Why The Malaysian Education System Doesn’t Work (Part 3): Knowledge & Understanding

LoyarBurok occasionally republishes interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. This article was originally published on Rickard’s blog and is the final part in a three-part series. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Education is something that is very close to Lord Bobo’s furry heart, and honest, open discussions about ways of improving the Malaysian education system are desperately needed. Do share your views in the comments section below.

See links for context, and enjoy the show!

In this third part of the series, I will try to outline the third part of the label evil industrial globalist, which should be attributed to those who actually like the current Malaysian education system, or at the very least these are their ideological buddies whether they know it or not.

The first part described the industrial part of this label, going back to the reason for the creation of a public school education system, having its foundation in a need for factory workers that could take orders and be compliant. The second part described the evil aspect, outlining briefly – and I do mean briefly – how the current system encourages and spreads evil by systematic abuse and various brainwashing techniques.

So what about the globalist part? How does that fit into the picture? As I said towards the end of the first part, Malaysia is currently engaged in a race to the bottom, to produce the most obedient and ignorant workers, so as to be attractive for outsourcing contracts for multinational corporations. Whoever wins this race, however, and there are certainly many contestants, will be the ultimate loser, and will see its resources drained, both of the natural kind and the human kind.

There is a reason there is a brain drain going on, and it’s not because Malaysia is losing this race. The contempt for critical thinking and analytical discourse is increasing by the minute. Looking at a number of the comments the previous part has garnered on Facebook makes it clear that ridiculing critical thinking is a common practice.

Ironically though, those very comments are exactly what Ponerology describes is the pre-condition for institution of evil systems and pathocracy in a country. Let me requote it for your benefit:

During “happy times” of peace dependent upon social injustice, children of the privileged classes learn to repress from their field of consciousness the uncomfortable ideas suggesting that they and their parents are benefiting from injustice against others. Such young people learn to disqualify and disparage the moral and mental values of anyone whose work they are using to over-advantage. Young minds thus ingest habits of subconscious selection and substitution of data, which leads to hysterical conversive economy of reasoning. They grow up to be somewhat hysterical adults who, by means of the ways adduced above, thereupon transmit their hysteria to the next generation, which then develops these characteristics to an even greater degree. The hysterical patterns for experience and behavior grow and spread downwards from the privileged classes until crossing the boundary of the first criterion of ponerology: the atrophy of natural critical faculties with respect to pathological individuals.

When the habits of subconscious selection and substitution of thought-data spread to the macrosocial level, a society tends to develop contempt for factual criticism and to humiliate anyone sounding an alarm. Contempt is also shown for other nations which have maintained normal thought-patterns and for their opinions. Egotistic thought-terrorization is accomplished by the society itself and its processes of conversive thinking. This obviates the need for censorship of the press, theater, or broadcasting, as a pathologically hypersensitive censor lives within the citizens themselves.

This is exactly the kind of behaviour that I have observed, even from ones who supposedly are a part of the intelligentsia of Malaysia. This is not a good sign. There is no need for overt censorship if the citizens are perfectly capable of censoring themselves.

Think about that for a moment.

What is knowledge and understanding anyway?

The best cure, or immunization, against this kind of pathological process is knowledge and understanding. If you know about what is being done to you, and understand how it fits into the bigger context, it will have much less effect.

The purpose of this post is to get you, the concerned reader, to realize how what is being taught through the Malaysian education system is to a large extent irrelevant. However, instead of pointing out the uselessness of rote learning and memorizing facts, I will instead violate the rule I set out for myself in the first post – to not offer any alternatives or suggestions – and instead suggest what would be useful to learn in school, and roughly the process for doing so. Hopefully by seeing that, and comparing with what is there now, it will become apparent just how wrong the current approach is.

The first step is to understand the process of learning, from perception all the way up to application. This process starts with data, the raw perception of the world around us.

This can be collected and organized by individuals familiar with a particular field, and then transformed into what we could call information. You know, like books and Internet websites. Once information about a topic is available in a comprehensible format for someone not intimately familiar with it, other people can read and listen to this information.

When information is perceived and processed by an individual, who can connect it to previous information and fit it into his or her mental mosaic of how the world works, it can turn into knowledge. I say “can”, because if the receptor, the person trying to acquire said information, is flawed in the sense that their previous knowledge and beliefs are imperfect or flat out wrong, it is entirely possible that the new information is distorted and instead creates lies and beliefs that are not true, objectively speaking. This is why it is essential that anyone wishing to truly understand the world around them should first critically assess their current beliefs, and if they are rational or not. If they do not do so, it is highly likely that any new information pouring into this muddled glass will just add to the volume of nonsense, without any true benefit. Scientists, I’m looking at you!

