Friday, September 14, 2007

Malaysia, A Land of "One Straight Minds"

Abdullah's Higher Education Strategic Plan
New Straits Times reported Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's plan to improve Malaysian universities and raise them to world-class standards. Although such initiative from a leader is certain welcomed, the Members of Parliament should evaluate the plan before fully embracing it. A writer by the name of Syed Husin Ali responded in a Malaysiakini article Higher Education Strategic Plan - a critique . It seems that the Abdullah's plan contains a number of loopholes.

Another response that I particularly support is from Dr. Azly Rahman, a frequent writer in "Republic of Virtue" of Malaysia Today . His article is aptly titled Critical Theory for our varsities .

What is Critical Theory?
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes it as this:
According to these theorists, a “critical” theory may be distinguished from a “traditional” theory according to a specific practical purpose: a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human emancipation, “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” (Horkheimer 1982, 244)

So, what makes a "critical theory" different than "traditional theory"?
.... a critical theory provides the descriptive and normative bases for social inquiry aimed at decreasing domination and increasing freedom in all their forms.

The key phrases are "Social Inquiry", "Decreasing Domination" and "Increasing Freedom". It is even right to say "Critical Theory" is a form of "Democracy" for "The Mind"; The Allowance for alternative thinking towards developing better solutions for the society.

I would conclude that "Traditional Theory" breeds students of "One Straight Minds" whereas "Critical Theory" creates "Creative-Innovative Minds". In the modern world of science, information and communication, creativity and innovation are certainly needed to transform Malaysia into a first world nation.

Varsities creating Robots?
Does anyone still remember about the Wawasan (Vision) 2020 plan? Malaysia is only 13 years away. The public is not very positive on achieving the outlines of the vision. Maybe there are some particular good reasons Abdullah named his report "Strategic Plan For Higher Education: Laying The Foundation Beyond 2020" ?

Now it's "Beyond 2020" ?

Dr. Azly further stated: Many of our university leaders who still cannot and will not understand the difference between the concept of hegemony and totalitarianism as opposed to education and liberation. To them, it is a place for exercise total control of the mind, body and the soul.

Such a statement is made true with the Akujanji pledge that academicians have to sign before entering a university. The reason that Malaysia is still in its sad state of affairs, of intense corruption, racism and mismanagement resulted from an education system that limits freedom in thinking. In short, our varsities are creating mind-controlled beings, also known as robots. Robots only respond to the actions pre-programmed in its central processing unit (CPU). They are not intellectual. Perhaps, Abdullah should include the abolition of Akujanji in his plan.

In order to cure a disease, one should go to its root / core. Solving the symptoms by pouring more money will not help much. If the governing body established is not independent, the disease will persist and the leadership will find itself going back to square one.

Response to Dr. Azly's article in Malaysia Today
Malaysia, A Land of "One Straight Minds" (Becoming crooked only when one senses money and benefits of fanning the racism fire, albeit in a 'crooked-but-stupid aka. evil' way)

Dr Azly,

I think you will make a better Minister of Education. We need people who think like this.

You know something, my friend and I was having tea in a mamak store the other day and as students of the stupid KBSM syllabus, were discussing what is lacking from our education system.

Our conclusion was this:

1) The system lack subjects like Critical Thinking. We are taught to be spoon-fed

2) We are taught to think in dead-pan, one straight mind ways ... with subjects such as Moral. Pendidikan Islam was taught in a way that is not beneficial for the growth of mind.

3) We do not have a useful subject such as "Civic Consciousness". Ironically, this subject was taught back in the days of English schools in Malaysia. So, what is different between being "Civic" and being "Moral"?

Moral is too subjective to be classified into a few so-called "nilai-nilai murni". It can be impractical and illogical at times. I have a few sample SPM questions to prove my point. I can provide them when requested.

Whereas, Civic Consciousness is useful in real life. For example, my father used to tell me that those days, teachers used to inform children not to stand in front of the same bus they came down from, while waiting to cross the road.

Why? Is it immoral to do that? No, that's rubbish. They should not do that because:

a) Due to the height of the bus, the driver may not be able to see you (a children) which may result in an accident when the vehicle moves forward.

b) It is not good to endanger your life for doing something like that , just to save time. You can always walk to the back of the bus instead of the front. However, this model is not standard. The children are taught to behave according to situation. If the driver has stopped the bus (shut down the engine), then it is okay to stand in front of the bus.

c) If everyone were to stand in front of the bus, the bus would not be able to move away from the spot. It will cause a massive traffic jam. This is not an utilitarian approach, just because you save your time, everybody has to waste time waiting for you to complete your foolish selfish action.

Now, you wonder why KL has traffic jam? Now, why is it that British people drive better than us? Now, why is it that the British pedestrians are more well-behaved?

4) Our education is made with propaganda. Serious events such as May 13 and Operasi Lalang 1987 are not properly healthily discussed. Due to this, the generation would have a big misunderstanding on the chain of events. Sweeping events like these under the carpet will make the "racial" situation worse. Even when its not swept under the carpet, such events will be "made"/written to function as a political agenda. Not forgetting, we have something called "Akujanji", highly critical in a a negative way, not because of the good thinking it fosters, but because of its bad implication towards creating a "closed-mind" evironment.


There you are.. These are only the 4 basic points. Bear in mind, each and every component described can be tied back to "Critical Thinking".

There are more of course. Most of the other problems are symptoms and not the real cause,

You see, the root of this is Mentality @ Thinking. If our education system can be changed to encourage free and critical thinking, the other "symptoms" can be eliminated as well.

Pouring huge amounts of money in Budget 2008 towards education will not solve the problem. Likewise with waving keris and shouting around.

Money, Supremacy and ISA do not make One Straight Minds become Brilliant. Sadly, this is the point that Pak Lah's government fail to see. Maybe those that we are supposed to depend on are the biggest One Straight Minds of all. I have not seen any constructively intelligent blueprint for education development in Malaysia.

1 comment:

ScorpionStar said...

That's a good comment about the dwindling standards of our education. I was the first batch when the education was converted into Bahasa Malaysia. Fortunately for us, most of the teachers were English educated and they were gems. I wonder when Malaysia will get those kind of quality teachers.

You know why our school childrens' bags weigh like a flour sack(20kg)? For every subject there are 3 workbooks, couple of text books and a number exercise books, It may take upto 10 books per subject. The students are required to bring all books, if they fail they are penalised. Time-table only states the subject but why can't the teachers plan their work and inform the student to bring only the required books?

Blackboards are hardly used these days; just for showcase. Students are instructed to read a certain part of the text book and do the exercises from the workbook. Where is the teaching part?

If parents question them their famous defence is "parents too have responsibilty in childrens education" which I didn't hear during my days in school. No wonder there are many tuition centres. I didn't attend tuition classes except in Form 5. Mind you, most of the parents during our time were less educated or uneducated. Yet the teachers of yesteryears showed great committment and dedicated towards their work. They were role models.

Racism, neglect and boycotting of non-malay students in sports or extra-curricular activities and unfair disciplinary actions meted out in the government schools are the contributing reasons for the dwindling numbers of non-malay students in government schools. The top it all, low quality or rather no quality teaching too is another reason.

History have proven that empires doesn't last! Praying for a more open, transparent, fair goverment to provide quality education and living environment.