Teaching versus Leading the Way

By Ungaran Rashid

About thirty years ago, a big company in Indonesia put an advertisement in national newspapers to hire a manager for its subsidiary. Having seen the administrative requirements of hundreds of applicants, finally, the company selected three candidates considered to be potential young managers in their subsidiary company.

Two of the candidates graduated from two leading universities in Indonesia with a CGPA of 4, and the other one graduated from a university in the USA with a CGPA of 2.9 of 4.

Shortly, they went for an interview and a written test. During the interview, the recruitment committee asked the candidates about their vision and mission for the company. The two candidates who graduated from the Indonesian universities could not satisfy the committee. The candidate who graduated from the American university, however, could clearly explain her vision and mission for the company.

Furthermore, for the written test, the committee gave one case study question for them to solve. Interestingly, only one of them could answer the assessment, the one who graduated from the American university.

What is the problem of the candidates graduating from the Indonesian universities, although their CGPAs are 4? One of the recruitment committee members, who is a good friend of mine, said that the problem of the two candidates is that they could not analyse the managerial situation during the written test, and they did not have a clear vision as a prospective manager.

As a graduate from an Indonesian educational institution, I realise that that is the picture of the Indonesian education. We were trained to memorise many theories but not taught to analyse real problem in a company.

Starting to be an academic at IIUM, I have been going through the course outline of subjects assigned for me to teach. Surprisingly, the learning outcomes of those subjects are still using some terms to describe students’ learning outcomes, such as to memorise, to explain, and to describe theories, which, in my opinion, are not applicable at the level of university education.

Otherwise, I did not see the terms to analyse, to argue, and to do problem-solving, which are essential for university students. It seems that the model of teaching and learning is similar to the model of Indonesian education. Indeed, I cannot generalise this situation to all departments/kulliyyahs, but for the required subjects that all students at the university must take, the term analyse, argue and solve problem must be part of students’ learning outcomes.

In my opinion, a lecturer is no longer an informant but a guide for students to gain knowledge and apply knowledge in daily life. I always emphasise the needs for students to read many books, not only the books related to the subjects I teach. They should also have the ability to critically evaluate the books. 

There are several advantages that students and lecturers can obtain through this kind of reading, besides practising the thinking skills. Firstly, as readers, they will have the ability to present a point of view in structured, clear, and well-reasoned ways that could convince others. Secondly, they will have the ability to identify other people’s positions, arguments, and conclusions. Thirdly, the readers will have the ability to evaluate the evidences for alternative points of view.

Fourthly, they will be able to read between the lines, seeing behind surfaces, and identify false and unfair assumptions. Fifthly, the readers will be able to conclude whether the arguments presented in the books are valid and justified based on authentic evidence and sensible assumptions. Sixthly, the readers can weigh up opposing arguments and evidence fairly. Lastly, the readers will be able to recognise the technique used to make certain positions more appealing than others, such as false logic and persuasive devices.

I usually give reading materials to the students before we have the classes. Then, I explain at a glance the topic we have to discuss. After that, I will ask the students whether they agree with my explanation or not. They have to mention the reasons either they agree or disagree with the explanation. Other students must counter the view given by students as response to my lecture. I always involve the students in the discussion, so they are trained to speak and express their knowledge.

This kind of teaching and learning process leads the students to gain knowledge, as well as to shape their personality, attitudes and habits. In other words, this is not only to impart knowledge in the students’ mind but also to put it in their hearts.

Some students may complain every time I ask them to read and review an article without any mark. But this is the way to train them to achieve what I explained above. They are university students, which means that their job is to read, analyse, argue and present what they got from the reading. Now is not the time for them to accept whatever their lecturers say, like high school students who are only ready to receive whatever their teachers have to say.

I share here the experience of my wife and daughter in providing the food, especially for breakfast.

When my daughter was in elementary school and junior high school, my wife would prepare breakfast for her to eat before going to school. Then she reached seventeen years of age and entered senior high school; my wife showed her how to cook and serve breakfast and other kinds of meals.

After a couple of months, my wife asked her daughter to cook and serve her breakfast by herself. She needed an adjustment to make her breakfast and asked many things, but finally, she can cook herself a portion of food that she wants to eat. She does not have to follow her parent’s tastes, but she can decide for herself the flavour and type of food she wants to eat.

(The writer, Dr. Ungaran Rashid is Assistant Professor in the Department of Fundamental and Interdisciplinary Studies, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences) 

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