By R.S. Kamini
MALAYSIA dreams of establishing itself as a regional education hub.Various policies were put in place, scrapped, reviewed and strengthened in order to upgrade the quality of education in the country. That was how the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 came into effect last September. It aspires to understand the current performance and challenges of the local school system and focuses on five core objectives — namely access, quality, equity, unity and efficiency. These objectives are in tandem with the government’s move to transform the system and make it flexible enough to accept and adapt to new challenges and expectations. The plan is also to produce students who are proficient in both the Malay and English languages, besides nurturing thinkers as well as leaders who are ethical, spiritual and with a strong sense of nationalism. While access to education has improved tremendously over the years, Malaysia really needs to worry about the quality of education provided and unity that is said to be declining rapidly at schools today. Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) is not sure how the Blueprint can address the aspect of unity. “How do you expect to promote national integration when national schools carry the image of Malay schools and vernacular schools look after their own?
“Chinese and Indian parents do not want to send their kids to national schools because there is no emphasis on the English language.
“There used to be a bigger number of Chinese and Indian students in national schools when PPSMI (Malay acronym for the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English) was in place,” says PAGE head Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim.Noor Azimah says one of the Blueprint’s goals to increase proficiency in the Malay and English languages is questionable. To be proficient in English, you need to apply the language, not just learn it in the classroom. For that to happen, schools need to teach more subjects in English.
When PPSMI was in place, it involved 40% of subject hours and provided exposure to the English language.
Without PPSMI, the exposure is halved. How will children master the language efficiently?“I am also curious to know how our children will fare since the government made English a must pass subject beginning 2016.
“They might just lower the pass mark grades, which will bring us back to square one,” says Noor Azimah.The Blueprint also aims to provide high-quality education that is uniquely Malaysian, but comparable to international standards, including in disciplines such as Mathematics, Science and English, as well as reasoning and problem-solving skills. “To achieve this quality, you need excellent teachers.
“The problem with our teachers today is that they are very complacent and lack the passion.
“Teaching is not their chosen path, but their last resort.
“When you are not passionate about something, you will only do the barest minimum,” says Noor Azimah.Speaking of equity, the new system intends to narrow the socio-economic, urban-rural and gender achievement gaps in student outcomes by 2020.
It also says that it will provide greater support and programmes for students with special needs and those from the indigenous and minority communities.An ambitious plan has been put in place to train all teachers on special education needs, improve under-enrolled schools with tools to engage the local community and provide tailor-made curriculum.
Only time will tell if these plans will materialise.Founder of Blindspot, a socio-economic think tank, Anas Alam Faizli suggests a pilot test using a group of the best and most willing teachers within the respective selected schools to address matters concerning indigenous and special needs’ children. “Students from poor families, orphans, Orang Asli kids and children from rural locations have very specific problems which cannot be catered to by the current systems.
“This is why they are unintentionally left behind in the mainstream national education system,” says Anas in his blog.Anas, who is the former founding chief executive officer of “Teach for the Needs”, also says by shifting the focus of the national education system from high achievers to actually improving achievement among special needs students will narrow the education gap. Academician, social commentator and blogger S. Ramakrishnan calls the Blueprint “an epic failure”. “The launch of the Malaysian Education Blueprint does not seem to make any impact to allay fears that the education standards in the country are slipping badly. “Malaysia came out 55th out of 74 countries in terms of reading literacy, 57th in Mathematics and ‘only marginally better’ in 52nd position for Science literacy.
“How can we achieve Vision 2020 developed status when we are languishing at the bottom of the world’s classrooms in our education standards?
“The irony is that the Education Ministry is always considered the stepping stone for all our Prime Ministers.
“A country in search of growth must invest in education.
“And the double irony is that Ministry of Education receives the highest allocation in every budget.”He says Malaysia needs to revise the way it formulates and implements the education system. While others are running forward, Malaysia seems running on the same spot, or even running in reverse and watching other nations pass by, Ramakrishnan says.
Malaysia is already facing a brain drain and lacks skilled workers.
“One thing consistent in the Ministry of Education are the flip flops in policies despite having spent billions setting up the hardware and software.
“It is also puzzling that all these shortcomings and failures do not seem get any counter or corrective action, or open consultation.
“There is no learning, relearning and unlearning by the Education Ministry.”The Education Blueprint has yet to cross its first year mark.
It has 10 years to prove its worth, but hopes are high that it will not be too late for Malaysia to prove its worthiness as a developed nation in the education aspect.