By Erda Khursyiah Basir
Believing that the enculturation of integrity has to start young, the Malaysian Institute of Integrity (Integrity) has created a preschool integrity module to encourage children to assimilate its values and practices.
The module will be implemented in selected government-run preschools in the Klang Valley and Terengganu as part of a pilot project by the institute, in collaboration with the Education Ministry.
Integrity president and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Anis Yusal Yusoff said they have been working on this initiative since July this year and that the module has already been submitted to the Education Ministry.
“We’re now in the process of transferring information to the preschools concerned to prepare them to implement the module,” he told Bernama, recently at the sidelines of the Asean Integrity Dialogue (AID) held at the institute, here.
He said the preschool integrity module would utilise fun learning techniques such as storytelling to enable the children to absorb noble or moral values associated with integrity and, indirectly, apply them in their day-to-day life.
“We are not introducing integrity to preschoolers as a separate subject. On the contrary, we are introducing it as an additional element or value to what is being taught now,” explained Anis Yusal, adding that the module was in alignment with the standard national preschool curriculum.
“If you were to look at the existing preschool curriculum, you can see that it mainly focuses on teaching children how to read and spell. In the context of imparting noble values to them, there’s not much (focus).”
Good role models
Expressing his hope that the initiative would help cultivate and promote enculturation of integrity in children, Anis Yusal said parents too need to do their part by being good role models to their young children.
“Remember, integrity education has to start at home. If children learn about integrity in school but at home, their parents practise values contrary to what they have learnt, they will become confused,” he added.
Sharing her views on the same subject, assistant ombudsman of prosecution information, evaluation and monitoring services at the Office of the Ombudsman in the Philippines, Maribeth T. Padios, said early exposure to integrity issues would enable individuals to properly discharge the duties they are entrusted with once they start working.
“We should start teaching integrity (to children) at a younger age so by the time they start rendering their services, it (integrity) is already there.
“We don’t have to teach them what is good or what is wrong because they already have integrity in mind,” said Padios, one of the panellists at the Asean Integrity Dialogue.
Not limited to civil service
Speaking about public misconceptions about integrity issues, Anis Yusal said there was a tendency for most people to relate lack of integrity to only bribery and corrupt practices.
“They also assume that integrity issues only affect the civil service and politicians,” he said.
In reality, he pointed out, lack of integrity was not entirely about taking or offering bribes or being involved in corrupt practices but was also about abusing one’s position or power by practising nepotism and submitting falsified claims.
“Integrity is something that has to be present in all sectors and not limited to only the civil service or politicians as what many people think,” he said.
“If you take a look at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, you will see that there are many other issues related to integrity.”
He said it was important for society to rectify any misconceptions they may have about integrity and have a more comprehensive understanding of the term so that they can refrain from committing any act that would smear not only their image but also that of their department or agency.
The Philippines experience
Meanwhile, speaking at the Asean Integrity Dialogue, Padios said the Philippines has implemented various programmes to promote integrity and good public service delivery.
She said good governance reforms initiated in her country that have succeeded in improving public service delivery include the implementation of the Anti-Red Tape Act 2007 to reduce bureaucracy and the citizen satisfaction index system (CSIS), which is a community report card to assess the performance of the government’s public service delivery.
“Citizens today are more aware of their rights, have better access to information on public services and consequently have higher expectations of service levels.
“The reality of the public sector today is that it is assessed by the efficiency of its service delivery and it is no longer by the revenue it generates or the employment it provides,” she said.
Padios said her country also has a Citizens First programme to enable the people to call or send emails to the relevant government department or agency if they have complaints.
“We also have a service where people can immediately report, inquire, complain, suggest or comment on anything about government matters via SMS,” she said, adding that about 1,000 to 1,500 such messages are received monthly.
The Philippines is also enhancing the use of the electronic channel in public administrative matters.
“The United Nations (UN) sees e-government as an effective tool for public service since it promotes accountability and transparency,” said Padios, adding that based on the 2016 UN E-Government Survey, the Philippines had climbed 24 notches to rank 71st out of 193 countries in e-government development.
“The Philippines also obtained a high score in the E-Government Development Index, with a total of 0.58 out of a perfect score of 1, beating other Asian neighbours. The global average is at 0.5,” she added.
Third integrity dialogue
The ASEAN Integrity Dialogue (AID) 2017 is the third one to be organised by the Malaysian Institute of Integrity, the first two having been held in 2008 and 2015.
This year’s theme was “Reinventing Good Governance Through Universal Values”.
AID 2017, held on Oct 26, was aimed at discussing and sharing information, experiences and lessons related to the role played by universal values in enhancing governance.
The dialogue also served as a platform for Asean member states to exchange ideas for fostering universal values and strengthening strategic and federal networks between institutions and individuals that champion integrity.
AID 2017 attracted about 200 participants from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore and they comprised policymakers, good governance practitioners, intellectuals, and representatives from the private sector and civil society.