Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Education philosophy for the future

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

A teacher helping a pupil on the first day of school at SK Setiawangsa, Kuala Lumpur. The higher purpose of education is to become a better human being. PIC BY MOHAMAD SHAHRIL BADRI SAALI

IT looks like with the dawn of the new year, education has been given a new lease of life after so much of muddling through recently. This is certainly so at the global level where Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is taking the lead, and there is a need to grasp this notion soonest and not be “misled” ‎by what education used to be.

Let me summarise the discussion on the 10 Hs. The first three Hs describe the essence of what “education” is all about. They include honesty, humility and hard work. Honesty is vital because it is often said education is predicated on the “search for truth” based on knowledge — both revealed and reasoned.

As such, intellectual honesty and integrity is a must before one can claim to be “educated”. To be so is also to be humble — which truly has been a badge of honour of all great teachers since time immemorial cutting across cultures and civilisations. They’re dedicated, sincere and walk the talk.

They are not hypocrites who are more interested in popularity by subjugating truth through dishonest means and behaviours, as often seen today. Last but not least, this calls for hard work — the discipline, openness and courage to say things as they are and call a spade a spade so that truth and justice prevail at all times.

This is where debates, dialogues and dissent become the key operational words in the drive to make education the leveller of society. Education as it is today is sterile due to the culture of compliance and fear that numbs the mind.

Education must also embrace another set of three Hs, namely, humanity, hope and hi-touch.

The higher purpose of education (which is often unwritten) is to become a better human being. In the words of Unesco on the latest articulation on the future of education, it is about learning to become. In other words, how to humanise education above all.

It is also to bring back human dignity in a dehumanising world, to realise humanitarian (read universal) values that bind humanity as one, and harmoniously living on one planet through shared values that enable shared prosperity and partnership to be translated into reality. Without shared values, the shared outcome remains a pipe dream.

Instead, the world becomes even more divided in all ways and manner because education has been reduced to a “factory” model where everything is mechanised, thanks to the mindless and unintelligent (mis)use of technology and economic goals and ambitions

Ultimately, there is diminished hope to go on, especially for the younger generation. In short, hi-touch must balance out hi-tech and ‘hi-income’ to arrive at a just, humanised and equitable world ‎for all humankind. Simply put, education must nurture a “complete human person” (not mere human capital) as envisaged by Unesco’s four pillars of learning for the 21st century inter alia ‎with the Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan — both revealed independently in 1996 with several synergistic common aspirations and platforms that have been neglected for the last 30 years.

The time to bring this back is now! The last set of three Hs is the nexus of heart-head-hand‎, in that order. Heart is about spiritual and emotional intelligence (spiritual quotient and emotional quotient); head, human intelligence (intelligence quotient); while hand is the remaining skills (including vocational), or physical quotient. Today’s education must cover the domain of multiple intelligence and thus transdisciplinarity to connect as many dots as possible through holistic education.

The current preoccupation with so-called “artificial” intelligence symbolised by the mechanical Sophia will only create a massive disruptive force for the future if it is not counter-balanced by our “natural” (primal instinct) intelligence of the “living” Sophia  that is unknowingly falling into oblivion, thanks to the overwhelming influence of the industrial (inhuman) revolutions. This is the current state of education that is fast losing its grip and purpose.

Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay, who was recently quoted as saying:  “Our deeply humanist DNA cannot let us reduce education to a technical or technological issue, nor even an economic one.” Period.

In short, it is time to reflect on the nine Hs for a new vista of education for the future. Interestingly enough, her profound words were shared in conjunction with a Unesco initiative called “Futures of Education: Learning to Become” on Oct 11.

It is, therefore, hoped that this will set the stage for a truly new discourse moving forward where the final H, harmony (read peace, sustainability and balance), is the main thrust of learning, together with the other four pillars mentioned earlier. Not forgetting Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan in our own mould.

