Archive for the ‘Malaysian schools’ Category
3 April 2014
A RESPONSE TO THE RAKYAT POST
Why homeschool critics are missing the point
I appreciate that critics of homeschooling may be wondering what’s the fuss about alternative education? Arguably, ‘school’ is not necessarily a very bad idea after all. Be that as it may, schooling in Malaysia leaves much to be desired, and that’s not good. Indeed the state of Malaysian education is dire. Very. Which is why homeschooling parents and advocates like myself believe alternatives are valid as well as necessary. All you need to do is talk to stakeholders. Let me point out 3 groups:
Do our educationists and academics believe in Malaysian schools? The overwhelming evidence is that schools in the country have not only failed, they have failed miserably. Ask educators. Ask the World Bank. Ask Malaysian graduates who have left the country by the thousands. Talk to employers. Few people deny there is systemic failure. We see it in declining education standards, outdated teaching methodology, crowded classrooms, questionable pedagogy, dumbed down curricula, overt politicisation of education, thoughtless flip-flops, unending quarrels over medium of instruction, etc. That every Minister of Education has seen it fit to introduce all kinds of change during their tenure is telling. Hence all that hand flapping every other year at the parents’ expense!
We are now told the new blueprint for education is the way forward. Is it? (See The Penang Institute Roundtable on Education report) Will it turn education around for the better for our children and their children? Will factory-model schools prepare our kids for today’s knowledge economy? Sir Ken Robinson doesn’t think so. Are we turning out thinkers and problem solvers? Do our kids leave 12 years of schooling with a greater sense of patriotism and love for their country and its people? Why is there rising concern that our schools are contributing to polarisation and increased racism?
If our academics and educationists admit to serious reservation regarding the state of our schools, is it not highly irresponsible to subject another generation of children to a dodgy enterprise such as this?
Are Malaysian parents happy with their children’s schooling and education? Do our parents greet the school day with delight and enthusiasm? I think not. No parent will dispute the importance of education. But almost every mother will tell you with a wan smile that they wish our schools were better, or that teachers were more competent and caring. And don’t get them started on all those extra tuition so Junior learns what schools are not properly teaching. Besides, isn’t the school curriculum padded with propaganda? If they could afford it, their children would be in a reputable private international school (but that’s another story).
Is it any wonder that one of the primary causes of stress and family tension across the nation is our children’s schooling? All in pursuit of a piece of paper that is valued less and less in centers of learning abroad. Like our neighbour across the Causeway. No amount of pontificating over socialisation, holistic education (whatever that means in Malaysian schools), patriotism, etc will hide the fact that a tree is known by its fruit.
Do Malaysian students enjoy their day in school? Are they engaged learners in their classroom? If we would only talk to our children and ask them what their school days are like, what they think of their countless exams, we will see how much schooling means to them. You can tell something is seriously wrong with our schools when coercion and an act of Parliament are the only means to keep our kids in school. When students wish they were somewhere else, you know schools are missing the point.
On the other hand, those who homeschool or educate their own children at home, are strikingly different. Here’s how:
Education reformers agree homeschooling is nothing to scoff at. Research and longitudinal studies have shown how well homeschooling kids have performed compared to those in conventional schools. Simply google and you’ll see numerous reports that show how homeschoolers have excelled. The brilliant and exceptional ones notwithstanding, these studies show that homeschooling students do just as well if not better than students in traditional schools. If homeschoolers have not been significantly disadvantaged academically and socially, how is this a bad thing?
Homeschooling parents are among the happiest folks around! They’re enthusiastic, resourceful, socialise across ethnic and religious boundaries, celebrate diversity, and are proud of their children and their achievements as homeschoolers. They teach their own kids using all kinds of books and stuff. They are involved parents whose investment in their children’s education is driven by love and not by fear.
