Sunday April 22, 2012
Pertinent pointers for a head start
PAGE VIEWS By NOOR AZIMAH ABDUL RAHIM
ATTENTION all PTAs: Now that annual general meetings (AGM) of parent-teacher associations (PTA) have concluded, and as brand new, but usually a mix of new and old, committee members sit together to determine a course of action for the year, here are a few pointers to get a head start.
Dispensing with the usual welcoming speech, the most pertinent item on the agenda would be whether or not the PTA has its own constitution. If it does have one, properly endorsed by the chairman and honorary secretary, then every parent committee member has a right to ask for a copy either to keep or to be circulated for all to refer to at any point in time, especially at AGMs.
If the PTA does not have a constitution to call its own, then having one should be the first priority. The PTA registrar has made available comprehensive guidelines, which the committee can obtain at any state education department, to provide the first draft of any constitution. The trick is to keep it flexible so that the committee does not bind its own hands.
A reconsideration of a non-parent remaining as chairman as his child leaves the school has its benefits.
It should be made clear that the role of the principal is strictly advisory, as well as those of his senior administrators. They do not have voting rights.
Traditionally, the role of the PTA, although quite broad, has been restricted to just fundraising. Personally, I think it is the responsibility of the government to do this. Nonetheless, such activities do bring in some loose change but involves tremendous time and effort not to mention the tedious double entry and reconciliations to be undertaken by the honorary treasurer, who is usually a teacher, and the internal auditors, who are parents trying their best to ensure transparency, independence and prudence.
PTAs of high performance schools (HPS) and cluster schools have a right to enquire where the funding is used. HPS receive RM700,000 in the first year, RM500,000 in the second, RM300,000 in the third and every year after that. Cluster schools don’t get as much. Some principals agree to append the accounts in the PTA annual report.
Many parent committee members do not realise that the role of the PTA is to ensure the welfare of the students of the school. This is more important than fundraising. The PTA should and can intervene where the rights of the student are contravened.
Take, for example, when the Education Minister delayed the abolition of the policy of teaching and learning of science and mathematics in English (PPSMI) in November 2011. The deputy minister and his director-general echoed the minister in saying that school heads cannot insist that everyone learns in Bahasa Malaysia and that students must be allowed to learn the two subjects in their language of choice.
While many parents and their children sought for this option to be offered at their schools, many principals chose to ignore their pleas citing reasons such as books are in Bahasa Malaysia and so are examinations. While the Education Ministry did clarify that books in English (tattered by now) could be re-used, they remained silent on the language for examinations. A simple answer to the question would have been “bilingual”.
PTAs should have stepped in and insisted that these rights are respected but many parents chose to remain quiet for fear of reprisal. It is crucial that the PTA keeps up to date with all educational matters. It is made easier now as education is widely reported by the media daily and in great detail. Assign a parent to maintain a folder.
By knowing what is being promised to other schools, one can ask for the same. If the minister has decided upon something which affects the students, PTAs should ensure that these are carried out at school level.
PAGE has been busy this month. We listened to Professor Yves Quere (president of the Senate of Professors at Ecole Polytechnique, Paris and Member of the Académie des Sciences) who talked on Inquiry-Based Science Education (organised by the Academy Sciences Malaysia); stumbled upon frustrated PPSMI teacher trainers who prefer English; touched base with the Institute for Strategic and International Studies (ISIS); spoke on “PPSMI-The Never Ending Quest” at our Ipoh Chapter; and brainstormed with Unesco. We will speak on “Malaysian Education Landscape and School Choice” at the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (Asli) Education Summit tomorrow.
Good luck all with the national education dialogue. Write in if you want to be part of it.
> The writer is chairman of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia or PAGE.