Source: The STAR Home Education September 18, 2011
Recently, the deputy prime minister, who is also education minister, suggested the English language curriculum used in schools be reviewed as students' mastery of the language was deemed unsatisfactory, even after learning it for 13 years.
The DPM's claim has triggered comments from various individuals. National Union of the Teaching Profession president Hashim Adnan argued that the reason for poor mastery level lies not in the curriculum but with the teachers ("Lack of trained English teachers the cause" -- NST, Aug 8).
He stated that many English teachers were not proficient enough and this had a domino effect on the students.
According to him, the new generation of English language teachers was the product of Malay-medium education and their proficiency level is apparently not up to par with their older counterparts, who had an English-medium education.
While decisions have been made with regard to the medium of instruction in Malaysian schools, his comment about teachers' level of proficiency has its merit.
As educators who teach future English teachers, my colleagues and I sometimes have to deal with undergraduates whose proficiency level does not befit their status as future English teachers.
When students join a Teaching of English as a Second Language (TESL) programme, their command of English should be above average and throughout their three or four years of study, their proficiency would be harnessed and enhanced which, in turn, may make them good English teachers.
As such, there is a need to carefully select only those with a high level of proficiency and who have a very positive attitude about becoming teachers for all TESL programmes.
This may require additional time and effort but if we do not want the deteriorating standard of English to prolong, there is no other choice but to be selective over the choice of English teachers in the future.
Hiring native speakers may not solve the problem of low English proficiency among students in the long run. However, the aim of our English language curriculum is "intelligibility", not native-like production. What we need is not native speakers but proficient English language users who can teach the language effectively.
Good English teachers are not always native speakers. Despite a low proficiency level among some English language teachers, our local universities and teacher training institutes have produced proficient and committed teachers.
In Malaysia, English is supposed to be taught communicatively, in line with the principles embraced by the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach adopted in the curriculum. One of the basic elements of CLT is opportunities for communication and to provide our students with enough opportunities to use English.
English teachers have a daunting task of dealing with students who come from various backgrounds with different needs for the language.
The fact that there are too many students in the class may make it impossible for teachers to ensure that each student has an equal opportunity to use the language. Many activities suggested in the syllabus and textbooks may not be implemented.
It is important to note that for many students, the only time they have exposure to English is when they are in their English classes.
Thus, it is essential that the limited time is put to good use. This may be achieved if the number of students in a class is small, thus enabling teachers to focus their attention on the students' individual needs, monitor their progress and plan suitable activities to support their language development.
Improving the standard of English in Malaysia has to be a continuous effort. It needs the support of various parties, ranging from the ministry to parents and the society at large.
I believe that being proficient in English does not in any way jeopardise the sovereignty of Bahasa Malaysia as our national language.
A good command of English helps our students to keep abreast with the fast-moving world we live in today.
DR MAIZATULLIZA MUHAMAD, English Language and Literature Department Faculty of Languages and Communication Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Tanjung Malim, Perak firstname.lastname@example.org 2011/09/19
Source: The NST Home Letters to Editors 2011/09/19
First, if we were to bring back English-medium schools, I am sure every parent would want to enrol his child in these schools. Therefore, we need to look into the problem of over-enrolment.
Second, where are we going to find the pool of English-educated teachers to teach in English? Definitely, we would have to rope in the retirees.
Third, are the administrators of education going to be the present lot, many of whom can't speak simple English?
Fourth, bringing back English-medium schools would be similar to creating international schools in our education system.
I am a product of an English-medium school in the 1960s. My parents, although illiterate, were farsighted enough to see the benefits of enrolling three of their children in such schools.
The other two, who went to a vernacular Chinese school, had a completely different nurturing.
The three of us were deemed outspoken, blunt, bold and defiant to the extent of being rude. I suppose it was the result of our English-speaking background.
Although we had no one to converse in English with at home, we took to the language like ducks to water and had no qualms about speaking the language wherever we went.
Once, we were even told by our parents to stop speaking in English as people would think we were speaking ill of them since they could not understand the language. Imagine, we were told to stop using the language outside of school.
Despite that, we survived and are fiercely independent adults today. My two other siblings, however, are more introverted.
Which is the reason I don't believe in teaching English using another language; the same goes for Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin.
In order to get the hang of a language, we need English educators for English, Bahasa Malaysia educators for Bahasa and Mandarin teachers for Mandarin. As we can see, our education system has produced generations of bilingual speakers.
The entire system is in need of a complete overhaul.
Source: The NST Home Letters to the Editor 2011/09/19
IN September 2010, the global management consultancy firm, McKinsey & Company, released its education report Closing the Talent Gap: Attracting and Retaining Top-Third Graduates to Careers in Teaching , a follow-up to its 2007 study on How the World’s Best School Systems Stay on Top .
Resoundingly, through in-depth research and a series of consultations with education leaders, the reports demonstrate that of all the factors that can be controlled in an education system, the most important, by far, is the effectiveness of the classroom teacher.
Improving teacher effectiveness to shift student achievement has become a major theme in education improvement initiatives globally.
In Finland, a country recognised as having one of the world’s best school systems, an extremely competitive process is used to select school-leavers for teacher training cour ses.
Those successful are typically from the top 20 per cent of the national graduating cohort. Teaching is the most popular profession among top graduates in Finland, surpassing law, medicine, finance or engineering in rankings.
In a 2008 survey, Finnish men gleefully shared that teaching is the most desirable position for a spouse (in contrast, women ranked male teachers third, behind medical doctors and veterinarians).
