What is the WIEF Education Trust?

NOORDIN: The Education Trust is one part of the initiatives of WIEF. Actually, there are two main components of WIEF. One is what we call the program component, that is where we do the conferences on a yearly basis where we change venues from country to country, depending upon the bids made by countries. Then there is the other part that we call the activities. There are three activities that have been identified by WIEF, namely: women’s activities, youth activities, and education activities.

Now, the education activity is not intended in a broad sense of the term to reinvent the wheel. We want to emulate what other successful countries are doing. You know, like initiating primary education or initiate education; they already have that education system. What we intend to do under the WET, that means the WIEF Education Trust, is to focus into areas and certain aspects that have not been done by the main education systems, particularly in the Islamic countries. It is predicated on this idea of capacity building. For example, we promote the idea of linking institutions with training institutions. In most countries training institutions are stand-alone. They tend to do everything by themselves, so that's a lot of cost there.

We say that if we were to pool our resources and share the expertise, than you don't have to do the same thing all over again. So we try to do that. For example, I am also the Chairman of the Higher Education Academy, we have our training arm and we conduct certain training activities. So what we do is bring these to the notice of other Islamic countries particularly so that they are aware of what we have done and that we’d like to share with them. We also explore what they have done so that we can go and share with them so we do not have to do the same sorts of things. So that's the kind of sharing it is. I would not say that we have achieved tremendous success on this. I would rather say this is work in progress because people are not used to the idea of sharing. Not that they don't trust each other, but it's like moving away from something that they have been doing all along.

We are holding a seminar here in Kuala Lumpur where we brought some five countries from Asia and some from the Middle East. Sometimes people speak very rhetorically at these events and I have a hard time understanding what they intend. So I always say that there is always a big gap between dreams and deeds. We have big dreams but no deeds to match. But anyway, that is one area that we are looking into. We are not giving up because at the conception level, there is a degree of subscription to the concept itself. But I think at the implementation level we have to, you know, walk the walk. So that is that kind of collaboration. Another collaboration that we feel is that we bring our education system, particularly the universities, to do a bit for the community, particularly in Islamic countries, where I think universities can do that. We call this program social entrepreneurship.

What kinds of activities is the WIEF Education Trust actually involved in today?

NOORDIN: We identify really disadvantaged areas in Malaysia. We do not want to be Malaysian-centric, as such, we of course invite other countries to do this. But they say let Malaysia run it first, so we don't mind doing that. So we have identified three very disadvantaged areas. One area is fishing, another is the aborigines, because we want to bring them to join the modern world, and the other is the very remote areas that people seldom visit in Sabah and Sarawak. So what we do is publish fliers, give information with regard to the communities in their respective areas, and the one prohibition, so to speak, that we make is that you do not bring an alien thing into these areas because that would be artificial.

What we want to do is capacity building so that people identify certain potentials within their own areas and develop it. So, for example, if they don't have tractors in an area and you bring in tractors, and that's bringing an alien element there, so that is prohibited. So we want to develop the things that are already there and that is the idea of developing the capacities within that. So what we do is send fliers to all the institutes of higher learning, our universities, and our universities, some universities, they have foreign students. We also invite some of the students from other countries to participate. I officiated a session in Sabah recently and there were students from Sudan and also from Singapore. So I said you're welcome to come and participate in this. They're supposed to send in their proposals, we give a description of these places and we encourage them to go and visit these places.

Later on we will single them out and see which one presents the most viable proposals. So they are supposed to wrap up at the end of this year and we also bring in our corporations to participate in this so that students will be able to bounce these ideas off of the corporations, and the corporation will see whether they are viable or not. We are also going to award the best team. It's always a team of four. So I think in terms Malaysian Ringgit, it’s about 30,000. So this is an ongoing project. What we want to do is document every step of the way. If, for example, the students who later will go into these communities and identify certain activities that have commercial value there and develop that, and later over time they leave it to the community to take over. That is capacity building and that’s what we want to do. In a way bringing the university closer to the community is what education is all about.

So those are among the activities that we have done under the WET project. Besides that, we also promote discussions, symposiums, and all that is on the higher end of it but we also want to look at the lower end. We bring it to the people so to speak, the proletariat where they do not have the opportunity to participate.

What is meant by socializing education?

NOORDIN: The very purpose of education is to socialize people. I think the very fact that this subject has been brought about which means to say that this project has a problem and that education systems are deviating from their core purpose. I would like to look from this point of view, why we have what I would call an education crisis. It is because of this education crisis that I believe we are thinking about socializing education. I think that modernity and industrialization tends to hijack education. In training you can be skill specific and education goals are diffuse. We have a problem in our country where we blame everything on the education.

We talk about the need for socializing education because there is this tension that people do not see. Sometimes you give way to the imperatives of the industrial needs. And as a result of this, you get caught in the middle and education has lost its focus. I say this because people do not realize there is a real tension with two opposing perspectives. It’s namely the exchange value. And when I talk about exchange value there are two exchange values that are in the opposite ends of each other. One is the social exchange value and the other is the market exchange value. If one does not fit the needs of industry then that's the reason it has a low market exchange value. If, for example, it fits into the industrial needs then it has a very high exchange value.

Education has such an important role to play. We cannot just throw out the humanities because they do not fit into the world’s industrial needs. Society has to support education and must not abdicate this responsibility. It is here I think that socializing education is a very important aspect to think about. At the end of the day, the purpose of education is to bring about developed, good people, with a sense of balance.