Scott Ng | May 17, 2015
Our approach to education must change before we become obsolete.
We’ve known for ages that our education system is lagging behind the times. After all, there are currently 40,000 unemployed university graduates, and let’s not even touch on those with just a high school education or less. We’ve heard all kinds of complaints against our graduates. They lack critical thinking skills. They are not creative. Their command of English, the lingua franca in trade and commerce, is pathetic.
What many of us didn’t realise, however, is just how rapidly we have been declining in comparison with the rest of the world. But now that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has released the results of the biggest ever global school rankings, we stand in stark realisation of just how bad the situation really is. We now have the distinction of resting below the rankings of our neighbours in Thailand and Vietnam, who, despite being regarded as not as developed as Malaysia, are ranked at 47th and 12th respectively, while we hang at the 52nd rung.
The less we say about Singapore in its lofty spot at the top of the rankings the better, since the Singaporeans have roundly trounced us academically for something like half a century now.
Undoubtedly, someone will come to the ardent defence of our education system, and recite the standard mantra about how standards are different here, different cultures, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, that is the entire problem with the situation. Instead of adapting to the ever more competitive outside world, we shrug and give ourselves a thousand excuses on why we couldn’t make it. That is probably a major reason why we rank so low despite the lofty opinions we hold of our own position in comparison with Asean neighbours who are just now pulling themselves out of an economic quagmire. In fact, even in economic growth, they are fast gaining on us despite our having had a stable economy for much longer.
We are in danger of becoming irrelevant in this part of the world, despite our advantages in geographic and demographic positions.
Education is such a vital part of the 21st century workplace that a failure to secure a good one could very well mean a certainty of no future prospects. Whether you’re learning to be a mechanic at a workshop or studying to be a doctor, the quality of the education you receive must be unassailable. With 40,000 unemployed graduates running around with no direction, it’s obvious that we can shell out tens of thousands of ringgit and in return receive nothing but a meaningless paper that fails to live up to its promise.
But really, what is the problem here? Well, here’s a small hint: how many times has our education system been turned on its head in recent memory? How many drastic changes in the system have been made, only to be dropped the instant questionable results are obtained? For example, how many times have we vacillated on English education in the last decade despite the necessity of mastering the language so that we can feel at ease as part of the global village?
It has become starkly obvious that the people in charge of education at the highest levels do not have the foggiest idea of how to run a nation’s education system, much less revolutionise it and turn around this intellectual malaise we find ourselves in. We can have all the study trips to Korea, to China, to Sweden, to anywhere on this earth and it will all mean nothing if all we get back are surface learning and no intent to revolutionise the system and stick by those changes.
We must be better at this. Education is the single greatest equaliser, and a well-educated and informed populace is what we need to launch Malaysia head first into the 21st century. Even now, we lag behind much of the world in any educational ranking, whereas, decades ago, we were the gold standard.
Malaysia is still full of potential. If we squander that potential, there’s no doubt that we’ll sink into a deep abyss of ignorance, left far behind in this fast changing world.
Source - FMT News