Khamis, 25 September 2008

The Revival of Malaysian University Political Philosophy: Special Reference to Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS.


As the curtain of Ramadhan falls down, and the victory of Syawal lights up, almost all campuses in Malaysia will be focusing on campus politics or also known as PRK in its Bahasa Melayu acronym.


It is my utmost concern to observe, analyze and provide alternative solutions on the current problems that has plaguing the campus politics in Malaysia.

 

I will narrow down my view on this matter specifically towards my very own Ivory Tower, Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP), alas it can also be considered and applied to other campuses which share the same problem as ours.

 

Before we analyze, let us review some basic premises of UTP:

 

*Structure of UTP

 

Based on my observation in the last 4 years, the core group of people that really uphold the very foundation of UTP can be classified into three groups:

 

1)     Management

2)     Lecturers

3)     Students ( undergraduate/post-graduate)

 

By identifying, segregating the roles and the nature of this group of people, we can find a better common ground and qualities that can be shared among each other.

 

*Environment of UTP

 

What I meant by environment here must not be understood as merely physical boundary of the campus but more focus upon the abstract notion of the reality that exist in campus itself. Based on my observation, the reality of UTP environment can be seen as:

 

1)     Apolitical based campus politics

2)     Purely academic based university which specialized in technical science

3)     Students are docile-yet-rebellious in nature.

 

These 3 criteria are being derived based on my own observation and I am sure we can add more of the details later if we discuss further.

 

*The Problems

From these classification which I think can be elaborated further upon the changing circumstances that happen inside the campus, I have identified few major problems/challenges that need to be addressed by upcoming UTP leaders.

 

1)     Westernization of thoughts

 

Judging on the notion above surely this topic can never be addressed in its complete manner at this period of time as we are all aware that the problem of westernization is not only confined inside UTP campus as the nature of problem is a civilizational one.

 

Nonetheless, as a university student, one must be concern and critical enough to evaluate the influence and impact of these thoughts upon the livelihood of the students, lecturers, and the management members.


First and foremost, I am not xenophobic to the Westerners. When I defined ‘westernization’ it means the cultural, and philosophical encroachment that has been steadily on the rise among the students and other members of UTP. And this problem merely an abstract one and lies discretely inside the mind of the subjects (i.e students, lecturers, management).


To understand this problem carefully, one must refer to various books, journals and articles that have been nicely kept in the library. Further discussions have to be made by the upcoming student leaders with fellow lecturers who share the same concern as ours.

 

We can see clearly some of the side effects (which means, not the root cause) of the westernization of thoughts in this few examples and situations:

 

  • Clothing
  • Ethics ( Adab) of students with lecturers
  • Excessive entertainment based lifestyle which leads to a hedonistic one.

 

As usual thins thing can be elaborated further if we think seriously.

 

2)     The Corporatization of University

 

This is one big problem currently being faced by almost all universities in the world today. The boundary of knowledge, wisdom and information has been blurred in this era by the introduction of slogans like ‘globalization’, ‘modernization’ and ‘development’ into the discourse of vision and mission of a university.

 

In UTP case,  I have seen how the university management, lecturers and the students got confuse in defining the nature and the role of knowledge, university and other key concepts that are central to the foundation of a 'University'.

 

One of the best examples to describe the corporatization of university is by introducing Key Performance Indicator (KPI) among the lecturers. I have no qualm when this thing being implemented upon the management people as the nature of their job is a pragmatic one (i.e writing report, organizing event etc.).

 

But not to the lecturers who plays a big role in transmitting knowledge from God to the students.

 

One of the great Muslim scholar of the past by the name of Imam Al-Zarnuji in his book Taalim al-Muta’alim (Instruction of the Student: The Method of Learning) had stressed upon the role of teachers (i.e lecturers) are like the pipelines that connect the Giver of Knowledge (God ) and to the receiver of Knowledge (students). If the pipelines are rusty then the knowledge will not be flowing easily to the students or perhaps the knowledge that they have received will be devoid from values that could shaped the student so be a better human being.

 

Thus, the importance of intention (niat) between the students and lecturers must be clear. If one learns for the sake of CGPA then he/she will only memorize the knowledge for the sake of the exams and will never think the relation of knowledge that he/she has with the society and ultimately with God the All Knowing.