The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

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Demystifying ‘philosophy’ in universities

Sunday, December 8th, 2019
University is a place where universal matters are investigated and studied by scholars with the goal of educating human beings with a universal outlook. – NSTP/File pic

LETTERS: FOR centuries in the East and West, the disciplines and ideas connected to “philosophy” were regarded as the most praiseworthy because without it, any practical activity is devoid of depth of meaning in relation to the human soul, to the environment and, ultimately, to the Creator.

It was the reason that the term “university” was named as such — a place where universal matters were investigated and studied by scholars with the goal of educating human beings with a universal outlook.

Unfortunately, in the last 100 years, we have unconsciously been influenced by secularisation as a philosophical programme, which has restricted the meaning of “university” itself.

As a result, the modern-day university has abandoned a universal outlook and instead promotes particularity; it emphasises excellence without a soul.

Tied to this is the following scenario described by Budd Hall, a Unesco chair in Community-based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education: “…state funding is influenced by market forces themselves as corporate interests would like to see universities prepare particular types of students, students with flexible technical skills, politically ambivalent and mobile to work within the global market system. If a university decides to strike out in new directions focused on long-term results, it is likely to find its funding threatened.”

Therefore, the more urgent priority for universities of today is to redefine its educational philosophy — the overarching vision or set of universal ideas that determine the meaning and direction of any educational activity.

In most cases today, an educator’s way of thinking or an institution is unconsciously shaped or coloured by the prism of the dominant civilisation — the modern secular Western civilisation that restricts the purpose of education to the production of good citizens or good workers, leading to the commodification of education.

Therefore, it is imperative that the educated class of other civilisations rediscover and reclaim first and foremost their educational philosophy from their respective civilisations.

Failure to do so will mean the displacement of their respective sense of self-meaning and reason for existence, which may, in fact, have something better to contribute to modern life.

In other words, not having sufficient clarity and depth in one’s educational philosophy will cause uncritical imitation of flawed theories or cause one to be unconsciously co-opted into the agenda of corporations, or a worldview that alienates one’s spiritual nature as observed by the likes of David Korten, former professor of Harvard Business School, in When Corporations Rule The World (1995).

“The Western scientific vision of a mechanical universe has created a philosophical or conceptual alienation from our own inherent spiritual nature. This has been reinforced in our daily lives by the increasing alignment of our institutions with the monetary values of the marketplace.”

This state of affairs was also observed by our own thinker, Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas, in the 1970s when he warned against the uncritical adoption of the Western higher education model: “In the West, the emphasis on the Sciences and on its technological aspects since the Renaissance till the present day has created problems connected with ‘dehumanisation’, which has shaken the very foundations of the ethical and political systems of the West.”

The true relevance of wisdom from the past (contained in “philosophical” literatures) lies in addressing the fundamental challenges and issues of the contemporary world, such as secularisation of the mind, neo-colonisation and the plight of modern life.

Thus, every university should recognise and acknowledge the centrality of scholars and thinkers (of intellectual and moral integrity) from the field of the humanities by carving a space for them administratively and physically, as they are the beating heart for the intellectual, spiritual and cultural survival of the nation.


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NST Leader: Big Think

Sunday, November 24th, 2019
Reading makes a full man. NSTP

TODAY’s Leader is about life’s big questions. About why we are here and other deep questions about reality. After all, today is World Philosophy Day.

No, the aim is not to be a one-day Socrates. Or a Plato or an Aristotle. There is no harm in one day-deep thinking, though. After all, as the contemporary teacher of thinking, Dr Edward De Bono, says, thinking is very hard to do. But it is a skill like any other, and it can be learned.

Unfortunately, as De Bono has found out through his Big Think journey round the world, including Malaysia, thinking, though the most important human skill, is often neglected.

One reason is that many feel thinking is only for philosophers. This may have been true 2,500 years ago when the philosophically-minded Greeks pondered the imponderables. It is true that the ancient philosophers looked out their windows to see the world in its splendid ways.

