Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What London Olympics Taught Me

Read this article, Brutal Truths of Education Systems. Then I read this post in a blog I follow regularly...



This excerpt was taken from Dr. Milton Lum's article in The Star recently and this phrase caught my eye, A deficient doctor is reflective of a deficient teacher; just as a child's conduct is reflective of the parent's. Similarly, the state of our education system is a reflection of us.

And so what has London Olympics to do with this rambling? I watched the Opening Ceremony twice, first with Mom, in a groggy state. The second time was with our gal, cos I wanted her to see, learn and experience it. Of course, instead of the boring and insipid commentators from RTM which I had to put up with during the live telecast, Other Half and I provided our running commentary.... LOL!

My first impression of the Opening was chaos. But as I watched, the beauty of the whole event just sort of sank in. In all that seemingly disorderly field with people running everywhere and everything seemingly out of sync, Danny Boyle did a superb job of telling the story; but it's one that can only be understood in totality if you know, or at least a sufficient amount of knowledge. Britain has a complex history, one so diverse and vast that at one point in its timeline, the sun never did set in its empire. And that is the indication how it has influenced the modern world like no other civilizations.

And so in class yesterday, I discussed the Opening Ceremony with my students. One kid said it was kucar-kacir - chaotic. These days, most kids don't have much working knowledge of English. Hence, teaching in English can be a horrendous experience, unless like me, we turn to BM. BM is already dimartabatkan. We have no choice. Many students are just not functional in English.

Anyway, back to the opening ceremony, they could not understand what it was all about. The transformation of an agrarian society, by the Industrial Revolution to world conquerors; the beauty of its literature from Shakespeare to the much loved Hogswarts and its world of wizardry; and even the touch of sweet Mary Poppins and chimney cleaning; or the kind of Mr. Bean humour that only the Brits can come up with, it was all there. The Opening Ceremony was one that sums up the glory and greatness of the British culture.... And it was a lesson missed on our kids. They did not realize too that the social networking that most of us take for granted today, well, it has its roots from a Brit too.

Even though the Industrial Revolution is taught in Form 4 History, its significance is lost on our kids. Similarly, majority of our kids are lost even in the obvious and subtle segments. And that is where our education system has failed them. To watch and be awed, to wonder whether Malaysia will ever reach that level where we can host such an event, or whether if we were ever to do the history thingy, will our story telling mute out all the contributions of people like Yap Ah Loy or that this land was once a Hindu land... What has been happening is much of our heritage has systematically been denied and erased, in an attempt to create a monoracial kind of legacy.

The sad thing is to most of our kids, the Opening Ceremony was just a show with some segments which are more entertaining than others. Many were entertained by the musical put up, boy meets girl, falls in love with the social media playing a role but missed out on being wowed by the music development as it evolves from one era to another... the glory days of Rock and Roll, etc. Our students lack the intellectual prowess to conclude, compare, rethink and produce. There is this feeling that imagination is nearly dead in them, that they are dulled by our education system. And a great part of that problem is the deficiency which many of us do not care to admit.

Imagine during an assembly, you hear this...'tahniah kerana berjaya menghadirkan diri ke sekolah. Syabas diucapkan." or that teachers are asked to stand at the school gate to 'salam' (shake hands) with each kid who comes to school to show a budaya penyayang. Something is seriously wrong with the way we run things I feel. We mollycoddle, try to show that we care when we actually are clueless as to what to do.

When Principals get transferred (or 'promoted') we throw lavish send-offs. Have we forgotten that we are civil servants? Instead, to be a boss these days is more like a tuan... Tuan and hamba kind of relationship. In a society still marked by titles... I guess we have never really shaken that mentality off. Or the glossy everything that we see in every event... wastages which promote self-importance. A projection of grandiose which very often is just a facade, and when removed, bares the pathetic deficiencies.

We are now reaping the results of yesteryears' policies. Once upon a time, the teaching profession was the stuffing ground for those who could not fit in elsewhere. Many discards ended up in teaching. Well, these people have found themselves at the top now... I'll leave it to one's imagination, how far-reaching that one act of compromising quality for political mileage has damaged our education. Uninspiring teachers can only 'inspire' that much.... Similary, a teacher who has never known success or the grind involved in getting there cannot be expected to push for that sort of excellence.

A deficient student is the result of a deficient teacher. A small deficiency can still be covered but when it's a major deficiency that we're dealing with, the system will begin to crumble. Private education, be it schools or higher institutions; they will be the preference if nothing is done and sadly only for the moneyed ones. Education, supposedly the one accesible tool to provide leverage has failed. It produces jaguh kampung, hardly many world beaters. The lack of English mastery in the majority compounds the ignorance. Many of our world beaters are not 'locally made'. Sad, cos once upon a time too, our Malaysian education system was acknowledged for his quality. And that was for real, not like the many glittering facades that have been put up today.

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