The education conundrum

A HISTORICAL milestone was made last night when the inaugural International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Public Debate Series (PDS) was launched at The Garden of Knowledge and Virtue.

The collaborative effort between IIUM and the Youth and Sports Ministry firmly translated the aspiration that new Malaysia is more open to diversity of opinions and expressions, especially on things that matter.

The 6D formula encompassing disagreement, dissent, dialogue, discourse, debate and decorum is the rule of thumb in making this aspiration a reality.

The youth and sports minister, in welcoming the initiative, reiterated that it is aimed at developing a culture of critical thinking, public speaking and raising the quality of debates as well as the use of English.

All these resonate well with the Education Ministry in an attempt to shift education to take a more publicly engaged role as the nation’s “think-tank” where the younger generation are accorded the all-important responsibility of interlocutor for the future.

Not only must they know how to communicate with conviction and confidence, without fear or favour, they must also know what to convey given the myriad of issues overcrowding the nation’s mind, indeed the world today.

More so in the distant future. In order to accommodate this, the series will be conducted monthly involving a combination of senior and junior speakers coming from members of the community; dealing with the most pressing issues.

The event last night set the tenor of what to expect in the coming series. With no less than “bro” minister himself leading the team on one side, and the freshly minted Asian Best Overall Debater, Syarif Fakhri of IIUM on the other, the audience were given a treat of what the new breed of Malaysians are capable of.

If there are so much negative reports in the media about the younger generation, it is because we choose to focus more on those because “bad” news sells, as the media struggle to keep their heads above the water.

So the actual story is never completely told. The inaugural IIUM PDS, however, gave a somewhat rare insight into the minds of our youths.

To the surprise of many, the situation is not at all hopeless. It also means that the 6Ds should be given its rightful place in nurturing new ways in the new Malaysia.

And universities are just the place for it provided they are prepared to change in tandem with the demands of the time. That said it is time to reconsider what is called “education” today.

Over the last month, I have participated in a couple of seminars that were associated with the term “Education 4.0,” instead of “Education 2030”.

Answering why is hard to tell especially when the latter comes out of the 2015 World Education Forum held in Incheon, South Korea on the back of the United Nations Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which expired the year before.

It is intended as the way forward post-2015 well into 2030, hence the name. That it is framed on ESD shows that there is every need for the 6Ds to be embraced because ESD is inherently futuristic in nature laced by uncertainties and subjected to a plethora of interpretations.

It is bound to open up many doors in order to match the expectation of the future that we want.

This is quite the opposite from the narrative of “Education 4.0”, which seems to be mechanistic in its form.

As such, it is rather monolithic in its presentation within a very linear structure, like many of the processes that makes up a machine.

In other words, there is little flexibility to speak of in the context of the 6Ds. More often than not, there is an inclination to some “standardised” one-size-fits-all herd-like thinking as the more dominant approach. Consequently, the so-called “education” is not only becoming more redundant, it also tends to be dehumanising.

The people, especially youths, become more and more disengaged as they get hooked on new habits brought forth by mechanistic gadgets that push them towards the “standardised” ways of life.

Few realise that technology has the capacity to standardise and “take over” the individual involved insidiously.

The ultimate manifestation of this will be the various forms of addiction that is now associated with assembly-line, factory-like learning where the 6D rule has no place at all.

In short, while public debates, discourses and dialogues are crucial for education, in the real sense of the world, the deeper understanding of what education is all about, with all its intended meanings and philosophy, must also be given due consideration.

Education 2030 Framework for Action adopted in 2015 that provides the roadmap to achieve the 10 targets of the education goal cannot be sidelined by another illusive “target” like that of Education 4.0.

More so when it is ill-defined against that of Education 2030 as it stands today.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

IIUM leading the way

SINCE May 10, “new Malaysia” is gradually gaining acceptance, but there is more to be done. The column (My View Sept 5) last week highlighted some the issues at hand where “old” mind sets tend to stifle the growth of new Malaysia. After all, old habits die hard when cultural changes are held at bay. Culture is largely a product of stubborn habits.

In “old” Malaysia the “yes, minister” culture was the norm. Now “saya menurut perintah” is being replaced by “saya pemegang amanah”. To quote the new chief secretary, the days of blindly following instructions are over. Meaning to say there is ample room for disagreement and dissent through dialogues, discourses and debates with utmost decorum – the 6Ds. Admittedly, this is easier said than done if the “right” culture is not in place as we have often witnessed, even in the parliament.

This is where the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) is taking a lead role in acculturating new ways of encompassing the 6Ds: disagreement, dissent, dialogues, discourses, debates and decorum. This is not entirely new for many but not when it involves “decorum”.

The so-called (anti-)social media is a classic example where “decorum” is often left wanting, instead creating more of “discomfort” if not “discord.” Hence the bold IIUM initiative is indeed timely.

IIUM, as a Garden of Knowledge and Virtue, is no stranger in this regard. In a short span of 35 years, the university is well recognised as 12th best in the World Universities Debate Ranking, based on institutional cumulative achievements in international debating for five-year period.

As such IIUM takes the next step going beyond competitive debating, and demonstrating leadership in Malaysia debate and intellectual activities by making public discourse a norm and culture as hallmarks for balanced future leaders.

In tandem with this, the IIUM World Debate and Oratory Centre (IWON) by collaborating with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and hosted by the Garden Campus is set to pioneer a Public Debate Series (PDS), called “Action – Youth Engaged”, directed particularly at youths.

According to IWON director Siti Aliza Alias, the year-long series will be open to the public and will feature prominent figures such as policy makers and leaders across the academic, social and corporate sectors, notably those who are known to have strongly held views.

The aim is to engage youth in discussions on the national and global agenda and raise awareness particularly among them on pertinent issues that could lead to policy decisions and actions in shaping new Malaysia.

The philosophy is “to create a culture of discourse and reasoning among the youth, and provide a platform for the exchange of ideas, and championing freedom of expression, while holding to the values of Islam”.

This aligns well with what is often advocated by the youth and sports minister and education minister. The former, being an IIUM debate alumnus, envisions Malaysia as a “debating nation” where youths actively engage in discussions that will shape the country’s future as well as its present. The education minister, a former IIUM academic on the other hand, envisions a more intellectually open environment in universities as higher learning institutions.

It is only fitting then that IIUM takes the lead in realising all these aspirations through the PDS platform, which is the first of its kind in Malaysia.

While it draws inspiration from the culture of open and public debate in Oxford and Cambridge Union, IIUM brings its own unique flavour. With strong Islamic values, such as respect and ethical conduct in disagreements, the IIUM programme underscores debate as an activity that is not stigmatised by aggressive (verbal) behaviours including personal and vulgar attacks that usually colour political debates (read shouting matches) in this country. It is more about “agreeing to disagree”.

Youths, as future leaders, must therefore nurture these traits as second nature to play an effective role as public intellectuals when engaging larger audiences in search of solutions beyond the norms of competitive debates. For this, IIUM seeks the active involvement of youth by having a nationwide online recruitment of speakers between 16 and 25 years old, one each to partner-up with two lead speakers. The demographics in Malaysia has shifted and youths are increasingly the new decision-makers, as can be seen from the recent 14th general election.

In order to commemorate the inaugural event, IIUM is welcoming the public into its Garden Campus in Gombak to participate and witness the first public debate between two prominent figures on a current topic of national importance. This time the debate topic “Repealing the Anti-Fake News Act is a Mistake”, will showcase nationally two prominent lead speakers: “bro” Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, minister of Youth and Sports (IIUM debate alumnus, 2006) and “bro” Syed Ahmad Taufik Albar, group chief financial officer, RHB Banking Group (IIUM debate alumnus, 1996).

In the spirit of Hari Malaysia, the event taking place on Sept 18, 8pm at the IIUM Cultural Centre (ICC) will also be streamed live on social media platforms and through media coverage.

It is envisaged that this first ever nationwide collaborative debating effort will forge ahead a new culture towards nation-building in acculturating New Malaysia.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

‘Old’ mindsets stifling new Malaysia?

