THE issue of ‘streamless’ education or more exactly its ‘delay’ had reared its ugly head recently.
There has yet to be an official announcement but comments about it abound.
Some are positive, others are more cautious - typical when moving into unfamiliar territory.
However, the fact remains, this is the future as we go beyond 2020.
By then, the shelf-life of knowledge will be no more than 24 hours, according to one study.
One must be able to take advantage of the ‘fleeting’ knowledge before it disappears.
Meaning to say that the approach to learning, and indeed education itself, will demand a new quantum shift.
It is said that learners who can go beyond their areas of interest will benefit the most.
They are better prepared in connecting the dots and will be more informed with the knowledge in hand.
Thus the approach must be transdisciplinary, or at least multidisciplinarity in nature.
Put it another way, it is ‘streamless’ education where knowledge can be better understood in one grasp, especially when looking for a solution to a complex problem.
Climate change is one example where no one discipline or expertise can provide satisfactory, what more comprehensive answers.
As the world gets entangled in multiple chaotic crises, more and more isolated singular disciplines will be deficient in providing ‘real’ solutions.
The contrary is deemed to be more relevant instead.
It means that there will be an increasing tendency towards the convergence or unity of knowledge.
The latter is a term introduced by a renowned sociobiologist, Edward Wilson, through his book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998).
He noted that the ongoing fragmentation of knowledge is an artifact of scholarship, notably of sciences and humanities.
It is not the reflection of the real world that skewed education into what it is today, being compartmentalised into rigidly siloed disciplines.
That being the case, we need to reorient things so that knowledge can be better connected and stays relevant.
The more holistic the combination of disciplines is, the more wholesome the knowledge, making its application more widely acceptable.
This is because it allows for what is called ‘lifewide’, which is to learn by linking as many dots as possible.
In a sense, it is the opposite of ‘lifelong’ learning, which concerns more the depth of knowledge.
Graphically, education can be represented as an ‘inverted’ T with the horizontal bar representing ‘lifewide’ learning as the foundation.
The ‘lifelong’ dimension of learning is represented by the vertical bar.
Putting the two together in the ‘right’ proportion creates ‘lifeworthy’ learning, as described by the 3Ts; total, transformational and transversal, the overarching outcome of education per se.
During the ISIS Praxis conference in Kuala Lumpur last week, similar issues were also deliberated on.
The general consensus was that education must be carried out in an ongoing, holistic and integrated way.
Not as fragmented components.
This incidentally is what the National Education Philosophy (NEP) of 1996 advocated as spelt out in the Education Act.
It only boggles the mind why this was not duly adopted to the letter like in Japan and Finland.
This must therefore be urgently revisited within the proper NEP framework.
Education in Malaysia is deemed to be ‘distorted’ as suggested by a respected educationist.
He said this was due to the bureaucratic (over)regulation that limited its flexibility and autonomy for so many decades.
Added to this is the absurdity of using the Key Performance Indicators to make siloed evaluations that further isolated the various academic disciplines.
STEM is a good example where it is totally devoid of the ‘humanitarian’ dimensions.
Students are then subjected to ranking exercises to measure the quality of education.
Needless to say such conventional and outdated approaches are in fact barriers to the concept of transdisciplinarity and unity of knowledge.
They form part of the artifacts that must be dealt with.
So the suggestion to ‘delay’ streaming until the ‘right’ moment has its own merits.
To hurriedly impose it may not be as productive as intended.
And it would delay Malaysia’s support of the Sustainable Development Goals that demand the nurturing of the 3Ts mindset.
The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector