REALITY IN EDUCATION

The reality of the present educational system of many countries around the world is very depressing. Gone are the days when quality education was delivered by good and competent teachers well-versed in their respective subject-matters.

It all boils down to good governance. When a government is serious about the welfare of its citizens, it will put in place the necessary facilities to ensure the relevance of the nation in the long-run.

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THE TEACHING CRAFT

There is no foolproof method where educators can find out what type of learner any child, teenager, student or adult learner really is. In most cases, armed with solid knowledge in the subject matter, passion for teaching and a sympathetic attitude towards any type of learner, a teacher, lecturer or trainer can contribute tremendously in the learner’s intellectual development and his or her hunger for knowledge.

The whole idea is to keep the learner engaged and so engrossed in the subject matter that he or she will endeavour to seek extra knowledge in that subject matter independently. In my humble opinion, the teacher has produced a self-dependent being who contributes to the greater good of society that he or she lives in.

An educator’s true reward is the indelible impression he or she leaves on the psyche of learners forever. Many great teachers have left their impression on me till today. I remember their faces and names. I definitely don’t remember the faces and names of teachers who just treated teaching as a job.

WHITHER MALAYSIA?

Talent is the product of a sound educational system that develops and enhances the skills of an individual in every aspect to enable him to meet challenges boldly and progressively.

How does a country like Malaysia nurture its talents? Isn’t it through a sound educational system which is progressive and benchmarked against world class educational systems? Shouldn’t such a sound educational system be delivered in the country’s schools, colleges and universities?

In the coming future, how can Malaysians talk about retaining talent when they can’t even produce world class talents?

Refusing to acknowledge the core of the issue, which is a sound educational system, will only foster a delusional mind-set among the country’s population that it is capable enough to face the onslaught of globalisation in every field of endeavour.

Doesn’t the talent pool of a country come from its progressive educational system?

The Malaysian experience has been far from satisfactory. It still relies heavily on foreign talents in critical areas of the economy. In an economy which is interdependent with the rest of the world, Malaysia cannot isolate itself abruptly. To do so will tantamount to shooting itself in the leg.

Reality demands proactive and immediate solutions which will not be detrimental to its existence. Yet, the reality has not really ‘sunk into’ the subconscious of the majority of the population in Malaysia. The reality of providing an all-encompassing educational system which serves to empower its citizens to face the harsh realities in the economically progressive world becomes greater.

Man is a reasoning animal. When he can’t reason sensibly as to what is the total good for himself and society as a whole, he is a brute. He can never be saved from such depths of brutishness. His death is certain.

Some societies have collapsed from within. Does the same fate await Malaysia?

CHANGE AND COMPETITION

Change is an ugly word. It sends shivers down one’s spine.

Competition is an even uglier word. It makes one spineless for that very moment that the word is mentioned.

Change is inevitable. Competition is mandatory.

When one refuses to change, it affects him alone.

When one refuses to compete, it affects society.

Those who fear competition are the greatest visualizers on earth. They tend to visualize unreal things in a real world. To say that they are deranged is very harsh. ‘Hallucination’ is a better word for this group of people. At least, they are given the opportunity to imagine in their ‘mind’s eye’ things which they cannot imagine in the real world.

To say that they are idealists is to stamp a philosophy unto their hallucinations. In philosophy, idealism is an imaginative treatment or representation of things in ideal form. It does not lend credence to this group of people.

So why do people fear to compete? Is it because they will lose their identity in the process of competing? Or is competition a ‘tsunami’ just waiting to wash them away?

The English saying ‘a storm in a teacup’ comes to mind. I think this saying is meant for this group of people. Take another saying, ‘make a mountain out of a molehill’.

When they see a teacup, they actually see a storm brewing in it. Not the tea.

When they see a molehill, they visualize a mountain which is impassable.

Is there a remedy for such people? The answer is no. They have become so accustomed to hallucinations that a reality check will only agitate them further. They are like a volcano ready to erupt and unleash its destruction unto the surrounding areas.

Competition will rear its ugly head one day. It is not something that you shove under the bed. If you shove it under the bed, it will rock the bed. And when the bed is rocked vigorously, a lullaby can’t stop it from rocking. It will only rock it harder until the sleeper is thrown off the bed. There go the sleeper and the bed.

