What do we really want from our education system?

Ever since the new Minister of Education had taken office, everyone seems to put words of glorifying on our education system.

Medias of the old government had place contradictions on the Malaysian education system; some said is good, some say to ‘revamp’, but then what is considered a successful education that most of us call for.

My bet is to look at our curriculum from pre-school to university. Different views come from different schools of thoughts.

Basically, pupils should be taught the “core knowledge”, but who can define ‘core knowledge’. Could it be of facts and figures, reciting mathematical tables, or even general knowledge?

Hong Kong emphasizes diligence and will complain if schools don't provide enough homework and most opt to have private tuition.

Stating curriculum, we are sure to be keen on key exam subjects which is academic. In any schooling, there’s book to be read and the scheme of work, teachers need to work on.  

The arts and science subjects are there for children. Examinations and assessment will measure your performance; children will have to bear working under pressure and towards exams.

To a large extent the style of teaching is traditional but it is not rote learning without understanding, it is memorization with understanding.

Pedagogy is a mix of academic rigor and structure. There's a theory of learning behind everything.

The idea that children can learn through discussion has not always permeated through. There have been some moves towards activity-based learning but success has been limited.

Everyone wants to try the welfare society of Finland. Parents of Finland pay it through taxes and the government tries to support every family. The holistic approach emphasis on supporting every individual, every child regardless of their economic or social background, health care and social care. The basic principle of equality applies to their education system.

Finland is said to have highly-qualified teachers. The teaching profession is highly valued and respected. The programmes are highly competitive and many students do not get a place. They   highly motivated students and the five-year courses are to master’s level. Even if you teach at a primary school, you need to have a master’s qualification. This is not the same in our region.

The classroom is a very interactive space where pupils can challenge the teacher. The traditional teacher-directed style is not so typical in Finland.

Teachers in Finland are given a lot of freedom and responsibility to tailor learning according to the needs of every child. They are not just paying lip service or following a script.

There are core subjects such as literacy, numeracy and science but we try to achieve a balance in the curriculum. A school day is a mix of core subjects and also art, physical education, woodwork and entrepreneurial education (at secondary level).

The 21st Century skills, such as collaboration, social interaction, problem solving and life-long learning, but they will not be separate from the core subjects, they will be integrated.

There are elements of the Finnish model which could be implemented elsewhere, such as the emphasis on high quality teachers.

The teaching environment is also important. In relaxed and educationally-supportive environments children are granted authority and accountability in and for learning.

Another comparative education for success is said to be of the South Korean.

Testing and examinations is embedded in the culture. The curriculum is effectively measure what needs to be measure.

Notable subjects like language, maths and science plus English has become the very important element of social mobility.

The PISA results for South Korea probably reflects a strong overlap between the test questions and the exam-driven curriculum that schools focus on, as well as the hard work by the pupils and the strong support/pressure from parents to succeed.

Whether you get into a good school or university is wholly dependent on exam results. A child's future, status and social mobility are strongly connected to exam outcomes.

There's a belief that people have differing abilities but everyone can get there, it might just take some a lot longer.

Education has been strongly harnessed to nation building and instilling a strong sense of national identity.

Schools can be extremely stressful for children. Surveys tend to suggest that children don't like going to school, they are often stressed and not happy or they're bored.

Schooling is seen to be a process of certification. A lot of questions are being asked as to whether the system is producing the sorts of people the economy and society needs.

The system does encourage hard work and diligence but the concerns are that it is unduly stressful, does not promote creativity and the ability to be critical. So what do we really want of our education system?

Azizi Ahmad is a senior educator


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