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A message for education planners, policymakers and implementers

Dr Zakir Husain, third vice-president of India - Photograph: Wikipedia

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There is consensus among many academicians and educated and enlightened people that our education system has become rotten, writes Tota.

In the Pisa international test for primary school children, Malaysia was placed below Vietnam and other Asean countries. International university ranking organisations have consistently placed Malaysian universities beyond the 300 mark.

Now comes the news that a Mara scholarship holder is serving time in UK for his child pornography activities. Some time ago a JPA scholar, product of a Pakistan-born jailbird and a Malay mother, became a high society call-girl.

Zaid Ibrahim, a former minister in Abdullah Badawi’s cabinet, was quite right in saying that our education system is “an absolute disaster”.

Our education planners, policymakers and implementers should imbibe the great message contained in this excerpt from Dr Zakir Hussan’s acceptance speech when the University of Malaya conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on 2t October 1966. Dr Zakir Hussain was once vice-chancellor of the famous Aligarh University. He visited Malaysia as vice-president of India and went on to become the third president of India.

Dr Zakir Hussain on education:

It is good for the educator to remember that in education the journey is as important as the destination.

No stage in development may be relegated to the position of a preparation for the next.

Each has certain requirements in its own right.

All preparation must at the same time be a satisfactory experience, all satisfying experience also a preparation for something higher.

The immediate in education can be sacrificed to the ultimate only at the latter’s expense.

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Educational measures should be directed towards the development of the whole mental structure and not only to some one aspect of it.

Education is an organic unity, it has to be concerned simultaneously with the intellectual, the moral and the physical basic endowment of the educand, in Pestalozzi’s words the head, the heart and the hand.

An inflated head may not be made to be stuck on a physically fragile and mentally shaky stem!

Education should continuously put itself the question – inconvenient, indeed, but inevitable – what sort of a man it is helping to produce.

It certainly cannot be a matter of indifference to education whether a student who has learnt to write well writes an immortal sonnet or fakes a document for some shady transaction; or if he has been taught to read with speed and comprehension whether he is disposed by training to read the classics or the outer press; or if he has also been helped to be honest and truthful, socially cooperative and helpful.

It may not be a matter of indifference to education if its end product can see any beauty in art and nature or not, if he can ever persuade himself to subordinate his little selfish ends to the good of the whole of which he is a part or not.

Education, indeed, has to be concerned with the skills its products have acquired, but may it shut its eyes to the objective, to which the skills are put?

No, education has to shape the totality of the educand’s being.

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The real cultivation of the mind is possible only through what can be termed educationally productive work.

Educationally productive work is essentially and predominantly the work of the mind, sometimes accompanied by bodily activity, sometimes without it.

Educationally productive work initiates new ideas, or makes possible new combinations of ideas already present, with a view to reaching a higher unity of mental life and a higher development of the capacity to express or realise them.

It is disciplined, purposeful mental activity and tends to lead from purpose to purpose.

This activity gives a kind of knowledge and a kind of skill which we may call eductive, conducive to the cultivation of the mind.

For it must be clearly realised by educators that all knowledge and all skills are not eductive.

Knowledge can be, and indeed, is of two kinds: it may be knowledge acquired by someone else by his labour and passed on to us as information, or it may be knowledge acquired by us through our mind by its own activity.

Similarly, skill can be of two kinds: mechanical skill and creative skill.

The first kind of knowledge and the first kind of skill are addtions from outside, the second kind of achievement and transformation from within.

The first represents an external appendage, the second signifies internal development.

The first is instruction, the second education.

The first outward dressing, the second essential culture.

The first comes from drill, the second from educationally productive work.

Source: Dr Zakir Husain (the late vice-president of India): Acceptance Speech at the University of Malaya which conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (20 October 1966)

Tota is the pseudonym of a regular contributor to our Thinking Allowed Online section.

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