Live Your Passion: The Annexe Arts Career Fair 2009

OMG. I’ve been waiting MY WHOLE LIFE for such a festival or fair – and then the one time I decide to move overseas (possibly for good) it HAPPENS. Boo for me, but YAY for the rest of you, because it means that the Malaysian public’s starting to take alternative careers seriously and that there are people willing to provide resources.

The Live Your Passion fair is for people who are curious about the performing arts – dance, theatre, music, and visual art (even though that’s not exactly performancey) – and want to know more about it from a career and creative perspective. Leave behind the Hollywood stereotypes – here, you hear from the real deal.

Among the speakers are Sean Ghazi (singer, actor, Fame Awards winner), Jit Murad (actor and playwright of contemporary Malaysian English theatre), Yasmin Ahmad (she of the Orked trilogy and all the Petronas ads), and a whole host of creative people. There will also be people from public and private universities, such as Universiti Malaysia (UM) and Sunway College, presenting their arts courses on offer.

Live Your Passion will be held at The Annexe Gallery at Jalan Hang Kasturi, KL from 28th February to 1st March, 11am – 6pm. For more information, follow this Facebook event. And then tell me about it!

The Secret to Career Success

From XKCD:

And the ten minutes striking up a conversation with that strange kid in homeroom sometimes matters more than every other part of high school combined.

And the ten minutes striking up a conversation with that strange kid in homeroom sometimes matters more than every other part of high school combined.

It’s not too far off from the truth.

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 royalty is surprisingly awesome.

This excerpt comes from Wikipedia but references a Bernama article, which doesn’t seem to be working at the moment:

On July 2008, Regent of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah said that getting a string of As is meaningless if students fail to understand, appreciate and practice good values, and describing that excellent results as mere pakaian luaran (external appearance), there would be uneven development of human capital if students failed to inculcate good morals. “This will lead to society and the country to suffer”. He also said that people with good moral values always hold firm to life principles especially in defending truth and justice. Students should be taught not to lie or rely on leaked examination papers just to obtain higher grades. He noted that while positions and posts could give one power, one would be judged by the people. “There are many people who obtained positions and posts but there are not many who die with a good name.”

I wish school administration officers had his common sense!

The March Forward: Workshop for final-year tertiary students

The Star’s college youth pull-out R.AGE is organising The March Forward, a workshop-packed day aimed at helping final year students transition into the working world.

The workshops will feature talks by various industry experts on what employers seek in the workforce, developing your resume, branding yourself, and managing interviews. There will also be plenty of opportunities for you to ask questions about careers and job-seeking.

The workshops will be held at Menara Star, 15 Jalan 16/11, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia on the 23rd of November 2008 from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Registration is RM20 and is on a first-come-first-serve basis. Goodies from Clinique and Parkson are provided.

Download their registration form and contact Nelsen at 03-7967 1388 ext. 1456 or Leong at 03-7967 1388 ext. 1432 for more information.

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.

Brightest Young Minds – Malaysia?

I just came back from 5 days of the Brightest Young Minds summit in Sydney. The general idea of the summit is to get motivated and passionate young people together to learn about creating initiatives, while also developing actual workable projects to be pitched to potential sponsors.

Brightest Young Minds

It started in South Africa and it’s now that country’s most prestigious and well-known youth-based development initiative. It recently arrived in Australia and within the two years has created a lot of good.

I love the idea and I think it should be more widely available. I was wondering if people were interested in doing a BYM in Malaysia.

While there are people trying to encourage young people to form initiatives, such as BarCamp and Young Entrepreneur summits, there isn’t really any clear support and education system that’s comprehensive. Also, information on actually STARTING and getting legal/financial support for your project is pretty low. There are plenty of youngsters with ideas…just no idea how to get them off the ground.

Having 100 other energetic young people, plus the support and knowledge of people in their field (we had Hugh Evans, who is pretty much THE MAN when it comes to youth development in Australia) would go very far in getting these ideas into reality. There would also be actual opportunities for delegates to create and develop those ideas before they leave – thereby avoiding the common youth conference problem where people are so motivated to crate change during the conference, but afterwards their energy drops and nothing gets done.

To get BYM in Malaysia we need to know the following:

  • Legal aspects of using the BYM name and concept – is there some sort of “franchise kit”?
  • Finding and recruiting young people to be part of BYM(M) 1
  • Partnerships and sponsorships with companies and organizations
  • Convincing people that BYM as a structure can work in Malaysia
  • Getting BYM(M) off the ground and sustainable
  • Creating a team of people interested in getting involved with BYM(M) behind the scenes
  • Connecting BYM(M) to BYMs in SA and Australia
  • Timelines – when do we start work, and when do we have our first BYM(M)?

