Views on Education: A Musing


– My Messy Desk, WSA, Auckland (21.05.08) –

I keep stumbling upon blogs of young Malaysian bloggers these past few days. Some are taking PMR and some SPM. Makes me feel a little bit nostalgic somehow; I remember my days of manual blogging in 2001 before using Greymatter in 2002-2004 and moving on to b2evolution, and finally wordpress and Joomla. But it’s not this recollection that hit me with this sense of nostalgia. It’s what I read in those young darlings’ blogs.

Aside from records of normal everyday occurences, it seems that most of them are talking about scrapping as many A’s as possible in exams. I remember how I was like that too when I was at that age. It’s not until I’ve left school that I actually reflected back on what I view education as – what I truly want from education, and from being educated.

Life of A Student and the Race for A’s

I thought back on why I wanted so much to get as many A’s as possible. How did I feel back then when I got 5A’s in UPSR? How did I feel back then when I got 8A’s in PMR? How did I feel when I got 8A’s in SPM? I remembered getting extremely upset with my SPM results. I felt like tearing the result slip, because it hurt to look at the B’s when I’ve worked myself sick for the exam. I got slightly envious of those who got straight A’s, and felt really, really low because it was the first major exam where I didn’t manage to scrap all A’s. And the B’s upset me because they were what I didn’t expect.

Now that I think about it, I couldn’t help but smile. Never mind if the smile is actually bitter or not. While chasing after the A’s, the grades and the rank, I was unconsciously falling into a dangerous trap. I didn’t realise that I was trying to please other people all along. I didn’t realise that getting the A’s was not really about personal gratification, but about feeding the expectations of society. At that time, maybe even now, some people’s view on what makes a student ‘good’ is his or her grade. Academic excellence comes before anything else, because it is what we can easily observe. It’s what the eyes can see. Like me, years before, I never really considered that they are actually many ways to define excellence and intelligence. As I grow up, portions of my thoughts mature with me.

I’ve come to learn that the nature of excellence and intelligence varies across cultures and society. What a particular society defines as ‘giftedness’ may not necessarily apply to another society. Imagine the uneasiness I feel when breaching the subject of education in Educational Psychology tutorial. We get to hear the views on education from students all over the world. Like in Japan, grades are everything for students. In New Zealand, the United States and a few other countries, skills and abilities matter the most in defining intelligence (particularly cognitive skills). So then, what is the definition of excellence and intelligence in Malaysian culture?

I ask myself now: For all the subjects that you got A’s or those that you worked so hard to get A’s for, do you still remember what they’re all about? If you got A for History, do you still remember all the historical facts you learned in History? If you got A for Math or Add-Math, do you still remember all the formulas? If you got A for Chemistry, do you still remember all those equations for chemical reactions? Chances are: “Probably” or “I don’t” would be the answer. I don’t think I could ever say “Absolutely!”. What might had taken me only 2 minutes to solve back then might take 30 minutes now. Some people might even straight away claim “I don’t remember anymore la~”

What tickles my brain at the moment is the fact that there’s still a race to get as many A’s as possible in education. Does it still mean anything if deep understanding is not achieved?

Life as a Teacher-trainee and Teachers

When I graduate as a teacher, what is it that I want my student to achieve? What do I have to emphasise in the classroom? Should I keep reminding them of how they should work hard to get an A for the subject I teach? Or do I remind them of how important it is for them to acquire the right skills and the right knowledge so that they can use it in the unseen future? Why do I get the feeling that I’d be told off by the school authority if I choose the latter?

Moving out of the topic of students and learners, I have other dilemmas weighing down on me too.

Why are teachers rated on the scale of how many of the students taught by them managed to get A’s in their subject disciplines? Why are schools rated on how many of their students get high results? Why provide teacher-trainees the motivation to ‘make a change for the better on the education policy’ when they’re going to be ripped off of their ‘freedom of speech’ once they are posted at schools? Why keep telling us that we’re the ‘agents of change’ if we’re going to be asked to ‘shut up’ later? Why pay us to study overseas if we aren’t allowed the opportunity to change what we were initially asked to change?

My seniors who had just had their graduation ceremony a few weeks ago are already teaching. However, it upsets me greatly that many of them were actually asked to teach subjects which are completely out of their subject discipline. I knew this scenario isn’t foreign in the past, but I had hoped it would change before our era. They were sent to study English, and how to teach English. This also applies to teacher-trainees of other programs – they were taught their respective subject disciplines and were supposed to teach within their subject disciplines. Within their expertise. So why, when it’s so blatantly obvious that there are shortages of teaching staff in a particular subject discipline, are they not assigned to the right ones?

I’m learning English, and I’ve lived in Kelantan all my life. If me asking to teach in Kelantan receives a reply sounding like “There’s no empty post” in the near future, then I would know how much of a nonsense that is. My old school was short on English teachers. The school my mother taught in was short on English teachers. Even the schools my elder brothers and sisters-in-law teach now are short on English teachers. So why pray tell are those who were trained to teach English stuck with teaching subjects they are not trained to?

I could get a headache out of all this. I even worry about writing a blog entry such as this – worry that I’m not allowed to voice all these out. Will I get some kind of penalty for this? God knows. Until later.

