Let's break the ranking chain pandemic once and for all
Date : 05 June 2020
Reported by : Roslan Bin Rusly
Category : News
THE 'rankers' are back with their wares. Call it the ranking games. There is a marked difference this time around as it is the first in the post-pandemic environment.
In pre-pandemic times the same exercise had raised so many questions, some of which are still unanswered until today. How relevant is the current exercise in the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) world , which is racked by the novel coronavirus?
In other words, are the measures devised before the pandemic still relevant? Especially when they are assigned numbers or key performance indicators (KPI) that are matched against changing, if not different backgrounds. What does it mean when the backgrounds are tainted by a chronic infection of the incurable kind?
Will the placing or position assigned against a specific criteria stay the same when the said criteria are no longer justifiable? What is the need for such measures then? Indeed, this is the crux of the contention based on so-called 'merits'. What is deemed as merits in the pre-Covid-19 outbreak may not necessarily be so now.
Or for that matter, the perception gathered between two situations, particularly when a large weightage is assigned in determining the final outcome.
Let us take a situation where financial or human resources are involved as in getting published or undertaking research.
Resources are declining due to the deadly infection influencing outcomes related to the two academic activities' contributions to the ranking games. Whatever available resources are spent on activities that can prevent the spread of the infection instead. For instance, providing face masks, soap and sanitisers.
In the present circumstances, more than 'merits', what is pertinent is to determine the state of preparedness or resiliency of the institution. The implications being unless the latter is the focus, it can lead to the demise of the institution (read obsolescence and bankruptcy). No numbers, KPIs or rankings can be ascribed to such a tragedy, regardless of how the 'rankers' wish to commercially manipulate it.
We desperately need a brand new normal away from the tired and obsolete games of counting beans. It is vital to go back to the renewed normalcy of yesterday where values of resiliency and sustainable thinking are better prized as part of education futures.
Rankings have caused enough distortions to the true purpose(s) of education. A new US book, The Merit Myth: How our colleges favour the rich and divide America, opens up a Pandora's box with jaw-dropping effect as illustrated by the ongoing Black Live Matters countrywide protests. Among others the book points to how racism undercuts and continues to block students from even reaching university education.
Yet, the wealthy can buy their way into elitist universities. A TV soap-opera celebrity was recently sentenced to jail because of the same corrupt practice. Such an ecosystem of education has been dubbed "a sorting machine" that would produce "natural aristocracy", perpetuating an elitist ruling class.
This class (mis)uses access to education as a means to prolong its power base. A practice that is amply seen in the dubious ranking game where 'merits' are manufactured and manipulated. The rankings are propped up by objective admission criteria like SAT.
In a Covid-19 world where money, power and elitism have no more place, and are replaced by values, justice and fairness, the ranking game is totally out of sync. In a nutshell, like Covid-19, it is time to break the dubious ranking chain once and for all for the sake of access and equity for all.
The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector