Why the Malaysian education system doesn’t work?

Education is not something that we do just because “it is a good idea”. There are many “good ideas”, but not all of them are worth investing time and money in. So, if we then take the approach that “getting an education” is in fact an investment, what should one learn?

As with any investment, you would have to do a risk/benefit analysis. In particular, you will want to ask yourself the question: what knowledge will I have the most use of in my life, and how can I minimize the risk of investing time and energy in something that will turn out to be useless?

In answering this question I am going to suggest that things that can be learned can be roughly divided into three different types: languages, skills, and subjects.

Languages are those things that we use to communicate about other things, including itself. Languages, if seen in isolation, are pretty much useless. It is only when we apply a language to something, such as talking about education, that it gains value. But because languages can be applied to such a vast amount of subjects, they are of enormous value. They are as generally applicable as possible. Another good attribute of languages is that they are relatively few. In Malaysia they are basically Malay, English, Mandarin, Tamil, and math.
Yes, math. You didn’t know that math was a language? Well, it is! Like any language, on its own it has very little value apart from purely academic and intellectual discussions, but when you apply it to talk about other things, it has immense value. Going shopping? Math. Building a house? Math. Figuring out what the bill at the restaurant is going to be after service tax? Math. Deducing the logical conclusion of an argument? Math. Math is all around us, and it is the language the universe uses to talk to us. As such, learning the language of math is perhaps one of the most powerful tools you can have in your toolbox.

And, correspondingly, not understanding math is a great weakness, and will ensure that you will be taken advantage of one way or the other in life. The consequences of not being able to realize that a particular MLM or similar scam mathematically is risky is something that Malaysians face every day. Much of my time is spent explaining the folly of various such schemes to friends and family. I would rather not have to do that.
The second level of things to learn are skills. Skills are things that also are relatively useless on their own. Critical thinking without something to think about critically is, well, useless. It is only when we apply skills to something else that they gain value. But as with languages, since they can be applied to such a vast amount of subjects, they have enormous value. Like languages they are also, relatively speaking, few. Let’s say they are in the thousands. That’s few, and among those there is a basic set of about ten that will get you very very far. Critical thinking, creative thinking, mind mapping, public speaking, and so on, are skills that I use on an almost daily basis, no matter what problems I need to solve. No matter what your job is, having ten such general skills will VASTLY improve your quality of life.

The third level of things to learn are actual subjects. Things like history, science, sociology, playing the drums and cooking. We apply languages and skills when learning these, and so understanding the languages and skills needed for a particular subject is invaluable. Priceless even. On the flip side, not knowing the language of the subject you are studying, makes it highly confusing and close to pointless. There is one example of this in the current Malaysian education system, as it turns out. Do you know which one?

The problem with subjects is that there is essentially no limit to how many there are of them. There’s millions of potential subjects, billions even. So from an investment point of view, where you want to get the most bang for your proverbial buck, investing in a particular subject is a MASSIVE risk. Most likely the last time you will read about a specific subject, or have a need for it, is in school. Once you are out in the real world, where grownups go about their business getting things done, what you will actually need are mainly languages and skills, and any subjects required to be a productive member of society you will have to learn on your own after you left school.

The question now becomes: what is the Malaysian education system focusing on? Is it languages, skills, or subjects? And when it teaches languages, such as math, does it focus on the importance of being able to apply it to other subjects? And when it teaches subjects, does it involve applying skills or not?
Think about it for a moment.
That which has true and lasting value is left out. Pretty crazy, huh?

So how should we learn things?

Because of this immense risk of not learning the subjects you need to get a job while in school, it is really important to know how to learn new things. The process of learning. If you have this, then whatever is thrown at you, you can say “I don’t know, but give me a minute and I’ll figure it out”. If you are a pure-bred product of any established education system, your answer would instead be: “I don’t know. Please instruct me”. These people you want to stay away from, because they’ll never get anything done, and will need hand-holding all the way. If they do manage to get something done, it’s not done properly as they have no method for assessing the quality of the outcome.

So how does learning work? How do you acquire new skills? There are two models I know of which are pretty good at explaining this, and they are basically variations of each other. One is called Shu-Ha-Ri, and comes from the field of martial arts. Here is the definition from Wikipedia:
It is known that, when we learn or train in something, we pass through the stages of shu, ha, and ri. These stages are explained as follows. In shu, we repeat the forms and discipline ourselves so that our bodies absorb the forms that our forebearers created. We remain faithful to the forms with no deviation. Next, in the stage of ha, once we have disciplined ourselves to acquire the forms and movements, we make innovations. In this process the forms may be broken and discarded. Finally, in ri, we completely depart from the forms, open the door to creative technique, and arrive in a place where we act in accordance with what our heart/mind desires, unhindered while not overstepping laws.
In my experience from practising traditional Japanese martial arts, this progression of learning and understanding is extremely useful, and can be applied outside the field of martial arts.

