Thursday, 16 February 2017

TOWARDS ADVANCED STATUS - Need for mature discussions, critical thinking


Up to approximately two decades ago, the mainstream media, both print and electronic, dominated the nation's information airspace, making it virtually the only source of knowledge regarding current events and trends.
When a pertinent issue or event takes place, field experts or journalists with reliable sources covered the story, and accurate facts and credible perspectives were presented to the public.
While it was easier to establish clearer and guided directions in national development, information was often one-directional, and often resulted in a top down approach in implementing steps towards progress.
With the introduction of the internet in the mid-1990s, the popularity of blogging and online news portals created a disruption - the emergence of alternative media sources.
This allowed for a broader coverage of events, as the cost and time barriers to transmit information were reduced significantly, allowing the public access to increased participation in the discourse that took place in comments sections.
However, the realities of this information overload allowed anybody to play the role of the journalist, without necessarily needing to follow its professional codes of ethics.
Today, social media channels have allowed even more instantaneous feedback on anything published - both in formal channels or informal forms of conversations and discussions.
However, with instantaneous feedback, also comes the issue of self-filtering, i.e. the separating of accurate news from misrepresentations becomes the onus of the reader.
This is now the conundrum faced by all governments around the world.
As a country still on its way towards advanced nation status, we depend on a society with a high level of creativity and innovativeness.
These qualities are produced most efficiently through freedom of thought and diversity of perspectives - often it this very diversity that breeds strong policies and ideas to progress forward at a global level.
With that said, while governments strive to ensure productive discussions taking place, it also is highly dependant on public maturity and discretion in contributing to such discourse.
To achieve this, society needs to rise above the muddled cloud of information and be able to distinguish differences between fact and fallacies on their own.

While focused reading now becomes a basic requirement, it must be coupled with the ability to think critically, objectively and structurally.
The above traits need not be reserved for those with special talents or high levels of sophistication. One of the ways to develop higher order thinking is to surround ourselves within circles where such discourse takes place.
The best lessons in life often are not limited within the boundaries of the classroom, but from experience gained through exposure to the right materials and environment. It is for this very reason that fresh school or university leavers are encouraged by employers to learn as much as they can - so that with their fresh perspectives permeate with the experience of others to become better ideas in the future.
In fact, we are encouraged to participate in activities outside of our work, such as conferences, exhibitions or even visits to further expose our minds to the practices of other organisations, and not to limit ourselves only to the cultures of our inner work circles.
To engage a high gear in our national progress, it starts with developing a critical mass of individuals with such higher order thinking. These individuals form communities, which then build critically thinking societies.
In short, we must all understand the power of information, but there is that caveat - true wisdom is a product of critically processing of accurate information.
"Knowledge has power to control access to opportunity and advancement".
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

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