2. Endangered minds in the Malaysian schools
A retrospective essay #2. From a forthcoming volume of essays on Education.
Sometimes thoughts of de-schooling society, first proposed by the Russian thinker Ivan Illich, or to "un-school the mind" as Harvard professor Howard Gardner (famed for his Theory of Multiple Intelligences" comes a visitin' me as I write about education and how the mind of Malaysian children, in this case, is being endangered, exemplified by an excerpt from an essay I wrote a few years ago. I don't know if my thoughts are a fair analysis of the state of things educational, but here they are:
" Endangered minds
We are endangering the mind of our children. Our education system is breeding mediocrity and an unthinking citizenry. Our curriculum is not challenging enough to meet the needs of globalization and to create the next generation of children who will become global thinkers able to produce ideas and translate them into artifacts and applications that would help advance the social, creative, critical, and ethical purpose of humankind. There is a disjuncture between what we wish to showcase (e.g. the MSCs of the 1990s and BioTech Nation of the 2000s and now Industry 4.0 of the 2020s) with what we are teaching children in school. We have created spaces of knowledge and power in the framework of education and national economic development. We
Have high hopes and sweet dreams of becoming an advanced nation but our schools are in cognitive disarray, what the children are learning and how their thinking process is being engineered through the curriculum, is a disjuncture and a cognitive alienation.
We are only interested in producing a generation of students skilled in memorizing facts and regurgitating them when the need arises – we have little interest in giving birth to thinking citizens who are able to relate to each other inter-culturally, and able to be transformed into life-long learners, imbued with the passion of changing the nature of society and government when the ruling class no longer serves the interest of the rakyat/masses. We have created many generations of followers and silenced the majority, happily living their lives as one-dimensional beings, blind and mute to the massive corruption unfolding before their very eyes destroying the fabric of our ethical culture.
We are leaving our children in the hands of those who are ill-prepared to develop them into the "everyday genius". We are full of slogans on success – "world-class this and that", "regional hub for education", "smart schools", "vision schools" independent schools", etc.
We are interested in rhetoric, in pleasing political visitors to our schools, in preparing our students to get 20As and to create showcase schools so that foreign and local corporations can also showcase their "generosity" and commitment to our educational system, paving the way for gentler and newer way of "glokal-styled" colonisation. We are interested in cutting ribbons and displaying huge mock cheques and forcing our school-teachers to work long and late hours on things other than teaching and preparing for classes – on things that would only please the headmaster and the local politicians who do not have any idea how children develop cognitively. We have been systematically killing the creativity of our teachers by burdening their minds with mundane activities to be completed out of unreasonable fear of authority.
We have successfully created classes of society through our classification system of schools and through the class ideology we directly or indirectly teach in our classrooms. We have schools for the rich and schools for the poor. Like chicken eggs, we assign "grades" to our schools. When our schools are failing, we try to create independent schools and profit from more private schools, leaving behind the children of the poor of all races to be recycled in the system of structural mental-ideological violence. We are wasting good talents. Instead of making the slogan "brain gain" a reality, we are making "brains go down the drain".
We have also created Mat Rempits, Alongs and gangsters in the estates. We have neglected the development of their minds and created successful failures through the schools we build. We have appointed educational leaders who perhaps have not set foot in the classroom, let alone in those of the most impoverished areas of our country.
DR. AZLY RAHMAN is an academician, international columnist and author of eight books available here. He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. And here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5751844.Azly_Rahman. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here: https://penguin.sg/book/grandmas-gangsta-chicken-curry-and-gangsta-stories-from-my-sixties/
Latest and my favorite, so far: https://penguin.sg/book/grandmas-gangsta-chicken-curry-and-gangsta-stories-from-my-sixties/
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