During the shu phase we learn about the basics and facts on a specific topic. If we are studying, for example, the skill Six Thinking Hats, we learn about the skill itself, the method it proposes, and roughly what it is for. Then we apply it to some set of pre-defined examples, which are ordered to be progressively more complicated and sophisticated, for the purpose of learning the method itself. We do not invent more steps, that is, we do not try to apply creative thinking to the process itself, but only as a part of executing the process. This is the shu phase, where we acquire the knowledge about something.

After having done this, so that we are familiar with the skill and how to apply it to pre-defined and self-contained problems, we then proceed to apply this skill in a more natural environment, where problems to be solved arise naturally, and where we get to test our understanding of the skill. We have to define the problem ourselves, what the constraints are, how to apply the skill, and we also get to assess the validity of the result. We may even start to modify the process, all the while keeping in line with the original constraints of the method. This is the ha phase of learning, where understanding is achieved.

When this has been done for a long, long time, and we know by heart how to apply this skill in various conditions and contexts, to a large variety of problems, then we can attempt the ri phase, wherein we can choose whether to follow the process, or invent a completely new one that solves the same problem in an entirely different way.This is the ri phase, where mastery is the end goal.

We have mastered the technique, and can apply it fluently and with ease, no matter what life throws at us.
Now consider the Malaysian education system: what level does it focus on (shu, ha, or ri), and how often is it that you get the opportunity to get to the ri stage in understanding a skill, in a guided fashion?
Think about it for a moment.

That last part of the question has an easy answer: zero. In the olden days, when we had master-apprentice teaching, at least a few would reach the level of master under the guidance of a willing master, so as to continue a tradition or trade. Today, when we focus on the average, we are destined for mediocrity. The end result of this is that our society becomes an idiocracy, the rule of the ignorant. Generation after generation, less and less understanding remains, and society gets more and more atrophied, leading to a downwards spiral to eventual destruction.

What does it all mean?

As I hope is clear by now, the outcome of the current Malaysian education system has very little value. A grading system that involves systemic cheating by all involved, a mental and emotional environment that promotes mental unhealth, and a focus on learning things that have little value, all contribute to the wet dream of evil industrial globalists, those who wish to use Malaysia as an outsourcing country for the purpose of easy access to uneducated, easily controllable workers, who believe that the manager-worker system created by Frederick Winslow Taylor, focusing on standard specifications, targets and inspections, is the right way to go. It is in the interest of globalists that Malaysians are educated enough to be controllable, but it is not in their interest that you take charge of your own destiny with knowledge and understanding.

There is of course other, even more troubling, consequences of this madness. This is not the first time in history that a society has seen large amounts of angry, uneducated and unemployed youth. As one typical example, in Nazi Germany this was taken advantage of by shrewd political forces that directed this anger towards a part of the population, claiming that they were “running all businesses, banks, money flows, and dealing between themselves”. Ignorance is the food of fear, which eventually leads to hate. It would be a shame to see history repeat itself.
Unfortunately, there are two things that can be said about history:
  • Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
  • The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history
Will this be true again? Or can Malaysia be immunized with knowledge and understanding to avoid this from repeating?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It does pain me to see such faults in a system so deeply rooted in our lives that it seems like nothing can be done. You can even say that we've grown accustomed to these 'standard procedures'; get in there, cram in facts you probably won't use in the near future, remembering it long enough to write it onto a piece of paper, get an A, get a job. It feels so repetitive to the point where it almost seemed like an elaborate plot by some shady faction to do us in.

For all our technological superiority, we may perhaps never attain the knowledge and wisdom in which we were given the ability to. Sometimes, the blame cannot to placed on the system itself, for if one takes a good look at it all, one would see that all things, even this 'low-yield system' that binds us so till today, came from the people. Forget not that the foundations of our society itself is fragile, that all it takes to change it all is the will of one person. We've seen this before; Genghis Khan's invasion from Asia to Europe (if memory serves), the Holocaust, the Cuban Missile Crisis, 9/11; these are obvious testaments as to how one man can change the course of history if he truly wishes so. Forget not that without this downward spiral of a system reeling in the lot, chaos will, undoubtedly, reign supreme.

My stand is this; The Malaysian education system does NOT work because we, the people, are too accustomed to the normal, sedentary lifestyle, what with our 'never mind-lah' and 'anything goes' attitude. I once read a compilation of Patrick Teoh's Teohlogy (who was kind enough to state that it wasn't a book on religious studies) "We see problems, we go to kopitiams, sip our kopi O's, 'tokkok' and complain, then resume our daily lives," or something like that. We ourselves, do not, or rather, DARE NOT bring about the change we so long for. We merely talk about problems, while productive, true first-class citizens work hand-in-hand along with their governments in solving their problems and, after a hard day's work, kick back, relax, and watch how we Malaysian had to hold a mass procession (Bersih) to actually get the government to start doing something. Which they were bound to do in the first place.

You see what I'm trying to say here, friend? We ourselves dare not bring that change. We did not do something when we knew it was going to screw us all over for God knows how long. We did nothing. And this will continue until the day we start doing instead of speaking.

Though the syllabus could use a change. A complete overhaul would be fitting for the teachers' training course too.

Good post, by the way. Nice to see someone out there who has the heart.