Make reading an important part of life to create a thinking society.
I REFER to the letter "Buried in homework every day" (NST, June 22). It has long been recognised that the Malaysian education system churns out students who rote-learn and regurgitate facts.
Under the present system, those who can retain the most facts before the exam are likely to score a string of As. This should end. The question of "how" should be addressed by the think tanks and citizens alike.
I did not enjoy my school days much. All I can remember is the routine of going to school from morning till 2pm, followed by tuition classes or finishing my homework.
It was plain monotony. I was caught on the bandwagon of studying hard to achieve as many As as possible so that I could bring honour to my family and land myself the much-coveted Public Service Department scholarship.
After secondary school, I went to an overseas university, thinking that I was well-equipped by virtue of the string of As that I had achieved in Sijil Pelajaran Malay-sia and A-levels.
However, I was surprised at how little I knew, especially my fluency in the English language, which was far behind that of the locals.
It was a humbling and eye-opening experience for me. The local students had been trained to read and write extensively, and also to think critically. In contrast, Malaysian students have been taught to memorise extensively, without putting on their thinking caps.
Additionally, the Malaysian education system fails to take into account students who have no flair for studies. This group of students will be considered a "failure" or sampah masyarakat (discards) as they are not as bright as others. The fact is, their creativity in other areas has not been harnessed. The present education system mutilates them.
The education authorities should realise that each individual is unique. Not all of us will have a flair for studies. Likewise, not all successful people out there have a university degree.
Many things in life can be learned through experience or an informal education. Perhaps the Education Ministry should include more interesting subjects in our education system, such as art, music, drama, entrepreneurship and sports so that students' lives will not revolve around studies.
Another thing we can learn from other countries is to make reading part of our lives.
Reading is perceived by Malaysians to be a chore rather than a joy. Parents should inculcate the habit of reading in children. Most importantly, reading will create a thinking society and there will be less indulgence in negative activities.
Another factor is the dearth of public libraries. In contrast, libraries are abundant in countries like Australia and Singapore.
The government's intervention is crucial. Books can be made more available and accessible to the public by increasing the number of quality books in public libraries and prices should be reduced significantly.
The average price of a book (RM30 to RM50) is too high for the ordinary Malaysian. Each state could set up its own book club or depository, where old and new books can be collected and donated to the state library.
While a formal education is important, it need not be mono-tonous, dull and lifeless. We need a holistic and more interesting education system.
The NST Letters to the Editor Article 2011/07/05 C.Y.L., Kuala Lumpur firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Education: A humbling experience abroad