|A mind is a terrible thing to waste|
I hope the educational needs of the child Adi Putra will be properly attended to.
The story on the boy with special mathematical talent interests me. At the time of composing this article, I am in the middle of a summer teaching session in a college in upstate New York teaching philosophy, creative writing, astrobiology, spying, and women's studies to American students considered "gifted and talented".
I have been involved with "Gifted and Talented Education" for many years since I started the business of developing human minds and teaching creativity and critical thinking. What interests me is the news report below and how we should all begin to look at each child and the children of others' as a gift and "gifted":
During question time in Parliament, the Education Ministry reported that it currently does not have an education syllabus to deal with gifted children, many of who went through school without being identified by authorities.
However, the ministry's parliamentary secretary, P.Komala Devi said a concept paper on a special programme for gifted children will be put forward in September.
The programme, called 'Program Pintar Cerdas', will be evaluated in 2009, before implementation in 2010, she said.
Wait a minute!
I thought we already have a provision for the gifted and talented in our Education Act? I thought, since the 1980s, we already have a gifted and talented programme in place. I thought we have 10,000 Smart schools announced as a new educational reform effort by the then minister of education Najib Abdul Razak. I thought we have been preparing our teachers how to teach children how to think, through the MoE Module Kursus Kemahiran Berfikir Secara Kreatif dan Kritikal (KKBKK).
I thought teachers are supposed to integrate Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences into their lesson plans to develop student creativity and intelligence. I thought we have Thinking Skills courses in the schools of education in our public universities. I thought the Maktab Rendah Sains (Mara) system was and still based on the principles of fifted and talented education (Renzulli Triad Model, deBono's CoRT Thinking program, etc. etc.).
I thought we have already understood, since the 1980s what is the difference between 'creativity", "intelligence", and "giftedness" and no longer are confused by those terms in our design of programmes to meet the diverse needs of our schoolchildren. I thought we have taken care of all these and ready to deal with the growing problem of "rempitism", the growth of gangsterism in schools, and the training of teachers in the concept of "urban and alternative education"?
I thought our educational system is already sound enough that we are now able to send a Malay Muslim astronaut into space, just like what the Americans were able to blast-off their astronaut as a result of the "Sputnik" crisis and the revamp of its Science and Mathematics curriculum?
But what do we mean when we are only now coming up with a concept paper on gifted and talentedness?
Why do we need a concept paper for everything when the damage to the human mind has already been done? How many concept papers have failed to prove themselves worthy of the educational system we ought to have? How many times do we need to change policies and practices at the whims and fancies of those who are taking charge of our education system – again, at the expense of the curious, creative, young minds of Malaysian children?
We are endangering the mind of our children. Our education system is breeding mediocrity and an unthinking citizenry. Our curriculum is not challenging enough to meet the needs of globalisation and to create the next generation of children who will become global thinkers able to produce ideas and to translate them into artifacts and applications that would help advance the social, creative, critical, and ethical purpose of humankind. There is a disjuncture between what we wish to showcase (e.g. the MSCs and BioTech Nation) with what we are teaching children in school. We have created spaces of knowledge and power in the framework of education and national economic development.
We are only interested in producing a generation of students skilled in memorising facts and to regurgitate them when the need arises – we have little interest in giving birth to thinking citizens who are able to relate to each other inter-culturally, and able to be transformed into life-long learners, imbued with the passion of changing the nature of society and government when the ruling class no longer serves the interest of the rakyat/masses. We have created many generations of followers and a silenced the majority, happily living their lives as one-dimensional beings, blind and mute to the massive corruption unfolding before their very eyes destroying the fabric of our ethical culture.
We are leaving our children in the hands of those who are ill-prepared to develop them into the "everyday genius". We are full of slogans on success – "world-class this and that", "regional hub for education", "smart schools", "vision schools" independent schools", etc.
We are interested in rhetoric, in pleasing political visitors to our schools, in preparing our students to get 20As and to create showcase schools so that foreign and local corporations can also showcase their "generosity" and commitment to our educational system, paving the way for gentler and newer way of "glokal-styled" colonisation. We are interested in cutting ribbons and displaying huge mock cheques and forcing our school-teachers to work long and late hours on things other than teaching and preparing for classes – on things that would only please the headmaster and the local politicians who do not have any idea how children develop cognitively. We have been systematically killing the creativity of our teachers by burdening their minds with mundane activities to be completed out of unreasonable fear of authority.
We have successfully created classes of society through our classification system of schools and through the class ideology we directly or indirectly teach in our classrooms. We have schools for the rich and schools for the poor. Like chicken eggs, we assign "grades" to our schools. When our schools are failing, we try to create independent schools and profit from more private schools, leaving behind the children of the poor of all races to be recycled in the system of structural mental-ideological violence. We are wasting good talents. Instead of making the slogan "brain gain" a reality, we are making "brains go down the drain".
We have also created Mat Rempits, Alongs and gangster in the estates. We have neglected the development of their minds and created successful failures through the schools we build. We have appointed educational leaders who perhaps have not set foot in the classroom, let alone in those of the most impoverished areas of our country.
What then must we do for our Adi Putras and our gifted children of all races! A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
There is still hope for our children.