 

The problem of KPI can be diagnosed in various angle but the most important one is in its philosophical context.

 

Knowledge is not value free. It will never be.

 

If a chemical engineer creates a product he/she must understand the impact of his/her product upon the society in long/short term manner, and the impact of the product upon the socio-economic condition of mankind as a whole.

  

How could a nuclear scientist who creates an atomic bomb declare his invention free from values when on the very next day, one of his/her atomic bomb product kills off hundreds of innocent people?

 

The question is not merely about who use the bomb but also why the bomb is being created for that user in the first place!If you know Hitler is going to slaughter the Jews with chemicals why on earth the scientist participate in the project?

  

So by having KPI, one will need to adhere explicitly with its “bases” and “stretches” without ever thinking the BIG PICTURE of the WH questions in the first place.

 

Let us give an example about Engineering Economy. A lecturer who adhere to certain goals of KPIs will need to follow strictly (or should I call chasing?) the direction of the process. Thus, he/she will become a mechanized lecturer who teaches the students for the sake of completing his/her KPIs!

 

In order to curb this, we must ask the WH questions. Maybe some of it could be:

 

1) Why Engineering Economic needs to be taught to the students? Is it due to university requirement only or there is a bigger problem that these students need to solve once they have graduated from this place?

 

2) How are we going to improve the current practices of engineering economic that being widely used in the industry? Can we provide new paradigm of economic that could we integrate the concept of sustainable development within its lesson?

 

And recently this KPI-styled method has been incorporated into the academic life of UTP students in the name of Consequence Management. I am not sure whether the university and the sponsors have consulted any educationist before implementing this mechanism. I found it rather undemocratic and unfair towards the students who they themselves have not been given any chances to debate on this matter in the first place.

 

This goes back to the definition and the purpose of university. Why a university should exist in the first place? Is it for the sake of producing more competent worker or producing a truly great human being who could also be a competent worker in the same time? There are huge differences between producing a Chemical Engineering graduate alone than producing a Great Human being who holds a degree in Chemical Engineering. You can see the difference in focus and purpose between these two examples and of course this will lead to a different methodology, pedagogy etc. in managing the educational process of the university.

 

A university, historically was not a place to produce technical skills graduate. Rather it was a place to produce mind that could produce wonders in various discipline in life.

 

A university is a place to reflect the purpose and the meaning of life. That was how Oxford and Cambridge started out after modeling the tertiary education system that once thrived in the Islamic World in such places like the Andalusia and Baghdad. Newton is not a physicist but a philosopher in the first place. Only we, after the Industrial Revolution has distorted the very definition of university where we have been conditioned with the notion of ‘to be developed’, ‘to be globalized’ and the vague term of ‘to be modernized’ which mostly confined us to the educational philosophy that preaches pragmatism and utilitarianism in life.

 

I will relate this problem with the fourth problem below.

 

 

3)     Disintegration of campus society

 

In Malaysia we all know very well how polarized we have become between each race. This problem becomes much worse in UTP with the availability of the international students. We can see how disintegrate we have become inside the campus. The international students seem lost in this diverse culture and tradition of the Malaysian societies. It seems very little local students who are willing to guide them (perhaps due to language barrier) in promoting the understanding of our culture and tradition. The international students end up mixing among their countrymen only and sometimes due to very shallow understanding of Malaysian culture, they portray a very bad image upon the local students.

 

 

This problem must not to be blamed solely upon the international students because as locals, be it students, lecturers and the managements, our duty is to bridge the differences between our culture and theirs too. We do not ask them to assimilate but only to adapt.


We can also see the rise of individualism among the UTP students be it in academic or social field. This problem has made campus life a very dull one thus making each of the students retreat to their very own confinement: playing video games, watching movies or becoming love birds.


Their sense of belonging towards the campus society revolves around academic matters and on basis of profitability in their life as student in UTP. Very small number of students who willing to risk themselves academically to participate in sudent activism.

