• 2023
  • Stop The Ranking Freak, To Bring Back The Heart To Education !

Stop The Ranking Freak, To Bring Back The Heart To Education !

Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak 
Opinion - Bacalah Malaysia 
July 6, 2023 


While the world was again made busy by the ups and downs of university “ranking” exercise, not all are at awe with the same old, same old game. 


Malaysia as usual was made to sound like the centrepiece of “success” in higher education with so many new entries inching to the so-called “world-class” status.

Meaning more money rolling into the bank account of the commercial ranker’s at the expense of the budget strapped clients. Including the one that is expected to remain “premier” position, but seems to have slipped!

This is in stark contrast, to those having markedly different ideas of what “education” or “excellence” ought to be. 


More specifically,  universities that were involved in the two-day Conference on Education with the Heart held in Bangalore last week. The meeting saw the coming together of the minds that dare to challenge the current education ecosystem and practices globally.

Hence, presenting a very bold stance of education beyond the simplistic ranking-freak perspectives.

More so, given the rise and the fall, the flip and flop, that defies the higher purpose and the significance of being human.

In other words, it distorts the meaning of education into a one-size-fits-all model ignoring the diverse cultural values and contexts that enrich learning.

It is dehumanising when such nuances are inadvertently left out as part of so-called “ranking” that claims to be world-class. More so when all dictates are given numbers and figures which are virtually meaningless for a higher education that is unsure of its true purpose. Let alone in the context of values for humanity and sustainability.

Indeed, this is the main contention where values are now regarded once again as the bedrock education following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic! 


In a nutshell, the pre-pandemic values-deficit education ecosystem is deemed to have failed, thanks to the lethal virus.

Millions died, with many more undergoing severe agony due to the same viral attack. Practically little was done to bridge the gap in compliance to the needs of today through education processes that resonate with the post-pandemic scenario.

Here, the Conference reckons that education being the relentless pursuit of wisdom, urged by passion for its values and undeterred by difficulties, must stay as the central focus in taking education to the next level. Namely, the heart of education is education of the heart.

The heart has long been recognised as a seat of the intellect, but has been neglected, if not totally forgotten!

Leading to education without soul! Such is the state of education today that is now being ruthlessly ranked rendering the exercise totally futile as it is equally soulless (read, irrelevant) and heartless are argued.

The world today needs a system of education which can facilitate the realisation of a balanced and harmonious being already latent in all humans, and to bring about peaceful living among human beings in the face any disaster and beyond.


Ultimately, it is about the survival of the entire planet as the only abode for humanity and therefore cannot be subjected to superficial and artificial “ranking” as a dubious device to dumb down the “real” meaning and purpose of education.

In order to reconstruct and repurpose the education ecosystem and its ethos, the heart of education must be revitalised so that the “inner” dimension of the human persons is educated at the outset.

Notably, the primordial intelligence be returned to its soulful place in order to authenticate the educational process of a spiritual being, first and foremost. It is a holistic process of nurturing the whole person, figuratively, the hand, head and heart in an integrated and totally balanced manner.

Without the heart, and soul, the person is “dehumanised” – and the primordial intelligence reduced to the level of a sub-human, devoid of the spirituality that energises the conscience. This reality, is today artificially imposed by the ranking game that continues to miseducate, if not dupe the world by distorting the process of education into a factory-like assembly line to churn out “products” ladened with economic imperatives.

It is often subjected to greed and lust, feeding on the gullibility of a material being, devoid of spirituality.  


The former is measured and given numbers and figures like all material products coming out of lifeless factories that manufactures equally lifeless things for the marketplace; to be sold to the highest bidder through its own ranking indices that are now rampantly publicised to influence policies and decisions and further push the planet and its inhabitants towards the dreaded Anthropocene era as warned by many scientists and environmentalists, but to not avail.

Evidence of the Sixth Mass Extinction has been largely ignored in preference to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a continuum of the previous so-called Industrial Revolutions that have been shown to be the cause of the ailing state of the world today.

The numerous ranking matrices spewed as educationomic indicators are target at livelihood, and how to make a living.

Not about enriching life with values and virtues to support Mother Earth by reorientating education as a mercy to all aimed at ensuring that it is equally enriched and harmoniously balanced. Ranking, in this regard, is way off mark.

In fact, game is over! The heart of education must urgently be reinstated – that is, education of the heart, without stripping away spirituality as its vital primordial force so that the inherent intelligence can reemerge as the  pulse for our survival.

  • The writer was an invited keynote speaker at the Conference on Education with the Heart