Redefining the Meaning of Education: Lesson from Malaysia
Bangladesh has spent much time in fact-based learning but experience says learning of “who did what” doesn’t give much benefit in practical life. As defined by Einstein “Education is not the learning of facts but the training of minds to think”. Our curriculum and teaching and learning methods have grossly failed to meet this essential objective. Our leaders have tried to build up a prosperous nation but failed to develop a course curriculum that can generate a meaningful human capital that can think and act in a rational way. We are approaching 50 years of our independence but our course curriculum has continued to be changed with the change of government. These reflect our education systems have been continued to be exploited to harvest political crops and personal interest. Our 16 cores people still need foreign experts to handle emergencies; doesn’t it evidence that our education systems have failed to build a strong human capital resource that can solve our real-life problems?
When I was a university student, I didn’t know what qualities I need to earn to be a meaningful university graduate because nobody told me at that time and my course curriculum also failed to make me realize those important things because getting good grades was the sole target of my learning. However, mistakes and experiences have always been my best teacher and my 17-year mistakes of work in various organizations and extensive experience with students and professionals have made me understood that a meaningful university graduate must earn minimum five basic qualities:
- Communication (both oral and written): Ability to present ideas and experiences to others in an organized and convincing way.
- Critical Thinking and Analysis: Ability to analyze circumstances and find out main points from complex matrices.
- Problem Solving Skills: Technical and professional skills to judge various issues from different angles and give an appropriate solution to a problem.
- Innovative and Resourceful: Ability to give new solution to a new or existing problem.
- Attitudes and Behavior: Democratic and respectful to other ideas and sincere to commitments and duties.
Now let just take the 5th point to see how our graduates are performing. We know is a country of chaos and conflicts and protests and violence are our everyday events. From farmers to company and transport workers; from students to teachers; from professional to politicians; from work places to prayer houses; our people are showing hyper reactions that cannot be taken as a rational behavior. Sometimes, protest is a need to bring our rights but learning the language of protest is a much more need. Our ruling and opposition do not know how to appreciate a good work and make a constructive criticism to a bad work and our ordinary people are also not different. Unnecessary and indiscriminate horning of vehicles in our street is just the reflection of our chaotic minds. These self-destructive behavior and attitudes are neither scientific nor religious; they are just taking us back to the age of barbarians and can no longer be sustained; but have we ever contemplated and thought in any time of our lives why these chaos and conflicts are increasingly engulfing our bright future.
We know from our family experiences that silence is a big protest at the face of anger and bad behaviors but application of forces and harsh languages just break our family ties. Then why aren’t our people practicing silence and tolerance in public and state affairs? If truth is universal, why isn’t tolerance working in our public dealings?
Our scientists, social scientists and religious leaders have approached each other’s with confrontations and attacking attitudes; isn’t it a sign that we are disintegrating and weakening ourselves? Previously, it was thought that our madrasas are the breeding house of terrorism but the recent Holy Artisan carnage clearly showed us that our modern institutes of higher education aren’t also free from terrorism.
Diversity is a beauty and truth of nature; we just can’t make all skins look alike, all tongues speak the same language and all minds give the same opinion; even our five fingers are not equal. Then why aren’t we practicing this truth in our daily actions? When somebody is coming with opposite view, why are we branding him/her as atheist, fundamentalist or with a different political tag? Isn’t it a cowardice and ignorant act? Galileo said, “Wisdom start with the recognition of one’s own ignorance”. So can we declare that we are an ignorant, uneducated and uncultured nation?
Religion is about truths of life and science is about the seeking of evidence-based truth. Then why are there conflicts between scientists and religious people? Our scientists don’t know religions and our religious leaders don’t know science. If you can’t win a heart by soft words, can you do it by harsh words and forces? Our mainstream people are religious but no action has been taken to bring this people under science education and our general education also doesn’t have adequate religious materials that could teach us religion. Is it possible to establish a stable, peaceful and prosperous society while ignoring and keeping our mainstream people out of science and ethical education?
More than half of our population is women and they are contributing equally to our economy either by child rearing or working side by side with our men forces- then why there are no places of women’s worship in our mosques? Our women don’t need to pray when they are outside of our houses? Our religious leaders might say, women don’t need to work outside our houses but my understanding of Islam tells me that this concept is a bad innovation in Islam because women used to pray in masjid and work outside houses during the time of prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) and during the time of Hazrat Abu Bakar (R:). In that time and still now, masjids were/are the centers of learning and social changes. If our women cannot go to masjids, how they will learn and what they will teach to our children? Our religious scholar will say, women will learn from their husbands, parents and sons- fine but are all our husbands, parents and sons capable and have time to teach our women folks?
Malaysia has successfully bridged science and religion; here, religious scholars are part of scientific research. In most of the cases, big research projects in Malaysia are not approved if there is no involvement of religious scholars. Malaysian leaders are genius indeed; they have a long vision and they have clearly understood a big change in society is just impossible without ideologically educating the mainstream people. Confrontations are triggered by extremists but good leaders rule the society by ideological motivation. Malaysian are harvesting its benefits; Muslims, Chinese, Indians are practicing their own religions and cultures without having any conflicts. Malaysian streets are the reflection of people minds; no horning of vehicles and no protests of people on the street. Isn’t it a sign of peace, tranquility and beauty of education? Through Halal science and tourism, Malaysia has penetrated into the world market and leading the world. Doesn’t it evidence that progress can be made without giving up your faiths, ideology and culture? Every work place including public and private has got separate prayer houses for men and women. Every year many Bangladeshis are visiting Malaysia but can Bangladesh implement the Malaysian Model to bring positive changes in our economy and peoples’ lives?
Our madrasa education is totally based on memorization and so there is very little scope of critical thinking. Our general education is also not so much different. Power of memory rules our evaluation system but memorized knowledge doesn’t work in real life when problems come in reality. Our books are complicated and our teachers are not trained enough. Teachers need the highest level of understanding to make lesson as simple as possible but poor merits are taking these positions. Isn’t it an ominous sign to our current and future generations? As stated by Alexander, “I don’t fear an army of lions led by a sheep but I really fear an army of sheep led by a lion”. Education is our backbone and so we must need it to stand up straight and raise our heads. So can we keep this important sector out of political interests and personal gain? Government is opening universities one after another but are the best brains of the nation getting entrance there? Stupid brains will produce stupid but the best will do the bests. Can we realize this very truth for building a dignified nation? Our leaders have spent much time to build a country of moderate Islam but can they focus on the bottom line of building a moderate nation by giving our right education?
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