 

More less the activities in UTP are more about fulfilling personal interest that has very little to do with the ‘Nation Building’ process. How could a concert, playing video games (excessively) produce a serious environment and atmosphere that could help produce a future Noble prize winner or perhaps the next CEO of PETRONAS when even the book collection of the late Tan Sri Azizan (do the students know him?) in the library seems being left untouched by the students!

 

So this individualistic environment must come to halt ASAP. We need to be more like the public university where the community is strong and lively. They are not perfect either but at least their life does relate back with the bigger society outside as various kind of people interact with the university formally or informally.

 

This mad rat race for 4 flat GPA/CGPA must be abandon. Instead let us nurture the love of learning among the students and hopefully they will learn not for the sake of Consequence Management but due to love of knowledge that define us a human being and our close knit relationship with nature and the omnipotence God. Engineering is more than just equations, its about solving problems of humanity at large.

 


4)     Patriotism/ Loyalty.

 

It is no longer a secret among the oil and gas family members (including us the undergraduate) regarding the brain drain syndrome that occurred among the Malaysians especially. We know how big the numbers of people who had left, going to leave and planning to leave our very own oil and gas company for various reasons to a greener pasture overseas. Our engineers are being pinching like hot cakes by the overseas company.

 

I just can’t imagine the after effect of this problem when in future, the bulk of the employee of our national oil company would be from UTP. Definitely in a large organization where most of its members came from the same background, they will subconsciously portray the same culture and understanding in the organization itself.

 

How they view happiness, success, progress and loyalty can be pre-determined as early as their life in university. This is the place where a youth tries to shape his idealism of his life.

 

For a mere egocentric brainy student, he/she does not careless about the organization except the number of ‘0’ that appears on his/her pay check. They will never match the zeal and the loyalty of the Young Turks who start humbly with only RM 10 million that was given by the late Tun Razak.

 

These Young Turks (which includes my mum and dad) have different worldview when it comes to their career in this oil and gas industry. Their happiness is not merely being restricted on the numbers of ‘0’ on their pay check rather they see themselves as the vanguard of our nation’s resources. This old group of professional is very humble and strictly loyal to the nation.

 

Do you think, the Generation Y of UTPians can match their characteristic or even perhaps their contribution towards the nation?

 

I can bet the Human Resource Management of our national oil company can save a lot of money for the training purposes of their future employees that came from UTP if the student leaders, lecturers and the management have already equipped them with the right kind of attitude, vision, life-long learning as well nurturing the right world view that caters the understanding of very important concept such as the meaning of true happiness, success and the ultimate purpose of life.

 

I can see that by having Consequence Management, this goal will be harder to attain as the demand of the Consequence Management relies heavily on the digits of the students CGPA.

 

Consequence Management and KPIs can never ever and ever measure sincerity, loyalty,patriotism, and other hidden qualities that the students, lecturers and management people have inside them. I believe the older generation of engineers in our national oil companies echoes this same view, as during their time the true goal is not about their personal success only,  but rather for the sake of our nation’ survival too.

 

It is a very big and futuristic issue but yet it is very relevant to ponder upon.

 

The Way Forward

 

So to all budding candidates of Pilihan Raya Kampus 2008/2009 you must think in this context IF you want to see some radical changes inside our campus and perhaps in the future of our country.

 

We have seen the same old model in managing and leading the students organization over these years that end up producing very little or nothing at all in radically change our campus life (except parking spaces and other material needs).

 

I maybe an idealist but that is the basis of every grand success that humanity has ever achieved. Every scientific advancement and technological wonder starts with this symbol:

 

?

 

The success that we have today starts with some sort of philosophical foundation and what I have outlined above basically tells you the same story albeit in a smaller context of our campus life.

 

Personally if you asked me “how am I going to change UTP?”

 

 I would say in our limited capacity, how about we start to build a vibrant knowledge-driven intellectual culture in our beautiful campus of Tronoh.

 

Why is that? Because I think this is the thing where everybody can goes along whether you are a student, lecturer or management people or be it you are locals or international students.

 

Knowledge is the central character of a life in a university. Knowledge has been embraced by all civilizations and can transcend the period of time and space. Knowledge is the key to find the real purpose of life which can govern our purpose of being a student, lecturer or management people in UTP. This is the common ground I have been talking about all this while. We can set our differences apart and build our trust and vision upon the love of knowledge that could enlighten us with wisdom!

 

It does not need any budget approval from the Student Support Services Department (although a proposal might helps) and what we need is our inquisitive mind as well few books that we can borrow freely from our nice-looking-empty-seated library.


Only that for a starts.

 

UTP student leaders need to have skill to dissect and sort out the REAL ISSUES from the petty ones.

 

If you think like what our politicians do, of course your plan will only last about 2 semesters. How about the next-President of MPP try to think like our Chancellor? Yes, no body can denies that Tun Mahathir is a man of vision. Why can’t we, or specifically the upcoming student leaders of UTP  think like him in building a legacy worth to be inherited by our juniors later on?

 

I have tried my best in my stint as Vice President of Rakan Muda UTP to start this thing last year. Due to unforeseen circumstances that might jeopardize the stability and survivality of the club, I can’t do more than what I have done earlier and also due to the time constraint as currently I’m stuck in level 57 in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. Alas I have never give up in building this dream in UTP.

 

Petty issues like parking spaces, events management, and bla..bla..bla can be delegated 100% to the juniors in Rakan Exco. Give them chance to shine so that they can easily fill into your shoes later on.

 

The seniors must take heed and start building the foundation of intellectual progress inside our campus. Once we lay the proper foundation, the culture will grow steadily until it becomes a tremendous phenomenon just like how crazy Euphonious, DOTA and Prison Break has engulfed the mind of UTPians all this while. It has been proven that this kind of knowledge culture has thrived well in Oxford and Harvard albeit their students are naturally inclined towards a hedonistic lifestyle.

 

Start somewhere with small ideas. You will see it being nurtured by the Almighty if you do it sincerely no matter what people says or ridicules you.

 

Remember the experience of how Prophet Muhammand uprooted the jahiliyah tradition? Everybody think it was an impossible act, yet you can see now how big the success that started from a small, but a very defining revolution 1500 years ago.

 

It all started with the changing of mindset, the worldview of the Arabs.

 

It is not about who controls the political realm, it is about giving the correct meaning in its proper places of their life here and in the hereafter!

 

It takes 700 years for Andalusia to stamp his mark, and another 600 years for the Ottomans to be placed in the history book.

 

Ok, my intention is only to stimulate your mind to think. The mechanism on how to do it can be done by your own or from personal consultation with fellow lecturers, ustaz or any other seniors who are inclined toward this project.

 

For further reference regarding this matter, you can read some of my views here.

 

Till then hope this coming PRK will be a different one. All the best!

 

Sincerely,

 

Wan Ahmad Fayhsal a.k.a Sosialis Kanan a.k.a Rausyanfikir,

Going to Final Year,

Chemical Engineering,

UTP.

 

 

P/S: Sorry for the grammar. I am writing this in a rush since I have few articles that need to be finished.

6 ulasan:

Izwan berkata...

Aku baca tak habis lagi time nih..

Tapi melalui apa yang aku baca, aku faham serba sikit..

Saudara memang kreatif dan rajin..

Saya mengagumi anak muda semacam ang..

Bukan Senang nak tengok orang menulis berjela-jela macam ang dan mengkaji sedalam ang..

Kawan-kawan aku semua puji penulisan hang..

Depa kata, mamat ni umur berapa dan macam dia boleh menulis sampai macam nih..

Tahniah saudara..

Teruskan!!

Rausyanfikir berkata...

T Kasih.Semoga kita dapt lahirkan lebih ramai penulis, pemikir dan intelektual yg dpt mengubah negara kita ini.

Wayfarer berkata...

I guess d artikel is 4 ur juniors in UTP but I want 2 add that generally we tend to forget the origins of Universities: The fact that people still talk of professors holding the 'Chair' of their subject" is historically based on the "traditional Islamic pattern of teaching where the professor sits on a chair & the students sit around him" The term 'academic circles' is derived from the way in which Islamic students "sat in a circle around their professor," & terms such as "having 'fellows', 'reading' a subject, & obtaining 'degrees', can all be traced back" to the Islamic concepts of Ashab, Qara'a & Ijazah - tp byk benda baru dpkenalkn (video) jubah graduation skrg masih ada hood?

