Response to Alwyn Lau’s ‘Two wrong reasons to be a lecturer’ — Michelle Low

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SEPTEMBER 10 — In a recently published article titled ‘Two wrong reasons to be a lecturer’, the writer (with 20 plus years of experience in education) argued that would-be and/or current educators motivated by their passion to make a change in the younger generation through education, will not prevail in the current Malaysian education climate. In their article, the writer called attention to the reality of Malaysia’s education industry — its capitalist-driven and grade-driven along with a never-ending list of administrative work required by MQA is a rude awakening for these educators who may be blinded by their noble desire.

In my response article, I would like to argue that the capitalist- and grade-driven nature of the Malaysian education industry, specifically at tertiary level, is why a passionate educator is necessary. We must remember that the tertiary education industry was designed to function like a think tank — an avenue for learners to develop advanced cognitive thinking and consequently, find their place in this world (philosophically and practically). While daily life does utilise and hone some measure of cognitive development, it is necessary for society to recognise that the education industry was created to facilitate a variety of critical thinking different from what daily life can offer. Even subjects commonly assumed by Malaysians as “irrelevant” and/or “useless” such as History, Anthropology, etc, actually trains inductive/deductive reasoning, logical linking and creativity. For instance, the two general feedback I receive from students who have enrolled in my Humanities and Social Science classes is that they have learned to think more critically about the world they live in and that they have a better appreciation for education because in my classroom, they are given the opportunity to take charge of their learning process.

The Malaysian education industry has created an almost-Pavlovian response in students to chase As without quite comprehending the material needed to achieve these grades, yet we continue to question why fresh graduates are incapable of being independent critical thinkers and doers. How can we expect Malaysia to progress forward if we remain complacent with our current spoon-feeding mentality and rote learning pedagogical culture? This is where educators who, regardless of their specialisation, are genuinely passionate about transferring their knowledge to the next generation can make a difference.

It is not an easy task to bridge the (generational) gap between (older) educators and students but a good educator does not encourage their students to remain passive learners. A good educator strives to improve the flawed education system within their means, in other words, in their classrooms and their specialised fields. These educators are willing to focus on teaching rather than grade scoring, brainstorming over active learning and class management styles, and develop alternative means of introducing information in a way that is pertinent and relevant to students.

Yes, Alwyn, lecturers should do their best to relate information in as digestible fashion as possible. If it means I have to learn how to play a few video games and filter through stand-up comedy specials to better relate with my students, I will do so as long as these elements of pop culture are effective teaching tools.

I ask you then, Alwyn, if these two reasons are poor motivators to be an educator, tell me: what are good motivators? What should drive an educator then? What kind of knowledge will students gain from a dispassionate educator that Google cannot teach?

It is because of the current state of the Malaysian education industry that we need educators who are willing to inspire. My fellow educator friends and I were appalled by the article thus prompting a discussion which ultimately led to this response article. I believe that passionate educators are the few who may positively shape the younger generation to realise that at the end of the day, what truly matter is the skills (soft and practical etc.) best developed in the education system that will make a better person independent of the number of As they can score.

I teach to inspire.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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