If you’re interested, or know other people who are, leave me a comment or message.

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.

Is dropping out necessarily a bad thing?

I just saw these series of ads today and, as odd as it may seen, the sentiment portrayed here rather annoys me:

I completely agree that education is important, and as the ad says, it’s good for everyone. (After all, that’s what guided the formation of EducateDeviate.) However, what annoys me about campaigns like these is the false dichtomy that they set up – it’s either school, or nothing.

Not everyone thrives, or even survives, in a traditional school setting. Most schools around the world focus on mathematical and verbal intelligence, judging competence through written examinations. There isn’t as much respect or attention given to those who express their intellengences in other ways, such as through the arts or mechanics (see Howard Gardner’s theory on multiple intelligences). For instance, in Malaysia, vocational and trade schools, as well as business and humanities streams, are usually seen as being for “under-achievers” – those who could not score well in exams. Taking up vocations or trades (or indeed, anything that’s not the Pure Sciences) by choice is unheard of, as it does not carry the same prestige as being in the Science stream.

Why have we developed this pro-Science-anti-anything-else mentality? Life consists of all sorts of knowledge and experience, and education comes in different forms. Just because someone cannot cope in the cut-throat academic environment of traditional school, and has decided to drop out, does not mean they are automatically a failure in life.

It would be better if campaigns like the above didn’t just say “dropping out is EVIL” and actually gave you concrete options for those who can’t cope with normal schooling and feel the need to drop out. Sometimes students are facing immense social issues, such as bullying (see my last entry) and can’t concentrate on education when their peers or teachers are acting against them. Some want to learn something that their school system does not offer, or even learn best in a style not offered by their schools. Some are facing major personal and family issues, such as poverty or ill-health, and need to prioritize those above school work.

Some suggestions of those options would be:

  • Homeschooling or distance education, which would allow students to learn at their own pace (is it really such a terrible thing if they graduate high school at 20 instead of 17? At least they’re learning) and receive personal guidance, which is often missing from traditional schools
  • Alternative school systems such as Sudbury Valley/Summerhill or Waldorf-Steiner, which focus on students’ democratic rights to choose their own education, as well as a more holistic form of learning
  • Vocational or trade schools – Australia is really good with encouraging and supporting trades education, providing apprenticeships and other education+career pathways without the stigma
  • Schools like the Albert Park Flexi-School which are specifically formed for those who could not function in traditional school (for various reasons), letting them learn at their own pace while still providing structure and emotional support
  • Taking a break from school, and coming back to it later (also following the “at your own pace” idea)
  • Taking college/university classes while at school – some students feel like dropping out because they don’t find school challenging enough and get really bored
  • Providing real-world experiences with education, such as internships or projects, which get them engaged in their education
  • Providing support for student welfare to cover needs that are of a higher priority than school – for instance, nutritious food, health-care, and family support

In the same vein, campaigns that encourage high schoolers (especially those from at-risk backgrounds) to aim for college need to be carefully examined to make sure they don’t make college the only option. While those programs certainly mean well, and are needed to show that college is an option for anyone (not just for a select few), my concern is that they unnecessarily stigmatize those that can’t, or have made the choice not to attend college. Not having a college degree does not doom you to a life of failure.

Many of the above options apply at the college level – personal and alternative education, taking a break (one big reason some students don’t thrive at college is because they aren’t prepared enough and just need some transition time), getting involved in the real world. As I’ve mentioned earlier, while college is certainly a form of education, it isn’t the only one.

The macro-reason for campaigns like these is that the world has been set up so that one would find it hard to move forward without some level of formal education. But is that fair? Should people be denied employment, sustenance, or personal development just because their education and life experiences are uncertified? Doesn’t this create a stigma against non-academics who have opted to learn from experience (or are forced to by life circumstance)?

In some places of the world, valuable educational experience is set at a very high premium, causing elitism and class divides – people can’t afford university, so they can’t get the paper that would help them earn more money to help them get into higher education. It’s a vicious cycle. A better solution, then, is to widen the scope of education to include all forms of learning – academic, vocational, humanistic, holistic, and so on – and create pathways for people to get involved in life and their community, welcoming all forms of learning.

Everyone’s educated in their own way, and we all need each other. Telling them that if they opt out of one form of education, they won’t succeed in life at all, is misguided and unhelpful.

An open letter to my ex-primary school

I wrote a longer, more detailed version of this letter on my personal journal mainly as a form of catharsis – letting go of my anger and sorrow. Many of my friends were personally touched by the letter and asked me to publish it publicly to make Malaysians aware of the very real effects of racism and bullying in schools, especially from teachers.