It’s not often said, but homeschooling families are patriots whose children’s education does not eat into the Ministry of Education coffers or waste taxpayers’ money. They do not have to fill in forms or engage in faux political sloganeering; they don’t have fancy facilities and gadgets or buy textbooks they won’t read; they don’t wait for permission from authorities to engage in joint-activities, and neither do they care for politicians to flag off their get-together and meet-ups. These are parents who come from all walks of life, believers in life-long learning, volunteers who make time to learn and play together for their children’s sake.
Is not this positive socialisation a thing to encourage? Why are these families able to do what so many of our schools can’t unless you wave a stick at them? Simple – because they truly believe and love what they are doing as homeschoolers. Happy homeschooling families who interact across age, race, and religion put the lie to claims that conventional schools in the country do a better job.
Homeschooling children are among the brightest I have met. Ask any homeschooling child if they enjoy being educated at home, and I’ll bet you’ll get a resounding Yes! They love learning because they find security and acceptance at home, and they have the freedom to do it at their own pace. Educator John Holt can tell you that’s how children learn – they have time, and they are given space.
Our homeschooled kids are respected and loved; they are gifted, smart, a little weird perhaps, but mostly they dislike being boxed-in or typecast. More importantly, they are all exceptional individuals who will make a difference in our world in their own way and on their own terms. Our homeschooling children are big on formal and non-formal learning, and they are loving it. Aren’t happy self-directed students what this country needs? If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, these children are a testimony that homeschooling works.
Of course, not all parents should homeschool, but those who do know they’re into a good thing with few regrets. Let critics say what they like about how homeschooling misses the mark. You know what? We have seen Malaysian schools for what they are, and we’re not missing what they are offering.
28 January 2011
What’s happening to our kids? A letter to the Star laments the increase of stress and emotional problems among school children, and points out that the present system is depriving them the best time of their lives – childhood. Makes you wonder why more parents aren’t looking at homeschool as a viable option.
STUDIES show that more and more school-going children are emotionally disturbed, as reported by the Health Ministry.
School is no more a fun place. In the old days, we always looked forward to going to school. But students today shudder to think about their school.
The school schedule is one cause of stress. Children spend time doing challenging school work, project work, participating in district events like choral reading, debates, etc.
At home, they have to complete loads of homework. Besides, they have tuition classes to attend; some attend tuition for every subject.
The poor child is deprived of his best moments in life – childhood. Even holidays are not spared. Children have extra classes to attend in school. And again more work needs to be done.
Even the physical environment creates stress for children. In most schools, the walls display slogans like “5As our goal” and “We will achieve 5As”.
They make the young minds ponder: Can I obtain 5As or will I fail to get 5As? What happens if I can’t get the As, will my parents be upset? What will my friends think of me?
Not only are the students stressed but the teachers and parents too. In my recent interaction with some teachers, they say the Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah has created more paperwork, leaving less time for teaching and learning.
Parents caught in the rat race are also in stress mode. Besides having to find a good school for their kids, they also search out renowned tuition centres to send their children to.
Are As in the examinations the only criterion or goal of education? Surely not. Education should be wholesome, not just targeting academic excellence.
What about moral, spiritual, social and physical excellence? Children need to excel in all these domains. Excellence is a word that is always misunderstood by parents, and perhaps teachers also.
I believe every child can achieve excellence. For example, a C grader moving up the ladder to obtain a B or even a C+ is also excellence. But how many of our parents and teachers consider this as excellent?
The Smart School conception talks about this kind of excellence – a child should progress according to his capability and capacity. But, we only acknowledge excellence when the child obtains all As in his examination.
Stress in school is not a new phenomenon, but a story repeated time and again. What action has been taken to reduce stress among the three crucial players in school: students, teachers and parents?
We need solutions to these issues and bring back the joy of schooling.
Dr S. NATHESAN,
Read what are the Health and Education Ministries proposing?
Study: First year students on US campuses are experiencing record levels of stress
18 March 2010
Here’s an interesting bit of news for those who missed it in the Sun.
