Our local universities, be they public or private, are increasingly transforming the national tertiary learning climate to one that is challenge-driven. FILE PIC
I WOULD like to think that when the New Economic Policy was introduced in 1971, the nation felt compelled to step out of its comfort zone. Times were certainly rough in those days, but the nation rose to the occasion under then prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein’s leadership.
Razak’s calm and decisive demeanour were instrumental in getting the rural people, in particular, to change their mindset. He urged them to fulfil their obligations to their country to the best of their abilities, and assured them that every effort they put forth would not be in vain.
Our past generations have done the hard work and we have reaped the benefits of their labour. Amidst the growing complexities and high pace of change in the world today, the aspiration of building a united Malaysian nation in diversity remains a work-in-progress.
We were privileged to get a head start in uncovering and appreciating the values and beauty in diversity, but as our world gets a little more crowded and as our priorities change, it would take more than what we understand from our informal learning on religious values and civic virtue to contain ourselves for polite, attentive discussions of the solutions. How social justice is differently defined in this age and time could well further add to the intricacies in reaching a common platform. Our societies need to be capable of not only accepting, but also leveraging on differences. Relevant knowledge, skills and traits are critically needed to propel us forward.
We understand that education is a prime vehicle for fostering social change, and this is where universities play a role. Our local universities, be they public or private, regardless of the form we operate in, are increasingly transforming the national tertiary learning climate to one that is challenge-driven. We are constantly learning to maintain a temperature of mutual respect between the members of our communities to encourage professional growth and character development. Our commitment to education should run deep on the same nestled belief that we, too, are fulfilling our obligation to the country, ensuring that our efforts contribute to the progress of the nation.
Back in the 1960s, when Razak was still a deputy prime minister, he addressed a large group of teaching professionals, calling for coordination for all the activities and influences which will serve to erase differences and promote unity as a reminder on the importance of educators playing their role in fulfilling the nation’s supreme need in becoming united.
“If one pulls his weight, we would have travelled a little further along the road that leads to complete and real national unity.
“A strong and happy Malaysian nation is our most important national objective and we all must work towards its achievement.
“This is our sacred task and if we fail here, the whole future of this nation will be imperiled,” said Razak in his speech in 1974, echoing the same call to persistently work hard and train the mind that with good heart and goodwill, all will prevail.
Oftentimes in tertiary education, we find it challenging to be focused on anything else but the development of our students’ cognitive and psychomotor domains when designing the curricula, as our graduates have to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.
Under the guise of practicality, the vocational style of learning and teaching capitalises on the anxieties of parents and employers’ wants.
Education is geared towards preparing graduates to be economically self-sufficient for as long as the economic environment dynamics remain similar to what they were exposed to during tertiary studies. We fall short on training of the whole person for our graduates to become more effective after university, in the work they have chosen and as functioning citizens in our future national and global social landscapes, in which the planet prospers because diversity matters.
Now that we have built our tertiary education climate to be challenge-driven, character education must be formally incorporated into our curricula and its importance infused in our learning ecology. Let us not be contented with character building as a “nice” outcome of the learning activities we hold.
It is past due that we take a proactive role in educating students for character and include the affective domain as a critical part in our student assessments. Many of our youth are struggling with the issues of fairness and consideration, and as educators we should nurture our students for social ability, emotional management and traits that will improve our consciousness as Malaysians. My hope is that one day soon, our universities will not only promote sound character development in an intentional manner, but also move it to the forefront.