Sunday October 28, 2007
Education For All
Children's right to education must be protected, especially when they cannot cope with an examination-oriented system that does not emphasise other kinds of aptitude.
By HENG KING WEY
Education has proven to be the key in development, and it all starts with educating children. Article 28 in the Convention of the Rights of Children states that primary education should be compulsory and available free to all. We are fortunate because this policy is implemented in Malaysia.
Primary school education in Malaysia is compulsory for children from the age of seven and our Malaysian government has taken the initiative to provide free textbooks for all schoolchildren.
This ensures that our children have a headstart in life.
However, there are children who drop out of school after attending school for a short period of time in their early years.
This is a serious matter that the government need to address as precious human capital will all go to waste.
This is mostly due to the immense pressure from the school to do well academically.
Other kinds of abilities are not acknowledged, and students who do not perform as well as their peers academically often feel left out and isolated.
Lim Yue Ching, 18, left school because she felt completely lost.
“I can hardly understand one word out of ten in English. Last time, I could at least still do Science and Math, but now I don't understand a thing,” she laments.
Some of these students then find ways to “entertain” themselves in school by disturbing other classmates and breaking school rules.
Without realising it, they soon become the “bad hats” in school and school seems to be a big bad place they no longer feel accepted at.
“My teachers don't like me and try to find fault with me. They always feel I'm causing trouble in school. So, why go to school?,” says Tan Sue Yong ,18 The CRC calls for the “development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need”.
Well, first of all these individuals who have lost interest before making it to secondary education would not have made the cut for the selection to be in a vocational school as some would have done really badly in their public examinations.
Some see vocational schools as yet another formal educational institution, and deny themselves the opportunity to gain useful skills there.
Measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of dropout rates must be implemented more vigorously.
Some schools today are trying their best to encourage students to attend school. A headmaster even put up signboard at the entrance of the school that says “ Congratulations for coming to school !”.
Unfortunately, some teachers dismiss students who do badly in class as being problematic and hopeless, and would rather concentrate their efforts and time on the bright students.
However, we need to look at the problem of school dropouts seriously.
Why is it that some students are physically present in school but are not interested to learn anything in class? This is a serious matter that has yet to be acknowledged by schools as well as the Education Ministry.
Teachers today are pressured to produce more and more students with strings of As in public examination so their focus is on completing the syllabus.
This leaves little time for student- teacher interaction, and the students who don't fare so well are left behind.
Ideally, education should not be all about examinations and the number of As one can obtain, but it should be about the experience of learning.
So, why is there so much emphasis given to public examination results? Even students who are happy to have passed their exams are shy about their personal achievement just because their best does not include a fat figure of As?
“I cannot catch up with the rest of the class anyway. Working is a better option for me. I can earn my own living now and gain working experience,” says 17- year-old Gina Teoh.
Along the way, we have lost sight of the true meaning of education.
Children go to school to chase after certificates, and memorise facts without appreciating the joy of learning.
Children who cannot fit into this environment and had to quit school early are proof that such an education system does not work for all.
It's time to seriously look into offering them viable options so they can develop their potential in other areas.
As we celebrate Universal Children's Day on Nov 20, let's all look at the CRC and work towards improving all children's lives. We are the future, aren't we?