Tag Archives: Penang English school

Imagination is More Important Than Knowledge

Hi guys,

Just thought I’d share with you what we’ve got planned for this coming holidays. Every year we do something different and this year it’s going to be a focus on learning life lessons through introspection gleaned from literature. This was in a way inspired by the trajectory I’ve been on with regards to my views on what kids today need out of an education and that premise can be glimpsed in this article I wrote a few months ago. Check it out : Love Based Learning.
Nowadays we see two kinds of problems when it comes to developing “thinking people”. First, children are not exposed to great literature. Second, they’re left to their own devices to interpret the multi-faceted layers of what they’re reading. Being children with a limited worldview they often do not have the scaffolding to make the most out of the literature they are reading.
Today after class I discussed with my Teaching Assistant the premise of this year’s Holiday Program. She was so surprised and asked me where I get such ideas from! Well, here’s the story. One of the stories we are using, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, was something she’d seen on the silver screen years ago when it came out. Recently in the plane back to Malaysia from Switzerland (how come my TA gets to go for European tour and I don’t?) she watched the movie again. She then realized there were so many beautiful lessons about life woven into the story – things that she did not see were there at all when she was a 15 year old teen.
I think it’s worth mentioning that my TA had been my student since she was 15 and is almost completing the traditional 7-year learning curve. She realized at that point that it was because of the other things she had learned over the years in our classes that she was able to appreciate the insights that allowed her to understand the creative morals and lessons embedded in that story. I cannot say the same for most adults I meet.  A lot of people I come across cannot find deep meaning and lessons from the world around them. Our world does not lack answers to solve all its problems instantly; instead, we lack the CAPACITY to process and make sense out of things, to synthesize information and to apply them to our betterment.
We live in a fragmented, segregated world and the way our children have been schooled, in fact, the way WE have been schooled, is a big cause of this kind of piece-meal, myopic, narrow-minded, thinking that cannot dissolve the world’s problems – not even our own. Where do we begin to change?
We cannot attempt more lessons, more learning, more repetition, more hard work. We have been working harder, faster, more but we’re not necessarily getting anywhere. As Einstein put it,
“Imagination Is More Important Than Knowledge.”
Perhaps that’s our clue.

Perhaps that’s where our children can start : with Imagination. And children being children one stroke of inspiration, one week of memories, can end up serving them as a guide for years to come. We know they’re not going to get this experience in school – we might as well try and create some context to give them a taste of living and learning in Imagination and Empathy.

Well, just thought I’d share my feelings about why I do what I do with you. If you’d like to participate just drop a comment. Oh, by the way, that poster’s just for show – that’s the printed out that goes out. Here’s the online version :

Have a great week ahead. And if you’d like, do join our facebook page for more updates like these or subscribe to my blog.

Best,
Sloane Mak
p/s I would be running (yes, this time, not hosting) another FREE talk for parents on the issue of language learning, future of education, etc. Date TBA. If you’re interested, send in questions you’d like answers to so we can include it in the presentation.
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Is English really necessary for our future?

At first, it might seem very strange that for someone who makes a living teaching ESL, I don’t always advocate the ‘urgency’ and ‘importance’ of grounding our nation’s young in The Internationl Tongue.

I don’t think a good command of English is NECESSARY in ensuring a brighter future for oneself or our young; it merely facilitates the processes ensuring a brighter future.

The reason why I’m making this argument today is because I worry that if I delay any longer, I would’ve delayed the realization of our future generation that they had been chasing shadows.

First things first : Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.

(1) The rate of new information doubling has been estimated at anywhere between every 6 to every 18 months.

This estimate is greatly biased towards information being produced in or translated from English.

Putting aside the consideration of whether or not the information explosion is riding on the back of the English-language, 11 years of being schooled inside walls that make a distinction between ‘school-world’ and ‘real-world’ is going to cause severe collateral damage beyond economic means to repair. The two are related : Whether or not new information is in English, the rate of new knowledge is developing too fast for effective curriculum to be designed and implemented in schooling systems. If 80% of new information is in English, the only way a learner can catch up is by having a command of English at a strength determined as ‘native-like fluency’.