THIS column was written while witnessing the unfolding of the 61st Merdeka celebration with all its splendour and freshness. The “third” wave of independence (see MyView, Aug 29) presented itself as a new platform to reshape into a more dignified, balanced and harmonious nation. New faces representing the younger generation are symbolic of this hope in taking Malaysia forward.

But how serious is this away from the celebration site is the question? At the place where I am living, for example, the evidence is overwhelming (hopefully it is an outlier) where less than 10% of the households put out any form of patriotic symbols, not limited to the Jalur Gemilang. If the national flag is an indicator, then the observation is worrying.

The “finding” is rather depressing noting that in the area there are many “well-educated” and “well-to-do” citizens judging from the locale and vehicles parked in the vicinity.

Indeed, the row of bungalows are the worst “exhibitor” in displaying any form of patriotic symbol on Merdeka day. None of them bothered to do anything. So much for new Malaysia for the rich!

More disturbing still is to know that just a stone’s throw away from the location, Jalur Gemilang flags were available for as a little as RM2 a piece without GST. Either these people are too busy with themselves or too lethargic to take notice.

The latter cannot be since the management of the housing estate had an early start to flying the national flags in public spaces well before Aug 31.

On closer casual observations, the cause may be apparent. There seemed to be a skewed correlation between the numbers of Jalur Gemilang displayed and various occupants, namely those who displayed some Jawi (Arabic) scripts outdoor in contrast to the ones who hung lanterns outside, including the non-red-coloured ones. The correlation for the former is proportionally far better than the latter. Why?

The difference observed can be further understood in the larger context such as the recent and upcoming by-elections. In all these, it is hard to miss how the “racial” slants were openly used without a hint of reservation – reminiscent of the “old” ways.

Otherwise how do we explain what is happening in the by-elections where the candidates, who were jostling for the seats and power, came from the same racial stock. In other words, the reality on the ground is still very much based on the “old” mindset laced with “racial” bigotry, instead of the reverse as expected from the “new” reality that we vouched for.

Worse still is when one contesting political party has clearly opted to fly its own insignia instead of the “multiracial” coalition that it claimed to still hold allegiance to despite the glaring departure.

It can only suggest the ambivalent attitude in embracing the rump national coalition as and when it can “profit” from it.

This is almost synonymous with its general public image subscribing to the belief that money is king – viz it can buy just about anything to gain and retain power and position. Even if it means keeping complete silence – if not in defence of – when gross corruption or “stupidity”, as the prime minister recently alleged, was committed as long as it can profit and gain from the situation.

Under the circumstances it would be interesting to see whether this type of “opportunistic” thinking has a place in new Malaysia come polling day on Sept 8. Particularly when that “money is king” adage, hopefully, is now a matter of the past.

Even then on the broader dimension political analysts of all shades are generally unable to convey their opinions “objectively” without trailing the racial lines too. Meaning we are still stuck within this “old” frame of mind. How sad.

So while the 61st Merdeka celebration is a phenomenal performance especially by the youthful generation, it is still very much a reality in the making until “old” mindsets are totally dispensed with – from the households to those who are hungry for power.

Otherwise, it gives a very muddled signal to the younger generation in a search for their identity as citizens of new Malaysia. What is certain is that anything “new” cannot be sustained if the scaffoldings are generally “old” in the sense that it is a liability in delivering justice for all.

Fortunately, the location of the 61st celebration serves as a keen reminder. With the Palace of Justice towering in the background, it can only mean that the third Merdeka cannot but be framed by the rule of law centring on justice. Including putting “right” what has been “wronged” in the context of historical injustices too.

To be sure, it takes a lot of hard work to be rid of “old” mindsets before “new” ones can freely emerge. The time for that has just begun. Sayangi Malaysiaku!

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Hail the third Merdeka

IN a couple of days, Malaysia will celebrate her 61st Merdeka on Aug 31. This time it is not just a rerun for the 60th time so to speak. Rather it is one of a kind due to a variety of reasons.

Notable among them is the fact that the celebration will be held under the auspices of the newly minted Pakatan Harapan government. And this is a significant milestone to (re)shape the nation anew.

In view of this, the upcoming Merdeka event has been dubbed as the third in the series of Merdeka as it too “liberates” the country from an “incompetent” regime.

