Archive for the ‘Thinking skills.’ Category

Key to higher order thinking skills

Monday, April 9th, 2018
Nawal says a lively classroom means the students are actively taking part in the teaching and learning process.

Nawal says a lively classroom means the students are actively taking part in the teaching and learning process.

SINCE 2013, Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) questions have found their way into national level examinations.

And they will gradually be increased until the year 2020.

This is part of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 plan to develop students who can think critically and creatively.

Ultimately this is to create generations of resilient students that can face the challenges of the working world in the future.

Despite being around for the past few years, there are still teachers struggling to teach their students the skills needed to tackle these types of examination questions.

“Teachers are not prepared to develop HOTS among their students,” says the former director of the Examination Syndicate Datin Nawal Salleh (pic).

She adds that teachers need to develop HOTS first before they can impart their knowledge to their charges.

This year, the Leaps of Knowledge Conference had fun and engaging workshops to help parents and teachers understand education through gamification and how HOTS can be incorporated into teaching and learning.

“What we are trying to do now is to develop HOTS in the classroom,” she tells StarEducate.

Although not easy, Nawal offers a few ideas that are easily implemented.

She says that teachers can kickstart a student’s curiosity the moment they enter the classroom by asking questions.

Curiosity is a key requirement to develop HOTS.

She says an example of a HOTS question is “Why do you think leaves are green?”

This thought-provoking question has many answers such as “because of the chlorophyll” and also “because the leaves reflect green light.”

An open question like this requires the student to think critically and creatively to come up with the answer, she adds.

HOTS questions need to be opinion-based as well, she explains.

“We are actually trying to stimulate the thinking process.”

Nawal says a sign a child is using HOTS in the classroom is when they ask questions.

Teachers should encourage the children to voice their thoughts and queries, she says.

“If you want to develop their critical thinking skills, you have to provoke and encourage the students to ask questions,” she adds.

Assuming students ask a difficult question, the teacher should not just brush it aside.

Instead, Nawal says the teacher should act as a “facilitator” and help the students find the answer on their own.

She also says a classroom should not be “too quiet” as it is a clear sign that one-way teaching is going on.

A lively classroom means the students are actively taking part in the teaching and learning process.

Nawal stresses that HOTS questions are now necessary to break the cycle of rote-learning and develop students who are creative and critical-thining problem-solvers

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IP undermines equity, progress

Monday, February 26th, 2018
A lab technician demonstrating DNA testing at the Puntland Forensic Centre in Somalia. The World Trade Organisation rules disallow Indian generic manufacturers from exporting their medicines to Africa and other poor countries. AFP PIC

OVER the last few decades, people in the developing world have been rejecting the intellectual property (IP) regime as it has been increasingly imposed on them following the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including its trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPs) regime.

IP rights (IPRs) have been enforced through ostensible free-trade agreements (FTAs) and investment treaties among two or more partners.

Despite their ostensible rationale, the IP standards that rich country governments insist on have never been intended to maximise scientific progress and technological innovation. Rather, the IPR regime serves to maximise the profits of influential pharmaceutical and other companies by conferring them with exclusive monopoly rights.

In the pushback, initially led by Nelson Mandela soon after he became South African president under the new dispensation in 1994, developing countries have targeted access to essential medicines. Thus, the 2005 Indian law to conform to WTO’s TRIPs safeguarded access to generic equivalents, as allowed for by the public health exception to TRIPs.

However, WTO rules disallow Indian generic manufacturers from exporting their medicines to Africa and other poor countries lacking the necessary pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities and capabilities. Even if the African countries could produce the drugs domestically, they would be more expensive as they would lack the economies of scale required to lower costs in their relatively small economies.

In Innovation, Intellectual Property and Development, Joseph Stiglitz, Dean Baker and Arjun Jayadev have shown that the economic institutions and laws protecting knowledge in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development economies not only poorly govern economic activity, but are also ill-suited to developing countries’ needs, especially the global commitment to achieving universal health care of Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ironically, while the case for more openness in sharing knowledge is compelling, “neo-liberals”, who typically claim the moral high ground in opposing monopolies and related market distortions, have effectively served to extend and strengthen property rights and attendant monopolies.

From an economic perspective, knowledge is considered a global public good, as the marginal cost of anyone using it is zero. Growth of knowledge can presumably improve wellbeing.

