Now What?

I started EducateDeviate three years ago because I was inspired by my recent Up with People trip and remembered that many of my friends and peers wanted to do the same but didn’t know how. It started with a musing about how the year will be – and has grown into a fledgling resource on self-education, youth programs, interesting people, gripes about education, all sorts of things.

In the three years I’ve moved to a different country, became a conference junkie, dived fully into volunteering, explored subcultures I’d barely heard of before. I received plenty of emails from other young people around the world who found a kindred voice in me, and I sought out other youths who served as my inspiration.

Education in Malaysia hasn’t necessarily changed much – the biggest change would be the Government’s plan to not announce the name of the top scorers and limit the number of SPM papers one can take, to halt the trend of “get as many As as possible”. Even with a drastically changed government, there doesn’t seem to be too many dramatic upheavals education-wise. The Malaysian public are becoming more autonomous, though, with new ventures and projects popping up by the minute.

In a couple of months I officially graduate, and I return to Malaysia possibly indefinitely. Since I’ve been in Brisbane I’ve been immersed in Australian culture and current events; to be frank, I probably know a lot more about Brisbane than I do about Johor Bahru. I’ve hardly been able to keep up with what’s going on in Malaysia, replying on the assistance of my friends. I got to hear different viewpoints about local education, see how young people have deep respect here – but at the same time I’m not totally sure I could contribute to their causes.

EducateDeviate has served its purpose quite well, though there is room for improvement. However, there’s only so much talking I can do. For EducateDeviate to stay relevant – and for me to be more useful – we need to move into action.

What should EducateDeviate do?

I’m at a crosswords. My interests are melding and changing. There’s a faint possibility of being less hands-on with EducateDeviate to pursue other goals. (I’m reluctant to do this, as the last time I let go of a project and handed it over to someone else ended in disaster and lost friendships.) We could transform EducateDeviate from being just a blog to being a working organisation for youth and social change in education. Or we could do something else.

What should we do?

Tell me: now what?

Racist brainwashing by Biro Tatanegara – GRR

Biro Tatanegara (rough translation: Civics Bureau) is a Government-run agency that organises mandatory “citizenship” workshops for students that have received Government scholarships for tertiary education. Under the guise of “education” and “building a multicultural Malaysian culture”, these workshops are hubs of anti-Chinese/Indian/etc racism and anti-Semitism, shaming non-Malays while claiming Malaysia to be a Malay-only nation.

Education in Malaysia has been compiling stories from students and observers of these workshops. Here’s an excerpt of their experiences:

Jew-blaming:

…Malaysiakini reported that first-year students of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) were told at a seminar organised by BTN that foreign elements which want to see chaos in Malaysia were funding certain student groups. The speakers drew a link between these local student groups, ASA and the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit organisation which they said was sponsored by American and Jewish elements.

Indians, blogs, and Christians are evil:

He even said, “Kalau ular dengan India depan mata, ketuk India dulu.” (If a snake and an Indian are in front of you, hit the Indian first.) … He said so many atrocious things that I will list them down in point form.

-Explained how the Malays aren’t racist but others are racist towards us.
-Bangsa Malaysia (The Malaysian race) does not exist, neither does Malaysian Chinese and Indians, only in the strict Malay, Chinese and Indians. (Interestingly, behind a booklet provided to us, one of the objectives of the programme is to produce a -“Bangsa Malaysia”. Obviously, he was ignorant).
-Bahasa Malaysia (Malaysian language) does not exist, it is Bahasa Melayu (Malay language).
-Nothing wrong with waving the Keris (A traditional ceremonial Malay dagger which some politicians have waved in anti-non-Malay sentiment).
-Bumiputra (Malays and indigenous people) hanya 55% di Malaysia, give birth more people!
-The University and Colleges Act was partly made to ensure a Malay Vice-Chancellor in Universities which should be the way.
-Blogs are “berdosa” or sinful.
-Christians will not like Muslims.

Even the Malays reacted badly:

The instructors blatantly told them that they should not question the rights and privileges of the Malays as the non-Malays should be thankful that they were given citizenship status and a place to stay on their soil. My daughter together with the other non-Malay students was shocked and went back to their dormitories depressed. And to the Malay students, the instructors told them to be aware of this fact and not to mix too freely with the non-Malays.

A Malay friend of my daughter came back crying to the dormitory saying that she could not take the racist position taken by the government authority. My daughter then began questioning the bumiputra policy and was disgusted with such blatant indoctrination. This incident has also made the students harbour anger and resentment. Their fear for the authorities and losing their scholarships made them keep their cool.

