RPK recently wrote about a particular topic that means a lot to me: education. He believes that unless our students are taught how to think AND are allowed to think freely, the verbose from the government about “improving the quality of education” is just a lot of hot smoke.
I have to agree. When you’re dealing with the human mind, it’s not the same as when you deal with a car, or a plane, or the latest tech gizmo. When you’re dealing with machines and objects, or even when you’re dealing with the human body (such as medical research), you can generally throw more and more money into the problem and eventually you’ll find a solution. Instead of having 10 doctors working on the cure for cancer, you pay 1000 doctors working on it, and you can generally expect a faster result.
That seems to be the path our DPM, Muhyiddin is referring to — he also happens to be the Minister of Education, and his idea of “improving” the quality of education is to throw more money or resources into the problem.
But that’s not how the mind works. You can’t improve the quality of our thinking (which provides a net result of improving the quality of our work/deliverables) by hooking us up with bigger and better computers or paying post-graduates to be our teachers.
You might get a little bit of traction, but you certainly won’t shift the gears, so to speak.
During my time as a university debater, i was fortunate enough not only to learn how to speak well in front of a crowd, but i was also taught how to think. Because when you engage through words with your audience, you need to have the right tools to be able to engage and convince their minds as well. That’s where the thinking comes in — you can’t expect to win a debate without the ability to thread your thoughts with firm reasoning and logic.
Contrary to popular belief, those are skills that can be taught; i certainly wasn’t born with it, but i learned it when i was not only given the freedom to think, but also encouraged to think in the debating arena. Thankfully, the skills i picked up there while debating the giants of the world’s tertiary institutions of education are still relevant today, 15 years after i entered the workforce.
Without blowing my own horn, this country needs more people like me. Needs people better than me and my debating peers. We are living proof that thinkers can be manufactured; the West does it all the time — their debaters are prepped for battle from the ages of 8 or 9. It is little wonder by the time they hit the big lights of the World Debating championships each year, they are roasting everyone else, especially those of us who comes from lesser enlightened societies.
There is no reason why we can’t do the same. But it’ll take tremendous courage from the Government. Because thinkers are dangerous people — they will apply the logic and reasoning they have to each and every idea that you propose. If you’re a Government that has and is doing bad things to this country, then an army of thinkers is the last thing you want to face.
Maybe, that was the point all along.