Despite lack of evidence, the IP advocacy argument has been that market forces “undersupply” knowledge owing to the poor incentives for research and innovation. The usual claim is that this “market failure” is best corrected by providing a private monopoly through property rights for new knowledge, for example through enforceable patent rights. Private IP protection is presumed to be the only way to reward, and thus encourage research and innovation.

The trio argue that the IP regime has been much more problematic than expected, even in rich countries. They show how the 2013 United States Supreme Court decision that naturally occurring genes cannot be patented has shown that the IP regime impedes, rather than stimulates research by limiting access to knowledge.

Following the ruling, innovation accelerated, leading to better diagnostic tests (for example, for genes related to breast cancer) at much lower cost. Stiglitz, Baker and Jayadev focus on three alternatives to motivate and finance research in the US context. First, through centralised mechanisms to directly support research. Second, by decentralising direct funding, for example via tax credits, government bodies or research foundations or institutions can reward successful innovations or findings.

The patent system rewards legal ownership of innovation, but impedes the use of that knowledge by others, thus reducing its potential benefits. Having a creative commons, for example open-source software, will maximise the flow of knowledge.

The authors recommend that developing economies use all these approaches to promote learning and innovation. They view the gap between developing and developed countries as involving a gap in knowledge comparable to the gap in resources.

Hence, to improve economic welfare in the world, they urge diffusion of knowledge from developed to developing countries, as conventional social scientists have urged as part of modernisation theory for more than half a century.

Often, dense “patent thickets”, requiring many patents, are increasingly stifling innovation. Payments to lawyers and patent investigators exceed those to scientific researchers in such cases, with research often oriented to extend, broaden and leverage monopoly rights due to patents.

One perverse consequence has been patent “trolling” by speculators who buy up patents, which they think has a chance of being necessary for any product or process innovation. Thus becoming gatekeepers like the mythical trolls, they effectively block innovation unless their price is met.

Ironically, while the case for more openness in sharing knowledge is compelling, “neo-liberals”, who claim the moral high ground in opposing monopolies and related market distortions, have effectively served to extend and strengthen property rights and attendant monopolies.

Powerful corporate and developed economy government lobbies have influenced the IP regime, for instance by opposing competing rights associated with nature, biodiversity or even traditional knowledge.

Hence, recent ostensible FTAs have extended IPRs to cover “biologics”, i.e. naturally occurring substances, such as insulin for those suffering from diabetes, which is derived from mammals.

Thus, over the last few decades, the evolving IP regime has erected more barriers to widespread use of new knowledge. The current IP regime serves to maximise profits for a few monopolies rather than the progress and welfare of the many.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

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Can one learn to be creative?

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018
Research has shown that creativity is a skill that can be taught, practised and developed. With imagination, we can be wired to be creative. FILE PIC

IN the next few years, more than three generations may be working side by side at the workplace. They are the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (also known as millennials) and Generation Z.

Gen Z, who were born after 1995, are beginning to appear in the workplace. By next year, Gen Z is expected to represent more than 20 per cent of the workforce.

Growing up in a world where the Internet, social media and mobile technology have always existed, they will bring their new technology and big ideas with them. It can be a significant challenge to prepare for the clash of these four generations.

Many organisations are still struggling to analyse the challenge that millennials pose in the workplace.

But, how different will Gen Z really be? A digitally innate generation of students, Gen Z have access to more information than the generations before them. Growing up in the age of technology provides them with more outlets and digital tools for exploration and expression.

So, they are said to be more curious, innovative and open-minded than past generations.

While they should be more advanced in searching for information and figuring things out on their own, they also expect everything to be available at any time and with low barriers of access. With Gen Z starting university and the first batch graduating soon, are the schools preparing them for their future? Is higher education ready for them?

A study done by Adobe that provides insight into Malaysian Gen Z students shows that they are feeling unprepared for the problems the “real world” face today, and want greater focus on creativity and hands-on learning in the classroom.

The study, “Gen Z in the Classroom: Creating the Future”, surveyed 250 Gen Z students between the ages of 11 and 17, and 100 teachers in Malaysia.

A similar study was also conducted in five Asia-Pacific (Apac) countries — Australia, India, Thailand, China and Korea. For Malaysia, they found 97 per cent of students and 100 per cent of teachers — the highest rating among five other countries — see creativity as essential to students’ future success.

Malaysian Gen Z students also have mixed emotions when it comes to their future after they finish schools.

According to the study, they feel “excited” and “curious”, but at the same time “nervous” or “worried”. Some are concerned that schools have not properly prepared them for the real world.