PRACTICE STRENGTHENS LEARNING

The value of practice in any endeavour can never be underestimated. It is a sine qua non. In teaching, it is imperative. Learning without practice defeats the very purpose of learning at the outset. Practice makes perfect is an adage that must be taken seriously in teaching and learning. Teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin. Flip the coin and both sides come together. They are inseparable.

A teacher must prepare his materials seriously from different angles taking into consideration the various tendencies of his charges. The preparation of his materials in an organised manner sets the professional teacher apart from the mediocre teacher. “Order is heaven’s first law.” Unfortunately, this same order applies to the affairs of the world too. Therefore, the logical order of teaching requires the absolute scrutiny of teaching material to the minutest detail. In any instance some topic of relevance is left out, the train of thought is disrupted. The teacher is then left with no other alternative but to repeat that topic independently of the material presented earlier. The learner becomes confused as to where this topic is to be stored in the earlier material.

The drudgery sets in. Both teacher and learner come to grips as to how they ‘fit in’ this topic into the learner’s respective compartments that make up his ‘mind box’. Another challenge exhibits itself at this stage – the understanding of the material presented. If the learner doesn’t understand the material, he is going to have a difficult time remembering it. If he doesn’t remember it, he is going to have an uphill task applying it in his daily life. It all boils down to the way a teacher organises and presents his material in a logical order.

Sir John Adams aptly described it in these words – “memorisation through understanding.” If the learner doesn’t understand what is being taught, he will not memorise it for long. And it is my contention that if a learner wants to understand the material that he is learning or studying, he should be given AMPLE PRACTICE which fortifies his recollection of the subject matter.

As an English trainer, I find that ample practice in the topics taught enhances the participant’s understanding and recollection of the subject matter. Hence, the participant is able to use it in his daily life with ease. This is achieved when I apply the logical method of presenting my subject matter. What is being taught now must be logically related to what has been taught before.

THE SOUL OF A DEMOCRACY

Democracy means different things to different people. Innumerable definitions come to mind. Each definition conveys a different shade of meaning which carries the sentiments and emotions of the person defining it. The very word ‘democracy’ displays an emotive tone.

My definition of democracy implies every citizen having the freedom to choose what he considers the best actions for his own benefits. The citizen (being a member of the state) is entitled to such a choice within the framework of a truly democratic nation. Of course, in a democracy, each citizen should not impose his beliefs upon the majority as and when he likes. In the same vein, the state should not impose its set of beliefs upon the masses as and when it pleases. A compromise should be reached for the benefit of the community at large.

The sort of freedom that I propound is freedom with restrictions. They are restrictions which are necessary for the individual and community. These restrictions enable society to progress in a respectable and proper fashion encompassing the physical, mental, spiritual and economic spheres. In the absence of these restrictions, anarchy is the outcome. When a state imposes too many restrictions on the educational system of the nation (without just causes), it spells trouble for the community at large.

Naturally, the individual’s ability to exercise his latent powers for the greater good of society through the means of a good educational system becomes stifled. Suppression of an individual’s intelligence and thinking capabilities by the state authorities renders the individual as a compliant and submissive citizen. This suppression is carried out by the state in its totality via the educational system of the country. Impressionable young minds are moulded or distorted at the whims and fancies of those in political power. It is via the educational system that the state unleashes its propaganda on the citizen in a subtle but destructive manner. The policy of ‘divide and rule’ rears its ugly head the most in the educational system of the country that practices autocratic rule. However, a state that practises democratic rule encourages and promotes the well-being of its citizens in every aspect.

Some governments adopt a policy of laissez-faire in the running of their economy. Can a government adopt a policy of ‘laissez-faire’ in its educational system? In a ‘laissez-faire educational system’, some members of the state decide and implement an educational system that will benefit their offspring in the long run. Wouldn’t this type of policy be beneficial to society at large? Shouldn’t any government which proclaims itself as a guardian and promoter of democracy implement this type of policy in its educational system?

As mentioned earlier, freedom without restrictions can be anarchical to society. Instead of encroachment, a government assumes the role of a ‘supervisor’ as and when needed. As a ‘supervisor’, the government undertakes to support in any means possible the advancement of an educational system which empowers its citizens wholly. In this role, it too will be seen with less suspicion as regards the educational system. Yet, intervention by the state can be welcomed in certain spheres which affect the country as a whole.

Continued progress in the economic field can only be maintained via a democratic educational system. All the natural resources of a nation cannot be exploited fully without the intelligence and skill possessed by its human resources. A skilled and talented workforce is the product of a good educational system. Mediocre standards in an educational system churn out graduates without quality. When quality is compromised, you get educated barbarians running the affairs of the country. Nothing can be more detrimental to the economy of a country when such people take charge of it. Investors take cognizance of a country’s human resources before investing. As the world economy becomes more competitive, countries have to vie for investments to remain relevant economically in the global arena. An economically strong nation is a productive nation.

THE ROLE OF THE HOME, THE SCHOOL AND THE STATE IN THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM OF A COUNTRY

There are three parties which play a prominent role in the educational system of a country. The home where every child is a prospective student studying in the school, college and university of a nation. The school where every child is given the opportunity to learn a skill or task which will stand him or her in good stead in later life. The state where educational policies are formulated and implemented for the benefit of the individuals who form the citizenry of the country.

‘Home is where the heart is.’ is a maxim which holds true to the education of an individual in all aspects. The physical aspect of the growing child is well-cared for by parents providing food, clothing and shelter. A good grounding in religious or spiritual knowledge for children fulfils the spiritual aspect. Proper mental development via knowledge of the basic 3R’s and more form the mental aspect. Thus, the physical, spiritual and mental development of the individual forms his or her personality and outlook on life. In this sense, the individual is considered truly holistic.

A truly progressive society will ensure the individual receives a good education in its schools, colleges and universities. Society evolves rapidly when its members have access to an educational system that pits their thinking capabilities to the utmost. Man is a thinking animal. It is imperative that man employs his thinking skills to derive the best possible benefits in any situation. Man responds to each situation with the best available resources at his disposal. But all the available resources at his disposal will come to naught if he lacks the thinking capabilities to act.

The school affords the best place for an individual to train his thinking capabilities thoroughly. The two main ingredients vital in a school set-up are a challenging syllabus and good teaching staff. A challenging syllabus stimulates the student’s thinking to solve any problem quickly and successfully. A syllabus of this kind calls forth a mental discipline that tests the rigours of every information and detail presented to it. An alert mind differentiates the civilised from the brute. The individual possessed with a disciplined and alert mind is sure to take on the world with confidence and poise.

Even the best syllabus in the world will be useless unless it is complemented with good teaching staff. The teacher makes the difference. He can make the individual by developing his latent powers and bringing them to the fore. He can break the individual by restricting his thinking capabilities through a disorderly, chaotic and confusing teaching methodology. The teacher must be passionate and knowledgeable. One who has a passion for teaching will conduct one’s teaching as a labour of love. Every minute detail pertaining to the delivery of the subject matter will not escape the teacher’s attention. For a teacher, passion without knowledge is like a ship without a rudder. Knowledge changes constantly and a teacher who is not abreast of the current trends in his subject is a failure.

In teaching, what sets professionals apart from amateurs is their delivery of the subject matter. Careful preparation and organisation of the teaching material should keep in view the student’s level of understanding. The teacher should arouse interest and desire in the student to participate in the teaching process. The teacher succeeds when the student learns willingly. The student then knows that what is being taught benefits him in the long run. Inability of the teacher to kindle any interest in the student renders the teaching drudgery. The student then looks forward to the end of the teaching session. He becomes a passive observer of the teacher’s antics in the classroom.

The school is the main bastion of learning and thinking. Impressionable young minds are trained to be thinkers who will contribute to society in the future. Minds so trained will render society relevant to all sorts of shocks and setbacks facing the country. It enables a society to bounce back quickly after any crisis. Such a progressive society can only be achieved through a good educational system comprising schools which stimulate the students to think.

The role played by the state in the educational system of a country cannot be underestimated. The state must play an active role in overseeing the educational system in its entirety. Educational policies formulated should have the people’s best interests at heart. Only those directly involved in the educational sector should be allowed to determine the best course of action. In this manner, serious and tangible results are quickly achieved to bolster the educational system. Above all, the state must encourage serious discussions or debates among the stakeholders in the educational system. Parents can play an active role in this by channelling constructive feedback as to how their children are coping with studies. The teaching fraternity may suggest ways of improving the syllabuses and competency of teachers on a regular basis. The state officials have to be ‘partakers’ in listening, adopting and implementing suggestions that will bear fruit immediately.

The educational system is the lifeblood of a nation. Sown with great care, it will yield tremendous benefits to the people and the nation. Taken lightly, it will serve to degenerate society to its lowest ebb. A civilised and progressive society will strive to establish an educational system that inculcates intelligence-training among its members to the highest levels.