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Beneath the surface

CLEARLY, there have been some marked improvements in our education system based on the Malaysia Education Blueprint’s 2014 Annual Report. As we move towards the next implementation wave, StarEducate hears from experts and stakeholders to find out what else can be done to achieve the blueprint’s goals.

Improvements in English

The Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) commends the on-going effort by the Education Ministry to upskill English language teachers, said its president Prof Dr Ganakumaran Subramaniam.

“But, one-off professional upskilling is often insufficient to produce sustainable improvements in a teacher’s performance and competence,” he said.


Aye for English: Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh who was former Second Education Minister, participating in a lesson
with Year One pupils together with native English language speaker Kathleen Eljeddi during an earlier visit to SK Jenderam, Selangor.

Prof Ganakumaran suggested that there should be a “systematic and structured continuous professional development programme” for teachers who have been trained as well as those already deemed competent in the language.

“Also, teachers need to be encouraged to regularly test their English language competence. For example, by taking the MUET (Malaysian University English Test).

“This will ensure that teachers continuously check that their competence in the language is not faltering,” he said.

On another matter, Prof Ganakumaran said Melta applauded the improvements in SPM English in the 140 hotspot schools.

“But, SPM which has been used as a norm-referenced assessment may not be the most accurate marker of the state and competence of Malaysian learners in the English language,” he said.

He also pointed out that the SPM English national average “may become invalid” when the format changes to include Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) assessments.

So, there is a need to come up with “a clear criterion that is aligned to globally accepted and recognised standards to benchmark Malaysian students,” he said.

Involving more parents

Being a single parent, Emilda Rita Sjahrial wanted to be on the pulse of the goings- on of her daughter’s education.

As an architect and developer who spends a lot of time at work, getting involved in the school’s Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA) was “just another channel for me to be a mum”, she said.

“I find it therapeutic, even though it can be stressful. Besides, I don’t have a lot of money. But the time and effort put in, I consider as an investment of love.”

So, it wasn’t a complete surprise when she found herself selected as head of SMK Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya’s Parents Support Group (KSIB) earlier this year.

“The KSIB was something that parents have been doing, it’s just that there’s now an official name for it,” said Emilda.

But, as her daughter, Rania, was just in Form One, Emilda admitted that she did not know much about her daughter’s friends’ parents.

It was at a school anniversary dinner where she first got in touch with two women who added her into a WhatsApp group for mothers of the Form One students.

The rest was history.

“We went from 15 members to 60 in two months.

“The chat group is just such a powerful tool for us to stay in touch and be aware of what’s happening in the school,” she said.

The group is now focused on making the school environment more conducive for studying.

Her advice for parents out there who want to get more involved with schools?

“Every parent has a different background and skillset.

“If you can’t donate money, there are ways for you to help out at school,” she said.

“If you can do something to make a difference in your child’s schools, ask yourself why not?”

Emilda is just one of the many parents nationwide who are actively involved in their children’s schools.

Education director-general Datuk Seri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said the ministry “has begun to recognise the active role of parents” through the KSIB or PTA.

“There is now a firm foundation of cooperation built between the school, PTAs and community.

“As we approach the Wave 2 of the blueprint next year, the PTAs will play a bigger role in supporting the school and encouraging wider community involvement at school level,” he said.

Hands-on education

The government has been investing more and more into making vocational education a top choice for students.

And students interested in these subjects, like Rufina Reana Anak Nahar, 18, definitely welcome the move.

Rufina Reana, who has always been interested in the culinary arts, only found out about the vocational education pathway during a Form Three school trip to the Batu Lintang Vocational College in Kuching.

“I didn’t even know that the college existed,” she said.

“I favour the educational structure of vocational colleges because it provides a more hands-on style of teaching.”

And for the bubbly Sarawakian, who has completed her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia Vokasional (SPMV) and is now working towards a diploma, it has truly been an eye-opening experience.

“People often assume that there is only one aspect to a field. Like in culinary arts, I used to think it was all about cooking.

“But, my classes range from baking to carving, kitchen operation to finance management, and even business entrepreneurship in the food industry,” shared Rufina Reana.

Her coursemate, Naezhatul Shazreen Nazarudin, said being in a vocational college has given her industry experience.

“This is where we can improve our skills and know our potential in whatever we course we’re in.”

As such, she would advise other students to give TVET a try.

“I would encourage more students to join a vocational college.

“What’s important is not just academics,” said Naezhatul Shazreen, also 18.

Transforming districts

In May this year, we featured the rise of SK Tasik Chini, a school in Pahang which was once one of the worst-performing schools in the nation.

Before 2009, it was common for students to skip classes. Teachers even had to help bathe students and cut their nails for them.

But, in just five years, they went from being ranked at 6,910 out of 7,617 schools to 237 out of 7,695 schools nationwide.

Their success story is just one of the many under the District Transformation Programme, formerly the Assuring Quality Education (EDU) National Key Result Area (NKRA).

Schools identified under the programme such as SK Tasik Chini received significant assistance in transforming its overall learning environment.

According to the 2014 Government Transformation Programme Report, School Improvement Specialist Coaches (SISC) and School Improvement Partners (SIPartners) were sent to the school to coach and mentor the school’s teachers and administrators.

These SISC and SIPartners are specialists who have been specially trained to identify and recommend solutions to obstacles that obstruct learning.

As a result of this coaching and the school’s other initiatives, SK Tasik Chini headmaster Akit Huat said pupils now have a better attitude towards school. Teachers too are inspired to work harder and parents have become more involved in school.

Also, there have been remarkable changes in the students’ academic performance, such as 100% pass rates for the UPSR exams in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Tags: english, language, nkra
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