My university [University Technology Malaysia (UTM)] has recently implemented a new system regarding extra co-curricular activities. I am going to write constructive, honest opinions about how I feel and how it should be executed. Speaking from my point of view, hopefully no one will feel offended but instead take what I, as a fellow undergrad of UTM, have to say as openly as possible.

The plan that was executed by UTM was nothing short of rash decisions and incomplete research done, like a repeat of the Black Shoe Incident that was carried out by our previous Education Minister in 2019 with little to no preparation.

UTMSAT & KOQ DAY

Tuesday is the KoQ (Co-curricular) day for UTM as effective of 18 February 2020. Every week, there will be various activities held by UTM’s staffs from 2 pm to 11 pm. It is compulsory for 1st Year to 4th Year students to join the organised events on that day every single week as it is tied closely with UTMSAT.

UTMSAT is a new system where a student must achieve a certain benchmark in order to get an excellent transcript on our graduation certificate. To put it bluntly, it is just adding a column for this new system that might not be known, acknowledged or recognised by other parties to say whether you are excellent or not.

The marks required to get certain achievements printed on your certificate are as below:

i) Kedudukan baik (Good)- 70 marks each semester or 420 marks throughout your entire study.
ii) Cemerlang (Excellent)- 100 marks each semester or 600 marks throughout your entire study.

With an additional punishment to the students who fail to show up for 30 percent of the time which will be social works and the retention of your graduation transcript.

How to earn those marks? Every time you join an activity (about 3 hours long per session), you will get 5 marks. At most, you can only join two activities per week in conjunction of the KOQ day, which means only a maximum 10 marks for one week.

In other words, for almost every Tuesday, you have to spend 2-5 pm and 8-11 pm participating activities curated by UTM in order to make your certificate look good. To put it in simpler terms, we are forced to carry out co-curricular activities.

The First Activity

It was 1.45 p.m. as we got to the hall. We scanned the QR codes to make sure our attendance are taken and found ourselves a spot at the bottom-right corner of the spacious hall of Dewan Sultan Iskandar (DSI). The event- Faculty of Science Meet & Greet in Conversation- will start by 2 p.m.

As time made its way to 2.30 p.m. the speaker only officially started the event, we sat there spending our time on reading, solving Rubik’s cube, scrolling through social media, and talking about the previous lectures. The event started off with the singing of our national anthem. After that, it was a speech given by the Dean of the Faculty of Science. He explained about the symbolism of UTM’s logo, structure and in general (like employment and some statistics). In addition, he interacted with us by doing some quizzes about what he had mentioned with the motivational aid of money.

The Assistant Dean was next, she explained about the UTMSAT & KOQ Day (which was summarised as above) and some additional stuff about e-Portfolio which is basically a blog for students. It was about 4 p.m. when she was done with her part. We sang the UTM anthem and met with our Academic Advisor respectively. About half of the Academic Advisors did not know what was happening or even how the system functions. 3 hours were up by then, we walked back to our dorms respectively.

The Second Activity

Looking by the condition set by UTM, I certainly do not want to have a Fail or something not nice mentioned on my graduation certificate, I want the ‘Excellent’ remark on it to not tarnish its quality. Me and my friends proceeded to the next activity at 8 p.m. We reached there on time.

As we proceeded to the venue, we found a long queue, approximately 700 metres long with 4 to 5 lines of people forming the huge line. It was as if all hell broke loose, people were coming from left and right for about an hour. Even so, the hall was too small to fit so many people, the hall used for this activity could fit around 600 people, and they expect 10,000 people to fit into the small compartment. The scene was like those disaster shelters after World War II.

The invitation for the event was given to all students. Yes, you did not see it wrongly, ALL UTM Students were asked to come for this event. It was a sardine-packed fest.

Most of the people there were obviously there for the marks, not for the activity.

Even so, based on my guess, there was not even a quarter of the entirety of the UTM students gathered here, and this mess happened. What would have happened if even half the people came to participate? I thought.

My Thoughts

I got back to my room at around 11 p.m. and it was exhausting, having to listen to those talks that: one, was already explained to us using one semester’s worth of time; two, a new system that could be summarised effectively in 15 to 20 minutes; and three, having to listen to the similar thing once more, repeated by a different mouth.

The first word that came to my mind was: waste. There was no other word better to express my feelings and thoughts at that time. I felt like a piece of crap at that moment, looking back at those hours of my time, flushed away just like that.

Imagine having all these time devoted to having a recognition, a line printed at my graduation certificate. At least 60 hours per semester and 360 hours for my entire course, is it worth it? It is synonymous to having 4 more credit hours every semester doing something like this. I would rather devote the time doing Maths, attending a language class, or venturing into another form of art or computing language.