And they shared this splendour with others through their writings. But as time passed, the writings were more about their windows than the splendours of the world.

Thanks to modern philosophers, we have moved from windows to the world. Political philosopher Michael Sandel, who teaches at Harvard University, is one such.

In his lectures and books such as Justice and What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, he stimulates debates on how we view the world and on what moral basis.

In another of his book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Sandel carves out a big place for moral purpose in our lives. The Observer of the United Kingdom once called him the master of life’s big questions.

We, too, must engage our minds on such big questions. After all, we are great meaning seekers.

We do these things in journalism — stimulating debates about life’s big and small questions. And proffering points of view.

Philosophers have a place in journalism, not the types who write reams on what makes a good window but how to keep this world as good as we found it.

Philosophy enables a particular turn of mind. One that questions and explores possibilities. De Bono says 90 per cent of error in thinking is due to perception. Philosophy can help change this error-prone perception. Time we thought seriously about thinking.

For this to happen, the teaching of philosophy must change. Too much of pontification is not good for the discipline. Teaching students to philosophise isn’t enough. They must be taught to do philosophy.

The fault may be that our academia may have strayed too far from the etymology of “philosophy” — love of wisdom. Wisdom only comes to those who think their way through this human world.

And act according to this wisdom. How should we live our lives? What makes right actions right? Should everything be for sale? Our universities must make the tools to wisdom — critical thinking and analysis — available to our students. But wisdom just doesn’t happen.

It needs to be caused, and early too. Big questions get answered well by those who read widely. Schools must encourage this reading habit. Reading newspapers daily helps. Francis Bacon was right. Reading makes a full man. So does Big Think.

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World Philosophy Day: The European gaze on the Other

Friday, December 1st, 2017
The World Philosophy Day was celebrated on Nov 16 this year.

WORLD Philosophy Day is annually observed on the third Thursday of November. This year, it fell on the 16th of this month. As it is, we attend to our daily rituals oblivious to the mother of all knowledge, and the secular source of humanitarian values.

Since establishing World Philosophy Day in 2005, the United Nations World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) underlines the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought, for each culture and for each individual.

The complexities of the times call for reflection on humility, to be engaged in reasoned dialogue, and to transcend prejudice for a sustainable and peaceful world. This shows the importance of the discipline of philosophy that encourages critical and independent thought. Unesco reiterates that it does not own World Philosophy Day. The Day belongs to everyone, everywhere, who cares about philosophy.

In Malaysia, we do not teach philosophy in the universities, nor in schools. There are no philosophy departments. I have alluded to this in an interview by one of the national dailies some years ago. Then I had said, all top global universities have a department of philosophy. We want to be in the top one per cent, but we have even killed history.

To be fair, courses on philosophy of science and philosophy of art are taught in the related departments in Malaysian universities. The logic is simple. One cannot be granted a Degree in Fine Art, or some aspects of visual or performing arts without a course in the philosophy of art. But science faculties in Malaysia do not offer any semblance in the likes of the philosophy (and history) of science. The Science and Technology Studies Department, under University of Malaya’s Science Faculty, delves into and has a programme on the history and philosophy of science. Much of the interest in that area is dependent on individual academicians having such orientation and the extent of their advocacy.

I was instrumental in introducing and teaching a course titled Introduction to Philosophy in the Faculty of Film, Theatre and Animation at a public university more than a decade ago. My attempts at introducing a course on philosophy and modernity in another university did not materialise due to the apathy (and perhaps fear) of what it would produce of students.

Then, I had argued on the importance of teaching philosophy in the context of the natural and the social sciences as an exercise in reasoned and informed thinking on the major challenges of our time.

And as an extension, the universities can organise cultural events, dialogues, debates, seminars and workshops with the participation of scholars, scientists, artists, students, teachers, the media, civic organisations and the public.