Why sometimes they don't mention what happened in d middle ages? (e.g. I went 2 a Masters lecture on Friday which skipped this)

What hv Universities become nowadays? What use is good grammar with no content? (klau dua² bagusla) - ok smbng komen dkt artikel sblm yg ttg bahasa tu...

Rausyanfikir berkata...

Agree mr wayfarer. This is why I deeply stress among my colleague to think deeper about campus problem rather than pathetic issues that being caused by the fundamental problem. But sadly that is their general mode of thinking. Very hard to convince political minded student.

Rausyanfikir berkata...

I saw one good book by Prof. Cemil Akdogan of ISTAC about Optics.

Christon berkata...

Hello there, came across your blog while googling, I'm from UTP too, and I have to say, it's pretty interesting to see what you've written here, it's well thought out.

I'll just comment on your main three ponins yeah.

1. Westernisation of thoughts

I think the term here is not really westernisation, but rather globalisation, where our whole world is conforming to single common pattern in a modern society. I will say that you would be right to say it started from the west, specifically America because they dominated the media. But is it a problem? It is true that the degredation of moral values is something we don't like from the west. However, many ideas and technology from the west has benefitted Asia. Just look at this, you're blogging, it was never an Asian idea to begin with. Someone from the Western world was creative enough to make something as useful as this, same goes for things like YouTube, healthcare technology. They may not always give it to us for free, but this blog is not about that, it's about what we adapt from the west. Globalisation, or westernisation as you put it, I don't think it's a problem, it's a phenomenon. What matters is how you respond to it. Unfortunately, many people were unprepared, and may have fallen from a moral standpoint, people like you perhaps were more prepared.

2. Corporatisation of Universities

I agree with your simple corporatisation of universities is wrong and is simply bad. Being simply results driven in education is wrong, and is a struggle our country has had for decades.

Evaluating by KPI alone is bad. I will say though, that there needs to be some kind of evaluation process so that people will know they need to do well. I will tell you colleges like Taylors and so forth have evaluation techniques for their lecturers, and I don't need to inform you of how well their students do (an indication that they are able to impart knowledge properly)

Knowledge is not value free. You are right. You may be right that perhaps our university is not so equipped in making sure we produce architects, engineers and not suicide bombers. One thing though, other top universities aren't either. At the end, it is up to the individual to choose what to do with knowledge. Surely you would agree at university level, a person can differentiate between right and wrong? It is the individual's choice.

I think "consequence management" in UTP is important. Why? This may be rash, but it's simply to keep the idiots out of the university. UTP does not host the toughest exams in the world, if you score below the valued mark, you're simply not appreciating your place in university. I can tell you that the industry is looking for people who can work, not just people with the right attitude.

I will say though, you are right that disciplinary approaches like this can sometimes be a bit too technical based rather than psychological which is an important aspect too, I'm sure you agree.

3. Disintegration of campus society

I think it's interesting to note the international students, because yes, they are notably detached from Malaysian students.

But the main cause of disintegration of campus society stems from Malaysians themselves, as you mentioned polarisation is there.

In UTP, it's impossible not to be a some sort of individualist, whether mild or not. I think you know, simply academic life alone in UTP is hectic. So yes, they do retreat to entertainment. About love birds, it's their social life, who are you and I to judge people of the people and friends they choose to be with?

About Nation Building, you are right, gaming doesn't really help that, but I think you've confined nation building to simply attending merdeka rallies and so forth (which are good by the way). There's so much more to it. You know, concerts, let's take a local UTP example, Euphonious finals. A HUGE population of students go there to watch and they don't care who is there (regardless of race, color) You know things like that have the power to unite people, bring people together because of a common interest, that is nation building, uniting people.

I understand your views may be heavily influenced by your religious stand and I'm fine with that. I'm just saying these views of mine as someone who shares a point of view of a lot of other people as well.

Cheers. =)

Oh, by the way. I think you should disable comment moderation. Don't bother too much if you get nasty feedback. It's always interesting for everyone to know what everyone else thinks anyway. Well written. Oh, and your grammar's pretty good, may be even better than mine, haha!