They believe that there are a variety of careers that require creativity. Ninety six per cent of students from this study believe their future careers would involve creativity.

Both students and teachers alike agree that Gen Z learn best through hands-on experience and wish that there is more focus on creativity. Students feel that classes focusing on computers and technology hone their creativity and will best prepare them for their future.

Developing creative people is an aim that most in education share; there have been growing calls to nurture and teach creativity from an early age in schools and universities.

The World Economic Forum predicts that creativity will rise from the 10th most sought-after skill in 2015 to the third in 2020.

But, what is creativity? It can seem that creativity is a natural gift for those who are lucky, for instance, great artists, musicians or entrepreneurs. Can one learn to be creative? Can we prime the mind for creative ideas to emerge?

Research has shown that creativity is a skill that can be taught, practised and developed. With imagination, we can be wired to be creative. Creative thinkers in any discipline are those who can tackle complex problems and develop innovative solutions.

Of course, this does not mean that you can teach one to be a genius. The techniques of teaching creativity are not going to turn a student into Einstein or Picasso.

It is more about encouraging day-to-day creative thinking that can make a student, and then later, as an adult, more productive.

Many educators claim to value creativity, but they do not always prioritise it. In some parts of the world, teaching creativity is already a necessary part of an undergraduate experience.

The International Centre for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College in New York is the world’s first university department of its type.

The term “makerspace” in education — probably still new in Malaysia’s education scene — is also the buzzword now to refer to physical spaces that support learning and doing, in a way that redefines traditional schooling. It provides hands-on experiences and encourages creative ways for students to design, experiment, build and invent.

How can creativity be cultivated in the classroom? The way Gen Z students consume and learn today is very different from past generations, hence, educators in Malaysia need to provide the right environment, updated tools and creative outlets to bring out the best in their students and foster innovative problem-solving skills the future workforce will need.

Education systems should focus less on the reproduction of information and more on critical thinking and problem solving. There are multiple solutions to open-ended and complex problems, a situation that the students will face as they pursue future careers.

Encouraging divergent instead of convergent thinking leads to solving problems that do not have one correct answer.

However, it is important to remember that teaching creativity does not mean that we should throw out the textbooks and exams while encouraging children to let their minds wander rather than concentrate in the classroom.


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Teachers given deadline flexibility in completing i-Think course: Education Ministry.

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017
The Education Ministry has decided to allow teachers the flexibility to complete the i-Think offline course at their own pace. (File pix)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry has decided to allow teachers the flexibility to complete the i-Think offline course at their own pace.

The decision was made over worries that educators are becoming overwhelmed by having to complete the Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) –related course on top of performing their routine duties.

“We are concerned about the anxiety experienced by teachers who are required to take (the course) now (and complete it by the end of the month).

“This is why we are giving the teachers and school administrators the flexibility to complete their i-Think course when they can.

“At the same time, we are upgrading the implementation of the course by cutting down the number of modules that have to be taken,” it said in a statement today.

Another factor which influenced the Ministry’s decision is technical issues with the i-Think website, which has crashed repeatedly over the past week.

In a circular issued recently, the National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) advised educators experiencing problems with the website to forward their complaints, together with screen captures of the online issues they are facing to them.

The NUTP also assured teachers that it would back them in the event that the Ministry takes action against them for their failure to complete i-Think-related assignments.

By Veena Babula.

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WISE17:Education System Reform Must Develop Student’s Critical Mind And Skills

Friday, November 17th, 2017

DOHA, Nov 15 (Bernama) — Comprehensive reforms in education must include curricula and pedagogies that develop students’ critical mind and their skills in examining various issues away from their stereotypical thinking.

Chairman of Qatar Foundation, Sheikha Moza Nasser said it was vital for the education system to equip students with tools that gives them cultural and media immunity.

“Through media and information literacy in school curricula, students will be empowered to observe media discourse and examine political rhetoric from a critical perspective. It would give them keen insight to differentiate between what is real and fake on the internet,” she said at the opening ceremony of the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) 2017, here today.

Sheikha Moza said through education, the current generation will be able to protect the future generation against dangerous mind games from both known and unknown entities that use cyberspace as their playground.

She said the internet revolution had created a virtual world that deals with reality selectively, validating only its credibility.

“This jeopardised truth to a point that begs cross-examination,” she said.

Sheikha Moza also expressed her concern that the social media has become cluttered with organised activities that spread propaganda, rumours and lies to divert people’s attention away from reality and truth, and towards what is propagated as real or true.