16-year old homeschooler Adrian Kumar Vendargon wants to sit for the SPM Bahasa paper as a private candidate. Unfortunately, there are obstacles in his way. Chief of which is the fact that Adrian has not gone through the system or sat for the PMR. The other is that he does not yet qualify as he is just 16 years old and the SPM is only for those who are 17 and older. Adrian, who turns 17 in December this year, is fond of the Malay language and has been home tutored on it since he was 14. Why is Adrian aiming for an exam in the Malay language?
“My fondness for the Malay language started when I was in primary school. I realised it is a good communication language in small towns and plus it is the national language,” he said.
“I got good grades in my BM in school and I am ready to sit for the SPM BM paper this year. It is preposterous that the examination board is not allowing me to.”
Adrian began homeschool back in 2007 “because he wanted to progress academically without being bound by a particular system.” But we do not know if he was educated at home or in a learning centre – one of those commonly touted as ‘homeschooling’ centres, providing ‘homeschool.’ Nevertheless, you can read the report which came out in theSun on Wednesday March 17.
Meanwhile, Adrian has decided not to leave any stone unturned in his bid to sit for the exam. He left a comment on PM Dato Sri Mohd Najib’s 1Malaysia blog and here’s what the homeschooler wrote:
Dear Dato Seri, I am a Malaysian, homeschooling doing the iGCSE at the British Council. I was born in December 1993. I will complete my iGCSE’s in June 2010. I am not allowed to sit for the BM paper as a private candidate this year, because I am not 17 as at 1-1-10, and I don’t possess an SPM/PMR certificate. However, I have already sat for and obtained grades in 6 iGCSE subjects as at June 2009. There is no age limitation for sitting iGCSE’s, ‘O’ levels or ‘A’-Levels. I would like to appeal to Dato Seri to intervene so that I can register as a private candidate for the November intake, as I wish to proceed to my ‘A’-Levels next year in college. I intend to work in Malaysia,therefore I need a credit in BM. With all due respect, I think we need to scrap this age limitation for the SPM, as it only holds students back. Such a move is essential in improving our education system to the level of that in developed countries.
Way to go Adrian!
This is certainly a story to follow. It would be interesting to see if Adrian’s woe is due to his age or to his being homeschooled. Either way, we’ll want to see if if this cracks open the door that keeps Malaysian homeschoolers out of the system. Watch this space.
10 March 2010
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Malaysian schools.
The Nutgraph is running a 4-part series on education in the country. The third installment by Deborah Loh which comes out today examines the growing interest in homeschooling. You’ll find comments by the usual suspects, meaning KV Soon of Family Place, and yours truly, as well as Hafizah who runs the Malaysia Homeschool Unite forum.
Of particular note is a comment by the education director-general, and both KV and my response to him:
(T)he government has no intention of recognising home schooling, says education director-general Datuk Alimuddin Md Dom. “It’s just a minority of people doing it. There are also other political aspects to consider like racial harmony. When children home-school, they miss the socialisation process of mixing with different races,” he tells The Nut Graph.
But Soon and Tan rubbish claims that home-schooled children are poorly socialised. Home school families often get together for educational activities and field trips where their children interact. Additionally, Tan questions whether racial harmony in public schools has been achieved. “Society has become more polarised after so many years of ‘socialising’ in regular schools,” he observes.
Read the rest here.
In the first installment, writer Koh Lay Chin looks at the number of parents sending their kids to private schools as indicative of growing disenchantment with Malaysia’s public education (but of course!) and asks what in the present system caused the shift:
For certain, the statistics indicate that a significant number of Malaysians seem to be losing faith in Malaysia’s public school system.
For instance, there is clearly growing demand for private education. The number of private kindergartens, for example, went up from 263,307 in 2004 to 668,287 in just two years, according to statistics from the Education Ministry’s Private Education Department.
Enrolment in international schools, meanwhile, rose from 5,069 students in 2000 to 8,341 the following year.
