Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was speaking at his alma mater Sultan Abdul Hamid College's (SAHC) annual dinner last night in Kuala Lumpur, announced that the overhaul of the school syllabus is needed to reduce the current focus on religious studies
Tun Dr Mahathir said the focus on religion has caused students ill-equipped to get jobs.
Therefore, the Prime Minister has vowed to change the school syllabus to cut back on religious classes and to improve school-leavers' employability in the market.
"We will still study religion, but it will not be a whole day period as we do not want students to only know how to recite prayers but lack knowledge in other subjects.
"We need to master all the other subjects because if we want to progress, Malaysians must be well educated, not only in baca doa (reciting prayers)...
"So the school curriculum will be changed and modified so that now we will have national schools that will teach everybody all the important subjects that will be useful for them when they mature and become independent individuals," he said last night.
He lamented that national schools have become religious schools
"Someone changed the curriculum in the school, and now the national school has become a religious school.
"They are all learning about the religion of Islam and not learning anything else. And as a result, the graduates or the people who are passing in the school are not very conversant in things that are useful for them to get jobs, but they are very good ulama.
"And then you have too many ulama, they always differ from each other and then they mislead their followers and they quarrel with each other.
"That is the problem we face now. And because of that, we are going to change the timetable, curriculum in the schools," the Prime Minister said, adding that, "We will still study religion, but not all periods in one day, maybe one or two periods in a week."
He emphasised on the need to master all other subjects
"Because if we want to progress, Malaysians must be well-educated, not only in reciting Quran but also in other languages. If we don't, we are going to be very backward," he said, adding that the country is currently going through a difficult phase and needs development which requires well-educated people who are able to interact with others.
"We have to work very hard in order to catch up with other people.
"And although we have to say our prayers, we also need to spend a good time on mastering all the other subjects that are taught in the school," he added.
Tun Dr Mahathir also encouraged Malaysians to master their command over English saying that learning "the language of knowledge" would not diminish their Malay or Malaysian identity
"English is not just for English people. English is a universal language.
"Yes, the Japanese and Chinese use their own languages but if you ask them if they use their own language totally, their answer is that when studying Science and Mathematics, you must use English," he said adding that it's crucial for acquiring new knowledge.
In his speech, he also said that while Malaysians were formerly known to have a good command of the English language, students today have a poor grasp of English and the general quality of schools had been "downgraded" over the years.
"It's not that we are less Malay or Malaysian when we insist on mastering English. If we are truly good Malaysians, we will want to impress people with our mastery of English."