Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Encourage an open education system

Be open to opposing ideas

I read with interest your report “Pak Lah: Think out of the box” (Star,January 17).

It is important for us to heed the advice of the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who has called on the people especially students to think out of the box. His call to schools to produce students who are not only literate but who can also think creatively and critically is very timely and has to be taken seriously by all concerned.

There is a need to revamp the education system from one that is aimed at purely academic excellence to that of a wholesome education where equal emphasis is laid to sports, moral and extra-curricular activities. The present system may be inflicted with the so called “dumb syndrome”, where students from an early age are taught to shut up and not encouraged to speak their mind on any issue. In fact many “dumb” students are praised and rewarded for being compliant. Opposing views are not tolerated and in fact those with such ideas are considered rebellious and trouble-makers and are reprimanded.

Education Minister, Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed have a formidable task ahead to convince our educationists at all levels to the need to change their mindset and adopt an open mind to the revamp of the education system to make it more open to opposing views and ideas,however controversial they may be.In this revamp there are will be no losers; in fact in the long term, everyone will stand to gain.

As the Prime Minister says many of our schools have good infrastructure but the content is not as good. Many of our students are very brilliant and may score maximum A's but not many can think out of the box. This is the reason why we are good in using the latest technology but lack behind in the areas of research to develop new technology. The advanced countries of the West have shown that an open system and one based purely on merit is the key to their success in the fields of science, technology and commerce.

There is a need for the government to instill a culture where opposing and even resenting views are encouraged, appreciated and even rewarded when necessary. There is no better place to start this than in our schools and continue into the universities and work places.

All of us regardless of race, religion and political alignment are committed to the development of the country which has become our home. In order to stand a better chance to succeed in the global challenge we have to adopt a more open and liberal attitude to opposing views from all citizens without fear, suspicion or prejudice.

Every citizen is a potential human capital and must be given a fair opportunity to contribute his talents to the development of the country. We must put aside our differences, which are mainly in form rather than substance, and look at the many common factors that bind us as Malaysians.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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