And within seven years, the number of students enrolled in private primary schools nationwide increased more than 22% from 7,234 students in 2000 to 16,190. [Read the rest here]
The second installment comments on the popularity of Chinese medium schools among Malaysian parents, and even among those who are non-Chinese. The article quotes Chinese educationist Dr Kua Kia Soong who said:
“[The increased interest in Chinese-medium schools] is more of an embarrassment to the government because it aims to attract all races to the national schools but more and more Malay and Indian [Malaysians] are going to Chinese schools.” [Read the rest here]
The series has been an interesting read not just for what it says about the declining appeal of public education in the country (we know that), but about how life always finds a way! For what it’s worth, it does appear to mirror something I had previously posted entitled, Between a Rock and a Hard Place which surveyed present options for unhappy parents with school-going kids.
Parents are seeking out options – whether private or chinese-medium schools, or homeschool – and indeed, options are out there either by default or by design. While we hope that our government will ‘do something’ about the state of affairs in our schools, we need to know that governments can’t do everything, and shouldn’t do everything. Careful, there be dragons, going down that road. Besides, as a commentator wrote, “for the moment and probably the next twenty years, a bulk of our government servants are not going to be able to meet quickly the demands of society.” With things the way they are, this will include most if not all our government institutions.
Make sure to visit The Nutgraph and follow the series. And yes, do add your 2-sen to the discussion.
7 February 2010
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Malaysian schools.
A letter to Malaysiakini by someone who addressed himself/herself as Angry Parent despairs over the way education is going in Malaysia. The point in the letter is the policy reversal relating to the teaching of Science and Math in English. Six years after its implementation, these two subjects will now be taught (again) in Bahasa Malaysia beginning in 2011. The language row has been intensely fought by proponents on both sides of the fence. But as this parent explains, advocates of “a near-monolingual educational system in Malaysia will eventually paint themselves and the entire country into a corner.”
Arguing for BM, the Government pointed to less than sterling performance among students in rural constituencies who struggle with English, even as other politicians, academicians, and nationalists, decry the use of English as a medium of instruction a betrayal of culture. (Here are 2 arguments for BM – here and here).Angry Parent writes that English as the language of choice in the global arena as well as in the fields of science and technology underscores its relevance and importance for Malaysian students, and more urgently, the country’s future too.
Although the English language lags behind with an estimated 1.3 billion speakers, it has the widest distribution covering 54 countries within the British Commonwealth across all six inhabited continents, in the US and is widely utilised within the European Union, particularly in the Scandinavian countries.
In fact, English is often the language of choice used in proceedings and documentation within the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), based in Geneva. English is not only advancing in the world of science and technology, it is also gaining momentum in countries where English is not even a national language.
The progressive evolution of international trade, ICT and education has changed this world into a border-less one. Partisans who continue to advocate a near-monolingual educational system in Malaysia will eventually paint themselves and the entire country into a corner.
Is it any wonder that so many of our local university graduates are not employable or marketable because most of them are monolingual? Many of these so-called educationists themselves are not employable in the private sector, nor are they prominent leaders in the world of science and technology.
To be a developed country, one needs a world-class educational system. Not one that is determined by partisan politics.
Angry Parent gives more examples of the published use of English in the sciences, tech tools and devices (including e Readers that make English medium books even more accessible), the continuing brain drain of the country’s young and brightest, and highlights what Malaysian students stand to lose.
In addition, online courses and reference materials are blooming on the Internet. Most of them are in English. Leading technical institutions, such as, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have made a wide range of lectures by its teaching staff freely available over the Internet through its OpenCourseWare (OCW) programme.
The Public Library of Science (PLoS), a non-profit organisation of scientists and physicians committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource, is publishing papers covering biology, medicine, computational biology, genetics, pathogens and tropical diseases which are, likewise, freely available through its website.
Other leading institutions, such as the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are joining hands with MIT in this effort. They have even set up channels on YouTube. College students around the world can now experience and access world-class lectures from MIT, UCB and CMU, minus the fees, from YouTube.
Angry Parent concludes:
Therefore, is it any wonder that our ‘brain drain’ is literally irreversible, the multimedia super- corridor remains nothing more than a real-estate project and our biotechnology park and ‘rubber city’ remain a far-fetched dream.
