I would probably get “kicked” for asking this question. How dare I ask this when we often hear that “education is the bedrock of the nation”.
Of course I agree that education is the bedrock of the nation but the more important question is: what kind of education and what in the world is “education” really?
In today’s Malaysia, I am afraid most assume that one with a degree is an “educated person”, whatever that means. That may or may not be that case. To be educated would mean that you have acquired skills and have actually undergone systematic teaching (and understood them), done your assignments properly (not plagiarised), undergone evaluation (examinations) and all these done within a specific time period. These are the general characteristics of an education.
As to whether we are producing quality graduates is another issue altogether. For example, we may actually not have taught them any skills or worse, skills that are not useful to living and life. The course content could very well be substandard or worse irrelevant. The assignments are not evaluated properly or even the subject matter of the evaluation is not of high quality requiring reasonable research or thinking skills because the idea is to ultimately pass them.
The other matter which is often confused is the assumption that an educated person must necessarily have good thinking skills. To succeed in life, whether personal or business, you require good thinking skills. Without good thinking skills, you will end up being inefficient in your work, making wrong decisions in your life and easily duped by “authoritative” figures.
Lack of thinking skills also makes a person easily influenced by prejudices, pre-conceived notions, norms and mind control techniques often employed subtly in politics, religion and businesses.
There is a huge difference between education and learning.
One can obtain knowledge from education, learning and experience. Education is time-specific (for example, the duration of the degree programme) but learning is eternal so long as the person has the intrinsic motivation to continue learning. A learned man, therefore, has a wider horizon than a mere educated man who would probably be like a horse wearing blinkers.
I would therefore argue that a good education policy is one that not only emphasises quality and relevant education in a certain field, but a programme that instills the attitude of learning. It must also highlight the importance of acquiring thinking skills such as creative, analytical, and critical thinking.
So I would humbly conclude that quality education that enhances the cognitive skills of its citizens is the bedrock of the nation.