Dilemma of the learned


Dilemma of the learned

Volume 5 Issue 11 News & Resources | November 2012


So, where do we start to discuss the dilemma in identifying the culprits that are bugging our higher education system? From where do we begin to sort out the source of the troubles which have been brewing and ended with us churning out mediocre graduates to the masses? To whom can we shift the blame on this malaise? The questions are long, and the answers are nowhere near. Yes, I am talking about the current state of engineering education in Institute of Higher Learnings (IHLs) all around the country. Things are not just the same as old. The rise of new generations also generates new expectations. The old adage also seems to be irrelevant to the new millennia. It seems we just have to unlearn many old assumptions and, probably, learn many new ones. Yes, this is the only way if we would to hope to survive in the future. And, it is also good if we learn to shoulder the blame and face the real responsibility head-on.

The old idea of learning is the spirit of searching, pondering, thinking and deducting lessons from daily experiences. Learned minds cultivated the approach to model, test and verify hypotheses in order to arrive at an acceptable theses or facts. These accumulations of facts laid the foundations for civilizations and the exponential growth of the world as a whole. At the center of this whirlwind is the existence of an inquisitive mind searching for answers. This mind with an insatiable appetite for knowledge would easily sacrifice their comfort in place of enlightenment and understanding of truth. A learner would do anything possible and permissible to ensure they are in-reach and surrounded by the providers and pioneers of knowledge or ilm. The heliocentric model of a learner seems very apt to describe the position and situation the learner is enduring. The learner bears full responsibility for the accumulation, understanding and application of the targeted field of knowledge. They will adapt and adopt the best strategy to acquire knowledge, and hopefully, also the associated wisdom. Most obvious, the learner is not complaining, and what more the learned.

The world has certainly changed. Logic tells us that those who lacked must play the crucial role in cultivating. Hence, a student must learn and strive hard (and smart) in their learning. They should be the one who bear the responsibilities, and be matured enough to think the best of ways. They should also shoulder the blame in evolving to become a learned persona and, finally, a better person. But, in this post-modern era, the worries and responsibilities are shifted to the teachers and providers. They are now expected to adapt and adopt. The teachers/educators/lecturers are suddenly pushed to the center and expected to deliver and ensure the learners or students will learn. Weird as it sounds, the new curriculums expect the teachers to work hard (and smarter) for the learners or students to grasp and understand the body of knowledge. It is as though if the students failed, it is not of their doing, but the teachers. Probably because the teachers, educators or lecturers are not well prepared and ready to be teachers, educators or lecturers. Probably also, the undesired outcome is due to poor course planning, course deliver, course assessment and course Continuous Quality Improvements (CQIs) to the teaching and learning programme. Other possible reasons for poor students’ performance may also be blamed on outdated curriculums, ill-equipped labs and unsatisfactory teaching/learning methods. This blame game has been going on for so long, and surely, the burden falls NOT on the students or learners, but others.

The new teaching and learning method is supposed to be a student-centered learning process, and not teacher-centered. We were told that the students must now play more active roles. The teachers/educators/lecturers are only supposed to facilitate. This new approach is also claimed to be different to the spoon-feeding phase of yester years. Is this so? Not so, if you have asked me. The fact that every course must be preceded with clear planning, mapping, implementation, assessment and improvement, indicates the depth we are in the spoon-feeding cycle. It seems as though the universities are evolving toward a more school-like structures and, especially, in the Teaching/Learning approaches. This is a very weird and disturbing trend. The teachers/educators/lecturers are not prepared for this kind of commitment. They are evaluated for promotion on different parameters (research and scholarly output) , and yet have to be an excellent example in the other, i.e. teaching/learning requirements . Even students are complaining of the grave situations vis-à-vis the teachers/educators/lecturers. Don’t the students ever think of what they can do to make things better? Why not the students cleanse themselves of the victim-like or powerless kind of mentality? Take charge of your future and do all that are necessary to make things better (or to ensure you understand all that are being taught). The students/learners must take full responsibility of the learning phase in their academic life, rather than be too dependent and being immature of the situations. Students/Learners are supposed to be proactive and they determine the best approach to learning. It is no longer about the learned, but it is about the learner. Student-centered learning must means something to the students/learners themselves. It is NOT just a slogan to vouch on.

There would be some who will disagree of the view that students should be more assertive and creative in ensuring they will grasp and understand new things. This highly influential group put the role and task on the knowledge providers. The faculty and lecturers must ensure their planning, implementations and NOT on the students/learners. If the academic programme offered is found to be fragmented and incomplete, the programme would not get the sought after accredited status. In this situation, the students/learners will suffer. But, at the end the blame will be put squarely on the knowledge providers. I find this situation somewhat amusing and mind-boggling. We are supposed to train new knowledge workers and future educated generations, but yet we have failed to instill in our students/learners that they must be an independent individual and be brave enough to bear the responsibility of learning on their shoulders.

As a summary, in the era of Outcome-Based Education (OBE), I believe the students must take charged and be more enterprising. The weaknesses of the teaching and learning delivery must be balanced with the determination and persistence of the students/learners in grasping and understanding new knowledge. The student-centered learning must put the student at the center. And, the students must also be conscious of the fact that their success or failure is not of others, but solely of their own doing.

And for this, I rest my case…

The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared with that of which we are ignorant” - Plato

Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
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