A discourse on a true educative blueprint

― Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
The Malaysian Insider
Sep 19, 2012

SEPT 19 ― Once again we return to the perennial question of the kind of educational system that we have.

Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to state that our present academic set-up, instead of encouraging critical thinking, acquiring soft skills and other relevant intellectual weapons, sad but true, is precisely the very one that kills creativity, stifles innovation and impinges on independent dynamism.

Indeed, our prevailing exam-oriented, score-based, points-mindset educational system undeniably distorts motivation and learning by our zealot overemphasis on the importance of scores as outcomes and measures of students’ abilities.

Such distorted academic myopia is one of the root causes why our students lack personal confidence and intellectual creativity. Sadly, they are not even qualified enough to fulfil future tasks that requires beyond memorizing.

I am specifically referring to those employments that demands conversation, writing and oral/verbal communication. I doubt that receiving instructions, writing memoranda, engaging in a discourse, presenting one’s idea in a meeting, etc. can be memorised. I doubt if there is a book that will teach our kids to learn those methods, skills and craft?!

It is my ardent and firm contention that those skills can only be harness and cultivated by the very act of practicing them in everyday actuality inside the class room and even beyond the four corners of the university.

This is the irrefutable fact and they are indisputable! There seems to be a grave confusion with regard to what we want for our students as against the interest of the general system.

Extrinsically, we are encouraging them to memorise and aspire to get big marks, even perfect scores; yet intrinsically we are also demanding they must possess critical thinking, creativity and persuasive discourse.

This is a blatant contradiction and self-defeating to the utmost. How could we expect our lads to possess critical thinking when we are not encouraging them to speak their minds?

How could we expect our pupils to become creative if we consigned them to the borders of the lecture-notes and syllabus of the subjects? And most importantly, how could we expect our students to express and talk in a brilliant persuasive discourse if they lack the personality, the basic foundation and the necessary training (both the written and the oral form)?

I believe that it is unjust for the system and for the teachers to expect too much for the students, given the confusion and contradiction of the system. It follows that it is also unfair for the student to be expected to deliver when they are not even trained and nurtured in the first place.

How could one expect the horse to run fast if the trainer of the horse did not fully practise and exercise the maximum speed of the said horse? If we did not allow the horse to run freely in the plains to explore the vastness of the wild, but rather subjected the same to the four corners of enclosure, do we expect the said horse to perform well the day we release it for the race of life?

Lastly, if we did not give the “finest grasses” and the “best vitamins” to the said beast, do we have the right to expect the said beast to launch and unleash its full prowess and potentials? I do not think so!

At this juncture, I would like to talk about the paramount duty of the trainers, the mentors, the lecturers, yes indeed, the teachers. The base obligation of the teacher is to inspire and guide his pupils to think unlimitedly, to wonder unceasingly, to dare to ask question beyond imagination, to question without fear nor hesitation, to ask unafraid, to speak their minds courageously, to express themselves boldly and with fortitude, to be confident about themselves and so as their character, to open up both their hearts, so as their souls!

The teacher must pass this characteristic of wonder, a questioning mind and sense of awe to his pupils. It is my fervent belief that the ultimate duty of the teacher is to teach his lads not what to think, but how to think.

Not all students understand the rigorous process and the slow and laborious construction or the patient cultivation of the different thoughts and ideas that will lead them to a much higher plane of diverse views and more superior discourses.

If the pupils grasp the inner workings of this complicated, yet truly liberating and beautiful process by virtue of their meticulous efforts and painstaking endeavour to render justice to the whole enterprise and craft, to lay down the material basis of the whole process and consequently draw the comprehensive paradigm of the whole matrix of the interconnection and the interdependence of the different ideas and varied thoughts, as discuss in the class in a given session and correspondingly see to it the ultimate similarity and the profound interrelationship of these various and multifaceted elements; the whole class shall be happy, the teacher has won in his academic passion and this is indeed a victory for both the teacher and the rest of the students.

Theory without practice is dead, in the same vein that a good mark, without the confidence and the courage to justify an argument in an open discussion in a class room is not only detestable but also disgusting.

The dialectical relationship between the teacher and the student must always be present, from the beginning of the class up to its completion. A true teacher is the one who could gear his student to think for themselves independently of the teaching and the rearing and the training of the teacher himself.

He/she must teach them to craft their own paradigm, to discover and consequently construct their own truths, to nurture and create their own structures and foundations, to posit and to simultaneously to answer their own queries and questions.

Having explicated my thoughts let me dwell now on the other perennial problem of the whole matter and that is the issue of the view and focus of the system. Though, I already discussed this issue in passing, let me state that the ultimate problem of the whole academic system is our extreme emphasis and overzealous addiction to the extrinsic aspect of education as against the intrinsic element of it.

The extrinsic aspect refers to the memorization and rote learning of our children so that they will get big scores and good marks in the examination.

