2018-05-22

Avicenna / Ibn Sina as a Model for Malaysia's Education Public Policy?

(original post)

Following a discussion on the role of religion in public schools in a multi-ethnic country, I volunteered my recent thesis ( https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=950916425089065&id=100005121480279 ) on the subject.

Some Malaysian will refer to the Rukunegara to answer the above. Some have questioned the possibility of removing the Rukunegara as a foundation of policy. I will only raise the following reminder, and then move on to the next point. The Rukunegara is a statement of values, and not a law. It is much easier to overwrite than the constitution. I hope to return focus to the constitution.

The thesis I presented above at (link) you will find to align closely with the Aristotelian (Greek, ~300BC) orientation around the function of citizenship, whereas a notable Islamic thinker on the subject would be Ibn Sina /Avicenna (Persian, ~1000 AD). By Avicenna's time, the West had carried ancient Greek ideals into the context of the church, and so you could fork off into readings on European education at that point in history and reading down the timeline until you hit the US's 19th century implementations of the Liberal Arts*** college.

Back to Avicenna (because we are in Malaysia, talking about Maszlee) the dude's writings are well suited to the discussion we are having. Avicenna's work comes a millenia after Aristotle's and presents a model that takes all of the following into consideration: the Greek Liberal Arts concept, with a focus on the role of turning individuals into parts of a state, as well as Islamic thought. More here, at Section 5 on this link: http://www.muslimheritage.com/article/ibn-sina-education

Given the context of my thesis at the topic link, I would say that if we needed to find an Islamic model of education with direct relevance to the implementation of a multi-ethnic state's public policy, with consideration for the European tradition of three millenia that many of us Christians, atheists, and agnostics are familiar with... then we could use Ibn Sina /Avicenna as a starting point for thought experiments, theoretical ideals, and policy guideline arguments.

(*** Another Malaysian referred to US Liberal Arts colleges, and so I tagged on a bit of trivia about my personal experiences in studying the history of these. Liberal Arts colleges are quite varied in their implementation, but the notion of Liberal Arts refers neither to liberalsVSconservative politics in the 2nd millenia sense, nor to the notion of liberal student-oriented education in the individualistic sense. The term Liberal Arts actually stems from ancient Greek culture, where "liberal" refers to free men, those not slaves, and "arts" refers to their skills or kungfu in general, from academia, to militia, and government.)

Bumiputera Rights are Not the Enemy

(originally)
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Bumiputera rights were written into the Malaysian constitution due to the political-economic realities of the peninsula at that time. Sadly, post-independence public policy has perpetuated the economic woes of our people.
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1. The real enemy is endemic poverty due to bad past policies. Poverty leads to fear > anger > hate. That is the crux of Malaysia's xenophobic policies since before Malaysia's inception. Fix poverty, and you will have fixed racial politics in Malaysia.
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Malaysia's constitution is WRITTEN on a presumption* of distrust between the races - we can rewrite the constitution one day, but only after we "make Malaysians trust again," and in order to do that, we need to "make Malaysians rich again," in material terms, whether than is financially or psychically**. This is our thematic national u!-security issue over sixty years. This is why we are making noise about the MoE appointment (education is the development of psychical wealth). Furtheronto, it is why Jomo's appointment is a big deal (he is a development economist).
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(* also why the constitution requires exclusive citizenship)
(** psyche is presumed to be material: discuss as needed)
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2. For added context, read Maszlee (the Education Minister)'s comments on TunM<3Anwar's role in the history of Islamisation in Malaysia: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/33525/

2018-05-20

How to Discuss Education Public Policy

(original post)
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In the last 48-hours you may have read a very large number of thoughts by individuals on the subject of Education in Malaysia. In order to help us organise all of these thoughts, I propose a brief framework as follows. You may think of this as a "philosophy of education," which may be useful in sorting through the noisy (and appropriately so) discourse on educational public policy.
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1. Note that the purpose of "education," on a national scale, is to create FUNCTIONAL CITIZENS.
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2. In order to be functional, an educated citizen must be able to interact meaningfully with the official and unofficial LAWS of the nation. The OFFICIAL law is written explicitly, and thus documented in a formal canon (5. below); the UNOFFICIAL law, which may be called 'adat,' or 'culture,' or 'common sense,' consists of a fluid set of assumption which is never static (6. below).
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3. Therefore the focus of national education is FIRST and foremost to enable isolated human bodies, to INTERACT with other bodies on the matters above. It is of SECONDARY concern that anyone becomes an EXPERT in any area of knowledge. We can address the secondary concern in a future note, but the rest of this note focuses on the _primary concern_.
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4. We are concerned then, with determining an OBJECTIVE STANDARD for GENERAL EDUCATION, that which should be regarded as a basic requirement for adult citizens capable of INFLUENCING matters of GOVERNMENT. Thereby under current voting limits, we can work around a target educational period of 21 years per citizen. What must 21-year-old Malaysians know?
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5. In order to interact with official laws: a few domains of LITERACY come into play. 5.1. Citizens must be able to read, comprehend, implement compliance with, and argue about compliance with the written law; for example, IF the law is officially in the Malay _language_, then the Malay language must be mastered TO SUCH AN EXTENT DESCRIBED ABOVE, and lesser degrees of mastery must be considered failure to properly educate a citizen. 5.2. Citizens must also be sufficiently _quantitatively_ literate in order to engage with the law by the standard above. 5.3. Citizens must also be sufficiently _informatically_ literate in order to be able to obtain for their readings, and reference, the laws of the land (including local council bylaws). 5.4. Citizens must also be sufficiently _politically_ literate in order to understand where the written laws come from, and how they can be changed by the citizen herself. SUMMARY: we now have a means to determine standards of grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, government, information literacy, etc. which must be achieved by citizens by the age of 21 years.
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6. In order to interact with adat, culture, and common Malaysian sense, other types of LITERACY are required: we must have the subjects of current affairs, social involvement ("clubs and societies"), history, anthropology ("alam dan manusia," / "geography" were the terms at some point), segmented by RACE, segmented by RELIGION, segmented by periods of TIME, and administered via an expicitly INTERSECTIONAL methodology, which exercises each child in the differences between the parts, and wholes, of the Malaysian experience.
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7. I will further venture that 5. takes PRECEDENCE OVER 6., and that resource allocations must obey this order of precedence to a non-trivial degree, such that 5. should be administered more urgently than 6. throughout the life of a child (any citizen below the age of 21 years). Both remain important, but for the sake of operational urgency, and due to the realities of resource limitations, this order of precedence is preferred.
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Disclaimer: this note was hammered out on a small piece of glass, while I waited for a friend to regain consciousness. It reflects my personal appreciation of the subject of education, and does not constitute a professional opinion, nor does it pretend to be research. EVERYONE seems to have an opinion on the new Ministerial Appointment for education, because everyone tends to feel that having gone through the torment which is, "education," they have valuable insight into the subject matter. Those are valid points of view. I say "torment," because by definition, education really is brainwashing, the very process whereby each and every society ensure that new meat behaves compliantly with the protocols and common assumptions of that society.