A University explores the sciences, humanities, social sciences and the fine arts, as well as helping graduates apply their knowledge in their jobs.
A university moulds cerebral and technical skills. The emphasis between these two depends on whether they are technically inclined with focus on practical skills or are theoretical with emphasis on verbal and textual articulations.
These skills enable students to develop and fathom knowledge through constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing them into meaningful expressions, as well as the skill of applying data to hypothetical and real-life situations.
Different disciplines emphasise different knowledge, which is the result of man’s interactions with the environment.
These disciplines also examine man’s ingenuity in using his imagination and creativity to use the environment to create a conducive environment.
The humanities and social sciences involve understanding and creating awareness of human living experiences through theoretical models that use data to create algorithm for a conducive living environment.
Or creating awareness of human experiences — his belief, values and norms — through written narratives.
In the visual and performing arts, human experiences are abstracted and dramatised to create a larger-than-life situation.
Dramatic discipline requires performing (acting) and writing skills as well as the skill to create a physical and cerebral visual composition on stage.
Dance, on the other hand, focuses on developing high-level techniques in using the human anatomy to create forms and shapes, gyrations, horizontal and vertical bodily configuration in static and moving trajectories.
Kinetic energy is dispersed through bodily movements to create articulations and patterns; a high level of muscle memory is required to execute the movements.
Music requires a high level of playing techniques and cognitive perception as well as muscle memory.
Different instruments require different playing skills, but musicians must possess the ability to read music as well as develop cerebral and muscle memory.
In science and engineering, technological and cerebral skills are applied for functional purposes to develop and solve human needs for a conducive environment.
And medicine is a discipline that uses its skills for people’s wellbeing.
In all cases, the university imparts knowledge to cater for various trades.
But skills development depends on the nature of the educational environment, which includes students, teachers and the mode of knowledge transmission.
Optimum skill development occurs in an environment in which the ingredients of the educative process interact synergistically.
What is important is the culture and passion of seeking knowledge not to pass exams but to develop one’s skill and thinking process.
It is also important that the quest for knowledge is not only to better oneself but to also contribute to the community. This would require a receptive recipient and a passionate transmitter.
To change from a passive to an active mode of teaching and learning, a new method of knowledge transfer must be put in place, one that does not only give the knowledge but also the skills of critical appraisal and application of the knowledge.
An integral part of this mode of learning is reflection in which one views knowledge in whole and its parts and analyse their architectonic structure through deconstruction and reconstruction.
It means that understanding their structural framework and components would allow for their reconstruction through reassembling the components in different configurations.
This allows for the development of scholarship and expertise.
Central to scholarship is the ability to fathom manifestations of knowledge and its structural framework.
Scholarship is attainable only when there is an interaction in the transfer of knowledge between the provider and receiver that is geared to develop inquiry, scepticism and disbelief.
Thus, our education system needs to include reflection, exploration, discovery and articulation in the learning process to enable students to better serve the nation.
The writer is an emeritus professor at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang