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LETTER | Let's have a more liberal, open-minded university education

LETTER | After 13 years of education in a controlled and strictly disciplined environment in schools, we send our children to a university to broaden their horizons in preparation to face the real world. They are already young adults by then with minds like a sponge eager to absorb and grow into this new phase in their lives.

The university is where we entrust our children will be taught how to think laterally and out of the box to meet the challenges of the real world. We expect them to be mature and confident with the ability to grow and excel in their chosen professions and compete with their peers nationally and internationally. Only then can they make a difference in the world and blaze new trails through their innovative minds.

However, looking at the situation today and how our children are not given the freedom to be exposed to the realities of life, is this hope just wishful thinking? How can the horizons of our children be opened when their minds are still conditioned and encaged? They are not given the liberty to be adventurous, encounter new perspectives and form their own perceptions and opinions. This only dampens their thirst for knowledge and the unknown.

A case in point is the abrupt cancellation of an online dialogue with Ramli Ibrahim, a renowned artiste in the performing arts. This is an opportunity missed to pick the brain of someone who pursued his passion in an art form of another race and religion. What made an engineering graduate embark and excel in an artistry alien to his ‘natural’ psyche? They will never know nor be able to cross borders like Ramli did - to take a leap of faith to achieve his dreams.

I was fortunate to be an undergraduate at Universiti Sains Malaysia in the 70s. The rounded exposure I experienced was like opening a new world to me. In the first year, I was exposed to a diversity of subjects within the school of Humanities. These included Visual Arts, Critical Thinking, Performing Arts, Communication, Statistics, to name a few. Two of the 10 subjects had to be from a cross-discipline, so I did International Relations and Sociology.

In the second and third year, I majored in Mass Communication but still had to take subjects across disciplines so I added French, Philosophy, Photography and Dance to my course. All this was to provide a fully rounded education and knowledge I never experienced in my primary and secondary education.

The beautiful part of the system was also to accrue marks from coursework throughout the year. As such, we had to work hard throughout the year and there was less pressure in the year-end final exams. We would already know our grades for most subjects and could therefore spend more time and focus on the weaker subjects. It was less mental stress compared to when the final exams accounted for 100 percent of your marks.

On a lighter note, I found that I could take better photographs than my other travelling companions - understanding light and composition - and managed to find my way when lost in France with the splatter of French words I could still remember!

My hope is for a more liberal and open-minded exposure to the real world and applicable living skills to survive in this competitive world today. Education is key to make this happen. Otherwise, our future graduates will remain jobless, not in demand, and ultimately end up being garbage collectors in Singapore as has proven to be the case.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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