Sunday, November 8, 2009

Improving Education: The China Perspective

China is reported to have sacked its Education Minister last Saturday for slowness to bring about improvement to the education system, as evidenced by corruption involving construction of education facilities, the high unemployment rate among graduates, the dilution of marks, the selling of degrees and rampant plagiarism.

China's rocket scientist, who died on October 31, was said to have complained to the top leadership before his death over his disatisfaction with the education system as it failed to produce students who can think.

This got me into rethinking the problems of the education system in Malaysia.

1. It looks to me that the language has become a major distraction from the real issue - of teaching students who can think, and be creative and innovative.

2. Without this new creative force being generated by the system, Malaysia is likely to be burdened by a body of its citizenry who is unable to get itself out of its quandry - and thus tightening the rope around the neck of the future of the nation.

3. We know the first pre-requisite for creativity and innovation is open-mindedness.

If we fail to keep our minds open, we will together be stuck with our old ideas - which includes preserving as much as we can our old habits and traditions.

Our situation is worse: the vernacular hammered in by the religion imperative.

4. Of course, there is always the fear of losing one's sense of identity. This can be done by improving one's confidence in oneself by raising one's sense of self-worth - without having to resort to outward show and paraphernalia - such as degrees, awards, and titles.

6. We must learn to think for ourselves, and encourgage our children to think for themselves. To think, we must ask questions - even if there are no answers. If an answer is already available, there is no need to think - because there is no problem and no issue.

5. To help us to think, we need accurate information. There is now so much disinformation - opinions masquerading as information, and information masquerading as truth.

6. It is the unwillingness to accept the status quo, and a preparedness to reach out for the impossible and the ideal and give us the passion to live our lives meaningfully. Otherwise, we are only looking for a job before we fear death.


I wish to offer some comments for those who have been short-changed by the education system as per my last post.

i. I understand the anguish and the hurt for not getting what you want for your children. Do not let that episode turn your emotion from the positive to the negative.

ii. Though easier said than those, adversity can be an opportunity as necessity is the mother of invention - or innovation. I find that it is only when we subject to the most severe constraint or handicap that we are the most creative.

iii. Education is free - though one has to pay for a degree or some qualification - which is nothing more than external authentification.

iv. In economics, we consider the role of qualifications as a screening process - for those who want to participate in the mainstream. For those who do not, their real education is in the living.

v. At the end of the day, the ultimate cannot be a house and a car; it must be self-realisation and self-contentment. Don't be distracted by the mirage.

vi. One must learn to keep one's mind expansive, and one's heart true.


walla said...

There the minister is sacked to reveal the will of the state and its focus on doing the right thing for the people. Here the minister is elevated and may even make head of state management to continue the same chancy performance buoyed by spin. Place your bet now as to which state will rise further and which will fall faster.

The reason why language remains at the nexus of the education paradigm in this country is because of race. How else can one explain why the head of state management of this country has a pecking order on race even in one of his speeches which reveals the core itch of the government within the government? Muslim bumiputra, then non-muslim bumiputra, then other communities. That was the sequence said. If that is in his mind, then wither 1Malaysia? If it wasn't in his mind, then why say it in that order? If it was said only for the gallery, then wither the political clout to make a difference? If not really wanting to make a difference, then why should the rakyat listen? If the rakyat don't listen, then why the need for political leadership?

Now, so as not to aggrieve too many people too much, let's return to the smaller question of whether creativity is independent of language associated with race.

Let us decompose this question into three parts: creativity, language, race. For argument sake, remove race because any race can learn any language.

Then we ask if creativity is dependent on language. The answer to that will have to depend on the role of language in the creativity process. If creativity is innate or in-born, then Picasso could have been equally creative in any language other than spanish and french. If creativity is acquired, then it has to be based on reading, listening or absorbing something. Otherwise it cannot be 'acquired'.

We need not concern ourselves with the first 'if' because if it is innate or in-born, we cannot do anything about it other than provide the supporting package to make sure it is honed. But the second 'if' is what concerns us here vs a vs nation-building through people enablement programs.

