‘SEJAHTERA’ ON GLOBAL STAGE

The term has been ac­cepted in­ter­na­tion­ally to ar­tic­u­late the con­cept of Ed­u­ca­tion for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment from indige­nous view­points

New Straits Times - - VIEWPOINT -

THE Global Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Fo­rum (GHEF) was suc­cess­fully launched for the sixth time last week, since it was ini­ti­ated at Univer­siti Sains Malaysia 12 years ago.

This time it was co-hosted by the In­ter­na­tional Is­lamic Univer­sity Malaysia and at­tended by more than 400 par­tic­i­pants from 25 coun­tries, mak­ing it the largest thus far. Two aca­demic books were also launched. One is to cel­e­brate Malaysia’s 61st in­de­pen­dence by of­fer­ing crit­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem — past and present — for the fu­ture. It is au­thored by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional ex­perts pro­vid­ing com­par­a­tive and con­trast­ing views and cri­tiques. It is hailed as the first of its kind to boldly do so in tan­dem with the spirit of Malaysia Baru.

The sec­ond book is equally sig­nif­i­cant, ex­am­in­ing the aca­demic con­tri­bu­tions and roles on record thus far in meet­ing the com­mu­nity’s needs in line with the con­cept of Ed­u­ca­tion for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment (ESD). The con­cept that was in­tro­duced in 1987, through the United Na­tions’ ini­tia­tive, has now more than 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence that the book tries to cap­ture and share. Not only is it a tes­ti­mony to how well ESD is be­ing em­braced, it also pro­vides a frame­work of how ESD should be moulded for the fu­ture. This is done through an­other multi-au­thored ini­tia­tive penned by ex­perts from around the globe of­fer­ing “real” ex­pe­ri­ences that are closely re­lated to sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

For the first time, the con­cept of “sejahtera” (har­mony) is aca­dem­i­cally doc­u­mented in an in­ter­na­tional pub­li­ca­tion of the es­teemed United Na­tions Univer­sity in Tokyo. This marks the ac­cep­tance of the con­cept in­ter­na­tion­ally in the at­tempt to ar­tic­u­late ESD from indige­nous view­points. Thus en­rich­ing ESD fur­ther as an in­clu­sive plat­form by mak­ing it more rel­e­vant to the broader global com­mu­nity in recog­nis­ing that indige­nous knowl­edge and wis­dom sup­ported sus­tain­able ways of liv­ing cen­turies ago — be­fore it be­came fash­ion­able.

In a nut­shell, sejahtera needs to be ap­pro­pri­ately un­der­stood, con­tex­tu­alised and trans­lated into re­al­ity, es­pe­cially for Malaysians who have been ver­bal­is­ing it of­ten enough as of­ten heard in salam sejahtera — let alone the taglines of agen­cies and or­gan­i­sa­tions. Yet deeper nu­ances are less felt all round.

Un­like “amok” that is (in)fa­mous world­wide, sejahtera is only be­gin­ning to be felt glob­ally of late, aca­dem­i­cally speak­ing. What is baf­fling, how­ever, is that the word had been em­bed­ded in Fal­safah Pen­didikan Ke­bangsaan or the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Phi­los­o­phy (FPK) some 30 years ago. But it failed to make it into the main­stream of the na­tional ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem — be it in schools, what more, uni­ver­si­ties. Its ex­is­tence in FPK is as “old” as ESD, but the lat­ter some­how is al­ready a global point of con­ver­gence per­va­sive enough to cap­ture our imag­i­na­tion world­wide in trans­form­ing ed­u­ca­tion at all lev­els to nur­ture a sus­tain­able fu­ture.

It is be­cause of this I ven­tured to theme my key­note ad­dress as “Fal­safah Pen­didikan Ke­bangsaan: Paving the ways for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals” (SDGs). It is to un­der­score that FPK is not only rel­e­vant na­tion­ally (de­spite its dis­mal use and ap­pli­ca­tion), it is also glob­ally aligned, not least if sejahtera that is em­bed­ded in FPK is given its right­ful mean­ing and nu­ances. More sig­nif­i­cantly, it is well in sync with the over­ar­ch­ing SDGs tar­gets of the 5Ps — peo­ple, planet, pros­per­ity, peace and part­ner­ship.

Each of them can be mapped to the val­ues and virtues of sejahtera, both at the mi­cro (in­di­vid­ual) or even the macro (com­mu­nal or cos­mic) level, hence, am­ply mak­ing FPK the ideal launch pad for ESD within the SDGs frame­work.

This is the miss­ing gap that would have oth­er­wise pro­pelled FPK into the arena 30 years ago; so, too, the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion Four Pil­lars of Learn­ing for the 21st cen­tury, 10 years later.

In­deed, FPK is 21st cen­tury, ahead of its time, and it is sad to note that we are search­ing to in­ter­pret what 21st cen­tury ed­u­ca­tion is all about, when FPK has been star­ing at us for more than three decades now. I can only ex­plain this ob­ser­va­tion by not­ing the fa­mous Malay(sian) proverb: nya­muk di se­berang laut nam­pak, ga­jah di­hada­pan mata tidak nam­pak (spot­ting the mos­quito across the ocean, miss­ing the ele­phant in front of you), but in­ter­preted more pos­i­tively! Yes, FPK has been the ele­phant in the room that we are too blind to see, let alone ac­knowl­edge, de­spite the grow­ing num­ber of aca­demics and in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing over the last 30 years.

It fol­lows that we have been dis­tracted by the ir­ri­tat­ing buzzing of the “nya­muk” that had di­verted at­ten­tion to side is­sues like “rank­ing” and “soar­ing up­wards” sans FPK. In a nut­shell, harsh as it is, we have not de­liv­ered on the ed­u­ca­tion that we de­signed through the wis­dom founded on FPK. Like it or not, we have “failed” as far as FPK is con­cerned.

Re­al­is­ing this, the rot must stop. The “ele­phant” in the room must be at­tended to; but not like the six blind (wo)men! It must be done as FPK dic­tates in its very first sen­tence drafted in 1988, namely: berteru­san, menyelu­ruh and bersepadu (con­tin­u­ous, com­pre­hen­sive and in­te­grated). Aptly, to­day each is glob­ally taken on board to mean the same, viz. “con­tin­u­ous-life­long learn­ing, holis­tic-lifewide learn­ing, and in­te­grated-life­worth learn­ing, for the 21st cen­tury!

Thanks to the FPK for those who are dis­cern­ing enough. When it comes to ed­u­ca­tion, it is never too late.

Un­like “amok” that is world (in)fa­mous, “sejahtera” is only be­gin­ning to be felt glob­ally of late, aca­dem­i­cally speak­ing. What is baf­fling, how­ever, is that the word had been em­bed­ded in Fal­safah Pen­didikan Ke­bangsaan or the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Phi­los­o­phy (FPK) some 30 years ago.

The writer is a fel­low of the Cen­tre of Pol­icy Re­search and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies (CenPRIS) and the chair­man of Univer­siti Sains Is­lam Malaysia's Board of Di­rec­tors.

FILE PIC

The Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Phi­los­o­phy (FPK) was way ahead of its time.

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