Jan 25, 2014
Are we addicted to testing the child in school? Tests, tests, and more tests. Test anything that moves.
But what is the child’s mind and how to understand it to make Malaysian schools more than just training camps for dull young minds?
The mind is all these: active, ready to learn new things, always hungry for knowledge, for deeply engaging environment of exploration that can be offered by the system.
The mind is not a place to be made idle, or a temple of boredom, or a funnel to shove in mere facts, useless information that has no relevance to the idea of meaning and learning, or have no sense of connection to the child’s experience.
The mind has to always be in a mode of higher order thinking, of the excitement generated in the upper brain or the corpus callosum and not be placed in the reptilian mode of “fight or flight”, where the body is to be caned and punished for not memorising by teachers who wish to impose their own understanding of things, or by those who think they have the answers to everything, or for teachers afraid of children’s questions.
Learning that is not active will certainly activate the mode of resistance in the child’s consciousness. The more the child is bored, the more he/she will rebel – silently or violently – because his intelligence is not respected, nurtured, or challenged to greater heights.
Criminals are made, not born, for as the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau said, “Everything is good in the hands of the Author of Things, everything degenerates in the hand of Man…
“Curiosity and the interest in learning is a gift to be nurtured… a Natural Gift and the Natural Rights of Man…”
Educators, teachers, headmaster, administrators, ministers of education: you must understand the nature of the mind, the learner, the teacher, the teaching styles, the appropriate tools and techniques, and the nurturing environment of joy and not fear to be created.
Adding to that, the way to teach children to be researchers and producers of cultural artifacts useful to humankind, the deep interest in deeply engaging learning, the connectedness of knowledge to the spectrum of taxonomies of learning.
From the whats to the hows to the whys and to what ifs and what elses… the knowledge, understanding, analysis, synthesis, to judgment, to new creations, new applications, and renewed dimensions that will break newer paradigms and discover newer frontiers.
All realities are not the same
All these are the essential ideas of “Constructivism in Learning and Teaching” – ideas drawn from the complexity of the human mind as it interacts with the world in a constantly evolving world of learning and exploring endlessly as Socrates, Dewey, Piaget, Neill, Montessori, or cognitive scientists, and linguistic semioticians, etc. would advocate.
We construct our own worldview based on our own exploration using a scientific and natural way of thinking.
All realities are not the same as they are all constructed and reconstructed. This includes truth, representation and “realities in religion” to each his own construction of the meaning of “God” framed in whatever term and assigned to whatever name spiritually desirable and no one has a monopoly of another persons’ use of it.
The Malaysian child in school is especially privileged with multi-cultural resources, with an environment of learning linking self to community, and self to meaningful history.
Linking each others’ wealth of cultural knowledge, linking the mind to the world of cybernetics or a networked world vastly available that can help provide endless possibilities of the nurturing and growth of the neural connections in those brain cells waiting to connect to one another, waiting to create new concepts and understanding.
These can only be done in a classroom where active, reflective and constructivist learning is a set up, primarily in a place where teachers become a guide on the side and not a sage with a cane on stage; in an environment wherein each child is put at the centre of learning.
The entire universe of the development of his or her own unique worldview would be designed around him/her and not based on what, essentially, the state wanted to child to become, based on the dictates of the state via banking in facts, facts, and facts through tests, tests, and more tests.
I am done with my ranting in the interest of the child. I thought that with a “world-class” educational blueprint, we have learnt all these and are ready to create those everyday geniuses in our children.
What happened? Have we been busy politicising education? What a waste of a good generation; go back to the drawing board, Malaysians.
DR AZLY RAHMAN, born in Singapore and grew up in Johor Baru, holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in International Education Development and Masters degrees in four areas: Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies and Communication. He has taught more than 40 courses in six different departments and has written more than 350 analyses on Malaysia. His teaching experience in Malaysia and the United States spans over a wide range of subjects, from elementary to graduate education. He has edited and authored four books; Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present, Future (2009), Thesis on Cyberjaya: Hegemony and Utopianism in a Southeast Asian State (2012), The Allah Controversy and Other Essays on Malaysian Hypermodernity (2013), and the latest Dark Spring: Ideological Roots of Malaysia’s GE-13 (2013). He currently resides in the United States.