OUR ED­U­CA­TION

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is se­nior an­a­lyst (so­cial pol­icy) at the In­sti­tute of Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies

greater pos­si­bil­i­ties that life has to of­fer?

These are all rea­son­able goals, but they do not re­ally ad­dress the deep­est pur­pose that ed­u­ca­tion has — help­ing young peo­ple to be cre­ative, bring­ing new ideas and cre­at­ing their own fu­ture.

In this age of glob­al­i­sa­tion and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, there is al­ways a limit to how much ed­u­ca­tors and teach­ers can con­vey to their stu­dents.

Any knowl­edge dis­sem­i­nated now stands a good chance of be­com­ing out­dated as soon as stu­dents step out of school.

How­ever, if stu­dents are equipped with crit­i­cal-think­ing and learn­ing skills, there is no limit to what they can learn.

As Thomas Fried­man pro­posed in his book,

one of the things stu­dents need to learn at school is how to con­struct frame­works for see­ing the world and how they work.

Like most Asian coun­tries, Malaysia re­gards pub­lic ex­am­i­na­tion re­sults as im­por­tant de­ter­mi­nants of a stu­dent’s progress to higher ed­u­ca­tion, as well as oc­cu­pa­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The pri­mary func­tion of school­ing is seen as a way for en­try into priv­i­leged jobs.

As a re­sult, the em­pha­sis by stu­dents, teach­ers and par­ents is on per­form­ing well in ex­am­i­na­tions, which are con­sid­ered the only way for aca­demic at­tain­ment.

Other ef­fec­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics, such as values and at­ti­tudes — im­por­tant el­e­ments in the de­vel­op­ment of a well-rounded in­di­vid­ual — are deemed ir­rel­e­vant.

In the Asia Pub­lic Pol­icy Fo­rum on “Im­prov­ing Ed­u­ca­tion Ac­cess and Qual­ity in Asia”, Har­vard Pro­fes­sor Lant Pritch­ett, cit­ing re­cent re­search on lit­er­acy among In­done­sian stu­dents, found their level to be sim­i­lar to that of ju­nior high-school dropouts in Den­mark.

He said he feared the same could be true with Malaysia if its schools failed to pre­pare stu­dents for univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion.

At the same time, there is no deep un­der­stand­ing of the ma­te­ri­als. In­stead, it is rote mem­o­ri­sa­tion, ap­pli­ca­tion of the­ory and re­gur­gi­tat­ing it in ex­ams.

He said the state of ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try is not the fault of in­di­vid­ual teach­ers. It is not that they are not smart or ca­pa­ble or dili­gent in do­ing their job.

The prob­lem is the sys­tem they are a part of. If we want to change the sys­tem, you have got to change the rules and prac­tices.

As most in­di­ca­tors sug­gest, there are many is­sues of sur­vival that we need to re­spond to by chang­ing the sys­tem and chang­ing the way we con­duct our daily life.

If we are to de­velop healthy so­cial pro­cesses and cre­ate a prefer­able fu­ture, we need to re­form our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, which is more ef­fec­tive, ap­pro­pri­ate, eq­ui­table and flex­i­ble.

We should not feel shy in ad­dress­ing cur­rent chal­lenges and lim­i­ta­tions of our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and in­sti­tu­tions.

Do­ing what is al­ready be­ing done a lit­tle bet­ter falls far short of what will be needed.

The needs of the world ur­gently re­quire that some coun­try take a lead in start­ing the process of trans­for­ma­tional change.

Why should Malaysia not be the first?

Malaysia re­gards pub­lic ex­am­i­na­tion re­sults as im­por­tant de­ter­mi­nants of a stu­dent’s progress to higher ed­u­ca­tion, as well as oc­cu­pa­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties.

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