This article first appeared in Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on April 26, 2021 - May 2, 2021
“We accepted books when they were introduced. We should now accept electronically recorded lessons because they are even better than books.”
Teaching started orally. Then came writing and reading. Teaching became easier. This was followed by books written by experts.
All this while, we have depended on teachers. They guide the students, explaining, questioning and answering.
But today, we have the technology for recording and playback. The teaching by the best teachers can be recorded and played back repeatedly — the whole lesson or parts of it. These can be shown on the screen or on the wall for the whole class to see. Graphs and diagrams can be shown. The class teacher can guide the students, stop the video, rewind it, and listen to the expert teacher’s teaching. The whole lesson can be shown repeatedly.
The graphs and illustrations are explained by the expert teacher. The illustrations can be graphic and animated. The picture can be exploded (enlarged) so as to show the parts and how they are put together to form the whole product. The class teacher need not answer questions or explain the whole lesson.
With a good teacher recording the lessons on video with illustrations and animation, all students from all the schools in the country will get the benefit of being taught by the same teacher.
These sorts of instructions are already available on our computers. You can learn anything you may be interested in. You can learn how to cook anything you like — Malay, Chinese, Italian, Indian or Western recipes. You can produce wood carvings, assemble an engine and take it to pieces, build a house, an airplane or a drone … and so on. You can learn any language, hear the correct pronunciation, and listen to video characters talking and even answering questions. The recording can be interactive. Like textbooks, the lessons will be prepared by the best teachers and every student will get the benefit.
It is about time we switched to recorded video lessons produced by the best teachers in the country and abroad (for English language and science and mathematics in English).
Teachers in classrooms would still be needed. But their task is to guide the students as they follow the lessons on the screen. This does away with the current problem of different teachers having varying skills. In fact, as the class teacher guides his students, he would learn more.
The problems faced or the reaction of the students can be noted by the class teacher and conveyed to the expert teacher. Improvements or corrections can be made. And all the corrections can be put into the lessons for the whole country to benefit from.
As with the YouTube application, the particular subject can be accessed by typing in the desired word. The search would be simple for anything the class wants to know. You do not have to search in a library. All you have to do is type the word.
This system is especially useful for teaching languages. For English, there is no longer a need to find good teachers. The English language course is available now. One can learn English by following the course. However, I must admit that reading books is still very important for learning the English language. The more books you read, the more will you master the way English is spoken. It is not about stringing words together correctly. It is about knowing the phrases the English speakers use.
Thus, instead of saying “It is raining heavily”, the English would say, “It is raining cats and dogs”. Time is expressed by saying “Much water has flowed under the bridge”.
When reading novels, you will come across these phrases. You don’t have to memorise them. If you read a lot, you will come across the correct phrases often during your reading. And you will remember them because you are familiar with them.
We need to change the way we teach. New technology will make teaching and learning much easier. I hope Malaysia will think about this idea.
Remember the textbooks. They are written by the best teachers. They help the class teachers understand and teach. The electronically recorded lessons prepared by the best teachers are even better than books.
We accepted books when they were introduced. We should now accept electronically recorded lessons because they are even better than books.
Actually, most of these have somewhat been “forced” upon us due to the pandemic. It has, to a degree, propelled us into a modern and contemporary way of teaching.
All we need to do is to explore and update our methods and keep abreast with the rapidly changing technology.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a former prime minister of Malaysia
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