When Education in Malaysia blogger and MP Tony Pua queried Biro Tatanegara about these allegations, this was their reply, as roughly translated into English by me (it’s originally in Malay):

Biro Tatanegara is an agency that runs courses based on citizenship and patriotic spirit within the whole of Malaysian society. Participants of these courses come from various cultures and age groups.

BTN also uses information or statistics that are obtained from other government agencies such as the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Statistics Department, the Implementation and Adjustment(?) Unit (ICU), the Ministry of Finance, and other Ministries in presenting facts to the participants, and it is departmental policy to not allow BTN speakers to touch on anything that can disturb the feelings of any race, and if this has happened the Department will drop them from being a BTN speaker.

In relation to your query, BTN realises that it’s on the blogs on the Internet, and based on our investigations, [your] claims (the bit about the snake and the Indian) are false. It is possible that some speakers had explained a few Indian proverbs relating to Indian societal matters that were misunderstood by the listener. Investigations have been undertaken and we have found no recordings that could be used as proof to verify the allegation.

As for your second query, BTN has never received any complaints about the matters that you have mentioned, and as far as we know there has not been any airing of videos like the ones you described (anti-Semitic clips) in our courses as organised by the Department.

According to past scholars that have attended such workshops, all recording devices (including mobile phones) are confiscated upon entry and all materials are carefully counted upon return. Many have said that they are too fearful to speak out as they are threatened with the loss of their scholarship – which, considering that many recipients are from low-income backgrounds and there aren’t many other funding options available, would be a major blow.

This sickens me to the core. I’ve heard plenty of racism in school but was lucky enough to not get a Government scholarship and therefore be indoctrinated into BTN’s faulty logic. Some of those that have been to these workshops have sadly reported on their peers passing on racist messages through social networking sites and being completely influenced by these workshops. If anyone’s threatening national security, it would be these goons!

I would like to see a private scholarship fund started for these students, so that they still have funding options for higher study without being gagged and afraid to speak up. There should be a way to get recordings of these workshops, even if it means James Bond-style spy gear. This menace – which is 100% funded by taxpayer money! – needs to disappear.

(Side note to Mum: I’m sorry for scaring you again. [I participated in a rally against the Clean Feed filter in Brisbane and spoke up about censorship in Malaysia – she saw my words and video and got scared.] I take full responsibility for anything that comes out of this. But unless things are done quickly, more and more young people will be brainwashed and we’ll just have an intolerant nation.)

Malaysian students post-STPM/SPM, in graph form.

From Indexed:

Its all downhill after the graduation party.

It's all downhill after the graduation party.

Seriously. If you expect scholarships and job opportunities to fall on your lap for getting a string of As, you’ve got another thing coming.

National Youth Entrepreneur Convention #2 – Tickets Available Now

The 2nd edition of YouthMalaysia’s National Youth Entrepreneur Convention, held in conjunction with YOUTH’09, is taking place at the Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur on the 10th of January 2009.

2nd National Youth Entrepreneur Convention 2009

Among this year’s speakers are:

There’s also an opportunity to present your business plan at the convention – sign up and you’ll be in the running for a slot. Registrations are RM80 for individual earlybirds (before 10th Dec) and groups of min 3 people, and RM120 for individuals after 10th Dec.

I won’t be around this time; however, the folks at the NYEC have appointed me as a supporter of the event. As a supporter, I’ve been given a co-branded link that pays EducateDeviate RM10 for each registrant that registers through my link. This would really help cover costs for EducateDeviate’s eventual move (to its own server space & domain), as well as software and design – which costs more than I anticipated! Just so you know.

Register & Support EducateDeviate!

Speaking of design costs: NYEC has asked for a logo to be put on their marketing material. I don’t actually have one. I’m looking around, but does anyone have any logo skills that they’ll like to contribute? Greatly appreciated!

Anyone who goes, please let me know how it went – you can write a guest post here if you wish 🙂

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.)

EducateDeviate on the Staples Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition

Check out EducateDeviate on Staples

Check out EducateDeviate on Staples

The Staples Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition, hosted by Ashoka and Youth Venture, provides young people and youth organisations the chance to showcase their project online around the world. Projects will be evaluated and voted on, and the best projects go on to win a variety of prizes.

EducateDeviate is one of the projects listed for this competition – check out our application page and leave us some comments! You can see all the other projects (from 46 countries) here.

If you have a project and want to give this a shot, you have until October 15, 2008 6:00 pm EST (21:00 GMT) – which isn’t long!