If the first (1957) Merdeka unshackled the country from the elitist clutch of colonial power, the third version did so from a ruling coalition of local elites who are out-of-touch with the rakyat.

Fortunately, both saw a “bloodless” (albeit reluctant) transition of power, but they were equally painful nevertheless.

These are vital reminders that must not be forgotten. In fact, the world over was amazed how Malaysians were able to conduct themselves very maturely in a democratic way.

More so because the 14th general election (GE14) was slotted much too close to May 13 – intentionally or otherwise.

The date in 1969 is by all counts a “dark spot” in the country’s history, which otherwise remained remarkably peaceful within the civil sphere. Still, the general election reaffirmed that Malaysians are generally peace-loving and resilient people. Among them this time are a relatively large group of young voters born after 1969.

Be that as it may, the 1969 tragedy cannot be dismissed outright as it has a close link to the emergence of the second Merdeka.

Particularly beginning May 16 when the then democratically elected government was forced to give way in a favour of a National Operation Council (Mageran) that lasted until Feb 23, 1971.

Henceforth, the “return” to a democratic rule arguably is another form of Merdeka for the second time. After all, it led to the disbanding – quite willingly – of a “non-civilian, non-democratic” apparatus in preference of a voluntary restoration of an elected government with an even tighter set of caveats and the rule of law. This, however, as we found out recently, is not sufficiently so.

This is evident from the aftermath of the general election, where a massive clean-up is imperative, this time caused by unprecedented corruption and alleged abuse of power never seen before nationally or internationally as claimed by some.

It therefore marked another milestone in the country’s struggle to steadfastly save the country from failing.

Indeed, prior to the general election, Malaysia’s sovereignty was allegedly being threatened under the cloak of corruption and rampant abuse of power.

This is substantiated, of late, by several charges laid on the ruling elites working hand in glove with some unscrupulous power brokers, locally and abroad.

The alleged collusions were conducted away from public scrutiny, distracted by secessions of lop-sided mega-projects in the name of foreign direct investment – illogically practised and defined.

It is so lop-sided that the prime minister used the word “stupidity” to rubbish them.

One would expect, as we move closer to a developed nation status in 2020, words like “equanimity” becomes the key in describing the situation.

On the contrary, “equanimity” instead is scandalised, applied to a super luxury piece of property that is allegedly appropriated through the country’s coffers.

The prime minister upped the ante when he made mention of a new type of colonialism that comes easy as soon as “stupidity” makes its mark.

In other words, Malaysia is a probable candidate to be (re)colonised, no matter how hard those implicated choose to deny it.

Especially when the other parties and power brokers involved are equally gullible, if not downright unethical.

That the prime minister courageously made such an observation during his latest official visit abroad speaks volumes of how vulnerable the situation is nationally.

Yet these are mere tips of the iceberg as even more cans of worms were uncovered within the 100-day period after the last election.

Just from this brief run down of events, one can already pick up ample reasons why the 61st Merdeka celebration is “special”.

It is no less another wave of Merdeka that Malaysia (not just Malaya) gallantly “fought” to save the country from being subtly subverted, and its wealth and dignity squandered again.

Lest we forget many countries in the African continent are lamenting on such a fate as the rugs are being pulled right under them through the infamous tactics of “the debt diplomacy”.

Malaysia therefore must keep the highest level of equanimity so as not to be manipulated into such unsuspecting diplomatic schemes aimed at undermining our sacred Merdeka.

Thus, come Aug 31 let us then stand shoulder to shoulder to forge a smarter and brave new Malaysia, riding on the third wave that we collectively created to fend all forms of conspiracies by (re)asserting #kitapunyaMalaysia in the spirit of Sayangi Malaysiaku.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Time for libraries of ‘wisdom’

THE 84th World Library and Information Congress, the first for Malaysia (after two other bids previously), will open in Kuala Lumpur from Aug 24-30. The theme “Transform Libraries, Transform Societies”, with the sub-theme: “Reaching out to the hard to reach” – clearly points to the challenges ahead as libraries, like many knowledge-based organisations, face an uncertain future.