In taking one step forward, the country has taken two steps backward. And for all this, we have our short-term thinking politicians to thank for.
10 December 2009
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Malaysian schools.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO SAY about the depressing state of education in the country that hasn’t already been said? Despite all kinds of reports decrying the social costs of shortsighted education policies, Malaysia’s descent down the educational ladder is still leaving families both bewildered and infuriated.
Gains in other countries have left the nation’s schools and institutions of higher learning way behind (read what one opposition leader said about Malaysia’s TIMSS 2007 ranking)while flip-flop politicians and nationalist interest groups squabble over English as a medium of instruction, affirmative action, and racial quotas. Even de facto Pakatan leader Anwar Ibrahim has been quoted saying he’s not in favour of English as a medium of instruction in schools:
“This issue has become a controversy for far too long. We consider this policy a betrayal of Bahasa Melayu as our official language. But how we do it should be decided by educationists and with consideration towards the national education policy. This includes not forcing our children to pass English as a compulsory subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) as this will result in many students, especially in rural areas, to fail.”
Meanwhile, the merit of a single-stream educational system is once again being touted as the magic wand to stop the rot and promote unity. That’s bitter medicine for a lot of parents. No one is holding their breath of course. But what options do parents have in Malaysia’s blighted educational landscape? Here’s an overview of some hard choices:
These are government schools that have been largely abandoned by non-Malays due in part to allegations of institutionalised racial and religious tendencies. According to a report, 93% of Malays attend national schools, 90% of Chinese attend Chinese vernacular schools, and 70% of Indians attend Tamil vernacular schools. Some 5 million Malaysians are in national schools (primary and secondary), but the absence of a significant number of non-Malay children in the classroom is telling. Race and religion notwithstanding, a lot of parents will tell you with a straight face that if national schools were any good there would be no reasons to leave.
More than 100,000 Indian children are taught in 525 Tamil schools according to 2007 figures. Many are in deplorable condition, and some classes were even held in warehouses and under trees, says Selangor state executive councillor Dr Xavier Jayakumar.
On the other hand Chinese vernacular schools are thriving and bursting at their seams. Often seen as a vanguard of Chinese culture, these schools are popular among Malaysian Chinese and an increasing number of non-Chinese too (60,000 at the last count). DAP leader Lim Kit Siang wrote in 2006 that Chinese primary school enrollment had more than doubled to 636,124 since Independence. These schools enjoy minimal government handouts but admirably, the Chinese community raises millions every year to keep their schools afloat. There is an undiminished surge in admissions to these schools due to their perceived educational excellence and discipline, contributing to a critical shortage of classrooms.
Say what you will about the exorbitant costs of these elite institutions; the fact is 5000 Malaysians are currently enrolled in previously out-of-bounds International schools since admission was relaxed in 2006 (40% of places in international schools are now open to locals). At least 20 new international schools are slated to open soon much to the delight of middle-class Malaysians whose frustration with the local education system are being addressed by the promise of a superior learning environment and state-of-the-art facilities. American and British-style international schools lead the pack, offering O Levels and IB, but of late Global Indian International School has opened a campus in Kuala Lumpur.
Not many people are aware that some 10,000 children cross the causeway from Johor to Singapore daily for their education. Again, parents forgo free education in national schools for higher than normal fees (school fees and biennial donations in Singapore dollars) to put their children through an English medium school in Singapore where the learning culture is perceived to be superior to Malaysia’s impoverished options.
Move abroad, preferably to Australia or New Zealand, get PR, or burn your passport and give your children an education and a future you never had. Not to worry, you’re in good company – over 300,000 Malaysians have moved abroad since 2008. Ostensibly for the sake of their children’s education, and most certainly because they feel in their bones their own country’s inescapable collapse and they don’t want to be there when it happens. People are voting with their feet and incredible as it may seem, the powers that be are looking the other way.
