Friday, August 3, 2012

What Aren't Our Schools Teaching

Despite all the hoo-hah about how 'world-class' our schools are, they don't quite liberate the minds to face the challenges of the today's world... What aren't our schools teaching?

Our schools aren't teaching our students to be lifelong learners. What our schools teach is regurgitation skills. The better one is at regurgitating, the better his grades will be. So, despite being brilliant in public exams, employers still lament about their lack of dynamism. We seem to fail to get it across to a great many of our kids that learning doesn't stop when they leave school, that the rigours of learning matter just as much if not more than the knowledge itself. I subscribe to the belief that knowledge is easily available these days. It's the resourcefulness, eagerness, willingness and other qualities that play pivotal roles in separates. Learning should never stop. Lifelong learners embrace knowledge not as an end but a continuous means; building blocks.

Schools no longer teach us how to think. Students aren't expected to think. Maybe teachers don't know how to teach thinking skills too... probably because it's not really required to pass exams. Thinking requires effort. These days, effort isn't something that people willingly put in. I see that a lot in the boys. And perhaps too, those in the corridors of powers too are not all that sincere in ensuring that everyone of our thinking caps work. Thinking people are not easily fooled. When Shih Huang-ti wanted to strengthen his power base, one of the first people he went after were the thinking people...

I think our schools also fail to teach us how to handle our money. Look the credit card spendings and you'll catch my drift. We have subjects like Kemahiran Hidup (Living Skills) and Perdagangan (Commerce) but many of our young know squat about saving and investing. What they do know is they enjoy spending and they're easily lured by glitzy products and lifestyles. When we don't teach this skill, we also fail to teach them how to delay their gratifications. And this is an era of instant gratifications... to be able to delay is less common. We are bombarded with a slew of temptations for everything....

Our schools aren't places where we teach good citizenry. We don't teach our kids to be Malaysians first. Instead, schools become places that subtly breed intolerance. We've had schools banning children from bringing food from home because of the haram and halal issues. We focus on way too much religious programmes from one particular faith and in the process alienate other students rather than unite. Religion becomes a tool to advance one's ambitions and to suppress. History is full of accounts where religion has been used to cite people to war, induce submission and even to fill coffers. Religion is supposed to be about peace, justice, freedom, etc, etc. Look around and try count, how many self declared religious countries are utopias on earth!

Schools don't teach kids how to say 'No'. Baby dumping cases are on the rise. It takes sex to make babies but sex is a taboo subject in school. So kids turn to the next most available source. Friends and the Net. Kids don't know how to say 'No' because sex education is a no-no. We seem to be oblivious that the current form of religious education seems to be no match to raging hormones... or the onslaught from the net. We don't teach kids that substance preceeds form. I see too often teachers going after students' hair hidden under their scarves to see whether they have dyed their hair! We focus way too much on form these days. Piety is often measured from the outward. But we fail to build character and substance. We sacrifice co-curricular for curriculum. PE lessons are often the first to be sacrificed for other subjects.

Schools don't teach our kids how to be polite or beradab. Classrooms are noisy even when the teachers are in. Students talk when the teacher is talking. And greeting a teacher when you bump into them (which are aplenty) is no longer the norm. So, wonder not why when Reader's Digest survey shows KL to be 33 out if 36 cities in being courteous. We were only better than Bucharest and Mumbai. This coming from our supposedly superior Asian culture.

Schools don't teach kids to respect and obey the law. Every morning, along roads leading to rural and suburban schools, you'll find many underaged as well as helmetless motorcyclists, all in school uniforms. Schools should work more often with the relevant authorities to educate the kids on the need to follow the law. Instead, we 'teach' them that the need to go to school precedes that of keeping the law. Another example of the manisfestation of this failure would be every Friday, we get cars parked haphazarly near mosques because attendance at the mosques precedes the need to obey the law. It's the same for other religious functions. Because one does it, the other follows suit. We seem to be teaching our kids that as long as it's God's duties we're doing, breaking man made laws are okay.

Schools don't teach us about meritocracy. Instead, the school becomes the place where the practice of preferential treatment is put asunder, for all to see, without any shame. You put 3 students, different race, same family background, same set of results. Inadvertantly, one will get offers for further studies or places in public higher institutions while the other 2 most likely will not. And it will all boil down to race. We condone racism in the process too. Who says Malaysia does not practice apartheid?

Our schools are not independent of politics. We do not put the best people to run them. We do not employ great teachers....Malaysia is facing a brain drain problem, mainly because the ethnic Chinese and Indians have been taking flight. I guess it'll be only a matter of time for the really capable ethnic Malays who are sickened by the same thing to follow suit. The ones who leave are usually the best and brightest. They leave because of our racial politics, which breeds other unequal policies. And we replace them with semi or unskilled workers from Indonesia. Some studies say, at this rate we'll be stuck where we are. The world is already competitive enough as it is...

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Time flies... that's when days are filled with things to do. 24 hours feel rather short now but some day, I guess 24 hours in a day will...