The following is an edited version of the original letter. I’ve removed names and some other details. It’s currently under moderation at The Star’s Citizen Blog, and I’m considering posting it to MalaysiaKini and The Sun. I wanted to post it on The Star’s R.AGE Blog but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to post there.

Recently I read the case of Alex Barton, a 5-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who was voted out by his classmates when urged on by their teacher. This case shocked me, not only because it happened at all, but because he is not the only one to have suffered such injustice and humiliation from people in authority – people who should have protected him, who should have known better.

When I was in your school, from December 1991 till late in 1997, I could have been that boy.

My first three years there were all right. My mother used to tell me stories of how I bawled when she tried to take me out to lunch on my first day of school because I thought I was never going to return. I made friends with people of all sorts of names, backgrounds, interests. I did quite well at school, enjoyed learning, and bonded with my English teachers. For those first three years, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my constant answer was “Teacher”.

In Std 4, we were all shifted to the morning session, and placed in classes according to our academic ability. I was placed in the “best class”. While the first year was challenging, with a whole new set of classmates, I managed fine. The next year, however, was trouble.

In 1995, the year I was in Std 5 and turned 11, there were quite a number of Bangladeshi migrants coming to Malaysia to work. It was mainly factory and construction work – hard labour that no one else wanted to do. Around this time, all the major papers would have front page stories of Bangladeshis stealing, raping, kidnapping.

It didn’t matter if they were true; it didn’t matter if they were from another race (because only Bangladeshi and Indonesian criminals would have their races mentioned in the press), it didn’t matter that the criminals were an extremely small percentage of the general Bangladeshi population in Malaysia. Because according to you, teachers of the school, all Bangladeshis were the same – including me.

Every other day, one of you teachers would come up to me and quiz me on some new front page article.

“Hey Tiara, I heard a Bangla robbed a bank this morning. What do you think about that?”
“Hey Tiara, all these Banglas are stealing our women.”
“Hey Tiara, why are you Banglas so disgusting and dirty? Get out of here!”

The students, all 12 or under, never learnt that this was wrong; they saw you do it, so they did it too. If I protested, you would tell me to “get a thicker skin” because you were “only talking”. You even bragged to my elder sister, an alumnus of your school, about what a great joke it was telling me to “go back to your country” (despite me being born & raised in Johor).

There were lots more: the bullies that physically attacked me (in a girls’ school!), the harsh comments on my art skills, the jokes about my character.

You did nothing to make things better. Instead, you encouraged the trouble. You showed the students that it was OK to make fun of someone who was different – especially someone who was different but was doing better than you. Whenever I won a school competition or scored well in exams, instead of being proud, you would ask the others “how can an outsider do better than you?”.

All the hassle and trouble affected my ability to concentrate in school. I couldn’t find the motivation to do schoolwork, and always came home angry. You demoted me two classes down – a class whose head teacher was the biggest racist of the school. I did not know how to treat my new classmates, whom I wasn’t sure I could trust, and ended up being quite messed-up and strange.

At one point I tried to kill myself in the prayer room with a blunt scissor blade on my throat. No one tried to help; all that was said was “you’d go to Hell”. I’m only alive because I chickened out.

Suicide should never be an option for a child!

I couldn’t tell anyone, not my parents, not my foreign-based sister, not my (now) nonexistent friends – who would listen? It would only make things worse.

The last straw was in my final year, when you decided to hold an award for Best English Skills. Everyone in the school knew that I was the best in English hands down. I aced every exam, every spelling test, every English competition. But I didn’t even make the Top 10 of your list, because I was not in the right class – or was that because I was not of the right race?

I am still working past the issues I faced in your hell. I am still dealing with my dysfunctional attitudes towards trust, relationships, friendships. It was not until very recently that I began to accept the idea of having friends, and now I have at least three that I would call my best friends. I am still accepting my artistic interests, trying not to be like the demonic critic you were when you coldly told me (more than once) that my art was worthless. I am trying to reconcile my childhood dreams of educating with the harsh realities, concentrating on supporting student welfare.

But I am healing. And I refuse to let a terrible situation stop me from growing.

Because I was mocked, disrespected, and harassed for my race, I now make it a point to be accepting of people from all backgrounds – standing up against racism and discrimination, advocating for diversity and multiculturalism, bringing people together.

Because I saw first-hand how student welfare went out of the window in your school in your quest to remain the “premier” primary school in the state, I work endlessly to ensure that students are respected and cared for in schools nowadays, and give them support when no one else will.

Because I saw how terrible educators can be, I am working on being a better educator, even if not directly as a teacher.

I only wish that I had learnt all of those positive things directly from your actions, instead of in spite of them.

I have long forgiven my friends, and myself, for the mistakes we made in the past. They did not have many positive role models and did not know better. For you though? I’m not sure I can ever forgive you.

