The panelists were 3R executive producer and social commentator Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir; educator and Five Arts Centre co-founder Datin Marion D’Cruz; and homeschool practitioner KV Soon. It was moderated by The Nut Graph editor Jacqueline Ann Surin.
Politics in Education: Stakeholders’ roles
Soon says parents, as stakeholders in the education system, are not being given enough say. There is also no political will to embark on genuine reform of the system.
Foreign observers are surprised that our education system is so highly politicised, says Marina. Although the reality is that it will be difficult to remove politicians from education, the public ought to question them more. Soon adds that politicians need to remove their “political hats” when discussing education, and put on other hats like “parent” or “global citizen”.
Who then, should be discussing education? D’Cruz calls for “interdisciplinary, inter-generational, intercultural, and interclass” dialogue. There is no point if only academics, educators and Education Ministry staff are invited to roundtable discussions.
Teachers are stakeholders. A question from the floor on the extent of teacher training here: what are teachers learning and being taught? Also, is the training system adequate and implemented properly? The query is partly answered by theatre practitioner and educator Anne James, who says that schools reflect the most conservative aspects of society.
Teaching creativity and innovation
Students are not asked to think. They are discouraged from questioning, and as a result, there is very little engagement with what they study.
Soon describes schools as factories. Decision-making is too centralised at ministry level, and the top-down structure curbs creative thinking. He says that’s why homeschoolers opt to leave the mainstream education system.
We need to rethink the divide between the arts and sciences. It is a false dichotomy – to think that science is more prestigious than art.
Are we creating experiential learning environments and preparing students for real life? Is education only about learning something new, or should it also be about having new understanding about existing issues? Popular culture can be a tool of learning.
Homeschooling is about inculcating a passion for learning, whereas mainstream schools kill passion and by extension, creativity. Successful homeschooling also requires parents who genuinely understand the concept. It includes being tolerant of failure as part of learning, which mainstream culture rejects.
Youth are crying out for answers, but adults and educators don’t know how to approach the subject with them. It’s more than just the biological aspect; students need to be taught about managing relationships as part of sex education. Youths also need to be given safe spaces to talk and ask questions about sex.
There’s no taboo subject, it’s just how you deal with it, says Marina. In 3R programmes, sketches of familiar situations in life are used to provoke thought in young people.
Education as national unifier?
Questions from the floor: Just how much freedom of choice should be given to stakeholders? To what extent should the state have control to ensure uniformity in education? What if home schools or other alternative education systems reinforce certain values that run counter to or are dangerous to society?
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