My allusion to World Philosophy Day is to engage us in the problematique of philosophy. My problem with philosophy as knowledge is how it was introduced and transmitted to the modern world.

In a book published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012 titled The Gaze of the West and Framings of the East (editor Shanta Nair), I discussed this problem of philosophy in the chapter titled Representations of Philosophy: The Western Gaze Observed (pages 79-92). In that chapter, I described the representation of philosophy and identified the problems as such within the Orientalist-Occidentalist mode.

In that context, I had made pertinent observations on the representations of philosophy from the vantage point of the non-European worldview. The state of theorising and narrating philosophy much manifests the Western gaze, taken to be universal. Philosophy (read Western) is unique to Europe and the Occidental world, and not necessarily universal.

I had asked a series of questions such as “Is there a single Oriental philosophy?”. Can we assume that both the Occident and the Orient have a similar conceptualisation of difference and experience as to warrant the thinking about philosophy as comparable, or even thinkable? Is being a common experience on both sides of the divide?

In the mainstream narrative, we find that the West has produced and reproduced philosophy and to that end, the mind and logic that dominate and inform us about ourselves and existence. The history of philosophical thought has always been discussed and dominated by the Western tradition through early Greek philosophers and their ideas have since become the foundation for the study of philosophy today.

For example, in philosophising the Other by the West, one may note that the ways of thinking, idea of logical thought and roots in the Malay tradition are relatively neglected, and underexplored. Scholars of philosophy, either from the East or West, have never put serious attention into it.

The book From Africa to Zen: An Invitation to World Philosophy (1993) does not include the Malay world and their philosophy. Malay philosophy and the Malay worldview as such exist outside the frame of Western consciousness.

It is quite normal to conceive of philosophy as being ‘Western” (and inherently Christianised) so much so that any scholar (in Malaysia, for example) who partakes an interest in the subject, and promotes it in the appropriate arena, is seen as imbibing a Western value and subscribing to an Occidental ethic. In the 2012 book, and in preparing for my contribution to the chapter, I searched the word “philosophy” through the “universalised” search engine Google and a list of 142 million entries appeared; and for “Eastern philosophy”, 3.660 million. For both searches, the Internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia tops the list. I have used Google and Wikipedia for the purpose of illustrating in itself how the West has come to dominate various discourses on knowledge production and philosophy. The Internet and Google are classic examples of Western technologies representing also the non-European world.

Terms such as “ancient”, “medieval” and “modern” are now used almost universally, regardless of appropriateness. Islamic and Indian philosophies as a category will almost always reside under the Medieval period. An example is manifested in a 2004 book titled One Hundred Philosophers by Peter J. King, an academic philosopher at Pembroke College, Oxford. The book is divided into six sections, namely Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern, 19th century and 20th century. Under “Medieval”, the book identifies such figures as Adi Samkara, al-Kindi, al-farabi, Ramanuja, al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd together with European philosophers as Pierre Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, William of Okham, Machiavelli and Franscisco Suarez.

Another classification in Wikipedia’s entry on the history of “Western Philosophy” is as follows:

WORLD Philosophy Day is annually observed on the third Thursday of November. This year, it fell on the 16th of this month. As it is, we attend to our daily rituals oblivious to the mother of all knowledge, and the secular source of humanitarian values.

For a long time, history and philosophy were divided into such categorisations. Bernard Lewis, a commentator of Islam, who has been most of the time dubbed an orientalist, argues that the term “Medieval Islam” does not mean Medieval Islam but that period in Islamic history which corresponds to the Medieval period in European history and philosophy. We are aware that the periodisation of the world, and periods of philosophy and intellectual history were invented by Europeans in Europe to classify the different phases of European history, which is then imposed, or self-imposed upon the rest of the world.

By A Murad Merican.

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Teaching Statements

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

What is a Teaching Statement?

