Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Allow Student Initiatives

Written by johnleemk on 4:52:42 pm Jul 7, 2007.

One thing school administrators in Malaysia — especially, it seems, the younger generation of teachers — are afraid of is student initiatives.

From my understanding (though I have no first-hand experience of this), many old and/or elite/semi-elite schools have teachers who don't mind supporting student projects.

But in most of the schools I have attended, there is a noticeable tendency to forbid students to contribute their views and ideas. Most schools hold activities based on what the teachers, rather than the students, think is best, and a few actively reject student-contributed ideas.

Often, students end up as those carrying out the grand schemes of teachers. The teachers often act in what they think is the best interest of the students, but they are prone to imposing their own ideas and preconceptions on the students.

Nobody stops to consider what the students want. There is a great fear that students are irresponsible, that they cannot carry out and implement a plan; that all they want to do is have fun, consequences be damned.

That of course is true — but doesn't every human want to have fun? The reason we aren't doing drugs and partying 24/7, of course, is that we recognise we have to delay our gratification in order to have it.

What reason is there to think that young people, the youth, don't recognise this? Why are the young considered too irresponsible to be listened to? Why is it that the only time their opinions are given any thought is when the parents are called in?

The young are fully capable of contributing reasoned opinions, but only if they are encouraged to. The present paradigm, at least from what I can ascertain in the schools I have been to, is that the only opinions worth listening to are those of the adults.

I have never seen a school activity which was the brainchild of a student. There have been many activities thought up by teachers and implemented by students, but nothing which a student actually thought of and saw through to fruition.

Students look like irresponsible brats only because we don't trust them to be responsible. When my scoutmasters gave us the freedom to plan our troop activities, we acted independently but appropriately because we knew how and where to draw the line — nobody had to tell us, nobody had to set us straight.

We are fed a lot of bullshit in moral education about how our country is a democracy, and why things work best if we can bring all viewpoints to the table.

But how can we ever learn about democracy and about taking the initiative if we are never given the chance to practice it? Schools have to recognise that their role is not to supplant students' wills, but to supplement them and guide them.

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