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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Asian (Malaysian) Students

I would only like to be known only as 23, it keeps things interesting I believe. I aspire to be an advertiser and is currently looking for freelance jobs that will help me earn a buck or two cuz' my family needs it. This is no sympathy story, I just want to be honest. I am 19 going on 20 coming August and currently studying my diploma in communication. I grew up in a small town in Perak but I believe, like Superman, I'm heading for greater things in life. Well, I love to write, to speak as I so fit and to say words that are thought provoking. There are so little that are doing so and we need more I guess.

Asian (Malaysian) Students

by 23 for Writing Contest 2008

Malaysia has been moving ahead globally and economically in these past few years and we are heading to the era where we can be proud of our achievements. But I have a question, a question that has crossed my mind so many times as I sit in the lecture hall, as I observe my surroundings. Well, without further a due, the question is: *drum roll* Have our students move forward? You might ask what do I mean, well; I mean have our students, Asian students, to be more specific, Malaysian students changed? Are we still what we are the day we ended high school? Have our students grown out of the Asian mindset?

Well, to explain more, this is my thoughts. I realize that the first thing that Asian students are: they are passive, and at times, too passive. The lecturer can go on for a 3hour lecture and no questions are asked, at all. Can our brain really understand fully what is taught or are we just too shy or nervous to ask a question, afraid that people will look down on us if we don’t understand? I, firsthand experience these situations. My friends that don’t understand will not raise their hand to ask, as if it is a crime. I believe this is happening because it is, and always have been, embedded in Malaysian students mind that asking is wrong, or shows weakness. Some even tremble when asked to answer. Whatever happened to just trying? Suddenly it is wrong to make mistakes or to ask.

I have been asked once why Malaysian students or better yet, Asian students are so afraid to speak out or to raise a thought or question in class. It may even seem that the lecturer may not want us to do so, afraid that they might not be able to answer or that the student may seem more superior. I have to say that this type of thinking is the fact that is causing Malaysian students to be behind other students from different countries.

Have you ever entered a class and there are writings on the whiteboard and everyone immediately copies everything down not knowing what is it for? Well, I have and I had to question this. This is another flaw that we, Malaysian students, follow or let ourselves follow. No one ask what is it for or whether it’s important but we are like copy machines that just jots everything down but has no clue what it’s for. If we are so prone to copying everything and not asking or thinking before doing something, then we will not move ahead, will we?

My advice is to just collect all your guts and nerve and just ask if you don’t know, speak if you have something on your mind and everything else will fall into place. This has always worked for me and I believe it will work for Malaysian students. There can never be enough of questions ask, I believe. Do or study something you love and know will excel, DO NOT follow what parents or society thinks is best for you or has set for you, only you know what you like. Fight for what you want!

Students, for example, American students are always encouraged to think out of the box, to be different, to be a trendsetter not a follower and always ask questions that nobody dares ask, and this is why their country is in the 1st world category and ours isn’t. I was on a trip to Malacca and there was a school trip all the way from England that came here to learn our culture, and these students were no more than 12 years old. The thing that intrigued me is that the questions they ask are so much higher than our students will ever ask. They wanted to know so much of things and they were like bees asking questions. Why can’t our students learn from these young ones? Or is it pride that blinds us? Being shy perhaps?

If people want to argue that Malaysians are too shy and passive because it is our culture, I agree but till when will we be shy? How long till those that are brave enough to stand out outshine us? We are consumers of products created by other countries, when will we be those that create and others consume?

I, on my part, do my best to be different, ask questions that no one dares to ask. I want to make a difference, don’t you? If we stay on like this, we will not move anywhere. I end this with a quote, “Only the brave shall survive and the passive perish.”
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  1. You've got your point there and I do agree. I believe that for students to think out of box, the first step to do is through questioning.

    For students to start question, the first thing to do is to make them feel comfortable from the beginning of their education life. But, because with Malaysian education system is being the way it is at the moment, with some teachers being lazy and irresponsible (&%#^&^*@), many of these students are not encourage to ask if they have any question.
    In fact, some teachers never encourage Q and A session.

    Encouraging students to question is just not merely answering their question but it requires motivation and praise along the way. However, once again, this is not model by many teachers in Malaysia. How many teacher do you know that actually praises and give feedback on students' questions/comments? I only know 1 teacher that does that for my entire education life in Malaysia...and that number is very pathetic.

