Side Views

Ministry of Education (or Miseducation)? — Angry Parent

November 10, 2011

NOV 10 — Phew! Finally anxious parents get a reprieve (or do they?) with announcement from the DPM that students who started out studying Mathematics and Science in English will be allowed to continue in the language they studied. What remains to be seen will be the implementation of this policy.

Our hearts go out to parents whose children commence Standard One next year — especially as there are many of us, who speak English at home and who want our children to compete in the international arena.

Mismanagement

Malaysian politicians are famous for making grandiose statements with little or no concern about the implementation. Regardless, parents still remain anxious and uncomfortable at the politicisation of education. Our children have become pawns in the hands of these ministers, who for political mileage use education as a bait. And leaders elected by us to be our representatives have played us out.

Parents want to know categorically, how the policy will be implemented in schools. We do hope the minister will ensure that, especially in urban schools, these subjects be taught in English and the option not be left to the discretion of the teacher. We parents had rightly guessed the implementation would be left in the hands of the principals and teachers of the schools.

Now why do we parents find this unacceptable? Because most of the principals and teachers will find the easy way out and with impunity teach Maths and Science in Malay. So where does that leave our children who would be disadvantaged by this flip-flop policy?

We, angry parents, would like this question to be answered by the Ministry of Education (MOE): in what language are the texts for Science and Math for 2012 and what about our children who are in schools that are unable to teach in English?

Some of the children have already received text books in English, and so we ask again of the MOE, will these students be taught in English? What is the time frame to complete the transfer of school, if we wish our children to be in schools that teach these subjects in English? Let us know categorically which schools will be teaching in English and the procedure for transfer.

Is the Ministry of (Mis) Education aware that SPM students who are sitting for exams next week had to return their textbooks to the school before their exams? What kind of system is in place that does not care for the needs of the children?

We do hope that all these issues of mismanagement of the education system will be reflected in the KPIs of the ministers. The bureaucrats in the Ministry of Education should also be hauled up and held accountable.

Many excuses have been used to revert to the teaching of Science and Maths in Malay such as the teachers are unable to teach in English. Why should this be when millions was spent in training the teachers, for software, including teachers’ and student manuals? These subjects have been taught in English for almost six years — enough time for teachers to cope with the changes.

Tuition, syllabus and streaming

This is also a call to take action or ship out all those incompetent and lazy teachers who promote their own tuition classes to students instead of giving their best in class. This has become a racket and a bane to parents. In some countries, it is a policy that teachers cannot give tuition to students from their own schools.

Furthermore, parents of students in national schools are forking out huge sums on tuition and activity books, notwithstanding the petrol costs and time spent in ferrying students to and from tuition, duplicating what should have been taught in school. Shouldn’t the educational needs for students be met in school? The amounts we pay out each month are almost what parents pay to have their children schooled privately!

Our syllabus is not challenging to young minds: we promote rote learning rather than creative thinking. It is baffling why there has to be multiple choice for maths, when 2+2=4 and can never be 22 or anything else! The syllabus for English is, in a nut-shell, students study greetings from Standard One to Form Five, keeping the students on the brink of boredom through their school years.

Oh, I wonder what the reason is for 50 per cent of the Form Four history syllabus being dedicated solely to Islam. After all, Muslim students do study this separately and it will be repetition for them. Furthermore, a small portion of the syllabus dedicated to this beautiful religion would be fine; otherwise it is proselytising?

At primary level, students are barely exposed to the laboratory; yet their Science paper has an entire section devoted to experiments, their observations and conclusions. There is hardly any space for creative writing or intellectual discourse.

The truth is, if we want to compete with the rest of the world and acquire developed status, the level of teaching in schools should be improved to enhance the education standard. The government should have a more inclusive multiracial recruitment policy and a compensation system to reward good teachers. This will automatically raise the level of efficiency and productivity of concerned school-teachers and directly improve the performance of students.

By the way, the system of streaming young children is absolutely ridiculous as it only serves to lower children’s self esteem, with no benchmarks for either the good or the poor students to emulate. It is a form of segregation and should be abolished immediately.

It is also believed that only the best classes get good teachers; then you are giving those children an unfair advantage and that in itself is cheating the other students, totalling eroding their self confidence. After all, the Malaysian education system has not produced any Nobel laureates; so now, concede to the weakness and make the necessary changes!

An education hub?

Malaysia also has a grand plan to become an education hub, and again taxpayers’ money is spent on promoting Malaysia as a destination for higher education. How the heck are we to do this, when our students, even teachers and lecturers, are more proficient in BM than English? Is anyone at the Ministry of Higher Education even thinking?

Would you believe the dismay of an international PhD student who submitted a PhD proposal to the English Department in the University of Malaya and received the recommendations and comments in Bahasa Malaysia! This truly happened and such are the standards that we have come to accept in our country.

Regardless, it all boils down to raising the standards of English all round, which the DPM has promised to do. But we wonder if the minister realises this can only be achieved when a majority of the subjects are taught in English and the teachers begin to speak and write in English. Only then will Malaysia achieve a breakthrough in this realm.

We have lofty goals to achieve, and anyway it looks rather nice for the government to proclaim it wants to become high-income nation and that Malaysia wants to acquire developed status. But what are the plans implemented to achieve these goals?

Can these benchmarks and milestones be achieved without English, the lingua franca of international education, trade and industry, banking and finance and even tourism? Where does the lack of English language proficiency leave us all, if we cannot compete in the global arena? Perhaps on the road to Greece?

It is imperative and incumbent on the government and the Ministry of Education to formulate an acceptable and concrete plan as to how Science and Maths are going to be taught over the next few years. Parents, who are also voters, want to know what is being done to upgrade the education system in Malaysia to ensure our children are not left behind and are able to compete at the international level. No, not all of us can afford international schools; we are not cronies nor are we well paid government bureaucrats who can afford to send out kids to elite schools. So don’t even tell us so.

Seriously, the education system needs to be revamped. A good starting point would be to remove the purview of education from politicians and leave it in the hands of reputable academicians. Our children are not footballs to be kicked around by our ministers of (mis)education! — aliran.com

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication, and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.