At the outset, there seems to be no problem here; however look at it again and analyze the whole spectrum. Getting good scores and full marks in the test is not bad in itself; it becomes bad and even evil the moment an educational system devoted its entire focus and energy to it at the expense of the intrinsic part of the whole general education!

In the critical words of Chris Hedges: We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and “success”, defined monetarily rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers.

A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.

The intrinsic part of education refers to those acts of the students such as speaking freely, engaging in a scholarly debate in class, presenting their ideas, appearing in the stage play, reciting a poem, singing a song, doing some extra-curricular activities, participating in sports competition, and other intellectual, cultural, artistic and aesthetic pursuits.

The intrinsic part of the education is precisely the key, in order for our lads to develop confidence and nurture creativity. These are necessary ingredients in order for them to develop soft skills and other inter-personal skills. The intrinsic aspect is the practice, the practical part or the practicum.

What we need is the rational and reasonable merging of these two elements for the benefit of our children! Henceforth, it is my humble suggestion to all the stakeholders concern to take a break and pause and think about what we truly wanted for our children.

Having said so, it is my firm belief and so hold that the Government, principally and the Education Ministry in particular must rethink, reevaluate and refocus their focus and views and correctively review the whole process of the educational system!

The stakes are high! Why? Because what we are talking here is not only the future of our children, but also the future of the whole country!

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 - 12:41 pm

    Educative planning and blueprint should be the job of educationists and not that of politicians.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 - 1:40 pm

    Jose talks about how to educate our young – to “develop confidence and nuture ceativity” in them and also meet demands of employments. He lists these demands as “conversation, writing and oral/verbal communication, writing memoranda, engaging in a discourse, presenting one’s idea in a meeting, etc…But the first Question one has to ask is what employment are we talking here – Civil Service or GLC or Private Sector and what is its lingua franca of “conversation, writing and oral/verbal communication, writing memoranda, engaging in a discourse, presenting one’s idea in a meeting, etc” in employment? Employment in private sector leverages on English proficiency in relation to all these demands listed. Here the Educational Blue Print can’t even admit English is important, and its usage promoted! How can students not proficient in English be competent in “conversation, writing and oral/verbal communication, writing memoranda, engaging in a discourse, presenting one’s idea in a meeting, etc in English? They have no confidence, and they keep quiet. So before you talk of analytical and other creative skills, answer the most basic question : does our education system promote English proficiency? If no, talking about the rest is waste of time!

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 - 2:09 pm

    This is a country operating on duality than unity. We have national language versus English, the former used in Civil Service, and English in Private Sector. In legal system, we have civil law based on English Law and we also have Syariah at the side. Of course we have the usual Bumiputra and Non Bumiputra divide; those who insist on maintaining this divide and others to dismantle it. On broader context we have those who want to maintain the political, social and economic framework secular, and others to change it to an Islamic State. Then we have Semenanjung (West Malaysia) as against parochial desires for autonomy of Sarawak/Sabah (East Malaysia). In this situation, one side competes for supremacy over the other side and the conflict for mastery of control of one side over the other still rages. For so long as nothing is really settled in this conflict of opposites, nothing is really settled to drive (with unity and singularity of purpose) to achieve improvement/progress whether as regards educational blue print or political economic and social progress. We will always dither here and there with a lot of talk but no real action that is helpful for all.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 - 2:18 pm

    The energy is expended to help establish supremacy of one pole over the other (whether race, religion, cultural/national identity to be Malay or Multiracial, 1 Malaysia or 1 Malay ). One measures progress in any issue or any field by benchmarks. How does one progress when benchmarks themselves are in a perpetual state of contestation??? Take for eg how to progress in education when it is not settled whether primacy of national language can tolerate importance of English? How to progress in human rights when its not settled whether marginalisation of LBGTs is human rights or religious issue? How to promote freedom and speech when the benchmark itself (civil liberties) is disputed with former PM saying American mothers are promiscuous – each divide having their own supporters for & against???

  5. #5 by waterfrontcoolie on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 - 11:11 pm

    If the objective is to use education as a tool of politics, all these points raised here and elsewhere will come to nought. The pursue of the political agenda is simply to ensure that the majority of the population can be educated to fear their shadows through their inability to distinguish reality from imagination. Otherwise, how would MU and BH survive? and UMNO itself survive? If they have any love or sincerity for the nation, they would never have taken this path! The sad thing is over the past 50 years, they really believe that BM will demise just because their children have to learn a second or third language. They know that to be more than mere proficient in science and Mathematics, English would be more than just helpful. But this issue is important than political supremacy which guarantee them the rights to wantonness of the national coffer! So I guess all our concern will have no bearing on their policy. Well Mohd. Taib is just be declared the Richest man in Malaysia by merely being a Chief Minister!

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