The popular perception that our education system is in a downward spiral is far from reality.
I’VE always wondered: At what point will we say that positive change has been achieved in our education system?
It’s a question I’ve always asked myself and I just want to start off by saying that I truly welcome readers to email or Tweet me on the matter.
I ask this question because the popular perception is that our education system is in the doldrums, and nothing seems to be moving or changing. However, this perception is far from reality.
Since the launch of the Malaysian Education Blueprint in September 2013 (and even much earlier really), a lot has been done by the Education Ministry. A perusal of the Blueprint’s 1stYear Report indicates various successes have been achieved.
I’d like to list down some of the successes and initiatives to contextualise the point:
Under the District Transformation Programme (DTP), Kedah and Sabah recorded their best UPSR results. I personally had the opportunity to visit a remote school in Sabah, and while some students got 5As, all students had passed the UPSR – a first for them (it’s about the little victories too).
Under phase 1 of the LINUS initiative, a 99% Bahasa Malaysia literacy and numeracy rate has been achieved amongst Year 3 students, and in the ongoing phase 2, a 64% English literacy rate has been recorded for Year 1 students. Soon, Year 4, 5 and 6 students will learn literature (classy!).
76% of 5000 English teachers have seen their English proficiency enhanced through upskilling training, with 10.6% improving more than 1 level of proficiency. Currently, 9000 more teachers are undergoing the process.
As part of the Parents’ Toolkit programme, more than 332,000 teachers from 8735 schools nationwide together with 2.2 million parents have been trained to enhance collaboration.
SK Setiawangsa recently won RM50,000 for their innovative collaboration involving the school, Parent-Teacher Association and the Malaysian military, which saw the three groups work together to clean up and flatten the school field to optimise its usage.
Another of the Blueprint’s objectives is to transform the teaching profession. The report states that 42% of those recently admitted into teacher training institutions obtained at least 7As in the SPM examinations, with the rest having at least 5As. The long term aim is to admit only the top 30%, similar to countries like Finland, Singapore and South Korea.
In addition, the Education Ministry is one of the partners of the Teach for Malaysia programme which enables top students from top universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard to teach in high-needs schools to inspire students and bridge education inequity. Many of my friends are TFM Fellows and whenever I talk to them or read about their experiences, I feel very humbled (Keep up the good work!).
Currently, 4.7% of students are taking technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes in upper secondary. According to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the Education Minister, more than 126,000 applications were received for just 20,000 spots. The target is for 20% TVET enrolment by 2020 and in the 2015 Budget, RM1.2 billion has been allocated towards realising this. This will also compliment the pathway from secondary school into higher education institutions, which include 4 technical public universities, 33 polytechnics and 90 community colleges which specialise in TVET offerings such as energy efficient vehicle (EEV) research and training, tunnel drilling and aircraft maintenance (Boeing, mind you).
Convinced yet that change is happening?
If you aren’t, I don’t (totally) blame you. For some, all that is remembered is Malaysia’s sub-par performance in the 2012 PISA assessment. Nevermind that this was 2 years ago or that PISA’s utility has been questioned (Google up ‘OECD PISA Letter’ for an interesting read). The point is that Malaysia has committed to it and to most, this will be the defining benchmark at least until the next PISA in 2015.
But if student outcomes are the yardstick, what about the thousands of Malaysians studying in the top 100 universities worldwide?
I contacted some friends studying in the United Kingdom and found out that there are more than 900 Malaysians currently studying in Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Imperial and UCL combined. This was no doubt a very simple survey, nevertheless, it’s impressive and I believe the full picture will be ever more so!
Undoubtedly, the path towards change and excellence is fraught with bumps. Nowadays, social media and news portals are quick to remind us of the shortcomings of our education system, whether they are true or false, current or old, credible or manipulated.
It’s easy to allow our perception to be drawn into the negativity, and perhaps this is why I am writing this article. For all the shortcomings, let us also remember the successes. For all the problems, let us remember the efforts being undertaken to resolve them.
So, is change taking place within the education system? Unequivocally, I’d say yes.
And when does this change happen? I think my answer is: When perception is balanced with the facts.