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Is thinking in local universities critical enough?


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Effective teaching of this subject requires critical analysis of many things in life, including the harsh conditions that emerge beyond campus, writes Mustafa K Anuar.

The recent tiff between student activists and an International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) academic over the appointment of Education Minister Maszlee Malik as its president seems to suggest that so-called critical thinking among certain academics may be in a critical state.

In fact, it begs the question as to why on earth has the academic concerned been assigned to teach critical thinking when his own thinking appears to be anything but critical.

IIUM academic Abdul Naser Abdul Rahman categorised the demonstrating students as “cows” for having staged a protest against Maszlee instead of having a debate with him on this same issue.

While having a debate and discussion is and should be part of academic culture and freedom of expression, whicht even Maszlee himself claims to support, staging a protest is equally legitimate and part of the democratic process.

Street protests are more visible and have the added advantage of getting the attention of the media and the public, especially on an issue that is as vital as Maszlee’s appointment, which is rightly considered by the students and others as having implications of a conflict of interest.

To be sure, street demonstrations are part and parcel of student politics that should be enshrined within the larger framework of university autonomy.

Student activist Asheeq Ali Sethi Alivi asked a legitimate and probing question: why did academics, such as Naser not raise a hue and cry when fellow academics wittingly or unwittingly submitted themselves to the wishes of certain politicians that ran counter to the interests of the students and universities concerned.

In the past, certain academics had no qualms about doing the bidding of aspiring and ambitious politicians to the extent of jeopardising academic freedom and excellence and the collective interests of academic institutions in the country.

Hence, the concerns of these students and other academics that the political appointment at IIUM might have unsavoury implications, which then would serve as a bad example for other academic institutions to follow or even justify.

This episode also points to another question: is the teaching of ‘critical thinking’ in public universities as a whole equally questionable as the one taught at IIUM? If it is so, then soul-searching is required immediately in the institutions concerned.

Effective teaching of this subject requires critical analysis of many things in life, including the harsh conditions that emerge beyond campus. If anything, the realities of the larger society should provide rich teaching material to tease the minds of students.

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of critical thinking, especially among students as it has deep implications on their future careers and more importantly, the future of the country. At the very least, we don’t want our students to become a group of people who can be easily herded into narrow thinking and bigotry or doing things without much critical reflection.

It is scary enough for us to learn that not too long ago, an academic at a public university in the north of Peninsular Malaysia admitted publicly that he was easily influenced by a book he read and, as a result, he insisted that the book be banned. But then, this shocked response of ours might have developed based on a misplaced presumption that all academics in local universities are more critical and cleverer than even some of their students.

Nothing could be more critical than boosting critical thinking on campus.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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Nariko Fengl
19 Oct 2018 5.12pm


19 Oct 2018 12.15pm

Whilst I did not attend University Malaya, however I remember it was a much more vibrant place intellectually before the introduction of the University & University Colleges Act.

The UCCA was introduced to suppress student activism, such as the protests by students in support of small holders in Baling and the urban pioneers in Tasik Utara who were resisting their homes being demolished.

Now in our ‘New Malaysia’ the UCCA and other restrictions on student political activism, including protests should be abolished.

Wan Zawawi Ibrahim
19 Oct 2018 11.33am

Critical thinking should be embedded as part of any teaching module on history, culture , politics and society – or on specific subjects such as media, environment, government, political economy, international relations, development, race relations, indigenous society etc. rather than mounted as a single teaching module. It should be a part of the theoretical and epistemological component of all discourses.,substantiated by application to concrete empirical data base relevant to the respective fields of study.

Rajan Subramaniam
19 Oct 2018 10.46am

Aiyaaa.. Let them get used to this idea to express… Eventually they will start thinking…

Cheah Chachacheah
19 Oct 2018 10.37am

What do you mean? If anyone of them were thinking, they won’t be there in this crowd in the 1st place. 😂🤣

Amirol Mokka
19 Oct 2018 10.23am

Do you like what you see currently? Subjective de.

Clement Chin
19 Oct 2018 8.58am

Think like an easily offended “jaguh kampung” – Yes. Think like a globally informed citizen – No.

Keat Lee
19 Oct 2018 9.08am

Hardly critical!!!😂😂😂

Regi Lim
19 Oct 2018 9.13am

Is that a real question ?

Keith Yeoh
19 Oct 2018 8.39am


Trevor Lim
19 Oct 2018 8.30am


Syed Nurwali
19 Oct 2018 8.14am


Richard Ng Ting Woong
19 Oct 2018 8.11am

No. Not at all. They have been hindered during BN rule. Now maybe Mazlee is continuing it

Narim Byof
19 Oct 2018 7.39am

No. Period.

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