Opening minds to new experiences

Ahead of the unveiling of the National Education Blueprint on Tuesday, our columnist shares why an education steeped in the humanities is needed to produce open-minded and competitive citizens.

I attended the UiTM School of Mass Communications 40th anniversary last weekend. I was among the pioneer batch of students, blazing the trail for the country’s first batch of academically trained journalists, advertising, public relations and broadcasting professionals.

As hundreds of us gathered amidst hugs and shrieks of joy, what many of us most reminisced about was the incredible education we got in a nurturing environment that enabled us to learn, think, imagine and rebel. For us among the first few batches of students, much was owed to Tan Sri Arshad Ayub, the pioneering educationist who led ITM’s exponential growth, who provided us the space and the opportunity to realise our full potential.

Long before private-public sectors partnerships and twinning programmes were de rigueur, Arshad was already thinking out of the box, passionate in ensuring his young charges got the best education.

He brought top Malaysian professionals from the private and public sectors to teach us and university professors, local and abroad, to provide us additional academic rigour.

This was 1972, long before all kinds of insecurities, imagined fears and threats against our identities as Malays, as Muslims, got the better of us. We were pioneers, hungry for knowledge from anywhere, anyone, hungry to be the best.

And it was education leaders like Arshad and our first Head of School, Marina Samad, who stopped at nothing to give us the best in order to bring out the best in us.

In those early days of educating Malays to enter the professions, there seemed to be a clear vision and philosophy that only an education steeped in the arts and humanities would produce the open-minded Malays needed to be productive and competitive citizens, able to embrace change and bring about change to their community and society. What more to produce communications specialists.

It was a time when lecturers were totally dedicated to opening up our minds to new ideas and new experiences.

There was my English and Literature lecturer, Pritam Singh Sekhon, who brought his portable record player to class to get us to listen to classical music. He introduced us to Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Chopin.

He brought us by bus to see every single play at the Experimental Theatre in Universiti Malaya. We hung out with the directors and student actors and actresses before and after the play, whetting our appetite to do our own productions – which we did.

by Zainab Anwar.

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