Now, this option does not necessarily sit well with lots of parents (or educators) although reports coming in from abroad attest to educational achievements above the national average. And there’s the rub: In Malaysia, homeschooling hasn’t been around long enough (no more than 20 years old); we’re just seeing the first generation off and there’s no available research to confirm if homeschooled kids are indeed succeeding or if it’s just spin. Admittedly educating one’s child at home will make different demands on different families and I am realistic enough to see that it won’t be practical for a lot of Malaysians at this point of the country’s development. Nevertheless, I am convinced it is a rewarding option and there’s no question of homeschooling if I have to do it all over again.
This is where parents who like the idea of homeschool send their children to if they can’t (or won’t) educate their children themselves. You won’t catch me calling these centres ‘homeschool’, but who am I to contradict the vendors and operators who promote these places as such? As much as I am bugged by this misnomer, I’ll grant that these learning centres are doing families a favour.
Learning Centers are a relatively new phenomenon in Malaysia and almost all are set up by or affiliated to churches (which means they do not fall under the MOE’s jurisdiction). These centers subscribe to two well-known Christian homeschool curricula – AOP or School of Tomorrow – of which AOP ones are by far the more popular. My guess is, there must be close to a hundred of these learning centers today. As far as alternative education goes, they do fill a serious need although their performance is understandably spotty (many are staffed by well-intentioned but untrained educators).
So how do you choose? Caught between a rock and a hard place are you?
As a homeschooling parent, I know what works for our family, but I appreciate it’s not an easy decision to make. I have heard parents say how they wish they could homeschool but a) they can’t afford to have one spouse stay home, or b) they’re no good with children and couldn’t possibly teach them at home all day. Others claim that theoretically homeschooling sounds great but it’s fraught with too many uncertainties.
Once a mother told me that many homeschooling families in Malaysia were ‘failing’ – their kids in limbo, resisting discipline or instruction, with a number unable to get beyond basic arithmetic or even write a half decent essay. Where the fault lies will require another post. Writing as a homeschooling parent (I am aware of my own bias), there’s no need for homeschool to fail, and every reason why it can only succeed. But there you are – decisions, decisions, decisions. How will you choose?
24 August 2009
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Malaysian schools.
Education is big business in Malaysia. No surprises here. That parents are willing to fork out exorbitant fees to educate their children in elite international schools tells you what parents think about the local education system. And what they think is really at stake. But even that didn’t prepare me for reports that 20 more international schools are set to open their doors in the country soon.
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24 – More middle-class Malaysians are enrolling their children in international schools despite long waiting lists, as parents grow increasingly frustrated with the local education system.
Up to 2006, the only Malaysians who could send their children to these schools were those who had lived abroad for at least three years, or had a foreign spouse.
An exception was those with businesses that could attract foreign direct investments for the country. These business owners were wealthy Malaysians.
Thus, there were not many local students enrolled in international schools.
But since 2006 – when the rules were relaxed and international schools were allowed to enrol up to 40 per cent Malaysians – middle-class Malaysians have started placing their children in such schools, which have increased in number, from 32 three years ago to 40 now.
The number of Malaysian students have also gone up – from 2,608 among an estimated 10,000 students, or 26 per cent, in 2006, to 5,000 among an estimated 15,000 students, or 33 per cent, in 2009.
At least 20 more international schools are scheduled to open soon, according to school operators.
One reason some parents are transferring their children to international schools is the changes in the curriculum of the national schools.
One example: the decision last month to reverse the policy of teaching maths and science in English, which had been in effect for six years.
Another change was when the government decided to limit the number of subjects students are allowed to take for their O-levels, compared with the unlimited number previously.
“The Education Ministry is very fickle minded, they do not know what to do most of the time with the policies,” said property agent Tan Ching Suan, 49, who is unhappy with the constant changes in the local system.
[Read the rest here]
8 August 2009
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Malaysian schools.
PTA barred from school to discuss language switch
A Malaysiakini report said the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) of SMK Seri Hartamas’ plan for an EGM to discuss the English language reversal policy was almost scuttled on Saturday 8 August when it was barred from using the school compound. Apparently, the Ministry of Education through the school ruled the meeting null and void, forcing fuming parents to gather at the school gate instead. (L: Malaysiakini photo)
“Though unable to hold the meeting, the parents were however able to witness one agenda of the intended EGM, which was to count ballots slips from parents stating whether they wanted the teaching of science and mathematics to continue in that school.
Of the 553 ballots counted, an overwhelming 97 percent were in favour. A total of 1,310 ballot slips were issued to students to hand over to their parents.”
BFM 89.9 SPECIAL PODCAST FEATURE
Meanwhile, if you missed BFM 89.9’s special feature on the language switch, you can catch the podcast here. Part 1 features opinions from Karen Lam, Wordcomm, Adzahar Ibrahim Head of HR at Digi and DM from the Daily Muscle blog.
The other interview features Rita Sim, Executive Director of Sin Chew and Hanif Merican Director of Sri Kuala Lumpur.
In Part 2, She-Fah Szetu speaks to two Malaysian authors, Chuah Guat Eng and Rehman Rashid about their relationship with the English language within the context of so-called nation building and national identity.
Chuah Guat Eng and Rehman Rashid on what it means to be a “Malaysian”
Part 3 features Tengku Zafrul, Group Director of Kenanga, Mark Disney COO of LCCI, Helen Ang from Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI Malaysia) and Datin Noor Azmiah from Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE)
Tengku Zafrul, Group Director of Kenanga, Mark Disney COO of LCCI, Helen Ang from the Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI Malaysia) and Datin Noor Azmiah from Parents Action Group speak in this segment.
In Part 4, the final installment of the series, She-Fah Szetu speaks to author and columnist Kam Raslan and Fahmi Fadzil from Bright Lights at Midnight.
On the last segment, you can hear opinions of author and columnist Kam Raslan and Fahmi Fadzil from Bright Lights at Midnight on the relevance of Malay.
[Please note that the mp3 file may take a while to appear in your folder if you choose to download the file]
5 August 2009
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Malaysian schools.
I didn’t want to be knocking our education system or the good teachers who are trying to make a difference, but then I caught this article in the STAR.
When will we ever learn
by Jacqueline Pereira
They say a teacher’s job is never done, but our columnist tells why she is done with teaching.
I NEVER wanted to be a teacher. Looking back now, it was a short, five-year career stint that began with a deliberately badly done entrance exam and a sulky monosyllabic interview.
I categorically stated that I did not want to teach. Yet I was accepted.
In the beginning, it all went well. The teacher training process was unexpectedly engaging. From tennis to trekking, English Literature and lesson planning, every day was an absorbing learning experience.
The assignments, though many, were creative and thought-provoking. Even better, we were located in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. With the thriving distractions the city offered in the late 1980s, college life was a party that did not end for two-and-a-half years.
Nevertheless, that first semester, my mates and I worked really hard at our coursework. All outings were put on hold while, in our cramped hostel rooms, we concentrated on passing our exams.
That was until we sat for the first paper. We simply couldn’t believe our luck. It was easy, and in the following semesters we wised up.We would sneak back into our hostels at 7am after another disco-crawl, then shower, change and dash into the halls to sit for our exams. And we graduated at the top of our class.
Thus, with armfuls of ideas, renewed enthusiasm and misguided (as I would find out later) idealism, the first few terms in a real school were very satisfying.
The makeshift library at the back of the classroom actually attracted students to read. The speak-English-only day saw students hesitantly trying out new words with their limited vocabulary. And I had a growing collection of gifts – stickers and used erasers.
So, despite not wanting to be a teacher, I greatly enjoyed the process of imparting knowledge to receptive young minds, testing their capabilities and truly appreciating the progress these students made by the end of each school year.
The teaching stint also presented me with opportunities to be creative and to experiment with teaching methods and tools to enhance the students’ learning experience.
Yet, eventually, all good intentions faded.
For a start, 80% of my coursemates could hardly speak English, let alone complete their assignments without help.
(Read the rest here)
10 June 2009
If there’s one thing practically all of us are in agreement, it is this: something is terribly wrong with our education system but no one really knows how to fix it. So it no longer surprises anyone to hear that some institutions of higher learning are deliberately lowering standards to ensure their students pass crucial exams. Now isn’t this rather unbecoming – and curious – of academia, especially when an institution’s reputation could well be shredded by this kind of hanky-panky.
On the other hand, what is the public to make of the exam achievements of our primary and secondary school kids then? Following every public school exams we are feted to stories after stories of beaming students with strings of As. In March this year, Education Ministry director-general Datuk Alimuddin Mohd Dom announced that in SPM 6,277 students scored straight A’s in all subjects compared with 5,060 in 2007. From the total 1,676 scored A1s in all subjects compared with 892 in 2007. So are Malaysian school kids getting smarter? Not so it seems.
It is common knowledge that a lot of tertiary students including these same straight As students are underperforming in college. They are doing so poorly, lecturers have to lower the bar so that the numbers look better. College lecturers I know admit the practice is so rampant no one bats an eyelid.
While fingers are pointed at colleges and universities for these regrettable lapses, educators trace the rot to secondary schools.
“We know of students who got straight As for PMR coming into our centre and they literally can’t string together sentences properly,” says Tan Poay Lim, principal of Creative Horizons Language Centre.
“Numbers of distinctions now are so high but the performance is still so low. Put the two and two together and you know that our standards have dropped.”
With 20 years of teaching experience behind him, Creative Education Consultancy managing director Alagesan Arumugam has seen certain trends in the public school examinations.
“I have assessed some of my students and find it hard to comprehend that they are distinction students,” he says. “On my tests, they would get 55% but end up getting 1A in SPM. It does look like it’s relatively easy to score an A these days.” [More]
According to this report, low standards in schooling assessments are apparently the culprit.
So what’s the real problem here? Is it the language, the medium of instruction? Is it the lack of state-of-the-art facilities, computers and projectors? Crowded classrooms? The teaching methodology perhaps? Should we blame the curriculum? Or the ridiculously unimaginative textbooks our kids are fed with?
If you think this is a peculiarly Malaysian problem, do a bit of googling. You’ll see that in almost every civilized country, there is just as much concern about declining education standards. Among critics it is thought that less political interference and more diversity, choice and competition will do the trick. Leave it to market forces, so they say. Surely, it is argued, if parents were given a choice of schools they prefer to send their children to, good ones will grow while bad ones would fold.
But according to The Economist (25th April), recently published research by the Institute of Education showed that neither choice nor competition has improved education standards, at least in the UK.
Significantly, a lot of research already shows that the answer lies in the hands of teachers. Good teachers, that is (See here and here). However while no one doubts that good teaching matters, there is little consensus about what makes a teacher effective, or what constitutes a good teacher. Meanwhile in education circles, the argument whether a certified teacher makes a qualified one continues to rage. According to conventional wisdom the more knowledge a teacher possesses (or the more training a teacher undergoes), the better qualified this teacher is.
Which is why critics of homeschool love to question if parents have what it takes to educate their own children.
For sure more training and more qualification can only improve teacher quality, but do they always translate into better teaching? On this point the jury is out. As numerous reports such as the ones mentioned suggest, conventional schools aren’t exactly doing a good job either, even with all the emphasis on training and certification. Besides, why isn’t more done to turn out better teachers?
My take is that a classroom teacher and a homeschooling teacher are two different things. There’s a world of difference between teaching a class of 40 children according to a set syllabus, and educating your child at home. Obviously, the parent-child dynamics in the comfort of home are different. A parent as teacher is really a resource person and facilitator. This doesn’t mean teaching a child at home is less demanding; it just means it requires a somewhat different approach, employing different sets of skills.
This is already a long piece, so I’ll write about being a parent-teacher in my next post.