It is about the right kind of 'edu-action'
Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Opinion - New Straits Times
January 25, 2023
JAN 24 is observed every year as International Day of Education, declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2018 to celebrate the role of education in the peace and progress of the world.
The theme this year which is the fifth year of the celebration, is "to invest in people, prioritize education". The former invariably determines the status of a nation where education plays a key role, hence the latter is crucial.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), it is crucial to concentrate "on the triggers which could transform and shape an equal and inclusive system of education, while accelerating progress towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It further suggests "at reducing the unequal gap in terms of access for education as well as education completion, as per the SDG4 objective."
It also "aims at letting the students raise their voices and focus on their thoughts to know about the changes that they want to see and to make their education all-inclusive."
At once, the need to dwell on education for action (edu-action) predicated on providing comprehensive, quality-based and impartial education for all as the backbone to quality and just living, rather than livelihood alone.
In short, a sustainable outcome summarised by the 5Ps of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership in what is termed as 2030 Agenda with the reminder of "no one left behind" is imperative.
It is realigned to support the global momentum generated by the various activities elucidating the Futures of Education since some three years ago underscored by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This includes the Unesco World Higher Education Conference in May 2022, Barcelona as well as the UN Transforming Education Summit in September 2022.
Both call for embracing strong social awareness through education to chart and translate commitments to global initiatives into solutions.
Education must, therefore, be prioritised to accelerate progress towards achieving the 5Ps against the backdrop of a global recession, growing inequalities and the climate crisis.
An inspiring example of translating social awareness into real commitment is the recent Apex court ruling on sensitive hilltop or hill slope development projects that need National Physical Planning Council approval.
The landmark Sungai Ara judgment provides a firm foundation to build on environmental law in dealing with a project to build 13 condominium blocks and three-storey bungalows on 81 acres of sensitive hill land by one Sunway (City) Penang Sdn Bhd.
Reportedly, about 43 per cent of this plot lies more than 76 metres above sea level on slopes with a gradient of above 25 degrees. Judge Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan in spelling out the reasons for rejecting the project underscored several themes that would be highly relevant to other controversial projects.
The untiring legal effort running for more than a decade is billed as a David vs Goliath battle where the latter is represented by a well-known corporate entity that supposedly "champions" SDGs through its claimed "a class above" campus with as conscience.
Regardless, it also demonstrated that even a small band of ordinary people can, given the "right" kind of edu-action, better defend the community from similar ecological abuse within the local context.
This is evident when the court ordered Sunway and the Penang City Council to pay costs to the residents. Case closed. Kudos for walking the talk.
* The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector