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Rebuilding Social Bridges:
Review and Recommendations for PLKN 3.0

Executive Summary

  • Program Latihan Khidmat Negara, or PLKN, was first implemented in 2004 in response to a need to increase patriotism among youth. In 2016, the programme was rebranded as PLKN 2.0 and made optional, focusing on vocational training. In 2018, PLKN was fully abolished.


  • Prior research demonstrated that while PLKN had some successes in improving interracial relations among participants, sub-optimal features of the programme limited its capacity to create significant reductions in prejudice and improve social cohesion.


  • In nations such as the United Kingdom, Singapore and France, versions of National Service are implemented in various ways to incorporate elements of national unity, youth development and community service.


  • In present day, there is a great need for a social bridging programme due to increasing segregation among youth, the hollowing of opportunities for interracial friendships and increasing threats of extremism.


  • We present a case study of Sekolah Diversiti that successfully implemented a bilingual residential programme focusing on building social cohesion and peace among Malaysian youth. The programme leveraged on deliberate diversity among participants, small group implementation and participant-led learning.


  • We recommend the reintroduction of a revised and rebranded PLKN, beginning with a 1-year pilot stage with the intentional goal of bridge building and promoting interracial understanding.


  • Administratively, we recommend the appointment of a non-partisan PLKN Council and youth representation on the Council. A robust procurement process and independent ombudsman are needed to prevent leakages, corrupt practices and protect participants from abuse such as bullying, sexual harassment and negligence.


  • Programmatically, we recommend major revisions to the initial PLKN model such as Gen-Z adapted peace pedagogy and smaller ratios between ethnic groups. The emulation of the Peace Corps recruitment system can increase both the quality and diversity of trainers. Independent monitoring and evaluation must be implemented and facilitated for robust assessment.


  • To minimise cost, we recommend leveraging on targeted selection of youth who have large influence on social norms in their own communities to amplify the effects of a revised PLKN.

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