What a waste of a good generation

Azly Rahman
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.

  1. #1 by winstony on Friday, 31 January 2014 - 8:07 am

    Happy Chinese New Year to LKS & family.
    And to all the Chinese visitors to this blog.

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Friday, 31 January 2014 - 9:08 am

    Perkosa-UmnoB/BN only interested in BRAIN WASHING rakyat, young n old, in2 accepting Perkosa-UmnoB/BN as their racist n corrupt masters
    There is a big black hole 4 all 2 jump in

  3. #3 by bangkoklane on Friday, 31 January 2014 - 11:48 am

    This and future governments must address the problems by attracting our best Malaysians into the education service. There can be affirmative action but no discrimination in government services or private sectors. Let’s enact laws against all forms of racism. It’s long overdue.

    • #4 by cemerlang on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 10:12 am

      Malays first, all the rest last unless Islamised and change your name which sounds Malay

  4. #5 by Sallang on Friday, 31 January 2014 - 6:47 pm

    It takes political will to address the problems. After all it was political will that caused our education standards to drop to this level.
    Having Test is good. Only by Testing, we can separate the ‘Able’, and the not so Able’, on condition the passing marks are world standards.
    However, many smart people, do not pass with good grades. They belong to the intelligent, creative but not obedient. Many self made millionaires.
    Those who pass with good grades are intelligent and obedient. These are employable quality.
    Most importantly, the government must be fair to all, and to prevent the so called,’brain drain’.

    • #6 by cemerlang on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 10:15 am

      there is no world standard even CGPA is not world standard. you cannot just study in any place in any country. even in malaysia, you cannot just hop from one education institution to another. you can take the idea from Australia, from France but you cannot study there just like that. unless your dad is so rich and buy your way out or in

  5. #7 by boh-liao on Friday, 31 January 2014 - 7:18 pm

    Y aaah, LKS so STRESSED dat dis year he NO greets 祝愿 his readers “Gong xi fa cai”, “大家春节愉快、马年大吉,阖家幸福安康,事业如一马平川,万马奔腾,马到成功, 身体龙马精神,健康快乐, 财源滚滚来!” one?

    Even kangung PM greeted “all Malaysians of Chinese origin”
    In his mesej, there is dis line:
    “To this end, my heartfelt appreciation goes to the nation-building role played by the Malaysian Chinese since Independence.”
    Y can’t he use CHINESE MALAYSIANS?
    He NO knows d significant difference between d two terms meh?

    • #8 by cemerlang on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 10:18 am

      obsessive compulsive disorder so obsess with kangkung like an australian indonesian is when an indonesian become an australian. the first word is the country. the second word is who you are.

  6. #9 by tak tahan on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 12:42 am

    /Call on Chinese Malaysians to work hand-in-hand with Malaysians of other ethnicities to ensure a successful, progressive prosperous competitive nation where there is place for every citizen under the Malaysian sun/

    Is this above article not considered CNY greeting huh ? Read properly la,next time !! Boh lat liau to read n understand izzit !?

  7. #10 by tak tahan on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 12:44 am

    U kena a lot of kangkung la.lol

  8. #11 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 3:32 am

    Our Mc Kangkong PM said ‘MALAYSIAN Chinese’.


    Chinese are MALAYSIANS first, Chinese Second. (NOT what Muhyiddin said – he is Malay first and Malaysian second).

    Ask any of our Chinese living overseas and they will ALWAYS say they are MALAYSIANS, and if necessary, they will then say they are Chinese (by ethnicity).

    Agree or disagree ?

    • #12 by cemerlang on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 10:19 am

      australian malay is when a malay decides to say bye bye to malaysia and become an australian.

  9. #13 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 3:48 am

    ‘ … What a waste of a good generation …’.

    The problem and worry is they are continuing to waste future generations as well as many internationally renown and reliable statistics show.

  10. #14 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 8:28 am

    At the rate, it is going, it may take us more than a generation to recover. In today scenario, especially among the younger generation, the good for the many is of no concern to them; looking at the concept of privatization which was to get efficiency and productivity from public controlled environment to that of the private entity and this has literally changed into PIRATIZATION! where all kinds of self-induced inflation is the basis for cost increase. In the process, even the Civil Service, especially those at the height of power and about to call it a day, will exploit this to the hilt. With such mind-set and coupled with an education policy bent at prolonging this scenario, all pleadings for a change will not happen so long we have a Kangkung HEAD leading us!

  11. #15 by Cinapek on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 2:28 pm

    More than just a generation. We have lost the momentum, destroyed the foundation and have to start all over again. Worse still, we have to restart with a huge baggage around our necks as we have to fight off extremists and misplaced nationalism to hope to rebuild our education system. While other countries are forging ahead building on their foundations laid, we are still undecided what directions we want to take.

  12. #16 by Cinapek on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 2:37 pm

    Just heard on the news that the front runner to be appointed as the next man to head Microsoft is a man of Indian descent. We all know that the man who was appointed to shepherd Citibank through the recent turbulent period of banking financial crisis is another Indian. A Malaysian from Sarawak was selected by the Board of a publicly listed Japanese company to be its President to helm the company.

    All these appointments are colour blind and they just want the best man for the job. They recognise talent and that is how you grow your company or nation. Here we not only sideline all the potential talents but also drive them away through institutionalised racism.

  13. #17 by boh-liao on Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 2:40 pm

    Yeah, WASTED generations, where got chance 2 recover 1, down, down, down, all d way
    Just look at MYR vs SGD, d exchange rate getting BADer n BADer

    Rakyat must make sensible New Year’s Resolutions 2 protect themselves – CANNOT TRUST Perkosa-UmnoB/BN and PR/DAP/PAS/PKR

    Top resolution: Keep minimal amount of cash in MYR, must convert most 2 SGD or USD or AUD
    Rakyat in Johor very smart, most keep their cash in SGD (they appreciate d Sg gomen that enriches them, while they r mad with d Perkosa-UmnoB/BN gomen dat impoverishes them)
    1 day, who knows, 1 SGD mayb = MYR3.00, just watch how it happens lah

  14. #18 by waterfrontcoolie on Sunday, 2 February 2014 - 11:51 pm

    Anyway, down South they are betting s$1.00 = rm$3.00 within 2014; as those in the know are just waiting for it. In fact just the other day, I told a nephew who asked about my children down south if it is worth it. I told him. how much have you saved after 3 years of work? Hardly anything! He gathered he could save s$300 to s$400 a month with an offer; well that is equivalent to rm780 – rm1,040! notwithstanding the very high cost of lodging! At least, you have a chance to reap what ever your effort is. But to those high flyers, within the same age group, my reckoning is they make at least 5 times in term of general purchasing power what our local hard working blokes may get! And that is the difference of local lost generation lost generation!

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