IN explaining the "right brain" function in learning, Md Yusof Ibrahim ("Provide know-how to use it efficiently" -- NST, May 29) defined the meaning of education from the Latin word "educere", which means "to draw from within".
He also said "the goal of true education must be to provide the know-how to utilise the brain efficiently". I agree. Since the start of formal education after the 1800s, there have been mixed views about education. Two schools of thought have persisted.
Supporting education, Albert Einstein said: "Never confuse education with intelligence". Many agreed with this notion.
On the other hand, John D. Rockefeller, who started the General Education Board, said: "I don't want a nation of thinkers, I want a nation of workers".
This disparity still exists in education. Is education or schooling the issue?
It is recorded that in 1913, Frederick Gates, in writing for the Rockefeller Foundation, said: "We work our own goodwill upon a grateful and responsive rural folk.
"We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or of science. We are not to raise among them authors, orators, poets or men of letters.
"We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor will we cherish even the humbler ambition to raise from among them lawyers, doctors, preachers or statesmen, of whom we now have ample supply."
Moved by what Frederick wrote, the NEA (a labour union of public school teachers) in 1914 passed a resolution.
It stated: "We view with alarm the activity of the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations -- agencies not in any way responsible to the people -- in their efforts to control the policies of our state educational institutions, to fashion (them) after their conception, to standardise our courses of study, to surround the institutions with conditions which menace true academic freedom and defeat the primary purpose of democracy as, heretofore, preserved inviolate in our common schools, normal schools and universities."
Recent research on literacy levels in the United States has revealed that about 46 million adults have below-basic quantitative literacy, 30 million below-prose literacy, 27 million below-document literacy and 15 per cent have extreme difficulty with reading and comprehension.
The word educere was found in Shakespeare's writings in 1588. Prior to that, home-schooling had existed in Asia. In India and China, education was the means to achieve moksha (enlightenment). Learning was done under a guru.
Educators of Islamic education in the madrasah also adopted an integrated approach using scriptures, science and the humanities. After the 1600s, the madrasah and monasteries lost their glory.
The "input-output" manner of teaching has slowed down brain activity. To utilise the brain effectively, the Asian method of "input-process-output" is more relevant. In multicultural Malaysia, incorporating this should be easier under a single system of schooling and education.
Mena Jeyaram, Subang Jaya, Selangor New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 03 June 2013