Friday, May 7, 2010

Our Learning Cultures

Having read a story of how procrastinating, last minute and everything came crashing down here is making me feeling compelled to hit out at our learning style. I showed that entry to one of my close uni friend and described this as "Malaysian culture".

I am hitting out at our culture in education. Let's talk about it, right from the start.

In primary school, when I was a kid, all I did in classroom was copying whatever teacher writes into my exercise book. I wasn't taught to think whatsoever. Why things can be right in one way or wrong in the other, I wasn't told. I was taught to memorize what is right.

Fast forward to PMR, the middle school public exam in Malaysia; and also SPM, the junior secondary school public exam. Many went to tuition centres as additional supplement to regular classes in school. You may not understand what your teachers are saying in class. Or your teachers are irresponsible people. Or you need additional support, and learn at a slower pace. Whatever your reason is that's fine. Worse still, there isn't enough time to cover the entire syllabus in school. I can even tell you right now this is so prevalent in language subjects that your class teacher can't provide enough to meet the expectations of the examinations.

To pass or score a distinction in your examinations various parties have come up with goodies to support you. Education is such a good business in Malaysia, eh? You go and ask a tip-off of questions. The tution centres attempt to predict examination questions based on previous patterns. Questions can even be spotted. The whole point is, you get your predictions right, you answer the questions well, then a distinction is in your hand, as simple as that. I can recall that my teacher gave me questions from the question pool to practise, when I sat for the actual paper, some of the questions appeared word for word.

Some of you can't cope with the learning, yet you want to score, so you resorted to rote learning. Memorizing the questions asked, and the answers for them. Why an answer is the correct answer, you don't know. Since secondary school I realized, the rote learning approach wouldn't work, it's just soooo important to know the underlying reason the answer is chosen for a question, we must always make our effort to find out. That is why I always emphasise understanding of what you are doing.

The practise of predicting what questions will appear, and memorizing the expected answer for a question, creates a bad culture. Students aren't trained to make an effort to understand what they've learnt. Then they forget everything you've learnt.

Spoon feeding is so prevalent, all we need to do was just waiting for the answer, without making the effort to find the answer. It's because the answer is there, and only one answer is accepted. So, looking at students' assignments, all you see is the same thing, written in the same style of language. Lack of personal touch.

With spoon feeding also came plagarism. Rampant plagarism. Copy and paste from the Internet is the culture, no referencing, no stating sources of information whatsoever. To my dismay, universities allow these to happen!

That is why my degree transfer juniors said to me, the learning effort requirements jump out at them when they arrive here in Australia. To do your assignment, lecturers can only tell you, at most, how to find information needed. They don't give you a fish but teach you how to fish. Plagarism is taken so seriously.

What difference does a degree from Monash Malaysia and Monash Clayton campus make? Both degrees are granted from the same university so arguably they are equivalent. But until I tell you that these graduates are exposed to learning cultures in their respective countries, you come to understand why graduate attributes differ.

One last thing, procrastination is in each of our DNA, it's the devil so you should delete that from your genes RIGHT NOW.

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