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The teacher campaigning for students or Maszlee?

Questions are raised over Cikgu Fadli's public criticism after a series of politically laced statements in praise of the former education minister.

3 minute read
Mohd Fadli Salleh (third right) gives the thumbs up sign in a picture taken with former education minister Maszlee Malik, believed to be some time in 2018. Photo: Facebook
Mohd Fadli Salleh (third right) gives the thumbs up sign in a picture taken with former education minister Maszlee Malik, believed to be some time in 2018. Photo: Facebook

Questions have been raised over the political loyalties of a primary school teacher who recently gained public attention over a video of him criticising the education ministry on the national school syllabus.

Mohd Fadli Salleh, a Standard One mathematics teacher with a big following on social media, had raised concerns that the primary school syllabus for the subject was too advanced.

He also highlighted a number of other issues including the high number of students per class, the number of subjects, and the weight of schoolbags which he said could be harmful to students' health.

The education ministry recently said that no action would be taken against him, despite Fadli repeatedly saying he was prepared to be sacked for his criticism.
While many shared his concerns on the syllabus, a series of his own posts and statements have led to suggestions that Fadli could be promoting a political agenda for former education minister Maszlee Malik.

Critics also pointed out Fadli's inconsistencies, such as when he said in 2018 that there was no need to modify the syllabus for Standard One mathematics as it was in line with similar assessments in developed countries.

However, he questioned the syllabus following Maszlee's resignation in January 2020 as well as in the aftermath of the change of government shortly after.

Fadli is seen in many clips openly expressing admiration for Maszlee, the Simpang Renggam MP who has since joined PKR.

Several PKR campaign events also saw leaders mentioning Fadli's brush with the authorities.

Checks on social media showed Fadli conveying his excitement about the leadership of Maszlee, describing the former minister as an open-minded individual although repeatedly stressing that he had no interest in politics.

"I do not say that I support (Maszlee)," Fadli said. "I have never supported his party. In all honesty, I do not like it. But I liked his attitude when he took over (the education ministry).

"I am not being political, I just want to talk," he said in a live broadcast on Sunday.

Yet, Fadli had only recently refused an invitation from Education Minister Radzi Jidin to discuss his concerns.

'Black shoes minister'

Maszlee won the Simpang Renggam seat on a Bersatu ticket at the 14th general election in 2018.

But his tenure as education minister was cut short following what was believed to be then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's disappointment with his performance in the portfolio.

Among others, Maszlee was panned for his focus on school uniforms shortly after taking office, at a time when there were bigger concerns for parents and teachers surrounding the education system.

In 2018, Maszlee announced that all primary and secondary school students might wear black shoes the following year, a move that led to many on social media calling him the "black shoes minister".

Maszlee also angered the academic world when he accepted the post of president of the International Islamic University Malaysia.

Critics said the move went against Pakatan Harapan's election pledge to restore academic freedom, describing it as an act of blatant interference by politicians in higher instututions.

Maszlee, who defended his appointment, later quietly stepped down from the post.

Fadli has meanwhile continued his praise of him, saying he should be returned to the education ministry.

"We need leaders like this, understand?" he said in a Facebook live session.

"It doesn't matter which party they are from. Don't twist my words to make it sound like I am telling people to support Maszlee's party. No.

"We need these people to lead, who can listen to what others say. I'm not here in any political capacity."