Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blogging Diversity

A few months back, I wrote about the need for diversity in thinking of different ways to solve old problems. I'm well aware of the fact that the three bloggers who run this blog are anywhere close to being representative of the population that we are reaching out to.

The three of us - Tony (who started this blog), John (the latest invitee) and myself (the in between) - are all Chinese Malaysian males who are 'Western' educated, been through a national school education (John spent some time in an SRJCK, Tony speaks Chinese with his parents and his Chinese has most definitely improved after going full time into politics, I speak Chinese with my parents and recently took 2 years of Chinese classes here at Duke) and have been / are educated at the so called 'elite' schools (Oxford for Tony; Darmouth for John; LSE, Cambridge and now Duke for myself).

I try to expose myself to as many views on the education system as possible but there is no way that I would be able to understand the struggles of someone who has studied all his or her life at an SRJK (C) and then later at a Chinese independent school, or someone who has studied in rural Kelantan in a religious school or sekolah 'pondok', or someone who has studied in a Tamil school in the middle of a palm oil or rubber estate. I would not be able to identify with the experience of someone who studied Medicine in Manipal or Chinese studies in Taiwan or Islamic studies in Jordan or Egypt. I would not be able to identify with the experience of a girl who studied in an all girls environment in Malaysia through high school and then came to the US and studied in an all woman's college.

Ideally, we'd want as many viewpoints represented on this blog as possible (and I think I speak for John and Tony as well). Our challenge is that we don't know people who have the kinds of educational experiences like those that I speak of above. Furthermore, even if we know of some people who fit the above profile, there's the issue of 'quality control' and also whether the person is willing to blog regularly or be associated with this blog.

Moving on, the three of us, with input from our readers will have to figure out a new 'model' of blogging about education issues in the Malaysian context. Tony doesn't really have much time now and if I were to join a university in Malaysia (whether public or private), my blogging on this blog would probably be curtailed in voluntary and involuntary ways. John would be left to 'man the fort' so to speak.

Here are some options I can think of to increase the volume of posts (so that some of the pressure can be taken off Tony, John and myself) and the diversity of opinions as well:

1) Post items / pieces written for this blog by some of our readers. I think we're more than willing to do this on the condition that the posts are not inflammatory and that they represent an interesting viewpoint. It doesn't have to be long.

2) Invite more people to join this blog as permanent writers. Again, I think we're more than willing to allow for different voices to join the conversation here but we have to figure out a way to 'vet' the applicants. I think there's the issue of time (we don't have time to vet everyone) and also of process (do we send out 'applications'?). But if you guys can give us suggestions / 'applications', we'd be more than happy to take them.

3) Others? Please let us know what other ideas you may have.


Fikri said...

I think a combination of the first two suggestions would be workable. Let people post in a guest capacity at first, allowing you to see whether their writing is what you want to have on board, and also how much they can commit to the blog in terms of the number of posts they can do.

After that, if you like them enough, then you can 'upgrade' them to become a permanent member.

Nevertheless, keep up the good work as much as you can. I enjoy reading all of your thoughts, and I do believe that this blog is rather unique and can have a role to play in the bigger picture, however big that role may be.

Anonymous said...

I'm very glad that you're aware of this. Indeed, I feel that most of your thoughts represent the 'elites' group. however, that's not what the other majorities thinks. But that's also one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading this blog so much, because sometimes your views are so different from mine. Even when sometimes I agree with your views very much, but the way of thinking reaching to the same conclusion could be very different. I thinks that's due to fact that we came from different backgrounds. I'm a chinese educated student.

Anonymous said...

we second the 1st comment, to let people post in guest capacity first. there are countless of blogs out there in the virtual world. opinions differ not just due to character but also the kind of exposure one has in life. there are many considerations to take including age, culture, job, interest, etc.

Anonymous said...

Kian Ming et al.,

I'm afraid I have now joined the same 'elite' group as you all, though I imagine that none of you attended secondary schools with 50% dropout rates. :-P

You talk about different backgrounds, but I think that one 'profile' or set of profiles that is really lacking here is that of people who are presently in the system so to speak, that is to say students in local unis and secondary schools, lecturers, teachers, people who work in the Ministries of Education and Higher Education...

I often feel that the whole framework of our thought particularly on higher education is based on our experiences abroad and that we comment on morsels of news from home from this point of view often without getting the whole picture of how things work there. It would be very valuable to get the perspectives of the people I mention above, but I'm afraid you'll find it very difficult to induce civil servants and students to comment freely, even anonymously.

Anonymous said...

That should read 'same elite group as you (all) have'. Sorry.

Wei Jiet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abu Abdullah Anas Al Banji said...

Sounds workable. Just how diverse is 'diverse', anyway?

Anonymous said...

If this blog could not get away its association with all the elite schools, you will (you have) lose the readership from general public.

Most of you have only spent a short time studying at these places, all you know about university ranking are from what you read from the media. If you have study hard during your time at these places, i doubt you have even been through the whole campus. So stop taking a free-ride on the brand name.

I started reading this blog thinking the bloggers are trying to make a difference in the education policy in Malaysia. All I read about the last few years were just self-gratifying post about how lucky you could be associated with these prestigious institutions.

Soo Huey said...

I actually emailed an acquaintance, recommending that he writes for this blog. Just because I think he'd be good and he's got experience as undergrad and postgrad in the local public uni system - two different universities in quite different towns too! Will see what he thinks about it and if it'll fit in his already hectic schedule.

Anyway, wanted to say amidst all this that you guys aren't doing a bad job. Even though your views are inevitably biased, the discussions had within the comments in your blog make up for it. Although it must be noted that you also seem to have a biased population of readers, but hopefully as readership expands that will balance out (a bit)?

Hence, even if additional permanent writers don't come along, I don't think it is so bad as long as you continue to consciously keep your posts as balanced as possible and provide an atmosphere conducive for discussions.

More diversity would be great, but still an excellent and refreshing blog! Thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting proposal. While I must say that I don't have professional expertise in education by any means, and I'm a little "elitised" (Finishing up my B.A. at UC Berkeley, one of the least elite-looking school in the circle), I did complete my entire secondary education at a Chinese independent school in KL and can see where you're coming from.

Keep us posted on how you plan to expand the writer pool, though, and I might attempt to hop on along with others concerned with the state of education at home. =)

(Wait, or will simple no-frills emailing work?)