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CONFERENCE HAPPENINGS: Some lessons for Malaysian organisers
THE American Educational Research Association annual (Aera) meeting is one of the largest of any professional association, with over 15,000 participants.
For this year, Vancouver is the site for the conference, themed "To know is not enough" -- suggesting that knowledge must be utilised for good.
Conference leaders reaffirm the soundness of their strategic mission "to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good".
With the cooperation of Aera and various national educational research associations, including from Malaysia, the World Educational Research Association (Wera) was founded and promises to make a great impact on the world educational landscape in the future.
During the conference week, academicians, researchers and teachers alike will expound their current research endeavours and innovations, invite comments and criticisms and raise various telling provocative questions such as -- "Can those who do not speak English be gifted; "Is the colour of justice black or white".
The conference is also an occasion used by the universities to get their alumni together. Young and older academicians and emerging academicians come together for networking and mentoring and on the ideas hunt, as well as exploring for research projects and novel ideas.
The annual meeting is also a celebration of generations of scholars, who worked together, mentored their students and pass on ideals such as "A teacher will live on through his or her students".
Throughout such conferences colleagues and students honour their peers and their elders by celebrating the "legacies" of those who have contributed to the various disciplines of educational knowledge and to their students.
Sometimes there are surprises -- such as meeting cartoonist Colin Upton who is familiar with Lat's works, with a particular favourite, the Kampung Boy!
The Aera conference and similar conferences are not just about rituals but are about pushing the frontiers of educational knowledge further, honing and nurturing the growth of educators and about the making of professionalism and academic legacy.
Event and conference organisers in Malaysia can learn many useful lessons from conferences such as the Aera conference. This we must do for now Malaysia has world class conference organisers.
Their challenge and charge is to ensure that conference happenings have rich content, formal and informal, at every corner and niche, where there should be ample opportunities for non-formal learning.
Are our conferences occasions which allow our young as well as our elderly academicians and thinkers to be critical and to have space to think objectively, creatively or imaginatively?
Do our conferences allow for the free flow of ideas or are there ready censor boards to debunk any novel idea or any out-of-the-box initiatives?
Are we trained to do self-censorship to the extent that we dare not explore any out-of-the-box ideas or initiatives?
What is the formula for being innovative and having the will to dare disturb the Malaysian universe as defined by the powers that want to be?