Leading Is Learning: The Need For Greater Student Empowerment On Malaysian University Campuses | Universiti Putra Malaysia
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Leading is Learning: The Need for Greater Student Empowerment on Malaysian University Campuses

**This article was published in English and has no translation in Bahasa Melayu** 

By Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah 

 

I refer to the article, “Student Leaders All in for Party-Free Campus Elections” (The Malay Mail, 19 March).

I couldn’t agree more with the university student leaders quoted in this piece. For too long, Malaysian universities have been engineered according to an educational model that insulates students from not only real-world engagement but even democratic engagement.

There are many scientific arguments (too many to cover here) as to why this is unwise in a time when students are being asked to think more critically, act more entrepreneurially, and acquire a vast array of competencies to prepare them for an uncertain future.

The concept of the university is not to shelter students to ensure that they spend all of their time studying, but rather to provide an educational environment that is dynamic, diverse, challenging, broadening and democratic.

A university should be a laboratory for experiential learning where students practice the roles of democracy alongside adults – administrators, lecturers, community and business leaders – and fellow students.

The youth-adult partnership approach that a university learning environment should promote gives students real opportunities to engage in democratic process, where they are confronted with different opinions on issues that force them to evaluate those positions and form well-justified responses. This is training for living in a vibrant democracy – a fact that has not gone unnoticed by our university student leaders:

“I think that college students should be given more space and freedom to evaluate things. This is because the university is one of the academic spots, a place of exposure to the pros and cons of the political system. The government today needs to place its trust on the students in making choices. The context of student empowerment needs to be raised to a higher level at university.” - Muhd Jivean Johan Wira, Student Leader, University Malaysia Sabah (as quoted in the Malay Mail, 19 March 2019).

In the field of youth studies, it is well-known that most youth-related policies around the world are crafted in reaction to adults’ fear of -- and for -- young people.

This approach, however well-intended it might be, is highly disempowering and often leads youth to feel alienated from society. And with alienation comes a host of other problems. Unfortunately, our university campuses have for the most part been engineered along these lines.

For too long, we have provided university students an educational environment that treats them like children out of fear that they are not responsible enough, or mature enough, to handle real democratic decision-making.

It is high time that we realize that this way of thinking only handicaps our youth. With adult support, young people at 18 to 25 years old are fully capable of grasping the ideals and practices of democracy.

Leading is learning, and giving young people the opportunity to be involved in democratic leadership void of political interference is the best way to train them to be future leaders that are capable, responsible and patriotic.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah

Faculty of Educational Studies

Date of Input: 23/10/2019 | Updated: 23/10/2019 | hairul_nizam

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