If we are late and want to catch up because catching up reduces the gap and enables us to match up to others who have achieved success, then we should find out where there is a larger store of things to learn so that we can read, listen and absorb them. And we need success so that we gain branding to ease marketing to earn more income to support our creativity processes for each upcoming new generation going forward. One step at a time for the old ones, one giant leap for the new ones.

The picassos of the world stare at a blank canvas and draw out the gnawing gremlins from inside their guts to make the blanks go away in a wash of colors, or to sculpt out the life that has been chained inside the block of wood or rock they see with their mind's eyes. Investors see value in such things and reward that special type of innate creativity with higher premiums because it is unique in a humdrum world. Auction houses will wax eloquent to make sure the premiums so imagined stick in the minds of buyers.

On the other hand, acquired creatives will have to follow the paths of creative directors of pedigree advertising, learn, imagine, articulate, discuss, hone, edit, follow a pattern of thought processes and ratiocinate towards some industry standard. Investors may see this as good too but because this acquired process is built one on top of others even if unique and titillating on the mind, the final price tag is not so stratospheric.

walla said...

So we come back to the same old matter: which languages enable the fastest and biggest acquisition of creativity-enhancing means?

While anyone can be creative in any way by any language, no one can discount the possibility that acquired creative process is based on knowledge because not everyone can be born a Picasso. Most will be plodders who want to be creative but can only start out from a logical, rational and analytical footing. That means they have to learn from others on how to observe and evaluate ideas from afar.

Ideas building on ideas is what creates a creative process that sits normatively in the center of the bell distribution curve of one population whose sum creativity is itself penciled out as a curve in the global bell distribution curve of creativity.

Thus, the last question, no longer needed to be answered, as to which languages are ideas from afar couched in.

Moving on to open-mindedness and its role in the acquired creativity process.

Would all of us say that Yasmin Ahmad's acquired creativity process in transcending ethnocratic lines is something which should command a higher premium in our budding 1Malaysia world? If yes, why yes. If no, why no.

In some industry circles, her work The Funeral was much celebrated. It talked about life by reflecting about death. That is logical because it can take a long time to describe a life but it takes only a short time to describe a death, for instance, 'he was perfect in all his imperfections' as an eulogy.

One reflects on the process of life by understanding the process of death. And economics.

It is very sad to learn that if a person is terminally ill, the hospitals will not accept the patient into its ward. That is the economics of death. Furthermore, death certificates issued by private hospitals are not officially recognized so that a police report is needed. As if private hospitals are not trusted to follow the law. Even when they on the other hand can issue birth certificates.

It is also instructive that in a naturally terminating process, the organs fail synchronously.

If a car breaks down, it's always one or more parts which have broken down. But when the human body breaks down at the end, all its parts seem to break down completely, sequentially and most of all irreparably.

There is however a compensation. A last balancing act. After the body ends, the presence echoes onwards. And there will be unexplainable coincidences for those remaining behind to be able to hear or see those echoes.

There is more to this world than what one can realize. If the mind is open, the world will reveal more of what life really is.

Geometrically, there should be at least three layers. The first, primal, layer, is how each interacts with others, and with the physical world. The second, then, should be how each finds that silent chamber that echoes one's own reflection back like waves bouncing back from a high-index glass. But what is the third layer? Can it be discerned by acquired inasmuch innate creativity?

Maybe the answer to that question will come easier to those who have opened their minds more. Because when they do so, they achieve the second layer of realization that is the prelude to the third layer standing there waiting to welcome.

The ultimate may not be a house or a car. But a house or a car can be sold just in time to pay for the admission fee for the last bed before the last send-off.

Which makes one wonder how the poor die. Which thus reflects the quality of how they live. Which thus reflects the process of creative living. Which thus rolls back to other mundane things like language and race.

But it all ends in economics.

So, should i proceed to read this?

etheorist said...


You should.

I would read it as a lesson on how restrictive social mores can be on individuals - as the social structure evolves from one being insular to one that is more emcompassing.

However, I would take the seven core elements as ultimate, as they are the ones that leads unhappiness and the destruction of the environment, if left unbridled. They are the cause of all troubles that we see in the world today.