Sunday, 24 June 2007

Another "Sick Project"

Boy...when is this ever going to end?

Yesterday, The Star highlighted that another newly built government building, the Pekan Hospital, has been found with defects that resulted in leakages (see Pekan Hospital a ‘sick project’). This angered the Health Minister, who labelled this hospital as a "sick project."

This is not the first time that such embarrassing news concerning serious defects found in newly completed government buildings hit the headlines. In the past few months, we have seen successive reports on defects, faults, and leakages in newly completed multi-million Ringgit buildings including the Jalan Duta Court Complex, the Headquarters of the Immigration Department Building in Putrajaya (see photograph to the right, courtesy of The Star), and the multi-purpose hall of the Entrepreneurial Development and Cooperative Ministry in Putrajaya (see photography below, courtesy of The Star). Not to forget are the reports on the leakages in the Parliament House and the runway blackout at the Kuala Terengganu airport that caused flights delay.

As someone who was involved in the property development industry for many years before making a "career change" to theology (well, I am still a property valuer...at least in name! BTW, those who would like my professional advice, I'm happy to provide consultancy services, but please be reminded that it will be 10-year dated!), I am naturally concerned not only for the safety of these buildings but also the people that work and visit those buildings. As a responsible citizen, I am also concerned that more tax-payer's money might be used to rectify those defects in the event that the guilty party, should there be any, is not brought to justice.

It does not take a professional in the building and construction industry to inform us that defects just simply do not happen, and there could be many contributing reasons - unscrupulous cost cutting measures, poor supervision and inadequate quality control, unskilled labour, unethical practices, shoddy workmanship, poor design, not building according to specifications, and not adhering to building standards, amongst many others.

Similarly, as a theological educator, I am also concerned whether we have been producing "sick" graduates for the Christian ministry in Malaysia and beyond. And there could be many contributing reasons for this. Perhaps we have taken the easy route by providing short cuts in theological education. Perhaps we are guilty of poor pastoral supervision. Perhaps it is due to a poorly designed or outdated curriculum that does not meet the present ministerial expectations. Perhaps it is a result of lowering the standards of theological education. Perhaps we have demonstrated sloppy scholarship to our students. Perhaps we could have fallen into the temptation of conferring titles and paper qualifications to the extent that we are prepared to compromise the academic requirement and integrity of a degree programme.

Perhaps this is a good time for us to evaluate ourselves critically and honestly. The article by John Piper, "Brothers, Pray for the Seminaries," is one that I constantly refer to and reflect upon. This article has been my constant source of challenge, guide, and prayer as I struggle to live out my vocation as a seminary lecturer.

Let us be reminded that as theological institutions, we must uphold our integrity as provider of quality theological education in training pastors, workers, thinkers, and scholars not only for this generation but also for the future. If we do not rectify our weaknesses now, it will be too costly in the future - and it might be too late by then.

9 comments:

pearlie said...

To look at the matter in a broader sense, Christian education starts in the family, at least for Christian families. It is a norm that it is left to the Sunday School and some church do not even have trained teachers or teachers who are well-versed with Scriptures.

As a mother, I am being reminded time and again to read the Scriptures and pray together with my son, praying that the foundation is strong and the "building" stay strong in years and years to come.

Alex Tang said...

hi pearlie,

You are so so right. Christian education does start in the family. IMHO, it starts in the womb, but definitely in the family.

kar yong,

I agree with you on both counts- quality buildings and quality theological education.

I do not know whether you agree with me or not but I feel theological education should be more towards character building than like producing MBAs.

pearlie said...

Alex,
Yes, it does start from the womb. I can't say that it happened with me though, sadly. But God is gracious and I am thankful that I still have the chance to instil in my son a love for God. I pray and hope that he will grow to be truly a man after God's heart.

Kar Yong said...

Thanks for the thots, pearlie and alex.

Sometimes it is not only the families that leave CE to sunday school...churches sometimes leave it to the seminaries and expect the seminaries to perform miracles too!!

Alex, yes, I do think ultimate aim of theological education is character building. But I wonder is there a close corelation between quality theological education and character building? The better the quality of theological education, will this translate to better spiritual formation and character building?

On the one hand, the concern is that there are already so many unaccredited theological institutions compromising on this. And the sad thing is that so many pastors/leaders are going for "degrees" just for the title sake. So the question in such case is whether character formation part of the process or the intended outcome?

rccnlj said...

Perhaps it's because the lecturers need to do gardening with us on Thursdays - show us how to do it?? *cheeky grin*

pearlie said...

churches sometimes leave it to the seminaries and expect the seminaries to perform miracles too!!
Aren't seminaries supposed to?
haha ...

Kar Yong said...

hahaha...if a family cannot do it in 20 years, church cannot do it in 10 years, perhaps seminary can do it in 1-2 years...wow...

Alex Tang said...

Hi Kar Yong,

you posed 2 interesting questions:

But I wonder is there a close corelation between quality theological education and character building? The better the quality of theological education, will this translate to better spiritual formation and character building?

I will like to take up the discussion here

The Hedonese said...

Great article by Piper, focuses our theological learning not for showing-off but God-glorifying pursuits...

Paul Stevens once told me that we have lots of theology done at the top that's in the air, and a lot of work on the ground that's not sufficiently reflected upon... we do not have a theology of the marketplace.