Just from the first and second activity, I had already built a very, very bad impression about the upcoming ones and I would naturally categorise them as a waste of time because first impression matters, a lot. I believe many do too.

A kind and gentle reminder: everyone has different opinions, I can also have them too, I have the rights to speak my mind, we are in Malaysia, a parliamentary democratic country.

Looking at the Bright Side

I reckon UTM has good intentions behind this new system. Mainly is to get the students out of their dorms and do more activities outside of their dorms. In addition to that bold gesture, UTM also wants to build more holistic graduates from their institution (Top 5 in Malaysia) to contribute more effectively to the building and development of Malaysia.

Undoubtedly, the main motives are good. Nothing bad behind all these. But, here is a fact, this style of ‘forcing’ 18-24 year-old ‘kids’ into a system is not going to work out well. We have already passed the age where it is still easier to shape our mindsets. If this system were to be implemented, it should be done from high-school to below, it is more effective that way. Younger people’s mindset are more prone to change if their environment changes.

Oh, wait. Our local government high-schools already have this in place for quite some time. Every Wednesday is a KOQ day and our certificates had statements about our co-curricular activities.

I am wondering are we in a university or a high-school packaged as a university?

Putting my puerile commentary aside. Let’s say we give UTM a chance for this to make this happen. As seen from what had happened, UTM barely had enough space for students to carry out those activities. Plus, having a ‘variety’ of activities would spell burden to UTM itself financially and from the human resource. The ‘variety’ would quickly dry up and it would turn mundane. Another problem arises, Malaysians, in general, are not good in maintaining things, how much would that cost (from all aspects, financially, mentally, physically, statistically) for UTM to maintain this for the entirety of its lifespan?

Another point is the location used for the activities. Consider we have all the events done at the centre of UTM, imagine how would those students come to join those events if they are staying at dorms which are located far from it. UTM clearly does not have enough transportation to sustain this kind of activities.

Okay, perhaps UTM has all these aspects covered and done within a snap of a finger. Imagine what would happen if the police squad had 100 more unenthusiastic members who are just there to get their marks; what would happen if the cycling club had 100 more unequipped members who are just there to get their marks; what would happen if the robotics club had 100 more incompetent members who are just there to get their marks. UTM is not shaping holistic individuals, they are just forcing something down people’s throat, and that would create a class of people who are just there for the sake of being there and getting the marks, not actually a bunch of passionate people for the main subject of the activity.

Even so, let’s say every one joins an activity every week, there is also a tendency for people to jump from one activity to another as they did not find interested, it will create a superficial experience for the students for their entire study period. This will also make the person learn a lot, but just from the surface level, nothing would be done in depth, nothing would be done with passion.

You can also argue that to those who wants to do something different, they can just register with UTM as a new body, and do what they want. However, if 100 people wanted to do something different from one another, there would be too many clubs to keep track with and to deal with from the management point of view.

Statistically speaking, about 80 percent of people like to live comfortably from one day to another without having to be worrying about life, like adults living from one paycheck to another without worrying about anything. This is what constructs the society we live in, or else it will break down eventually. I could not imagine if every one or even more than half the population is Elon Musk living in the society or even in this university.

How To Fix It?

UTMCAT & KOQ day have good intentions, very good indeed, do not get me wrong. However, the problems come from the practicality part of this plan.

Steve Jobs when he was pushing out Apple III after the glory of Apple II. The Apple III was a computer in the dreams of Steve, but it was rather impractical to build it in the 70s. Steve expected something only from his dreams at that time, and it turned out to be one of the failures of Apple.

Synonymous to what UTM is trying achieve here, UTM is trying to build a campus filled with building-in-progress ‘holistic individuals’. However, it is impractical to execute the plans that UTM has now.

Here are some better solutions,

i) UTM can add one more compulsory semester for KOQ.

ii) The activities organised can be not necessary on Tuesday only. It can be done every two weeks or so on any other days. Reduce the number of activities that is needed to be joined as to compensate with the lack of facilities, transportation and human resource.

iii) Improvise on the activities list of the current ACAD system to be benchmark for the recording of marks. The mentioned system is very similar to UTMSAT, why not just improve on that?

In toto,

Trying to reach the sky in one great leap is bound to falling. Take it step by step and sit down to discuss, research, and survey on how to structure holistic individuals in a different manner would be imperative and practical.

What we expect is normally what we could not do. Be realistic when setting goals and be specific when doing them. Not just dreaming about a goal to happen then it will happen, it is all about taking a piecemeal approach in realising those goals realistically.

Here is a petition you can sign to help us out: CLICK HERE!

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