Side Views

Revamp the education system — Disappointed Mom

January 22, 2013

JAN 22 — As a new school year is under way, it is not only students but also parents who feel, wary and uncertain of the expected changes in Year 2013.

Now that the excitement of the newly launched education blueprint has settled, what awaits Malaysian students and their parents? As a mother, I had a cursory glance, knowing fully well that the next education minister will freely make more alterations.

Through the years one thing has remained constant: the innumerable changes to the education system — the earnestness of the previous and current education ministers in implementing gross and drastic changes has turned our kids into collateral damage in their frenzy to garner votes.

Perhaps the first to lose trust in our education system are Malaysian ministers and senior government bureaucrats, who in much haste are sending their own children to private English schools or to overseas institutions — a clear indication of the dismal level and standard that our education system has sunk to.

We are all familiar with the issue of PPSMI. Though the deputy prime minister in a statement categorically said that the system with the option of studying maths and science in English would remain until 2016, the ministry, it seems, is not keeping to the word of the minister. In Year 2012 itself, maths and science books were being printed in Malay, and now for 2013, students have been told that they would be taught in BM.

Worse, some UPSR students who were educated in English for science and maths in the past years have already received BM texts! How much concern then does our Ministry of Education have for its students?

What really happened to the best-laid plans of Tun Mahathir? Certainly waylaid and “hijacked”! Not to mention the millions of public funds being spent on materials, resources and seminars to implement the teaching of science and maths in English. Now, once again the ministry will have a chance to spend more millions to revoke the system!

Increasingly, each year parents have to bear the bludgeoning costs of tuition classes, as the standard of teaching in our schools is simply inadequate to prepare our children for exams. This indeed is a huge burden on us. What we are now spending on tuition classes is close to what a private school education would cost.

Puchong parents are also faced with a lack of school buses for many of the schools in Puchong. Is the ministry even aware of this? Parents are forking out sizeable sums to private car owners for their children’s transport.

At the beginning of the year, the number of notebooks that we parents have to buy is almost unjustifiable. If you had checked last year, you would know how many of these books remained virtually unused! Thankfully, the ministry provides students with textbooks; however, the necessity of buying activity books is contributing to a huge strain on parents’ purses. We seem to be in the business of making book publishers rich.

Why does maths need to be studied as multiple choice? Is 2+2= 4? So why should it be 6, 8 or 22? These weak foundations crumble by the time students graduate and are ready for employment. The entire syllabus needs to be revamped to challenge our students and to ensure their future employability and ability to compete in an increasingly global workplace!

There is inequity in the system of streaming, which is biased to students whose mother tongue is BM. A case in point is that most of the subjects are taught and assessed in BM; so students who do not speak the language at home are disadvantaged. The system of streaming students not only erodes the confidence of the students, but gives an unfair advantage to good teachers. A good Ministry of Education would have protected the interests of students from minority groups.

While the standard of BM has risen, the standard of English has dropped drastically. Many whose mother tongue is not BM get pushed into the “last” classes. More would be gained by helping students who are not academically inclined by giving them benchmarks, additional help and good role models — not by eroding their self esteem and dumping them in the last class.

The gross indiscipline in schools is frightening. This is perhaps due to the small numbers of male teachers to counsel, mentor and discipline male students. It is also believed that secret societies and gangsterism have permeated into national schools; what is being done about this?

Our system does not have much to offer for students who are slow learners affected by ADD and ADHD. Statistics show that about 5-6 per cent of American male students seem to have some sort of learning disorder. In Malaysia, this large segment of students with learning disabilities goes undetected and undiagnosed.

The result is that this inaction becomes more visible at the tertiary level, where we see more female students. This would account for the serious dropout levels among male students due to undetected learning disorders and the absence of proper interventions or coping mechanisms for them.

A recommendation to the MoE would be for qualified medical professionals to carry out early assessments of students who are not performing well academically and introduce early intervention to put them into the mainstream. Putting these students in the “last” class with a trainee or temporary teachers is seriously not an option.

Some consideration should be given for students to be admitted into schools in Year 6 with compulsory pre-school education (which is in the blueprint). However, five years of primary schooling should suffice if students have had a pre-school education. With an additional five years at secondary education, students would be able to enter employment a year earlier, without hampering the education process.

What needs immediate consideration:

● Trained graduate teachers recruited on a merit basis from all the races would not only encourage employability of Malaysians of all races but also enhance the standards of teaching. Teachers who are trained and inculcated in good teaching strategy and methodology would achieve good student outcomes. It would also remove the necessity of sending our children to expensive tuition centres that have sprouted everywhere.

● A revamp of the syllabus to encourage and challenge the learning and thinking faculties of our students to be on par with developed countries is needed. Even our neighbour across the border has better standards than us!

● There seems to be a myopic obsession with “inwardness”. Allow the syllabus to provide a broader knowledge of other countries, cultures, ethnicities, religions, science and technology. Provide our students with a well-rounded education to be globally competitive.

● End the systemic streaming of students; it discriminates, it marginalises, for it has produced too few world-class innovators or academia.

● The mission schools were in demand and very well run. English-type national schools and mission schools should be encouraged to cater to the demand for quality education.

● Politicians should keep their hands off education and allow decisions to be made by the academicians, educationists, parents and other relevant stakeholders; most of all, allow the voices of the children to be heard.

With the ballot box awaiting, Malaysians should vote in a government that is willing to engage and implement policies that are truly in the best interest of its citizens. —

* Disappointed Mom is the pseudonym of an occasional contributor to Aliran.

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