Advice from Harvard ex-Dean: Slow Down

Those of you heading to Harvard, or to university in general;
those of you waiting anxiously for SPM/STPM results (have you even taken the tests yet?);
those of you putting in 24-hour days to get those “top grades” to get into something like Harvard thinking it’s the Holy Grail;
those of you pushed into the 24-hour days lifestyle for the Holy Grail by your parents, teachers, peers, the authorities;
those of you that are doing the pushing:

Please heed the words of ex-Harvard Dean Harry Lewis:

Slow Down.

(the above link leads to a .PDF – download and READ.)

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Tony Pua (Malaysian edublogger) arrested, jailed

EDIT: Tony has been released and was able to appear in Parliament today.

Tony Pua, founder of one of the first Malaysian education blogs, Education in Malaysia, as well as a Member of Parliament, has been arrested and jailed following his involvement in an anti-ISA peaceful protest.

It’s not immediately clear whether the arrest was purely due to his involvement in the protest, or whether other factors – such as his blog or his involvement with the Opposition parties – also played a part. After major arrests on bloggers mainly for what they wrote, it’s not entirely surprising if they thought his blog was potentially dangerous.

This does not bode well for anyone. After RPK’s release and the ruling of his arrest as “unlawful”, I figured that it was safe to comment on the Government’s education and youth policies, and was about to analyse some laws related to education and young people. But if Tony Pua – who hasn’t even done anything remotely criminal, and indeed is part of the Government now – could get thrown in jail, what hope does a Lain-Lain (racial “other” or minority) permanent resident have?

Good luck Tony; hopefully justice will prevail and you’ll be free soon.

“Schooled” – film on alternative schooling system

The Sudbury Valley School system, started in Massachusetts in 1968, is one of the more pre-eminent and well-known forms of alternative school systems in the world. In the core of the Sudbury Valley system is democracy in education: students and staff are all given the right to vote on issues in the school that affect them – from school lunches to changes in rules. There are also no compulsory sessions, classes, or subjects; instead, the students take their own initiative in deciding what they want to learn, when and how they want to learn it (much like unschooling, just with a structural base). Age groups are mixed and often the students also act as teachers to their peers.

The Sudbury Valley system is in place in North America, some parts of Europe, Israel, and Australia, though it hasn’t really taken off elsewhere. This could be due to different cultural and societal expectations on the purpose of schooling and education. Imagine if Malaysian students were allowed to decide what they wanted to learn, and didn’t have to do exams if they didn’t want to! I would personally love it, but the rest of the country may degenerate into confused chaos as it’s completely the opposite of what we’re used to.

Part of overcoming such barriers is to experience the Sudbury Valley system for ourselves. If we’re not lucky enough to get to visit a school, though, there is another way: watching the film Schooled.

Schooled showcases the journey of Fred, a school teacher facing plenty of problems both in his personal and professional life. To resolve his crisis, he goes out to discover alternatives, and stumbles upon a Sudbury Valley school. The sheer difference of systems shocks him into reevaluating his perspectives and goals.

The film has received positive feedback from the Alternative Education Resource Organisation, the key worldwide organisation for alternative and democratic schooling, as well as other educators and past Sudbury Valley students. Screenings have been held around the US, Australia, Sweden, and Canada.

To celebrate its launch, the people at Schooled are offering special discounts and free offers for every DVD sold on Wednesday, October 15 (Launch Day). The DVD normally costs $25, but for Launch Day there will be a 20% discount as well as a choice of goodies related to alternative education or to Hollywood.

I haven’t had the chance to see the movie yet, but if I do I’ll post a review. This should be interesting – there have been a lot of films about teachers and schools, but not many (if any) dealing with a real-world alternative system. Will this increase awareness and acceptance for alternative systems? Let’s see.

(thanks Erin!)

SOLS 24/7 – Education & Support for the Marginalized

The SOLS (Science of Life) 24/7 organization, founded by the family of young Malaysian social entrepreneur Raj Ridhvan Singh (recently shortlisted as one of KLue’s Blue Chillies) builds boarding schools across Cambodia, Timor Leste, and Malaysia for marginalized young people. In these schools, students learn 2 years of English, maths, business, leadership, character, and volunteering skills, amongst others. This enables them to reintegrate with the rest of society, obtain jobs, and support themselves.

Malaysiakini also has an interview and video profile with Raj about the SOLS 24/7 school in Malaysia.

I’ve met Raj briefly and heard him speak about his project, and I find him really passionate and sincere towards his cause. I do have some questions about the Science of Life system itself (some of the students talk about it being an actual subject, but there’s no actual information on it specifically) but overall this initiative is doing a lot of good to those that really need the help.

SOLS 24/7 is in great need of funding, support, and volunteers. If you can help, contact Raj at +6012 6398 442 or email him at raj@sols247.org.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki: Changing the World Since Age 9

If you think young people don’t have the capacity, interest, or drive to make the world a better place, watch this speech and think again:

That powerful speech (transcript here) is by Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who started the Environmental Children’s Organization in Canada when she was nine, and at twelve delivered the above to world leaders at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Her passion for environmental awareness still lives on today, with the creation of online think-tank The Skyfish Project and her current studies in ethnobotany.

I’ve heard from quite a few adults – some who should really know better – who lament the idea that young people are too apathetic to care about the world. However, as examples like Severn show, passionate socially-conscious young people are out there making a difference every day. Indeed, the Social Citizens project has published a paper detailing the efforts and consciousness of the Millenials (the current generation of 15-to-29 year-olds) and their important social change work. Severn is on the edge of this generation, but she is a great representative of the power young people hold.

Do you know of any other young people like Severn? Share your examples here.

Edublogger Tony Pua now Member of Parliament

Tony Pua, co-writer of top Malaysian education blog Education in Malaysia, won his seat in PJ Utara in Malaysia’s recent elections, and is now a Member of Parliament. He is one of a handful of Malaysian bloggers that are now officially involved in politics.

This will be interesting. I knew about Tony’s nomination, but I didn’t think he’d win mainly because he’s under DAP and the Opposition hardly wins in Malaysian elections. However, this year’s elections have been surprisingly good for the Opposition (now not Opposition? haha), and Tony’s one of the beneficiaries of that good fortune. Another factor against him was that he didn’t have any political experience – and who expects a blogger to get into Parliament? Now we have 2 in federal and 2 in state assembly! Crazy!

Tony and I have been acquainted due to our similar blogs, and we’re often crossposting from each other. We sometimes have diametrically opposing views on education (for example, Tony’s big on determining the value of universities by their rankings; I think rankings are bunk) but we still respect and quite like each other.

Hopefully Tony will be able to introduce some changes to the Malaysian education system, making it more open and varied and supportive of students. Will Tony be Minister of Education? I doubt it (wouldn’t all the Ministers have to be from BN since they are the majority?) but I’d definitely like to see it happen – at least he knows what he’s doing!

Good luck Tony and all the best!

Nominees for Young Entrepreneur eBook are up!

Daniel and I have shortlisted the nominees of our Young Entrepreneur eBook project and they are now up for voting.

Click on this link to vote for your favourite young entrepreneur here now!