A Teaching Statement is a purposeful and reflective essay about the author’s teaching beliefs and practices. It is an individual narrative that includes not only one’s beliefs about the teaching and learning process, but also concrete examples of the ways in which he or she enacts these beliefs in the classroom. At its best, a Teaching Statement gives a clear and unique portrait of the author as a teacher, avoiding generic or empty philosophical statements about teaching.

What Purposes does the Teaching Statement Serve?

The Teaching Statement can be used for personal, professional, or pedagogical purposes. While Teaching Statements are becoming an increasingly important part of the hiring and tenure processes, they are also effective exercises in helping one clearly and coherently conceptualize his or her approaches to and experiences of teaching and learning. As Nancy Van Note Chism, Professor of Education at IUPUI observes, “The act of taking time to consider one’s goals, actions, and vision provides an opportunity for development that can be personally and professionally enriching. Reviewing and revising former statements of teaching philosophy can help teachers to reflect on their growth and renew their dedication to the goals and values that they hold.”

What does a Teaching Statement Include?

A Teaching Statement can address any or all of the following:

  • Your conception of how learning occurs
  • A description of how your teaching facilitates student learning
  • A reflection of why you teach the way you do
  • The goals you have for yourself and for your students
  • How your teaching enacts your beliefs and goals
  • What, for you, constitutes evidence of student learning
  • The ways in which you create an inclusive learning environment
  • Your interests in new techniques, activities, and types of learning

“If at all possible, your statement should enable the reader to imagine you in the classroom, teaching. You want to include sufficient information for picturing not only you in the process of teaching, but also your class in the process of learning.” – Helen G. Grundman, Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement.

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In Defense of Teaching

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Mark Twain once remarked that “All generalizations are false, including this one.” It seems that we are in a time—an educational crossroads of sorts—when teaching is overgeneralized to the point where it can be difficult for professionals to have meaningful conversations.

Tired descriptors such as “sage on the stage” and “guide on the side” have permeated the pedagogical literature for more than two decades now even though they greatly oversimplify what really takes place in the college classroom. Most teaching occurs on a continuum between these two extremes. But now the term “lecture” is equated with using didactic instruction and nothing else. It is regularly blamed for a multitude of pedagogical problems in the academy. Articles in various educational journals regularly associate teaching with telling and continue to recommend that this traditional method be completely abandoned in favor of more student-centered strategies that promote active learning.

Educational research findings do need to be applied more regularly to teaching, and there is no doubt that student-centered approaches are integral to student success. We are in a robust time of pedagogical design aided in some measure by technological development and faculty creativity. However, at times the emphasis on student learning ends up devaluing teaching and diminishing all that it contributes to student learning.

by James Ricky Cox, PhD and Dave Yearwood, PhD

Six Questions That Will Bring Your Teaching Philosophy into Focus.

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Earlier this year, a couple of contributions to The Teaching Professor (Haave 2014) and Faculty Focus (Weimer 2014) discussed the place of learning philosophies in our teaching. The online comments to Weimer’s blog post (2014) made me think more about how we as instructors need to be careful to bridge instructivist and constructivist teaching approaches for students not yet familiar with taking responsibility for their own learning (Venkatesh et al 2013).

Students still seem to equate lectures with better learning/teaching as opposed to student-centered teaching strategies despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary. This preference is confirmed for me when I review the end-of-term student evaluations for the courses in which I use team-based learning (TBL) – an active learning strategy if there ever was one. But what is really interesting is that there is a seeming sweet spot. For those courses in which I used TBL all of the time, student evaluations requested more lecturing. In contrast, in the one course in which I used TBL for only a couple of course sections, students indicated that a bit more TBL would be appreciated. Perhaps what I need to consider is varying the teaching strategy I use (Venkatech et al 2013) taking into account the need to bridge post-secondary students’ transition from pedagogical to andragogical learning (Grow 1991).