Once knowledge has been created in an individual, and let’s for the moment assume that it is correct for the sake of argument, the next step is to transform this knowledge into understanding. The purpose here is to be able to relate the new knowledge with as many other pieces of knowledge as possible, connecting the dots if you will, and be able to apply said knowledge in as many different contexts and situations as possible, to see where it applies, and where it does not apply. This step makes the knowledge actionable, as in, you can actually do something with it, without causing harm to yourself and others. It becomes, in short, useful. Any attempt to apply knowledge without understanding, or even worse, apply wrong knowledge without understanding that it is so, is highly likely to cause harm in various ways.

The next, and final, step in this process is mastery. I’m not even going to attempt to explain this, as it’s a massive topic on its own.

The point here, for the purpose of understanding any education system, is that if you do not get to at least the level of understanding, the knowledge that you have is rarely useful, and any attempt to apply it will most likely fail and/or cause harm. The question is, where is the focus of the Malaysian education system? Is it on data, information, knowledge or understanding?

Think about it for a moment.

What should we learn?

Education is not something that we do just because “it is a good idea”. There are many “good ideas”, but not all of them are worth investing time and money in. So, if we then take the approach that “getting an education” is in fact an investment, what should one learn?

As with any investment, you would have to do a risk/benefit analysis. In particular, you will want to ask yourself the question: what knowledge will I have the most use of in my life, and how can I minimize the risk of investing time and energy in something that will turn out to be useless?

In answering this question I am going to suggest that things that can be learned can be roughly divided into three different types: languagesskills, and subjects.

Languages are those things that we use to communicate about other things, including itself. Languages, if seen in isolation, are pretty much useless. It is only when we apply a language to something, such as talking about education, that it gains value. But because languages can be applied to such a vast amount of subjects, they are of enormous value. They are as generally applicable as possible. Another good attribute of languages is that they are relatively few. In Malaysia they are basically Malay, English, Mandarin, Tamil, and math.

Yes, math. You didn’t know that math was a language? Well, it is! Like any language, on its own it has very little value apart from purely academic and intellectual discussions, but when you apply it to talk about other things, it has immense value. Going shopping? Math. Building a house? Math. Figuring out what the bill at the restaurant is going to be after service tax? Math. Deducing the logical conclusion of an argument? Math. Math is all around us, and it is the language the universe uses to talk to us. As such, learning the language of math is perhaps one of the most powerful tools you can have in your toolbox.

And, correspondingly, not understanding math is a great weakness, and will ensure that you will be taken advantage of one way or the other in life. The consequences of not being able to realize that a particular MLM or similar scam mathematically is risky is something that Malaysians face every day. Much of my time is spent explaining the folly of various such schemes to friends and family. I would rather not have to do that.

The second level of things to learn are skills. Skills are things that also are relatively useless on their own. Critical thinking without something to think about critically is, well, useless. It is only when we apply skills to something else that they gain value. But as with languages, since they can be applied to such a vast amount of subjects, they have enormous value. Like languages they are also, relatively speaking, few. Let’s say they are in the thousands. That’s few, and among those there is a basic set of about ten that will get you very very far. Critical thinking, creative thinking, mind mapping, public speaking, and so on, are skills that I use on an almost daily basis, no matter what problems I need to solve. No matter what your job is, having ten such general skills will VASTLY improve your quality of life.

The third level of things to learn are actual subjects. Things like history, science, sociology, playing the drums and cooking. We apply languages and skills when learning these, and so understanding the languages and skills needed for a particular subject is invaluable. Priceless even. On the flip side, not knowing the language of the subject you are studying, makes it highly confusing and close to pointless. There is one example of this in the current Malaysian education system, as it turns out. Do you know which one?

The problem with subjects is that there is essentially no limit to how many there are of them. There’s millions of potential subjects, billions even. So from an investment point of view, where you want to get the most bang for your proverbial buck, investing in a particular subject is a MASSIVE risk. Most likely the last time you will read about a specific subject, or have a need for it, is in school. Once you are out in the real world, where grownups go about their business getting things done, what you will actually need are mainly languages and skills, and any subjects required to be a productive member of society you will have to learn on your own after you left school.

The question now becomes: what is the Malaysian education system focusing on? Is it languages, skills, or subjects? And when it teaches languages, such as math, does it focus on the importance of being able to apply it to other subjects? And when it teaches subjects, does it involve applying skills or not?

Think about it for a moment.

That which has true and lasting value is left out. Pretty crazy, huh?

So how should we learn things?

Because of this immense risk of not learning the subjects you need to get a job while in school, it is really important to know how to learn new things. The process of learning. If you have this, then whatever is thrown at you, you can say “I don’t know, but give me a minute and I’ll figure it out”. If you are a pure-bred product of any established education system, your answer would instead be: “I don’t know. Please instruct me”. These people you want to stay away from, because they’ll never get anything done, and will need hand-holding all the way. If they do manage to get something done, it’s not done properly as they have no method for assessing the quality of the outcome.

So how does learning work? How do you acquire new skills? There are two models I know of which are pretty good at explaining this, and they are basically variations of each other. One is called Shu-Ha-Ri, and comes from the field of martial arts. Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

It is known that, when we learn or train in something, we pass through the stages of shu, ha, and ri. These stages are explained as follows. In shu, we repeat the forms and discipline ourselves so that our bodies absorb the forms that our forebearers created. We remain faithful to the forms with no deviation. Next, in the stage of ha, once we have disciplined ourselves to acquire the forms and movements, we make innovations. In this process the forms may be broken and discarded. Finally, in ri, we completely depart from the forms, open the door to creative technique, and arrive in a place where we act in accordance with what our heart/mind desires, unhindered while not overstepping laws.

In my experience from practising traditional Japanese martial arts, this progression of learning and understanding is extremely useful, and can be applied outside the field of martial arts.

During the shu phase we learn about the basics and facts on a specific topic. If we are studying, for example, the skill Six Thinking Hats, we learn about the skill itself, the method it proposes, and roughly what it is for. Then we apply it to some set of pre-defined examples, which are ordered to be progressively more complicated and sophisticated, for the purpose of learning the method itself. We do not invent more steps, that is, we do not try to apply creative thinking to the process itself, but only as a part of executing the process. This is the shu phase, where we acquire the knowledge about something.

After having done this, so that we are familiar with the skill and how to apply it to pre-defined and self-contained problems, we then proceed to apply this skill in a more natural environment, where problems to be solved arise naturally, and where we get to test our understanding of the skill. We have to define the problem ourselves, what the constraints are, how to apply the skill, and we also get to assess the validity of the result. We may even start to modify the process, all the while keeping in line with the original constraints of the method. This is the ha phase of learning, where understanding is achieved.

When this has been done for a long, long time, and we know by heart how to apply this skill in various conditions and contexts, to a large variety of problems, then we can attempt the ri phase, wherein we can choose whether to follow the process, or invent a completely new one that solves the same problem in an entirely different way.This is the ri phase, where mastery is the end goal.

We have mastered the technique, and can apply it fluently and with ease, no matter what life throws at us.

Now consider the Malaysian education system: what level does it focus on (shu, ha, or ri), and how often is it that you get the opportunity to get to the ri stage in understanding a skill, in a guided fashion?

Think about it for a moment.

That last part of the question has an easy answer: zero. In the olden days, when we had master-apprentice teaching, at least a few would reach the level of master under the guidance of a willing master, so as to continue a tradition or trade. Today, when we focus on the average, we are destined for mediocrity. The end result of this is that our society becomes an idiocracy, the rule of the ignorant. Generation after generation, less and less understanding remains, and society gets more and more atrophied, leading to a downwards spiral to eventual destruction.

What does it all mean?

As I hope is clear by now, the outcome of the current Malaysian education system has very little value. A grading system that involves systemic cheating by all involved, a mental and emotional environment that promotes mental unhealth, and a focus on learning things that have little value, all contribute to the wet dream of evil industrial globalists, those who wish to use Malaysia as an outsourcing country for the purpose of easy access to uneducated, easily controllable workers, who believe that the manager-worker system created by Frederick Winslow Taylor, focusing on standard specifications, targets and inspections, is the right way to go. It is in the interest of globalists that Malaysians are educated enough to be controllable, but it is not in their interest that you take charge of your own destiny with knowledge and understanding.

There is of course other, even more troubling, consequences of this madness. This is not the first time in history that a society has seen large amounts of angry, uneducated and unemployed youth. As one typical example, in Nazi Germany this was taken advantage of by shrewd political forces that directed this anger towards a part of the population, claiming that they were “running all businesses, banks, money flows, and dealing between themselves”. Ignorance is the food of fear, which eventually leads to hate. It would be a shame to see history repeat itself.

Unfortunately, there are two things that can be said about history:

  • Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
  • The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history

Will this be true again? Or can Malaysia be immunized with knowledge and understanding to avoid this from repeating?

We shall soon find out.

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Internationally renowned Swedish software developer with a passion for Systems Thinking and understanding the many facets of the human condition, and how we can move forward by understanding the past.

Posted on 28 November 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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