Factor in spirituality

HIGHER Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh gave his lively annual address to a packed audience yesterday at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre. His passionate speech peppered by music and live crossovers to various locations and countries made it particularly attractive to younger members of the audience.

This year the theme was Higher Education 4.0: Knowledge, Industry and Humanity – somewhat a continuum from last year's Redesigning Higher Education. This time it was framed more specifically by the idea of 4IR (4th Industrial Revolution) and hence education for 4.0 as the "new" element to be considered. If last year the term "heutagogy" (self-determined learning) was introduced, this year saw "paragogy" and "cybergogy" that is peer-oriented and virtual-based learning respectively. The question that comes to mind: how much of "self-determined" learning has been implemented and practised since last year to pave the way for the two new "suggested" learnings to be embraced this time around. Or is this old wine in the newly packaged 4IR bottle?

What is more interesting is to find out how these are relevant in bridging knowledge and humanity as suggested by them. Or to paraphrase one of the slides used: how can technology be harnessed to promote "collective wisdom"?

Here is where I find the biggest disconnect. So much of the address was centred on "technology" (presumably part of knowledge, albeit a small part) that little was said about "humanity" or the knowledge base that is closely linked to it. We are trapped again in the dichotomy of hi-tech and hi-touch; where the latter is often marginalised as in this case which is not unexpected.

This is largely attributed to the second element in the theme – "industry" that tends to call the shots and redefine things in its own terms. And "humanity" is normally not a priority as reflected by the marginalisation of "humanities" as being non-marketable as a core knowledge base.

Interestingly, the word "love" was brought into the discussion as part of LQ, namely, "love quotient" quoting Alibaba CEO Jack Ma (note the industrial link). He reckoned that this is a quotient that "machines never have" (but will according to some). And for leaders to be respected it is essential according to Ma.

Both IQ and EQ (emotional quotient) have been subject to academic debates and scrutiny that remains unresolved until today. To add LQ (which has yet to be academically understood and defined) to the ongoing debate can be challenging.

At this point my mind digressed to what is better known and studied – the spiritual quotient or SQ. That it was not mentioned is disappointing as this would have opened up a wider discourse in understanding "humanity" and its position with respect to knowledge and industry.

Moreover "spirituality" is part of the six student aspirations in the Education Blueprint. What is more the falsafah pendidikan kebangsaan together with its physical, intellectual and emotional dimensions.

To that extent the address was a mind-opener but not so to the heart and soul. Hopefully this will be taken up by fellow academics in trying to give a fuller discourse on the theme.

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