Whither the soul of education?

Sunday September 9, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2012/9/9/education/11961717&sec=education
By LUCILLE DASS

Emphasis should be placed not only on academic achievements, but also on the core values of character formation.

THE examination of the quest for meaning among today’s adolescents is both daring and needed.” — Howard Gardner.

I find it difficult to forget a painful experience at a mall where an adolescent being chased by his friend had crashed hard into my shoulder.

I let out a yell at the excruciating pain I felt and for a moment, I thought I had dismembered my shoulder bone!

What happened next was equally unexpected and painful to the heart.

The youth in question stopped in his tracks, looked me in the face, slapped his thighs and roared with laughter!

Yes, he laughed out loud as did his accomplice. No apology. Zilch.

The duo then turned around and resumed their game, perhaps claiming more casualties along the aisle.

I failed to trace the parents in the crowd.

The above incident, together with other growing behavioural disorders, increasing violence and crime activities by the young that we have now sadly grown accustomed to hearing, had me pondering on the character education of the millennial generation.

Where and why have we failed? What has happened to the traditional Asian family with its longstanding boast of high values in education?

Have families abdicated their role? Has the school also abdicated its role of educating students?

Many go to school but fewer are coming out educated in the true sense of the world.

Why are we pretending to forget that the key purpose of education is to nurture a human being?

This means the school is tasked with developing in the learners the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are related to humanity.

Only then in turn, can the young be expected to exhibit the same.

We have dehumanised education by placing a heavy premium on academic content and competitive performance while neglecting to nurture the core values of being human.

By neglecting human formation, we have robbed education of its soul.

For the good of the nation and to meet the demands of the 21st century, academic competence must go hand-in-hand with human formation.

This is a task for all concerned — the education authorities, teachers and parents.

Family institutions and schools must provide mutually supportive instruction to help the growing young develop their belief system.

The quest for meaning in life by the young must be tempered and tamed by adults who themselves hold holistic perspectives of human development.

The ability to discern right from wrong must be nurtured from young.

Responsible adults must guide the young to connect with their “inner life” — their souls — for wholesome development.

Human formation, which gives soul to education, is in fact at the core of our National Education Philosophy; “… developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonic, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God ….”

“Belief in God” is also the first principle of our Rukunegara with “Courtesy and Morality” forming the fifth principle.

Why then are we not giving honest attention to realise these principles by enhancing students’ personal values and personal integration within an academic setting?

Yes, we have moral studies in school — but enough has been said about its ineffectual attempts to inform behaviour and reform recalcitrance.

There is an urgent need to bring back the lost values of character education at all levels.

Let us be earnest about putting soul back into education before it becomes too late.

> The writer is a former teacher educator and university lecturer. She is currently a freelance trainer in teacher development.

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