Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tidak, Apathy!

Discordant Dude's post "Can You Hear The Gen Y Sing?" is in the running for the People's Choice Award. Read the other 4 contestant articles and VOTE HERE

"This generation of Malaysian youth seems to chorus with John Mayer’s song Waiting On The World To Change. Inaction apparently permeates this generation - labelled by some as Generation Y - whose presence dominates our education system.

To our dismay, our education system is not in sync with Generation Y and way too often finds itself singing in a different key. While I believe much institutional change is needed to revitalise our schools and universities, I will be for the most part looking at actions that can be undertaken on an individual level in this essay.

Thus, my primary concern is on educating the Generation Y of Malaysian youth. How can educators sing in-tune with Generation-Y students and play a more pivotal role in shaping the minds of tomorrow?

Now, John Mayer’s song on the one hand seems to cry apathy, but on the other hand suggests that this apathy is actually very much misunderstood:

“Me and all my friends, we’re all misunderstood,
They say we can stand for nothing and there’s no way we ever could.
Now we see everything that’s going wrong with the world and those who lead it,
We just feel like we don’t have the means to rise above and beat it.”

My contention is that the apparent inaction of Generation Y is very much misconstrued as a form of apathy, when really it is a despairing sense of powerlessness and disillusionment with the clarion call for change of the good old days. To begin our battle against inaction is to first understand that this inaction is enveloped in powerlessness and not apathy.

Therefore, my role as an educator is chiefly one of empowerment – empowering a generation jaded with political process and public participation which seemed to offer nothing but empty promises.

Generation Y is now shaped by the new digital era, which is characterised by a saturation of information. In the Malaysian context and more precisely within our education system, information is too often imported and not contextualised.

Consequently, the first empowerment strategy is to contextualise information for a generation that longs to make sense of things. Malaysian educators must begin writing their own textbooks, localising the different forms of assessment and adapting pedagogical practices to our immediate context. In other words, we must “Malaysianise” our syllabus and classroom to bring relevance to Generation Y.

Generation Y also has the attributes of being an instant generation that wants everything fast and has an affinity for visual rather than text. In some sense, we can say that Generation Y owns a different language and hence requires a different medium of instruction.

So the next empowerment strategy is to contextualise our medium of instruction by speaking a language that Generation Y can relate with. This may mean a more visual and participative learning environment for a generation that is easily dulled. Malaysian youths are not apathetic – they need educators to help them connect to the issues surrounding them and locate their niche in affecting change. The boomer’s mentality of a grander vision of change just doesn’t work anymore.

In order to connect with Generation-Y students, our education system definitely needs more Generation-Y educators, or at least educators that attempt to understand Generation Y.

Of course, the unattractiveness of the academia to young people and the issue of brain-drain both have a lot of institutional implications. Nonetheless, there is much we can do on the ground level to inculcate a more pleasant environment for Generation-Y educators.

Having to work with boomers, Generation-Y educators may easily be misunderstood and discriminated against for their idiosyncrasies and fragmented approach to teaching, due to their disregard for a one-size-fits-all approach.

My personal experience is one which tells of being exhausted by trivialities such as dressing, hairstyle, physical appearance and unnecessary rules and regulations.

What Generation-Y educators need is a meaningful sense of vocation that perhaps can be sustained through peer support. In this regard, I have been able to initiate such informal support groups which provide a platform for the sharing of struggles and ideas for young educators. In a world where so much is misunderstood, a tad bit of understanding can push this new breed of educators a lot further.

Having said all this, do we now stand at a distance and wait for the world to change or do we rise above the system and beat it where we can? As a Generation-Y educator teaching Generation-Y students, my choice is to learn the tune of our Malaysian youth and change the one of our education system.

Do you hear the Gen Y sing? I do. I even hear their cry.


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