Thinking and Education

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Continuous Education

Training Leaders in School

One of the main characteristic of a leader is the ability to speak up in public. Generally we might find that the people who are knowledgeable and thoughtful tend to be a little withdrawn. If possible educators should encourage and train every child to speak in public. Fear of public speaking is the no. 1 fear of almost everyone. When it happens that the brave ones to speak are also not so capable, then we are likely to have poor leaders. Every opportunity must be given to every child to speak up. In a situation where everybody can speak up without fear the speakers with little or no substance will be found out. We will then be left with leaders of knowledge and ability.

Looking around our country today, we find that there is a dearth of good leaders. When people who have no substance take over important positions in the country, we are opening ourselves to disaster. The greater danger is that some people think that one or two bad leaders are ok. Its like saying that a small leak in the dyke is ok. As in chess, the slightest weakness will cause the collapse of the kingdom.

What may compound the problem is if we have a preferential system. In the old days when the rulers’ sons succeed the rulers, sooner or later the bloodline will produce a dud. Nobody will criticise. The rot will set in. In a society practicing any kind of discrimination, there will be a tendency for a weak link to remain in the system as no one will want to appear to be a traitor to the in-group. The weak link will perpetuate itself. If the practice is all over the system then the impact is exponential.

In Malaysia the educational system may have compounded the problem. First we practice racial discrimination. Malays are first choice. In our effort to provide the best for the Malays the government created the Sekolah Asrama Penuh and later the Maktab Rendah Sains Mara. The best of best bumiputra students are collected in these schools.

Leadership training in schools are done thro a system of appointing students to be monitors of classes, prefects, head boys/girls, presidents, chairpersons and captains of clubs, societies and games. A school will have a limited number of such posts. Obviously there will be only 1 headboy, a very prestigious and coveted position in the school. Since the number of societies are limited, the number of chairman and captains will also be limited.

All other things being equal, if a “smart” student remains in the normal school, where the number of smart students are limited, the chances of him being selected to these leadership positions is great. My guess is that he or she who is smart will at the very least be appointed as class monitor or prefect. Now if the smart student were to be so “lucky” as to be selected to join one of the special schools, his chances of being selected will suddenly shrink as everyone of his peers will be in the running for any of the positions. Only 1 person will be selected from the whole group of smart boys to be the headboy. If there are 1000 students in the smart school his chances are 1 in a 1000. If he stays in a normal school of 1000 students, there could be 200 smart students like him. Therefore his chances of being the headboy will be 1 in 200. So if you want your children to be in the running for important leadership positions then better let him stay put in a normal school.

More importantly there is a downside to the outflow of good students from the normal schools. Assuming all the best have been lobbed off, the people selected to be leaders will be from those of a lower calibre. People with less intellectual capacity are sitting on top. The irony is they could become very good speakers and are skilful at convincing people of their abilities. We should remember that we have been practicing this system since the early days of independence

Turning our attention to the current crop of leaders in the ruling party, we can perhaps see a parallel?
What we note generally is that most of the leaders are not outstanding in a previous profession or hold a professional degree. It will be interesting if someone could do a little research to verify the above.

The greatest irony is that in trying our best to help, we could be doing a greater disservice.

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