We need more slow learners

Hafidz Baharom

WHEN I studied for my Information Technology degree in UiTM, I actually flunked one subject – microprocessors. I know, how ironic for a “slow learner” to not understand how a central processing unit works. 

I honestly didn’t understand how they worked throughout an entire semester and, of course, had to repeat the subject.

But therein lies the best part, I went from flunk to an A after what I learned the previous semester finally ‘clicked’ in my head. It wasn’t ideal in terms of results but hey, you learn to understand. 

If anything, flunk more in universities when you don’t understand what is being taught. Universities are where you learn to understand how things work in theory and practice, and if it meant taking longer, then you take longer. 

You don’t give up, you don’t just ignore the subject, and you definitely don’t just sit quietly and flunk again. 

I’m bringing this personal lesson up now because we had a Federal Territory Minister who went on a rant last weekend saying if “you’re a slow leaner, go into ITM”. He has subsequently apologised for his remarks, most probably out of fear of a voter backlash in the upcoming elections. 

But is it wrong to be a “slow learner”? I know, it does sound rather degrading, as if UiTM was the Hufflepuff of Malaysian universities. 

However, being a slow learner has its advantages. For one, it stops you from being an arrogant prick of a minister. But more than that, it also means you never stop learning, and this is extremely important in this day and age. 

There is nothing wrong with being a slow learner, and for all public university graduates I will give one clear example; are you still practising that Third Language subject you took, or did you let it languish once you were done?

For those who took German, French or Japanese, there’s an app for that - Duolingo. I hope you’ve been practising. Who knows, you may have become proficient enough to make it a side job and helped in translations. Or even become proficient enough verbally to become an interpreter. 

Learning a third language is a slow learning process, and I assure you, you won’t achieve native speaker level just by three semesters. 

If anything, being a slow learner today means you are curious enough to know problems, to listen to solutions, to read up if those solutions are viable, and interact with more people rather than shun yourself in the filter bubble of social media. 

It would mean asking questions, challenging the thoughts of others, not letting people dictate what you should do, but rather figure out what really needs to be done. 

It means not believing the hype that everything is well in the country, but also weighing about whether the other side is really offering solutions or just pandering. Pretty much how we were all supposed to be peeved by being called “slow learners” to the point of supposedly letting that sway our vote. 

I will say in total honesty that I would prefer slow learners because they still believe they can learn,  still have a thirst for reading books, have a curiosity in working a field they didn’t even study for, and perhaps even managed to figure out how to innovate and adapt themselves in that professional life. 

This is the challenge of today’s graduates – while politicians hanker about creating new jobs and ensuring employment for all, the truth is that we are in a situation where you have to get a job, grit your teeth and, to quote Tim Gunn, make it work. 

And while there are employers who will pay you a liveable wage, higher chances are you will be exploited to no end for an entire year or two, where you barely have enough for a tall latté at any coffee franchise. 

It is a time when we actually have to learn cost saving methods as a middle class to start looking at store brand in house products as an alternative, a time to rethink chasing for that end of the year Starbucks planner, or even whether to shift that convocation party to a mamak restaurant that may be cheap but more memorable. 

It is a time where we consider renting a property with a reliable bus line, taking a train for an hour, just to get to work – or invest in a motorcycle after two months wages and pray it doesn’t rain. 

It is a time for us to consider learning to cook and even to bake cookies to make additional side income during festive periods, with Malays learning to make moon cakes, and the Chinese experimenting with kerutuk, ketupat and lemang. 

So you see, I’m not offended by a minister saying my Alma Mater is for slow learners. Because as slow learners, we will eventually learn that maybe voting for him and his friends, and even the other side at that, is not the best option in the long run. 

What can I say? 

Us slow learners are still learning. – December 1, 2017.

* Hafidz loves to ruffle feathers and believes in the EA Games tag line of challenging everything. Most times, he represents the Devil’s Advocate on multiple issues.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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  • He's not just talking about slow learners in general but about a particular racial group, implying some sort of mental handicap. Are you ok with that?

    Posted 6 years ago by Xuz ZG · Reply

  • In the cabinet, no, we surely cannot accept slow learners.

    Posted 6 years ago by Tanahair Ku · Reply