Saturday, July 23, 2011

VCSP: 5 Pillars Attributes

As I am writing this, I am currently on a plane back from KLIA to Kuching (terribly sorry that it took me a few days to finally upload this post, but I've been busy with other things at work). I have just attended a five-day program, more specifically the Vice Chancellor Special Project: 5 Pillar Attributes, aimed at enhancing the student's ability on Leadership, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Effective Communication, Entrepreneurship and Teamwork.

So you might be thinking, what on earth is VCSP and why do we need to do something like this? Well, VCSPs are projects that have been put forward by UiTM's Vice Chancellor and one of them involves increasing UiTM graduates' level of leadership, critical thinking, creativity, communication, entrepreneurship and teamwork. And why do we want to do this, you might ask? Ah... Well... There comes the tricky part. UiTM is a university for Bumiputeras. Bumi-putera literally translates into sons of the soil, thus Bumiputera in this sense refers to the natives of Malaysia. Natives being the Malays, Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Asli and other native races of Malaysia (thus excluding the Malaysian Chinese and Indians, as their ancestry originates from China and India respectively). So back to the VCSP thingy. Why do we need to do this? Simple. It's because our graduates themselves have rated themselves to be low on these attributes and this is one of the ways for us to help our graduates. But if you ask me, I would have to say that our graduates ain't that bad (as the 5-day program had showed us their skills and abilities are actually not that bad) but then it's the Malay (most of them are Malay) characteristic of being humble and the fact that our eastern culture makes us downplay our capabilities lest we be called vain or arrogant. So, instead of giving themselves the rating that they deserved, they kinda rated themselves to be quite low especially in the communication and entrepreneurship segment. Imagine our horror at finding out our students are underperforming in those areas (as I told you, the rating comes from our own graduates).

The students' presentation during campfire night. Superb work guys. What's even amazing is that the students only had about 3-days to plan and act. Wow!

So, more than 200 students participated in this program, for five days and four nights. The program is super-packed, which is good (in my opinion). A jam-packed itinerary brings out the best (or the worst) in people. In this case, we got to witness the students cooperate with each other, discuss and bring themselves to a higher level, as clear-headed rational young adults, able to adapt to pressing situations. Each day, the program starts at 8 am and ends at around 10.30 pm. Even then, most students would be awake until wee hours of the morning, preparing, planning, and completing the tasks given to them. And to me, they've performed admirably.

The students' presentation. One of the most wonderful presentations that I've ever seen.

So, what happened? The 200 plus students were grouped and then grouped into various different groups (according to the different activities that they were currently assigned in). The best part (for me) is that the students had to show off their different talents and all that they learnt (which included singing for those from the Music Faculty, acting for those from the Creative Arts Faculty, drawing for those from the Art and Design Faculty and try out the many different foreign languages according to the country that they were assigned in). Some students really stood out as leaders (they took charge from Day 1), most students displayed really good team spirit. Unfortunately there was one thing that I noticed throughout this program, the lack of command in English is really palpable (or it could be their lack of confidence in their ability to present in English). A number of students (who when presenting) asked upfront if they could present in Bahasa Malaysia (I kept trying to encourage them to at least try to speak in English, it didn't matter if they're English is spattered with grammatical error or the wrong pronunciation, but a number of them insisted on presenting in Bahasa).

My students and me with Dr. Z and Dr. Roy =)

I guess this might be the outcome of our education system; lavishing those who excel with praise and those who failed are punished, albeit it was supposedly done in the student's best interest at heart (students in some schools are sorted in classes based on the grades of the students). You might say that my opinion is baseless, but I am also the product of the same education system. Interestingly I have been called coconut brain by my teacher (empty brainless head, like a coconut) whenever I answered most of the mathematical questions wrongly in class. I guess it is up to us, as lecturers to show the students that it's okay to try (and fill your sentences with grammatical and pronunciation errors) but you'll be better at it as time goes by (if you keep on trying, that is).

Irma, Dr. Z and me. Dr. Z is one of the of the committee members that made this VCSP program a reality. Kudos to the committee on the success of the program.

But then, this is what I loved most about this VCSP program. It made learning fun. The students were able to explore and use whatever resources creatively and in the best manner that they think possible. No punishment were granted to those who didn't do well, instead, all groups were rewarded accordingly. All in all, the feedback from the students were, they had fun and they would love to attend another similar program (if they were given an opportunity to, that is).

This is me and my students. We are giving you the hand (five fingers representing the five pillars, duh)

Ah well, I love the spirit and charm of the youth. It makes me feel young, like when I thought everything is possible and that I could change the world once I graduate. Well, Insya-Allah, with the success of this program and more programs to follow at faculty and campus level, we can just change the students perception on their abilities.

'Til my next post. Cheerio!

xoxo Fashionista in Action xoxo