What I particularly like in Grow’s article (1991) is his assertion that good teaching responds to the needs of the student — in his words, it is situational. My question then is, how do instructors make their teaching situational to an entire class? An entire class will contain a large continuum between students needing pedagogical vs. andragogical learning strategies. How do we respond to all of these different needs and the existing continuum in learning approaches (Knowles 1990)?

by Neil Haave, PhD.

Remembering Our Mission to Teach

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Have you ever become so frustrated with students and overwhelmed by your workload that you start questioning what you are doing? At times it can feel suffocating. Baruti Kafele, an educator and motivational speaker offers a perspective of being mission oriented to educators and others working with young people in our nation’s classrooms. He suggests affirming your goals and motivations to facilitate successes among students. However, in the college classroom, it is also essential that we, as faculty members, remember and affirm our purpose, acknowledge the contributions we make in students’ lives and professional pursuits, and respect the call or passion that brought each of us to the teaching profession.

What is Mission Oriented?
In this context, mission orientation acknowledges how faculty members serve, impact, and influence the lives of others. It begs to question: How do faculty members, energize, reignite, and in some instances, recapture that which motivates our work with students? What contributions are we making to the lives of the students we teach? Have we become derailed from the mission to contribute to others in a profound and significant way? And, if so, how do we get back on track?

It is in the spirit of mission orientation that we offer in this article two contributions faculty members should consider—thinking deeply and building relationships. Both contributions represent and respect a mission to teach and influence the lives of others.

by Candice Dowd Barnes, EdD and Patricia Kohler-Evans, EdD

Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Years ago, as a young, eager student, I would have told you that a great teacher was someone who provided classroom entertainment and gave very little homework. Needless to say, after many years of K-12 administrative experience and giving hundreds of teacher evaluations, my perspective has changed. My current position as a professor in higher education gives me the opportunity to share what I have learned with current and future school leaders, and allows for some lively discussions among my graduate students in terms of what it means to be a great teacher.

Teaching is hard work and some teachers never grow to be anything better than mediocre. They do the bare minimum required and very little more. The great teachers, however, work tirelessly to create a challenging, nurturing environment for their students. Great teaching seems to have less to do with our knowledge and skills than with our attitude toward our students, our subject, and our work. Although this list is certainly not all-inclusive, I have narrowed down the many characteristics of a great teacher to those I have found to be the most essential, regardless of the age of the learner:

1. A great teacher respects students. In a great teacher’s classroom, each person’s ideas and opinions are valued. Students feel safe to express their feelings and learn to respect and listen to others. This teacher creates a welcoming learning environment for all students.

by  Maria Orlando, EdD

Student-Centered Philosophies of Education

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Student-centered philosophies of education emerged as a response to the limitations of traditional, authoritarian models of education. Instead of establishing schools as places where a fixed base of knowledge is passed from teachers to students, these philosophies encourage cooperation between students and teachers in order to find the best answers to questions facing modern-day learners. According to these philosophies—progressivism, social reconstructionism, existentialism—because the world is constantly changing, students should seek answers through hands-on, experiential learning.


The progressivism philosophy of education stresses the following:

  • Experiential learning. Progressive schools give children the chance to learn by doing. Art rooms, wood-working shops, kitchens, and science laboratories are features of progressive schools.
  • The scientific method. Students are expected to pursue answers to their questions through problem solving and critical thinking, and are rarely expected to find their answers in a book.
  • Intrinsic motivation. Rote memorization is discouraged because students don’t see what they’re doing as intrinsically valuable—they simply have to take the teacher’s word for it and work toward extrinsic results.

Progressivism in education has its roots in the philosophical criticism of European philosophers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding from 1689, he stressed the importance of experiential learning, writing that all reason and knowledge come from personal experience.

Rousseau also criticizes educators who teach by requiring students to merely memorize facts in his 1762 book In Emile, or On Education: “You think you are teaching him what the world is like; he is only learning the map; he is taught the names of towns, countries, rivers, which have no existence for him except on the paper before him.”


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