While the rest of the non-native English speaking world is playing catch-up translating or adjusting their curriculum or otherwise to fit into White-Man’s knowledge-frame, the explosion in information will go on to spearhead inroads in new branches of knowledge, information and technology.

But what if 80% of new information is not in English? That’s unlikely to happen already because non-native speakers have missed the boat. The Race to Dominance was won when the Spanish, French, German, Italian and Japanese lost the respective watershed wars. Up to 20% of new information may still be found in non-English languages but they will ultimately be debated using or translated into English in order to gain validity or commercial value/use of that knowledge/discovery.

(2) The 20/80 rule, or the revised 10/90 rule (for the year 2009 onwards) also explains why

– Even if only 20% of people are native speakers of English, they dominate the movement of 80% of knowledge in important fields such as technology, medicine (patents), psychology, education, business, management, etc.

What we will see is that, 80% of the world’s way of thinking is going to be replaced by the way of thinking of these 20% native speakers.

– This being the case, 80%-90% of the cultures, values and ways of thinking of non-native speakers of English will be lost amidst the race to conform to the way White Knowledge processes and validates knowledge.

– 80% of speakers of English will actually be non-native speakers.

From this, we can see that a majority of people who are rushing to learn English as D’Lingua Franca would also have to nullify the merits and values of how knowledged is acquired, processed and validated in their culture.

I’m not arguing against the trend because the snowball had started rolling before I was born and there is absolutely nothing I can do except to enjoy the ride while it lasts.

If we are going to pay such a heavy price (loss of thinking processes, language and meaning, knowledge, etc) to acquire English as the lingua franca, then caveat emptor.

We’re buying into the idea that in some way, the English language has a higher currency than our Mother Tongue, and thus, the studies, ways of thinking and thought processes in the English language have greater currency and validity than ours. We will then conform to White Studies, since we covet knowledge, translated or otherwise, that are obtained from White Man’s universities.

We may think in simplistic ways that to do well in university is simply a matter of hardwork and a decent command of the English language. – How wrong we are. In order to get good grades and to be viewed favourably, we must think, act, behave, and process, argue and debate according to the White Man’s standards of what is valid. There are great differences in style of writing and arbitrating between White and non-white cultures as much as between any 2 cultures. Nowdays everywhere you turn only a degree from a university, that has been pegged to the White Man’s standards of acquiring information, is valid.

Before we jump the gun and think I’m anti-white I’d just like to clear the air that I’m not anti anything unless I explicitly say I am. I’ve benefited greatly from choosing to learn and produce thoughts in the traditions of the West at the cost of diluting the distinction between my ethnicity and my identity as a global citizen.

However, the point I wish to make is that there is a price to pay for acquiring English as a second or third language. The more the differences between one culture and the American-British model, the bigger the price. Knowing grammar or simply being able to identify words in print or converse competently doesn’t give one an edge in the English-speaking world. One must assimilate into the culture, contexts, semantics and thought processes of the native English speakers.

It’s no longer a valid question as to why English has to be the international lingua franca. That idea is passe….wayyy past its sell-by date. The question now is, “Is playing catch-up in English the answer in achieving egalitarian equality in all major fields in play?”

Ultimately, isn’t that the wish of parents and nation heads? To do whatever they can so that future generations won’t get left behind? The problem with this sort of thinking, though, is that their hopes of the future is framed in a point of view calculated from the time they were young, from the time they were not able to see the trend. Their hopes of the future is framed from retrospect, from their perceived loss of opportunities. So now they are preparing the next future (20-25 years from Now)based on a timeframe from 20-25 years AGO. You must do the math here because this lends a new definition of how the Future (X-from now) is framed from the Past (Now). So, no matter how we are trying to ‘prepare for the future’, we are essentially preparing for the PAST because our Hopes and Expectations of The Future is framed entirely from our movement of time from our Past to our, get this, our Past. Our past to our past! Do you understand what I mean by the second ‘past’? Physical time is essentially movement, there is no such thing as a Now, because Now becomes the Past.

See, by the time you read this blog, this frame of mind I have would already constitute my Past. I know the articulation of this particular thought of mine, as well as many other thoughts bubbling in my head, are way past their time. But I have for years chosen to hold them back, hoping that in doing so, I can lock the potential of it happening from actually happening.

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