National Service = Racial Segregation

Ethan’s experiences at his National Service term strongly reveals just how racist the system really is – and how it’s institutionalised:

We were asked several times to line up according to race (Malays here, Chinese here, Indians here, Dan Lain-Lain here) in order to distribute the races equally when it came to sorting us into classes, companies, and dorms. There are Wakil Bangsa (race representative) members for feedback about the food we have in the canteen. We are to see our respective Wakil Bangsa if we have any comments or complaints. The basketball team has a race quota: two Malays, two Chinese, and, if I’m not mistaken, room for one Dan Lain-Lain. The week before we were due to return home for holiday, they picked a representative from each race and announced that if we had any questions regarding the traveling arrangements we could talk to our Wakil Bangsa.

A friend of mine missed roll call one night because he wasn’t well. When the head of his dorm reported it to the trainers, they didn’t even bother to inquire about what he was down with, they only wanted to know his race. The following day he was sent to the medic. He had dengue.

One trainer told us that everyone had a religion. No, he corrected himself, everyone should have a religion. If you didn’t have a religion, you might as well climb up a building and jump. What was the use of living? And so, if you had a religion, you’d better do as your religion dictated. If you’re Buddhist, go to the temple. Hindu, go to the temple. Muslim, go to the surau. Christian, go to church. We nodded. One can’t argue with such logic.

Ethan stood out as a Christian Chinese (and the sole Christian), which caused some problems when he tried to go back for the Hungry Ghost Festival:

The Hungry Ghost Festival is that time of year when Buddhists, or Taoists, or maybe just Chinese, go back home to pay respects to their ancestors. So all the Chinese in camp were given a few days off. I’ve never cared about the Hungry Ghost Festival before, and I can assure you that I had no intention of praying or doing anything for the sake of my long-gone ancestors. My fellow yellow were puzzled when they heard I was planning to take off with the rest of them.

“You’re going back?”

“Sure, if I can go back I’m going to go back.”

“But,” – cue the frown – “but you’re not Buddhist.”

“I’m Chinese. Teacher said all the Chinese could go back.”

“You can’t speak Chinese, you aren’t Buddhist. You’re not Chinese. You’re Christian.”

I had a bit of a problem explaining the difference between race and religion and, of course, no problem whatsoever explaining simple opportunism.

And this is supposed to encourage national unity?

You only get national unity when you stop caring about races and treat everyone as equal. Having “race representatives”, insisting that people follow set boxes (and have no provision for non-boxed people), and only caring about race when emergency issues come up completely go against national unity.

This is a huge reason why I am a strong opponent of National Service. I would at least be empathetic if it was truly national and not segregated.

Indie Youth Fest – Celebrating youth creativity

There’s a vibrant indie creative scene amongst Malaysian youths; however, it doesn’t often get much respect due to the conservative media and politicians’ insistence of painting indie youth culture as frivolous, dangerous, or rebellious.

The Indie Youth Fest, sparked by Doppelganger Open Mic, is an opportunity for young Malaysians involved or interested in indie culture to showcase themselves and check out other budding talent. Held between 4-6th July 2008 at One Utama, the Indie Youth Fest includes:

and much more to be announced.

This is a refreshing change for a Malaysian youth festival. Most other “youth festivals” so far have been corporate-organized, which often means they’re usually there as subtle advertising for the company instead of actualy supporting youth initiatives (see my experience with Levi’s 501 Day). The Indie Youth Fest, on the other hand, is youth-run and youth-managed, which means that the core crew are more attuned to the needs and capabilities of young people. Instead of exploiting their talents, they are appreciating and showcasing them in a manner that respects everyone.

I can’t make it to the Indie Youth Fest as I’m flying out to Australia on 4th evening, but good luck and have fun! Hopefully this will be the start to even more youth-organized events.

Intel asks: What Inspires You?

Computing company Intel became truly inspired about education after their involvement in the One Laptop Per Child project. They’ve now extended that into their Inspired by Education community, which aims to collect stories about how other people were inspired by education.

On the community, you can find out about Intel’s other education initiatives (mainly related to science and maths), find ways to volunteer through education, and share your thoughts on education via text or video. Here are a couple of videos to get you started:

EduPunk – Tech or Mindset?

So recently in the education blog scene there’s been a hubbub over the term EduPunk. It was first coined by Jim Groom in his blog Bava Tuesdays, and from what I can understand, EduPunk basically covers two things:

  1. The use of Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, and so on (as well as non-web things such as Lego) in teaching and education
  2. The backlash against corporate education technology, such as Blackboard, in favour of more grassroots efforts.

