Sunday September 16, 2012
In search of a solution
IN its quest to transform the education system, the Education Ministry decided to let the rakyat have its say through National Education Dialogue townhall sessions in every state.
Now that the Preliminary Report Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 has been unveiled, some of the views brought up at these sessions helped shape the blueprint.
At the heart of the Malaysian Education dilemma is the issue of language and its use as a medium of instruction.
It was one of the first topics to be voiced by the floor.
Social activist Huzaini Abdul Karim said English as a medium of instruction should be reintroduced in schools as an option for those who want it.
“To live in a globalised world our children must master English. But we don’t have to force it upon our current system, keep using Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction.
“But give the option for English to parents who want their children to learn Science and Mathematics in the language,” he said.
Concerned Parents Selangor chairman Shamsudin Hamid who also spoke on behalf of other parent groups said: “The Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) must be reinstated if we are to achieve goals set for Vision 2020. Furthermore we have to restore the position of national schools as the first choice for parents.
“This can’t be done without changing the curriculum, upgrading the teaching profession, reorganising the school administration, engaging parents and returning to the PPSMI policy,” added Shamsudin.
He later presented a memorandum on the issues raised to the panel led by former Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom.
Former school language head Fauzi Halim said there was nothing wrong with the policy of Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening English (MBMMBI), adding that the government should go ahead with it.
“I thought we had already settled this issue and MBMMBI was already agreed upon. We musn’t forget the position of Bahasa Malaysia (BM) in the constitution,” he said.
There were passionate opinions on English, BM and upholding the position of vernacular schools from Parent-Teacher Association members (PIBG), a Tamil schools association and United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) representatives.
Muhammad Salleh, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) also provided an enlightening view on the status of the national language.
“I have written pantuns (poems), and cerpens (short stories) in both BM and English. While learning languages is an important exercise, so is developing the national language.
“We’ve neglected BM and that is why it has seen a decline in importance, without a national language, a country loses its soul and I am seeing that happen to Malaysians. If you want Malaysians to be proficient in BM as well as English, then make BM relevant again,” he said.
With the blueprint’s goals of 100% literacy in English and BM after three years of schooling, and the objective that every child picks up a new language by 2025, the blueprint tries to meet the surface demands of all parties, but will it?
Yayasan AFS Antarabudaya Malaysia President Roslan Muhammad brought up the issue of teachers practising “I scratch your back you scratch my back” policy in schools.
“There is boot-licking culture among school staff today. They get away from responsibilities by pleasing their principals.
“This is a institutional problem and it is becoming rampant. There is a loss of focus, interest and dedication among teaching and administrative staff,” he said.
He added that parents should be able to visit schools during recess for dealings with the school office.
“Schools should be efficient and capable of meeting the needs of parents but unfortunately this kind of misconduct causes it to become overly bureaucratic.
“I suggest that school heads not be allowed to stay in one school for too long.
“They should be moved around so that they and the people around them do not get too comfortable with each other and abuse that mutual camaraderie,” he said.
Sarawak Teacher’s Union president William Ghani Bina spoke on why teaching is not an easy job.
“Many people think teaching is a half-day job, this is a myth. Teaching goes well beyond schooling hours and right into the weekend.
“We have to organise school events like sports day, canteen day, teacher’s day and other activities. This does not take into account marking examination papers, homework and clerical duties.
“Teaching can be gruelling and teachers don’t need more stress by being transferred to schools far away from their family. A teacher who is not at ease mentally can’t teach, so I suggest posting teachers closer to home,” he said.
He also suggested that teacher training be localised, so teachers can be recruited from their own communities and administrative positions be filled by locals.
“If a school’s principal and teachers come from the community, it will be easier to manage the school as they will understand the local mindset and issues.
Even though teacher placement was not highlighted by the blueprint, it does promise to reduce administrative chores and provide tailored teacher coaching to raise standards, but with more than 400,000 teachers in Malaysia, it is a tall order.
The rest of the comments from the floor range from adding more values in education to making religious schools compulsory for Muslim students.
It also included giving schools more autonomy and bringing back mission schools to the forefront of education.
Even special needs teachers took to the stand and spoke out on their students’ needs.
What was clear was that while vocal on their education demands, Malaysians are still very divided over what they want for the future of their children.
Perhaps it’s best to note that while unable to please everyone, the blueprint touches on many concerns of the people. It also attempts to address the needs of children in a globalised world.