Malaysia, the host country, is no exception when its policy expressly directs us “Towards developing a (Malaysian) society that is characterised by a reading and knowledge culture, by 2020”, which is just around the corner when she is supposed to be transformed.

More than that Malaysia has in fact recently crafted out an unprecedented (and unplanned) societal transformation in the 14th General Election, which took place barely three months ago on May 9.

Malaysians from all walks of life decided to do this peacefully through the ballot box in the most creative way to elect a new government after more than 60 years.

This makes the transformation a unique one, more so when it is realised without any form of violence, let alone the loss of life that is often accompanied with a tumultuous and unexpected change of such dimensions. There was hardly an overt protest of any kind post-election reaffirming the need for more changes as promised, notably reaching out to the hard to reach in the same spirit of the sub-theme of the conference.

It deals directly with the irony of today’s reality, namely, as the world is allegedly getting smaller in reach and distance, disparities and discrimination among the various sectors of the seven billion global inhabitants somewhat widens in stark contrast thanks to the ceaseless proxy wars and terror waged ever since the turn of the 21st centuries.

This can only mean that “Reaching out to the hard to reach” is even harder to conceive, what more to translate into reality. Meanwhile, it culminates into a worsening exodus of human migrations breaching numerous boundaries in the so-called “borderless” world. More ironic still is when many nations closed their “borders” in an attempt to keep out the desperate migrants, endangering thousands of innocent lives, if not wasting them at the same time.

Reportedly, since the International Conference on Population and Development of 1994 the international migration issue and its relation to development has risen steadily on the agenda of the international community.

So much so the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development includes several migration-related targets and calls for regular reviews of the progress toward their achievement.

Not surprisingly, the number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow rapidly in recent years, reaching 258 million in 2017, up from 220 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000.

It is against this harsh back-ground that the theme of the conference must be read. Invariably, libraries need to clarify their reason(s) for existence within the transformational theme as claimed.

Ultimately, it begs the question how far can “libraries” effectively touch “the hard to reach”, not limited to just the “normal” (read peaceful) situations, but more so for those who are being grossly shut out through no fault of their own.

For example, according to International Migration Report 2017, as today’s increasingly interconnected world turned international migration into a nightmare that touches nearly all corners of the globe, it simultaneously elevates conflict, poverty, inequality and a lack of sustainable livelihoods.

In other words, while it is trendy to talk about libraries embracing the latest of technologies and becoming digitally inclusive (the fourth industrial revolution in the case of Malaysia), it may still be furthest from the panacea of meeting the noble aspirations of the conference.

What is more, several sources have cautioned that some of these technologies can consume budgets that far exceed what libraries in general can afford under the circumstances.

Yet it is often said that to improve the reach to those who are hard to reach, literacy of the remotest local communities must be enabled optimally, a tall order by any count.

As reminded by the Malaysian experience, transforming the Malaysian society is fraught with challenges because of the widespread diversity. Not only is it multiracial, multi-religious and multilingual, it also reflects an urban-rural dichotomy, the rich-poor socio-economic divide, with varying literacy levels including that of information versus knowledge silos to say the least.

We have not even broached the subject of “wisdom” as a future destination following the oft-quoted knowledge explosion phenomena.

What is rather obvious, as knowledge continues to multiply, re-imagining what the futures for libraries are like, we remain starved for the much needed “wisdom” as part of transforming libraries prior to that of societies.

On this note there is much to look forward to from the “wisdom” of the 84th Congress given its list of impressive speakers, not least Malaysia’s own chief secretary.

After all, Malaysia has been said to be transforming under his watch for about a decade before the new government swept into power.

The time to be wiser has come and libraries must embrace this before societies are “suffocated” by more knowledge sans wisdom; and putting the billions who are hard to reach in an even worse situation threatening “libraries” to be irrelevant in meeting the urgent needs of all humanity.

The writer is the rector of the International Islamic University Malaysia, and the chairman of USIM Board of Directors.

Unintended impact of a digitalised world

LAST month this column (MyView July 11) cautioned about the emerging “screen addiction” affecting mostly the youth. Apparently, this is just the tip of the addiction iceberg. It can be worse off unless we know how to mitigate it.

Moving from “innovate or die”, we are now into “digitalise or die” – and many are eager to respond. For Malaysia, in the case of the former, it was Agensi Inovasi Malaysia that was dissolved recently. That vacuum is now filled by the latter in the form of the so-called Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ).

There is no better evidence than this to show that the “new” mantra is taking advantage of the Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0 bandwagon with little or no reservation.

What if there are unintended consequences arising from “blind-spots” that most are unable to detect with any amount of accuracy? Can this be the next long-term chaos of global significance as exemplified by issues of climate change and global warming that are now invariably linked to the neglect of earlier industrial revolutions some 300 years ago? In fact the crisis is engulfing the whole planet way pass provincial Europe where it first started in the late 1700s.

Whether the “digitalise or die” mantra brings similar misfortunes depends on the depth of clarity of the issues at hand, let alone implementing them beyond the outmoded economic logic.

For example, as universities grapple with what is called “Curriculum 4.0,” ironically they remain shackled by the archaic IR 1.0 paradigm, educationally speaking. This alone is a “mismatch” that would inevitably create “blind spots” of many unintended consequences.

It is a high price to pay for exercising less than critical understanding before going headlong in adopting “new” and untested lifestyles as dictated by the digital cyberspace.

An indication of this comes from the latest report on the so-called “digital lifestyles” that are impacting Malaysians in no uncertain terms.

Initiated by Limelight Networks, a global leader in digital content delivery, the report categorically recognises that mobile phones are an integral part of daily life that nearly all consumers surveyed are now confronted with as a “new” reality with potentially disturbing outcomes to say the least.

Titled as the State of Digital Lifestyles report, released last week, the verdict for Malaysia can be considered “damning”. It is based on responses from 5,000 consumers (18 years and older) in 10 countries – France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the UK, and the US with Malaysia and India as the only two samples from the developing world. Respondents were chosen from those who had downloaded software or streamed online video or music during the month of June.

When asked about their interactions with the digital media and the impact of technology on their lives, some 48% of global consumers admitted they would not be able to stop using their mobile phones for even a single day. On this count, Malaysians make up the most – with almost 70% unable to do the same. Laptop and desktop computers are the second most integral technology that Malaysians (about 44%) cannot do without for even a day, compared with 33% of global respondents. In contrast, the Germans are the least attached to the devices, with the Japanese and Brits coming next. This revelation surprises many since Germany and Japan are among the most technologically innovative and advanced communities, yet are least “obsessed”.

Indeed, all the eight industrialised countries (with the exception of Singapore) are below the global average. Why is that?

As to access online, Malaysians have no qualm when it comes to music, followed by movies or television shows and apps.

However, they “are not fans of paid content” and are “least likely to shell out for online services”. Similarly, for Singaporeans, the overall trend indicates that “less than half of consumers will pay for online music, movies and TV shows, and less than a third will pay for access to online newspapers and magazines”.

Malaysians are top on e-books.

This is further supported by findings that consumers enjoy the fact that digital content is easily accessible online. They are reluctant to pay for it if they can find it for free. Going by the rule of thumb: If the product on the internet is free, then the users are the product – making it obvious that most Malaysians are indeed the perceived “products” (read guinea-pigs?).

They are made more vulnerable reflecting on the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandals that unfolded lately.

Put another way, in sum Malaysians, are reported to be “the most addicted (emphasis added) to their digital devices, followed by India”. Wow! That in the study, both represent the only two developing countries (with lower technological capacities and awareness, especially Malaysia) and being the most “hooked”, raising many pertinent questions. And it demands more searching answers before leaping almost blindly into the “addictive” digital world and lifestyles.

Among them: Why the stark difference relative to the other technologically advanced countries? Is it a mere coincidence? If not, then what? And why is Singapore more like Malaysia than the European counterparts?

After all, none of them has Alibaba’s DFTZ, which we seem to champion. What then is the likelihood that we (unknowingly) are being modelled as digital “guinea pigs”?

Especially of late, learning from what Chinese investors and investments are capable of?

All these and more are pertinent to urgently unpack and to know for sure the full implications of the “digitalise or die” mantra in order to meaningfully navigate through the digitalised world, dodging any form of unintended consequences and “blind spots”.

Otherwise, the mantra could turn into “digitalise and die” (read technology takeover), ever mindful of how badly we fared in the 50 years of drug addiction war (MyView, Dec 27, 2017) with many unintended consequences too.

With some four decades of experience in education the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

The key word is holistic

THE Education Ministry will carry out a holistic study before making a decision on whether to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate, said its minister Maszlee Malik recently. This column lauded the statement by underscoring that the operational word is “holistic” which is to be understood within the Malaysian context. Otherwise it can mean many things to many people including those who are not “holistic” in their understanding of what education is all about and have the tendency to hijack the discussion politically to serve their self-interest. One former politician is already attempting to do this. The minister is against such a move and deserves to be supported.

To be sure, all types of qualification or certification are outcomes of one or many education systems. The “holistic-ness” in terms of policy decisions must be made within such a context if it is to be “educationally” meaningful. That is to say it is not about any one part of the system, especially the certification as an endpoint per se, but what goes into it. This takes us back to the heart of the issue, the Falsafah Pendidikan Negara (FPN, 1988) since three decades ago that spells out clearly in its very first sentence what “holistic” means – suatu usaha berterusan ke arah memperkembangkan lagi potensi individu secara menyeluruh dan bersepadu …”.

Key words that framed any policy decisions must take cognizance of the three elements of being continuous (lifelong), complete (life-wide) and convergence (life-worthy) respectively, reflective of the outcome that shapes a successful Malaysian education. And this is to be embodied “holistically” too in the individual/learner as a person who is balanced and in harmony (insan yang seimbang dan harmonis) in four main dimensions: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically. I am convinced that we cannot be more “holistic” than this especially when it is mirrored by Unesco’s four pillars of learning unveiled almost 10 years later in 1996.

The truth of the matter is that the education system itself ought to be “seimbang dan harmonis” before we can hope to see Malaysians embracing the same regardless of certification that is granted by whatever name or institution. After all what is in a name (sometimes exorbitantly branded) if it shies away from our national aspiration in violation of the FPN, later FPK (Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan, 1996). And by extension globally against the Unesco pillars of learning as well as the sustainable development goals.

To be blunt, any policy decision made with no regard to this is necessarily “flawed” and must be challenged. This has been the crux of the issue where no politician dares to venture for fear of political suicide. Never mind if it is a social time bomb. So unless such a “legacy” is dismantled head on (60 years have passed as the minister said) then there is every chance that we will prolong a “failed” system to hopelessly power the “new” Malaysia. Not just in letter but more so in spirit, namely, nurturing “new” Malaysian mindsets that are balanced and in harmony. We can do away with the need for other confusing notions like “moderates” or “wassatiyyah” or groupings who promote their own leanings when the education system is well rooted in values that are functionally “balanced and harmonious”.

That the issue keeps recurring is enough to show that the FPK has been sidelined for far too long if not ignored. What else to embrace it as a philosophy to live by and proudly shaping the aspiration of Malaysia as prominently engraved in the national emblem – “Bersekutu bertambah mutu” – (remember?) at once rendering the 1Malaysia slogan redundant and politically divisive (ironically) from its inception.

In other words, nothing can be construed as “holistic” without first debunking the “old” strategy of divide and rule that is in-built in the education system(s), policy and structures. As previously noted (MyView, June 27) we cannot just reject race-based politics to be fashionable without first rejecting race-based education systems. Figuratively, the latter is the viper pit that feeds into the former.

To top this, the fact that the system is archaic has been well argued. Again it is impossible to be “holistic” as defined by FPN/FPK/Unesco when each component of the overarching system is not “holistically” linked educationally speaking, reinforced by the race-based multi-streamed system. Therein is the characteristic siloed, first industrial revolution model ingrained with assembly-like exploitative norms, which are not conducive for the 21st century collaborative learning environment to blossom.

In a nutshell, the UEC issue is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to resetting the education system in a “holistic” way as advocated by the education minister.

It is time to take this discourse forward with a “new” frame of mind based on our philosophy to nurture generations of “new” Malaysians. Otherwise we will slide back to the “old” ways sooner than we thought.

With some four decades of experience in education the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com