The idea is that by using interactive and collaborative tools, and by going for non-corporate producers, education is following a more DIY ethos, which is at the core of punk ideology.

Now while I think the concepts are admirable, I think the “punk” term here is a little misplaced. From how the term’s being used currently (granted, it’s only been less than a week), it seems to me that the focus is more on the technology – rather than the actual mindset of being punk.

It’s great to incorporate latest technologies in education, particularly in encouraging students and teachers to interact and collaborate with each other in the learning process. But there’s no point in forcing students to start blogs or in maintaining copious wikis on every topic, if the central ethics are not the core of the learning experience. By focusing on the tools, this doesn’t become EduPunk – it becomes EduTrendy.

To be really EduPunk, and really adhere to punk’s DIY (Do It Yourself) ethic, participants in the learning process need to be given freedom and independence to learn their own way. Current technology has made this process simpler, but it’s not really the tools that matter – students can still educate themselves with paper and books if that’s all they have at their disposal.

I suppose in a way EducateDeviate and alternative education in general is very EduPunk – it’s all about creating and exploring your own styles and ways of learning, experimenting with different things, being free to learn what you want to learn how you want to. Instead of being dictated from a higher authority on what you ought to learn, you get to decide for yourself.

Some princles of the EduPunk Mindset, then, would be:

  • Freedom to decide the content of your own learning
  • Freedom to learn according to your chosen styles
  • Freedom to express yourself through your learning processes
  • Freedom to engage in different forms of education, traditional or non-traditional, including experiential education and service learning
  • Freedom to incorporate your own personal experiences and thoughts with your learning
  • Freedom to hold your own perspectives, ideas, and opinions on various topics
  • Freedom to learn at your own pace
  • Freedom to use any of the tools at your own disposal to learn
  • Freedom to choose from various providers of education at your own discretion
  • Freedom to set your own educational path

How then can we match up the tools-focused perception of EduPunk with the mindset of EduPunk? Should we think less of the tools and technology, and start thinking of ways to reform education systems to allow for more DIY learning?

EducateDeviate now part of 9rules

9Rules

I’m proud to announce that EducateDeviate has been accepted into the latest round of 9rules, a well-known and well-respected blog network that features content from all areas and aspects of life.

I’m particularly stoked about being in 9rules as it’s highly sought after and it has strong community aspects. I’m interested in meeting up with other 9rules bloggers, particularly education bloggers, and see how we can work together to develop greater content. I’m also interested in getting assistance in developing EducateDeviate further, from just being a blog to being a full-fledged resource centre.

Another homeschooling/alternative education blog, Just Enough, was also accepted into this round of 9rules. I found her through looking at the accepted websites list and it’s great to have more blogs like ours around – they’re hard to find as it is! The Education community on 9rules is rather sparse at the moment, but hopefully myself and Just Enough will be able to fill it out a bit.

Huzzah! Thank you Scriv, Mike, and Tyme!

School uniforms encourage rape, apparently.

From Marina Mahathir’s blog:

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian group condemned the uniform worn by girls at government schools, saying it encouraged rape and pre-marital sex.

“The white blouse is too transparent for girls and it becomes a source of attraction,” National Islamic Students Association of Malaysia vice-president Munirah Bahari said in a statement.

“It becomes a distraction to men, who are drawn to it, whether or not they like looking at it,” she said, calling for a review of uniform policy so that it did not violate Islamic ideals.

ARGH!

Rape is NOT about clothing! It’s not about transparent cloth! It’s about power and taking advantage of vulnerability!

There’s so many things that could be fixed with the education system and all you can think about is a non-issue?!

I don’t believe it’s Islamic to go off on petty things. If you’re seriously concerned about rape, don’t blame the victim, and don’t go pinning it on irrelevant things. Work on things like safety education, respect, and self-care. Get people to realize that rape is wrong.

School uniforms have nothing to do with it, so stop wasting time.

Life = Risk

If you haven’t failed, you haven’t lived.

Nat.Geo Glimpse Correspondents – Get Published & Paid While Studying Abroad

Are you studying abroad between August and December this year? Do you have experience in writing, photography, or video? Here’s your chance to make use of your experiences and skills – and become famous internationally.

Glimpse

National Geographic has launched the Glimpse Correspondents Program, whereby students aged 18-30 who are studying abroad for at least 10 weeks will be able to tell their stories of their experiences for publication in the National Geographic Glimpse magazine. Selected participants will also receive a $600 stipend and a professional editor to help them through the process.

Applications open mid-May, but you can sign up to express your interest. Those of you in The Star – BRATs that are studying abroad, I suggest you investigate this as well.