Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Re-inventing education


THERE is a need to review, revamp and re-invent the development and delivery of education, allowing for greater flexibility and creativity.

Limkokwing University of Creative Technology president Tan Sri Dr Lim Kok Wing said it was time for a new Commonwealth model to be considered.

“One that effectively accommodates the different needs of a country; one that builds the people first and then the economy.

“This re-invention must happen if there is to be transformation so that every young person is purposefully educated, and has a part to play and a stake in moving their country forward,” he said at the stakeholders’ forum during the recent 17th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers.

The other forums held were for youth, vice-chancellors and teachers.

Dr Lim said this was an urgent mission as holding on to irrelevant systems and models will continue to serve only a tiny fraction of those in the Commonwealth.

“Urgent because only by unleashing the massive talents of one billion young people and opening up opportunities to them, can we truly say we achieved the Common – Wealth which literally means our ‘common well-being’,” he said, adding that this was the founding principle of the organisation.

“It should be our common mission going forward if we are to stay true to the spirit of that word — Commonwealth,” he added.

Dr Lim said many governments in the Commonwealth adopted the British system of education “wholesale” even after independence, because the systems and methodologies were already in place.

“It was a one-size-fits-all solution that worked at that time.

“The British system, as good as it was, is not applicable to many Commonwealth countries that are struggling to develop,” he said.

Dr Lim said what was common was really not common at all as it did not take into account the differing socio-economic development stages of the countries.

It did not take into account that other than a colonial past, most of these countries had little in common in terms of heritage and traditions with the West.

“What we have in common is our history, our bonds to the United Kingdom and the legacy of the English language,” he said.

It also did not take into account that in many parts of the Commonwealth, a Western style education was accessible only to the wealthy and privileged — in a nutshell, the elite, he said.

This, he added, reinforced the divide between rich and poor people within a country and between communities.

But, he added, problems do not go away, they fester and become bigger problems.

“What then do we call education systems that are at odds with the reality of life for most of the world?” he asked.

In many Commonwealth countries, Dr Lim said millions have not stepped into a classroom while enrolment and completion ratios of education are among the lowest in the world.

“What is very clear is that very few get started and even fewer make it to the finishing line.

“The question we must ask ourselves must be are we doing enough in education and it’s not just about whether we are spending enough,” he said.

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