“When these practices become common place in our world, the outcome would certainly be fake facts presented as alternative truths, which we accept in this so-called ‘post-truth’ world,” she added.

Meanwhile, at the same event, the Founder of Ashesi University from Ghana, Dr Patrick Awuah, has been named as the recipient of the WISE 2017 Prize for Education Award for transforming education in Africa.

Also present at the opening ceremony was the First Lady of Turkey, Emine Erdogan.

by Anas Abu Hassan


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113 Schools Attain Good Or Excellent Level In HOTS

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 (Bernama) — Some 113 schools across the country have reached good or excellent level in the Kemahiran Berfikir Aras Tinggi (KBAT) or Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) learning rating assessment.

Deputy Education Minister, Datuk P. Kamalanathan said the number made up 40.07 percent of the total number while 169 schools or 59.93 percent were below the good or excellent level, and these schools were being guided by the School Improvement Partners (SIP+) and School Improvement Specialist Coaches (SISC+).

However, he said, the performance and results of the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) 2016 could not be compared to that of previous years as the format and instruments for the UPSR last year were based on the Standard Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR).

Kamalanathan said 282 schools (one national primary school and one national secondary school for every 141 districts) have gone through the HOTS best practice rating assessment at school through their respective board of governors and quality assurance. Hence, the 2016 UPSR performance cannot be said to be up or down.

“The HOTS implementation assessment can only be done after the analysis of the 2017 UPSR results has been obtained and comparing the students performance based on quality, consistency, accuracy and fairness,” he said at the Dewan Rakyat sitting, here, today.

He was replying to a question from Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz (PAS-Pasir Mas) on the effects of the implementation of the HOTS policy in primary schools following the results of the 2016 UPSR.

Kamalanathan said inculcation of HOTS in the national education system using a comprehensive and systematic approach, covered seven elements, namely curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, co-curriculum, community and private sector support, resources and building capacity to make possessing higher order thinking skills a culture among teachers and pupils.

He said HOTS was incorporated into the school curriculum so that the pupils would not just memorise but have high-level thinking by acquiring skills to evaluate, apply, analyse and create.


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Warming up to HOTS

Sunday, September 17th, 2017
SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) teacher Sunita (in blue) sharing a light moment with her students (from left) Wendy, Evelyn Rebekah Wee Chia May, Soh Ee Von, Esther and Sulaiman Redza.

SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) teacher Sunita (in blue) sharing a light moment with her students (from left) Wendy, Evelyn Rebekah Wee Chia May, Soh Ee Von, Esther and Sulaiman Redza.

HIGHER order thinking skills (HOTS) questions are starting to make a positive impact among Malaysian students.

HOTS questions are part of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, which was implemented into the school system to spark a new trend in the way young Malaysians learn and acquire knowledge.

Private companies are also putting efforts to develop necessary skills and competencies in students to enhance their future marketability.

One such company is HRCA Mega Events Sdn Bhd, a firm that emphasises on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths) education.

It organised a science competition for upper secondary school students in July.

Participants were required to answer 30 multiple choice HOTS questions on Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Additional Mathematics within a time frame of 20 minutes.

Thirteen students from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) (SMK BUD 4) took part in the challenge, winning the school a total of six medals – three gold and three silver. They were among 782 students from local schools who took part in the event.

The SMK BUD 4 participants, said they enjoyed the competition, which incorporated mostly HOTS questions.

“Though more challenging, HOTS questions stimulates ideas and opinions, making me think outside the box,” said Esther Chew Li-Wen.

The 16-year-old added that the competition was a good experienceas she had to prepare for it by reading up to gain more knowledge. It also exposed her to a variety of HOTS questions.

Sulaiman Redza Suhaimi said that the competition taught him something new that he had not learnt in school.

“It makes me think harder as the questions are not easy. The emphasis was more on my ability to understand and explain.

“It prepares me to face future exams that could be even more difficult than what I had just sat for.

“HOTS questions give students an opportunity to answer questions in a different manner, something you can give your own elaboration to rather than a textbook answer,” said the 16-year-old who added that the competition was an “eye opener”.

Another participant Wendy Lee Xiu Teng shared Li-Wen and Sulaiman Redza’s sentiments.

Describing HOTS questions as “interesting”, she said it involved knowledge and information that was not always taught in class. “It also expands my knowledge on the English language because there were so many words I have not come across. It is a ‘revelation’ when you find out the correct meaning and answers later on,” she added.