How Interesting…

It seems that Advertlets is not the only one in failing to pay bills in time. The oh-so-famous FBI does too. I was reading the news over at MSN Live and cracked up at one of the headlines: FBI wiretaps dropped due to unpaid bills.

Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau’s repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.

A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI’s lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent to steal $25,000, the audit said.

Advertlets is just a small fry compared to this. Just proves how twisted this world is. Many crime investigators and authorities worldwide commit crimes behind our backs and play nice in front of us.

Anyways, I’ve been caught up in work and real life this past couple of days. And I’ve been commissioned~ One is an ongoing project of copywriting. It’s a very small project, $1.5 per 200-400 words but I have to do around 5 to 10 per day. For a lazy student like me, $10 – $15 per day is already okay. I get paid on the spot everytime I submit my work. I so love being a part-time freelancer at GetAFreelancer.Com! What I did was the past few days were:

Sunday: Installed, configured and test-run a Joomla site with Virtuemart
Monday: Fix scripting on one Arabics football news website
Tuesday: Write 5 lengthy articles on language and technology
Wednesday: Made a custom WordPress template for a maid agency

I guess I can take a break now.

Designing Frenzy

The title itself is self explanatory. I went on a designing frenzy for two days, which resulted in me forgetting to update all of my blogs when I really should. I’m trying to get my online store project up as soon as I can. It’s not much, actually. Just a small store offering print-on-demand and high quality silkscreen-printed t-shirts, custom-design service, mugs, caps and other small stuff. There are many similar store like these, but almost 95% of them are US-based or international-based. I thought it would be more convenient to set up a Malaysian-based store for us Malaysians. I hope to be able to launch the shop before the term starts.

Which reminds me… I have to add extra $2 to my monthly hosting bill for a dedicated IP. Else, I won’t be able to properly install my SSL certificate. The Visa credit/debit card payment gateway via Siteheart is settled and the payment gateway is secure (encrypted, 128 bit). I just thought it would be nicer for the whole store to run in secure https mode. Go me! Work harder!

I made a few t-shirt designs yesterday, and my personal favourite is this:

Malaysian Blogger Shirt (W) Malaysian Blogger Shirt (B)

Wait, I love these too…

Say What Shirt (B) Blogging is Love

Click on those pictures to get a better view of them. I really want to get them printed and wear them around!

I also played around a bit with Stylish Geeks. You can go play around with the ‘Skin Me!‘ module. I added a new theme to the site to those who are fond of cheerful colours.

SG - Technicolor

Okay. I think I better go and work on my store project… And finish uploading Junjou Romantica scans to Junjou.info. Uploaded Volume 5 – 9. I need to upload Volume 1 – 4.

Tesco Kota Bharu Opens Today

The first Kelantan branch of Tesco is now open. It was initially scheduled to open 2 weeks ago, but the recent flood had caused a delay in the actual launch date. So, this morning, it was officially launched. The complex is big, but not as big as KB Mall. I have to say that the interior is very impressive. The food court is situated just right – you’ll reach the food court once you get into the complex from the parking area. I’d say the placement is convenient. You can can choose to either eat first and then shop or the other way around.

Tesco1 Tesco2

There are a few other shops in the complex. Reject Perfume Shop, Nagoya Textile, InfoMusic, Beauty & Slimming Center and more.Customers rushed to apply for free Tesco clubcard. You can say that the place was really crowded up until this evening before I left.

TEsco3 TEsco4

Bought a few stuff from the complex. I think the complex is off to a good start. Spent around RM150 at Nagoya, and another RM70 at Tesco. I’m thinking of going back to the complex later to buy some discounted perfume. Well, it’s only discounted because we don’t get the perfume box with our purchase. There’s a reason it’s called ‘Reject’ perfume shop. Box or no box, RM150 for 100ml Eau de Parfum that normally costs around RM185 – RM250 is a great deal. Afterwards, I treated Mom and Dad to some ice-cream on the way back.

I don’t think this will be a competition to KB Mall’s Pacific or Kota Sri Mutiara’s Billion. The products available in this new complex differed in quality and brand name. For people who are on tight budget, I’d say this is a blessing for them. We don’t have Carrefour, but at least we now have Tesco. The fact that it’s situated along Sultan Yahya Petra’s bridge which connects the main road to the heart of Kota Bharu is sure to attract customers too.

Tesco5 Tesco6

Nevertheless, Kelantanese should rejoice not because they now has Tesco. Kelantanese around the state should be glad because new store means more job opportunities. Cheers!

Federer Beat Sampras 7-6, 7-6 in Exhibition Match in Malaysia

Federer vs Sampras Exhb Match in Malaysia

 Clips: Federer vs Sampras Exhb Match in Malaysia

I watched the whole coverage of the exhibition match earlier tonight (Clashes of Time), and I have to say I am very impressed. It may be just an exhibition match, but it was wonderful. I did not expect the match to be an easy one for either parties. It seemed like before the match started, many thought that Roger was going to win easy over Pete. I’m glad I never agreed on the opinion.I love you Roger~ You rock!
And you too, Sampras 😉