I shudder to think of how your current students must be faring. My supportive teachers are no longer in your faculty list, and neither is my biggest tormentor. But many other teachers that allowed this to happen, joined in the prejudice, joined in the neglect, are still there – including the headmistress.

Have you learnt anything at all from this debacle? Do you care about your students at all? Are you more tolerant?

Have things changed? Or have they just stayed the same?

Sincerely,
Tiara Shafiq
1991/1992-1997

The Scholar Ship suspends operations

I am very sorry to hear that The Scholar Ship, a floating university that teaches undergraduate- and graduate-level subjects on a worldwide sea voyage, has shut down due to financial difficulties. I had been accepted into the program and would have travelled on it this year if I was allowed to by my university (international students in Australia are only allowed to go on exchange with their university’s partner institutions).

This reminds me of Up with People‘s shutdown in 2000, also following financial difficulties, and its rebirths in 2003 (as WorldSmart) and 2006 (back as Up with People, but with a more WorldSmart-esque structure) thanks largely in part to new leadership and the strong efforts of UWP’s alumni.

I am heartened to see both would-be students and alumni of the Scholar Ship coming together on Facebook and Ning to find solutions for reviving the program. Semester at Sea, another floating university, is also offering spaces to students that were accepted into The Scholar Ship but whose voyages were cancelled.

It disturbs me to hear that a major reason for The Scholar Ship’s financial troubles was the withdrawal of its biggest sponsor (and provider of the vessel) Royal Caribbean International. Apparently this took The Scholar Ship’s crew by surprise, and so far no explanation was given for their change of mind (they’re still promoting the program online). A program as beneficial as The Scholar Ship should not have to die due to the lack of one sponsor. However, this is a situation I’ve seen in quite a number of Australian non-profits, where one funding body makes the difference between staying up or shutting down.

How will The Scholar Ship fare in this turbulent time? With the current worldwide recessions, are other educational programs also at risk?

Question about starting schools in Malaysia

What rules and laws govern the formation of schools in Malaysia? Do those same laws affect private schools?

For instance, if you set up a private school, are you required by law to administer the KBSM/KBSR curriculum? Do your students have to take UPSR/PMR/SPM/STPM?

What if you wanted to set up an alternative school – for example, one following the Sudbury Valley model? With the Sudbury Valley model, national curricula and standardized exams would go against everything the model stands for – democratic, student-centered education.

Would you need to get approval from the Government before setting up such a school? How and where would you get funding?

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?

Malaysia fares well in UNESCO survey

According to UNESCO, Malaysia provides well for its students:

BANGKOK: The Malaysian education system has done well in terms of facilities provided to students and teachers’ salaries, according to a study carried out in 11 countries by Unesco’s Institute for Statistics. Malaysia scored a high percentage in the availability of electricity, blackboards, sufficient seating, library facilities and computers for students and administrators.

The report, released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation yesterday, showed that educational expenditure per primary school pupil was highest in Chile (US$2,120 or RM6,900), followed by Argentina (US$1,605), Malaysia (US$1,552), Brazil (US$1,159) and Uruguay (US$1,063).

In contrast, expenditure per primary school pupil was less than US$700 in India, Paraguay, Peru and the Philippines.

It’s good to know that Malaysian schools provide a lot for their students. However, I would like to know the following to make more sense of this report:

  • How well-maintained are the resources and facilities? Are students given recent and up-to-date resources, or are they still on highly outdated resources (such as computers running Windows 95)?
  • What percentage of that money is that compared to the rest of the National Budget? How does it compare to national living costs?
  • How effectively is that money utilized? Is the money well-spent?
  • Where in Malaysia, besides the completely rural areas, do you get 18 students for one teacher? Our classrooms were commonly filled with 30-40 people.
  • How effectively are the students learning? Do the resources actually contribute to student education? Are the teachers doing well?

EDIT: It seems that the priorities may be a little misplaced. From Nat Tan quoting Malaysiakini (emphasis Nat’s):

The government has spent a total of RM3.2 billion over the past five years to carry out the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English, Deputy Education Minister Razali Ismail told the Dewan Rakyat today.

Out of the amount, the government paid a whopping RM2.21 billion for the purchase of information and computer technology (ICT) equipments.

The rest of the expenditure went to the payment for educational incentives (RM638 million), teachers’ training (RM317 million) and ICT software (RM2.4 million).

WHOA! But what’s the point of all that money on technology if you don’t train teachers to use it? What about language training – apparently some teachers still revert to Bahasa Malaysia! What’s “educational incentives”? Why does hardware need to be that expensive? What about other non-computing learning tools, books, field trips?

Where’s all that money going through and where does it all come from?