so it kept me wondering, until I realized there wasn't an author or date.

I remember taking a Moral course back in grade school in China.

So you're one of these guys who ace on the exams but...*ahem*?
March 5, 2006   03:09 PM PST
LOL. it's an article for a website i write for.

but what? lol.

Moral sucks, no matter what. It's the stupidest subject in the known world.
March 30, 2006   08:47 PM PST
so with u teacher...moral =
June 7, 2006   01:45 AM PDT
Loved the article. This sentence was particularly interesting and amusing: "I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my brain could process scattered, nonsensical bits of information, word for word, and that I had the ability to recall them when needed!"

Are you sure it's the stupidest subjecy in the whole world? I think civics comes pretty close.
August 9, 2006   12:26 AM PDT
if only this would hit the newspapers...=P
August 4, 2008   12:42 PM PDT
Great article. Like timc said, wish it would be in the papers. Moral.....brrrrr......whats more its a LAN subject as well.....
August 4, 2008   12:42 PM PDT
Great article. Like timc said, wish it would be in the papers. Moral.....brrrrr......whats more its a LAN subject as well.....
May 13, 2009   10:13 PM PDT
Love ur article. i am applying to be a teacher teaching Pengetahuan Moral and i actually do agree to all what u said. coz i was a student too who also studied this subject while in school. if i ever make it (to be a teacher of Pengetahuan Moral), i would like to try to do something to change this..and i also already have in mind to use ur article for my class to debate, can i?..hehe..
May 13, 2009   10:41 PM PDT
Love ur article. i am applying to be a teacher teaching Pengetahuan Moral and i actually do agree to all what u said. coz i was a student too who also studied this subject while in school. if i ever make it (to be a teacher of Pengetahuan Moral), i would like to try to do something to change this..and i also already have in mind to use ur article for my class to debate, can i?..hehe..
May 14, 2009   02:38 PM PDT
Definitely! I'll be honoured ;)
May 14, 2009   02:39 PM PDT
Just quote me and link back ;)
December 13, 2009   02:24 PM PST
haha sure aaron. good luck; anything towards a pengetahuan moral-free malaysia. :)
January 8, 2010   03:43 AM PST
Thank you. Just posted. See where the future takes us.
April 18, 2011   05:42 AM PDT
"1.A review of Pengetahuan Moral changed the syllabus to 36 Moral Values in 7 Categories for SPM 2004 takers. Batches prior to SPM 2004 had to memorize a whopping 80 Values and Subvalues."

*Mouth open in abject horror.*

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