Overcoming challenges requires putting things into perspective
AS 2022 dawns, many uncertainties remain, and will probably escalate. Many of us do not have a coherent perspective of the global issues that threaten the future of humanity. I shall focus on some critical ones as part of our general education. Although they are discussed separately, they are all interconnected.
1. The global pandemic
Ever since its outbreak two years ago, Covid-19 has changed our lives forever. As it is most likely to persist, we need to ask ourselves: How do we redesign our lives and future?
Presently, despite the huge amount of information, we seem more confused about what to do.
Nevertheless, we must spend more time on educating ourselves and our children about the vast implications of the pandemic. There isn’t a decision that is not related to the pandemic now. Will the future be worse? How do humans exist or co-exist with the world of viruses and nature?
These are the immediate questions that must be addressed as all other decisions depend on how we look at the pandemic.
The focus on sustainability concerns all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) advocated by the United Nations.
It covers almost everything that matters for the survival and sustainability of mankind. One SDG is about poverty.
Fortunately, Malaysia has no serious poverty challenges. But among the eight billion people on earth, many suffer from poverty.
How we solve this is obviously connected to all the other 16 SDGs.
The SDGs are useful projects for students to think about and more importantly, engage in. Many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are prioritising this.
China has succeeded in massive reduction of poverty. In a way, this means improving the human rights of the people.
3. Climate change
Experts predict temperatures could increase from 2.6 degrees Celsius to 4.8 by 2100. If this happened, human habitat would not be sustainable.
Many cities and island nations would be submerged in rising tides.
It is thus our duty to educate everyone about this so that we can prevent such disasters from happening.
With more people being mindful of climate change, there would be more effort to protect our ecology.
Economics is about the sustainable use of resources to satisfy increasing needs and wants.
The new “circular economy” is about reusing our resources in a sustainable manner.
We must prolong the life of everything we use, minimise the use of resources in production, and recycle used or idle resources. Production, distribution and consumption are now redesigned.
When we practise the circular economy, we look at the environmental questions differently.
This definitely helps to solve the pollution problem.
In Malaysia, we have free education up to the pre-university level. Tertiary education in public universities is generally subsidised.
In many other countries, millions have no basic education due to poverty, inequality and marginalisation. We must remind ourselves of the value of access to education at all levels. Thanks to the availability of private education, many Malaysians have access to a wide range of quality tertiary education and vocational training. The cost of education is thus lowered but more important is that private education has expanded access for everyone. The future of the nation depends on quality education and training. The present generation must be reminded of this.
6. Social issues
Violence seems to be everywhere despite our advocacy for peace and harmony. There is violence in the family, at the workplace, within societies, and between nations.
Why is violent behaviour so prevalent? Why do so-called world leaders readily threaten other nations with the use of weapons, sanctions and other unkind practices?
Why are racial prejudices used to divide and discriminate people? Why are women subject to abuses? Why are children brought up with prejudices against others who are different from them? Why does terrorism exist? We must use education to stop such antisocial behaviour. All such issues and questions are related to understanding human rights in their proper context.
In the end, after addressing such challenging questions, we still end up asking: Why do we do what we do? Who am I? Who should I want to be? How do I become what I want to be? These are the eternal questions about the known and the unknown. Hence, we need to learn some philosophy to understand the whys of so many complex life issues.
Prof Datuk Dr Paul Chan is the co-founder, vice-chancellor and president of HELP University (Malaysia). The views expressed here are the writer’s own.