“The competition also tests us on how we perform under pressure. In the real world, you have to work with deadlines,” she said

The school’s Science teacher Datin Sunita Devi Om Prakash Sharma, who won HRCA’s Best Teacher Award, said she spent time in encouraging her students to join extra-curricular events.

“Out-of-school competitions and activities bring out the best in students as they have to use their own ideas creatively withoutrelying on their textbooks alone, she said. .

The school’s head of department for Maths and Science Ravinderan Veloo Nair said HOTS questions have helped students develop critical thinking skills which in turn enabled them to think out of the box.

“We always encourage students to take part in competitions as they provide good exposure and platforms for them to try out new things other than school-based education.

“It also encourages and gets them interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), which is rapidly dropping in popularity,” he added.

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A better life with critical thinking

Saturday, August 19th, 2017
Successful critical thinking involves self-directed, self-disciplined and self-corrective thinking. FILE PIc

WE all think — it’s in our nature to do so. But, left to itself, most of our thinking is inadvertently biased, uninformed, partial and often prejudiced. Our quality of life depends on the quality of our thoughts. It is, therefore, imperative to learn and cultivate excellence in thinking.

At the tender age of 2, my son discovered the all-important word “why”. There and then, I vowed to never answer him with a simple “because I said so”.

At 10, he triumphantly declared that Britney Spears was actually 56 years old, but she had a lotion that made her appear to be 21. This was a fact; he had read it on the Internet. What, on earth, had gone wrong?

The unstoppable force that is the appeal of fast facts found on the World Wide Web had clearly wiped out all my, as well as his teachers’ efforts, to instil common sense and critical thinking into his young mind.

A quick search on “Internet said” gives us the definition of critical thinking as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgment”.

And, the first example of a sentence reads, “professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking among their students”.

The lack of critical thinking among students is a frightening fact. It is so on more than one level. Obviously, if anybody should make it a habit to question information, to not take any fact for granted, to push academic boundaries and thus, reach for new discoveries, it should be the intellectual elite of the future.

After all, haven’t most of history’s defining social, philosophical and scientific transformations been fuelled by passionate young thinkers, unafraid to question the status quo, and willing to envision groundbreaking paths?

If we expect future generations to skillfully identify, analyse, assess, de- and re-construct concepts for the betterment of society, it is crucial that they be given the tools to do so. Successful critical thinking involves self-directed, self-disciplined and self-corrective thinking. This sounds like a handful, and it is.

Traditional education, usually delivered as teacher-centred feeding of information, is not conducive to the aforementioned skills nor to effective communication and problem-solving abilities, which critical thinking entails.

We live in a paradoxical age. Thriving companies seek to hire candidates who can demonstrate sound self-monitored, involved, thinking skills. Higher education professionals lament the lack of such abilities in their students.

Yet, people of little merit, albeit glorified on social media, operate as poor role models for young people’s attempt at judging objectively and thereupon thrive in the very complex world they are about to inherit.

Likewise, parents, teachers and even doctors all too often impose a strict hierarchy that leads to uninvolved and passive consumption of information.

Ultimately, the sound analysis and assessment of concepts demands careful gathering of relevant evidence. The sheer magnitude of available information makes this a somewhat Herculean task, as peer-reviewed sources and those of uncertain origin happily co-exist.

The evaluation of sources and points of view needs to be assessed, not only critically in terms of their objective truth and value, but also in their problem-solving capacity.

Like any other skill however, critical thinking needs to be taught, practised and encouraged from a very young age. When nurtured and developed within an educational process aimed directly at that end, good reasoning can become second nature.

This is not to profess disrespect for one’s elders and superiors, of course. It should not be confused with being argumentative or critical of other people.


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A Quranic perspective on thinking

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017
About 750 verses of the Quran exhort its readers to study nature, history, the Quran itself and humanity. Bernama Photo

THE Quran repeatedly invites its readers to think about the signs of God in the universe and within themselves, and to understand His illustrious presence.

Thinking is a movement driven by intellect (al-Ñaql), and this can only occur when an initial image of the subject is attainable in the mind.

Thinking cannot proceed over something of which no image exists in the mind.

About 750 verses of the Quran exhort its readers to study nature, history, the Quran itself and humanity.

Quranic references to thinking and the exercise of intellect occur in conjunction with basically five major themes: belief in the Oneness and munificence of God (tawhid), reflection (tadabbur) on the Quran; man and the universe; historical precedent; and thinking itself.

Often, the Quran gives examples and narratives of other nations, and reminders that people may think and reflect over them.

Quran commentators understand thinking as a form of worship if it is done with sincerity and good purpose.

A hierarchy of five perceptive-cognitive functions is suggested through hearing, sight, thinking, remembrance, and certainty.

Another aspect of Quran’s outlook on thinking is indicated in its emphasis on wisdom and good judgment (hikmah).

Hikmah is seen to be more important than technical know-how and expertise, as it can guide expert knowledge to its proper application.

The Quran mentions hikmah 20 times, and 10 of these are immediately preceded by kitab, which is a reference to divine scripture — primarily the Quran, but also other revealed scriptures preceding the Quran (cf., Q 3:42).

The value of hikmah in the Quran is underscored in a verse: When God bestows hikmah on someone that person is indeed granted an immense source of goodness (2: 269).

In another verse, the Quran praises those who listen to the word and follow the best of it (or the best interpretation thereof) (39:18).

The Quran sees the signs of reality in the sun, the moon, the alternation of day and night, the perpetual changes of the winds, the variety of human colours and tongues for its readers to reflect on them.

Early Muslim thinkers do not seem to have grasped the Quranic emphasis on inductive reasoning and experimentation.

It was indeed a slow realisation for Muslim thinkers to note, as Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938) pointed out “that the spirit of the Quran was essentially anti-classical”.

Putting full confidence in Greek reasoning, Muslim thinkers tried to understand the Quran in the light of Greek philosophy, which in the beginning of their careers they had studied with so much enthusiasm.

Quran’s emphasis on pondering over the ayat is also underscored by a set of guidelines to ensure correct outcomes.

The text, thus, draws attention to a series of exclusions and factors that stand in the way of proper functioning of the intellect.

These are:

PURSUIT of caprice (hawa) which may consist of love, hatred, and prejudice that confound impartiality and good judgment;

PURSUIT of conjecture in the face of certitude;

BLIND imitation of others; and,

OPPRESSIVE dictatorship the like of Pharaoh and Kora and those who supported and followed them.


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Allow room for critical thinking

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

FIVE school teachers have been given show cause letters by the Education Ministry for being “excessively” critical of the Government in public forums and the like. I wish I could find out what they said; it would be nice to see what “excessive” is.

The Education Minister also said that civil servants should be loyal to the Government and any criticism should be done via the “correct channels”. But all this silencing of educators is not undemocratic, he says because it is done via the law – namely the General Orders which civil servants are bound by.

How quaint.

These are really old justifications that have been used for decades.

Firstly, one has to wonder what “proper channels” there are and whether they are effective or not. If these channels are not open to the public (and I am certain by “proper” it is meant “discreet”) then they can easily be ignored.

Secondly, just because a law exists to silence people, that does not make it right. A power provided by legislation can be just as undemocratic as an unfettered discretionary power.

These five teachers are facing the beginnings of disciplinary action for things which they did outside of the classroom. But the Youth and Sports Minister has chipped in saying that things done within the classrooms should not be used as a “political platform”.

Well, sure, it would be unseemly and inappropriate for any sort of political campaigning to be done in classrooms. Kind of pointless as well, since schoolchildren can’t vote.

But I wonder; what if a history teacher decides to point out the fact that Umno was late in joining the calls for independence and in fact the originator for that call was the Malayan Left. Would this be political?

And that is just within the context of schools. Universities offer courses and have departments whose entire purpose is to examine critically what happens in society, which includes what the Government does.

A Social Science Department that does not cover race-based policies in the country will not be doing its job. An economics department that does not explore the effect of corruption on the well-being of the country will not be doing its job. A law faculty that does not criticise unjust laws and judgments will not be doing its job.

However, recently, public universities have received a circular, once again written under the authority of legislation meant to control civil servants, where we have been told that we can’t say or do anything that could be deemed as manifesting disloyalty to King, country and government.

Well, I can tell you that makes my job as a Human Rights and Environmental Law lecturer very simple then.

I think I can just turn up to class for the rest of the semester with a guitar and sing Kumbaya with my students for an hour.

Of course I won’t do that. This is because my responsibility as a lecturer, and a teacher’s responsibility, is first and foremost to our students. Our job is to broaden their horizons and to show them not just what is, but what should be.

As long as what is being taught is backed up by good research and sound reasoning, then what is said should not be penalised.

If we do our jobs well, we produce thinking graduates and by this we serve the people and the nation. Not the Government.

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