    So, with lack of support from the beginning, it is not a surprise that students are merely see as a fact producing machine without having to understand the applications.

    It's very heartache truth =(

    That's why I urge those teachers that do not put their heart into teaching to STOP teaching and forget about going into this noble field because they are just nonsense that disadvantage students from their knowledge development!

  2. 23, that was a brilliant article! I couldn't agree more that Malaysian students really don't like asking questions in class. I'm not sure if they don't like or don't want to. In all my years in school, I always see only 1 or 2 brave souls who'll ask in class. Hah, I rarely ask questions myself too, actually. I admit that sometimes I just had nothing to ask.

    Maybe that's the problem. Here are my theories on why students don't put forth questions in class:

    1. They had nothing to ask, which is absurd.
    2. They were probably sleeping and weren't paying attention. Therefore, they didn't want to embarrass themselves if they asked the teacher something that'd make the teacher know that they weren't paying attention.
    3. They are shy.
    4. They didn't want the other students to think they're stupid.
    5. They didn't want the teacher to think they're stupid.

    I can't think of anymore reasons. But I've been through all that, really. Then, after class, I'd be asking my friends and they wouldn't know how to answer me because they don't know how to! So, bottomline is, it's always best to ask the teacher.

    Also, I also hate the idea of copying everything from the blackboard. Even in university, students still copy down everything! It's kind of silly, isn't it? We go to uni to broaden our minds, to ask thought-provoking questions but we are just continuing what we've always did in school. Copy notes. It's so sad.

  3. You have given good advice to some of the students who read this, however, there are a few points to ponder; the other side of the coin if you must:

    Firstly, I do not agree that a student should ask questions during lecture, for two reasons: one, it breaks the flow of the lecture, and the interruption caused by the student may as well make the class either lose focus or lose time.

    Two, most of my lecturers (with the exception of one or two) discourage it for the same reason, and requests us to ask our questions during tutorials instead, because that is what tutorials are for. Question and Answer, giving opinions, sharing experiences etc.

    I have a course-mate who loves asking questions, making exclamations and uttering ejaculations during lectures, and for that, there are those in my course who find it disturbing, downright disgusting and utterly despicable. So if you want to adopt a question asking behaviour, I ask all of you to please know the apropriate time and place, so that the other students won't hate you for it, but rather be grateful that you have asked the questions for them, or that you have shared experiences or opinions relevant and helpful to all of them.

    Those are just my two cents.

  4. Seriously, i agree on what you said. When i was in my college class, you will hardly see anyone raise up their hand to ask question, even though the lecturer keep repeating : " any question?"
    First, why is it so? Our culture might be one of the reason, i'm not sure about other races but for chinese, "face" are everything. The failure of China at the war period is because Chinese is over concern about their pride, and yet till the current moment, they never change.
    Secondly, Malaysian english education level is not high and this is a very very serious issue which cause the students doesn't want to ask question because they will think it is very embarrassing when you can't speak out a proper english. This is a very true statement, because someone which can speak good english will always feel comfortable when they are in class because they can simply raise their hand and ask whatever they want.
    Furthermore, support from the teachers are very important, i always ask my lecturer question when i feel comfort with him/her.

  5. as it is..i'm 15...and what you have stated proved 100% correct indeed..as from what I have seen Malaysian are proud not to question and teachers are proud not to be questioned as in the case that teachers will feel glad that their teachings session will be "great" if no one questioned it means everybody understood with just one simple explanation..thus.the guilt falls on two side the teachers and students itself..as students think it is a SIN to ask and you're cool if you never ever ask...so all these elements combined together makes the "superb" P'n'P(pembelajaran dan pengajaran) in malaysia..i as a malay and bumiputera and 15 do believe..in order for us malaysia to strive out as the best we must bestow to the new way of learning&teaching as in NOW!!! and the goverment need to start FIRST!!!...rememeber asking wont kill...and if doesnt kill you it makes you better...Pluto said "never discourages a person who is making progress NO MATTER HOW SLOW"

  6. Well,I'm currently in college now and whenever we have any opinions,we just voice out and the lecturers do agree with us sometimes.even in high school,we do voice out our opinions even teachers ignored us.
    we would discuss the vary solution too! =) Not just only one solution.


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