INDIVIDUALS who pursued education, regardless whether to better their career or for more knowledge, or wanting to know a little bit more than what they knew yesterday, have captivated and inspired me hugely all these years.
As one who believes in life long education, entering lecture halls for the past 30 years remains a great opportunity to better myself, not to prove I am a learned man or to add another degree to my name but rather to improve myself so as to understand our environment and the world at large a little bit better. It is also for reason I want to offer my knowledge or expertise to teach, help, equip, counsel or to be a catalyst for growth and change in organisations, the marketplace or even in the counselling room.
In the mind of everyone is the conscious desire of wanting to make a difference and to be a master of our destiny, but without knowledge to implement the steps to reach their goals, many had stagnated both physically and mentally, and in some cases, spiritually too.
Many died prematurely upon retirement as their brain is no longer active, or engaged in thinking and responding to situations.
I read of a teaching in a holy book that knowledge supercedes many things, and is far more important than acquiring wealth.
Without knowledge, a nation cannot progress but suffers and goes into decline, while society regresses to a point of painful consequences if left unchecked and unattended.
I remember a story being told of King Solomon who was asked what he would want if the Higher Being were to give him a blessing. King Solomon, in his greatness and basking in the splendour of ruling a powerful nation surrounded by unfriendly neighbours, did not ask for gold or silver, but wisdom.
Any form of education is never a waste of time and energy but an investment that brings a host of opportunities. It is also a chance to serve an organisation, society and nation at large, not necessarily for monetary returns but as a form of giving back to society what society had given him in the first place.
Education is a catalyst to bring change to our community, without which, we are trapped in the old school of thought that causes stagnation in the long run as experienced in some nations we know of.
Poverty and lost opportunities befall many Asian, African and South American countries where education is despised or ignored and deemed unimportant, while political or business agendas, as well as bread and butter issues were deemed more urgent and important.
Unless there is a concerted effort to equip and empower the masses with knowledge to change the status quo, the nation would lack learned men and women who will break the cycle of impoverishment and ignorance. Powerful, learned or educated nations are too eager to exploit and trample the weak to dust or ashes given the slightest opportunity.
The news of Shigemi Hirata who earned his degree at the ripe old age of 96 from Kyoto University and was considered the world’s oldest graduate would inspire those in their 70s to the 90s to consider altering their choice of mere watching the sunset to return to their books. This would propel them to another season of giving back to society with their newly-acquired knowledge and expertise.
In turn, they would be blessed and their lives could even be prolonged when their mind and body are renewed, kept active and used.
Consider Fred Butler in the United States who at the age of 106 received his high school diploma as the oldest high school graduate. How many would even have thought of going to their books when they in their 40s or 50s, what more in their 100s?
Also consider the inspiration in our own back yard from former beauty queen turned artiste Dr Soo Wincci, who despite her busy schedule, took time to study and received her PhD in business administration at the age of 31. Dr Soo changed her destiny by doing what others would rather forego. In Dr Soo’s words, the journey was long and arduous as it took her six years to finish. To me, nothing is worth pursuing if it does not cost you anything. It certainly did cost Dr Soo something, in this case. It also means that if you have the burning desire to better yourself academically, nothing should be an obstacle to your dream.
To me, education is a worthy life changing experience for anyone who wants to better himself in any field. Education is a priceless thing that remains, and cannot be stolen. It will steer you to better yourself in a chosen field or help you discover new opportunities or possibilities, or to redefine your goals and aspirations to be a person whom society can tap into to bring change, progress and prosperity to the nation.
I am happy that our government is giving free education to our children from Year One right up to Form Six. Those in tertiary education are entitled to the 1Malaysia Book Voucher of RM250 each. I hope every student will not waste the opportunity to educate themselves and to carve his or her future with a diploma or degree as the support given is unparalleled by all counts.
In short, education will enlarge your sphere of influence on society and the nation. Pursue it.
DR TAN ENG BEE