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Extrapolating Cikgu Yatt

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Are our students that emotionally vulnerable (Steinar Engeland - Unsplash)

By: Prof. Dr. Mohammad Tariqur Rahman

When Cikgu Yatt said in her TikTok video “I know why you didn’t finish your work… because you know the teacher won’t punish, hit, or scold you harshly like before” I felt she got bent out of shape. The viral video was marked by New Straits Times on 29 June 2024. I am confident that her intention was not to punish her students but to make them do their homework, i.e. learn what they should learn.

Prof. Dr. Mohammad Tariqur Rahman

Let me take the privilege to extrapolate what Cikgu Yatt said. In the Noble Quran – the book of guidance for mankind – there are warnings and fear of punishment in hell fire as well as hope for peace in paradise. The Quran is meant to be read and followed by children, youths, adults, and the elderly, irrespective of their age.

Besides those fears and warnings of punishment, Allah makes us all including children go through trials and tests in our lives – some lose parents at an early age others struggle in family hardship and suffer from diseases.

Is Allah the most Learned and most Wise being irrational and harsh to children by scaring them all with the punishment in hell or putting them in trials and struggles? No, He is not!

It is on the other hand, by nature humans need motivation, warnings, and struggles to reach the goal of life. The purpose of schooling is not an exception.

Many of our colleagues in academia who were students 30-40 years ago would agree that during our time we never felt traumatized or upset if we were beaten or scolded by our teachers in school. “Getting punished was normal” said one of those who commented on the video.

In fact, beating or scolding made us stronger to strive to improve ourselves – albeit with a few exceptions.

To Cikgu Yatt, students who didn’t complete their homework seem to lack respect and have lost their sense of shame. To many others, students nowadays seem to be more emotionally “vulnerable”.

The trend of such vulnerability seems to continue at the university level. Even postgraduate students feel traumatized if their supervisors are harsh in their criticism. Students are afraid to look at their draft thesis corrected by the supervisors with lots of corrections and stern criticism.

During the viva voce session, it seems to be a trend nowadays that an examiner needs to start commenting on the student’s work with approval that they have done a “good job” with their “hard work”. Well, they are expected to do a good job and are supposed to work hard.

Many students now are expecting that they must be motivated (pampered!) before they start their viva, or else they feel vulnerable.

It is not during the viva voce that an examiner ought to acknowledge the students’ performance. The viva voce session is meant to examine what they have learned and what they didn’t. If the student needs to be praised, that could be reflected in the grades the examiners give or at best by the congratulating notes after the session.

More importantly, the same examiner might not have the same tone of acknowledgment to all students attending viva at the same session – making room for obvious bias and discrimination. Indeed, the students need to be motivated and encouraged, at the same time we also need to know who are emotionally stable and resilient.

For teaching and learning, we seem to have adapted methodologies that do not make the students of the current generation perform better than us as we did during our time – a common agreement among many of us working in academia.

We fix learning time and learning objectives for all our students taking a course. As if learning beyond that boundary is haram! On the other hand, it was a norm that our lecturers asked us questions beyond the topics they taught us – to test if we were interested in learning more. This is how they could screen out the best of the best among us.

We are also forced to prepare questions with a given set of verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy that matches a table of learning hierarchy – without knowing what that taxonomy was proposed for.

Meanwhile, we don’t restrict students’ access to screen time, rather we encourage them to become increasingly dependent on screen learning.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that a lifestyle with increased screen time has an irreversible impact on our health – that makes us vulnerable to epigenetic changes, changes that are not related to inherited genetic changes. The majority of the diseases linked to epigenetic changes have a common symptom – intellectual disability.

From the primary to tertiary level, we are preparing a future generation who are not only emotionally weak but also lack depth of knowledge and vision. Perhaps that’s what we want and that would justify our venture toward a digital world where the human workforce will be gradually replaced by more artificially intelligent machines.

……

The author is the Associate Dean (Continuing Education), Faculty of Dentistry, and Associate Member, UM LEAD, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He may be reached at tarique@um.edu.my

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