Apart from a rigorous teacher selection process, Finland does something else differently. They give teachers a notable level of autonomy in school policy, curriculum application, student assessment and school management.
The national curriculum prescribes a guiding framework of what students must learn, but teachers and schools h ave autonomy in meeting these goals.
Providing autonomy requires high levels of trust, responsibility and accountability from teachers and schools.
For Finnish schools and teachers, this autonomy has worked. Statistically, there are no low-performing schools in Finland; the bottom 10 per cent of their schools outperforms the median scores of schools in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.
In Malaysia, a cluster of High-Performing Schools (HPS) currently enjoy increased autonomy, and are provided the discretion to inform decisions pertaining to curriculum adaptation, instruction methods as well as the selection and redeployment of teachers.
The HPS is a key initiative in the Education National Key Results Areas under the Government Transformation Prog ramme.
Since the start of this initiative, 52 HPS have been selected by the Education Ministry, with the overall goal of enlisting 100 schools by next year.
The process of being selected as an HPS is rigorous, with schools required to meet stringent criteria in academic performance and alumni strength, while demonstrating international recognition and a strong network of external relationships.
After visiting one of these selected schools recently, I found its achievements to be outstanding in almost every category based on the principal’s report — be it in academia, sports or other leadership activities.
The few students that I observed here were very engaged in their activities — most of them had been selected to join the school after doing exceptionally well in their national examinations. In this school, the chances are strong that even without heavy investment or extraordinary motivation, the default and likely path is that the majority will finish university and end up with a long list of professional options.
Reflecting on the schools that Teach For Malaysia will partner with next year, it was easy for me to see the glaring differences.
Students from our school partners predominantly come from low-income households, and face significant barriers in attaining access to a quality education, that at times are compounded by the social problems that poverty presents.
Unless the majority of students and their parents in these schools demonstrate extraordinary and sustained effort, chances are strong that they will not gain a good university education, and will not enjoy the breadth of educational, economic and life opportunities that they deser ve.
In these schools, the effectiveness of the classroom teacher is of much higher importance. For teachers here, the challenge is greater.
None of the schools that Teach For Malaysia fellows (participants) will serve are high-performing, nor have they been granted autonomy.
However, fellows can exercise a different kind of autonomy, one that allows them to redefine the role of an effective teacher.
Our fellows know that they themselves have the means to shift the achievement of their students, many of whom are far from receiving the education opportunities that they deserve.
In choosing to go above and beyond, and refusing to accept their students’ circumstances as their destiny, fellows will become effective teachers in their challenging contexts, leading their classrooms to transformational outcomes.
The writer is co-founder and executive director of Teach For Malaysia. Email him at keeran.sivarajah@ teachformalaysia.org
Source: The NST Home Learning Curve 2011/09/17
The writer looks at the term 'curriculum' from different angles
EDUCATIONALISTS make a distinction between “curriculum” and terms such as “course”, “programme” and “syllabus”.
“Curriculum” refers to why (reasons), how (mechanisms), when (relevance), where (situations/circumstances) and with what (associations) while “syllabus” refers only to what is to be taught. Syllabus is essentially a list of contents, for example facts, skills and attitudes. We can look at curriculum from different angles: Conceptual view of curriculum In his book The Curriculum (1918), John Franklin Bobbitt described curriculum as an idea that has its roots in the Latin word for “racecour se”.
He explains the curriculum as the course of deeds and experiences through which children become successful adults of society.
He adds that the curriculum encompasses the entire scope of formative deeds and experiences occurring in and out of schools; experiences that are unplanned and undirected; and those intentionally directed for the purposeful formation of adult members of society.
In recent times, Ronald M.Harden (2001), a renowned medical educationalist, defined curriculum as “a sophisticated blend of educational strategies, course content, learning outcomes, educational experiences, assessment, the educational environment and the individual students’ learning style, personal timetable and the programme of work”.
J. M. Genn (1995) summarised curriculum as everything that happens in relation to the educational programme.
Operational view of curriculum Curriculum is the coherent, purposeful, integrated design and delivery of managed learning to enable students to become competent and capable practitioners in whichever field they are in.
“To be effective, the curriculum should be broad, balanced, flexible and well-resourced.
“It should be able to maintain continuity between key stages or phases of learning and should be able to offer learners a sense of progression in their own lear ning” stated Boyle and Chr istie from School of Education, University of Manchester (1998).
Developmental view of the cur riculum The following are different types of curriculum: Formal curriculum refers to everything that cur r iculum developers intend to include in it.
It relates to knowledge, skills and attitudes, which students are expected to learn. It is in the form of a written document or a book.
Informal curriculum includes extra-curricular activities, for example debates, sports, involvement in student bodies or editing student magazines.
Hidden curriculum is what the institution has not set out to teach for mally.
This is a curriculum which is “caught” rather than “taught”. It is closely related to the learning climate in the institution, for example the environment-friendly policies in the college, the way teachers treat their students and discipline imposed.
Null curriculum is what a school does not intend to teach its students.
It defines the boundaries of a curriculum, such as an undergraduate medical curriculum is not set out to teach students to maintain the equipment in a medical laboratory or to change bed sheets for a patient.
Implementation view of the cur riculum Discipline experts suggest recommended curriculum.
A written curriculum is what the institution has produced based on the recommendations of discipline experts.
Taught curriculum is the one which is delivered by teacher s and the way it is delivered in the classroom.
Learned curriculum is what the students gained in these sessions.
In an institution where the curriculum is carefully developed, meticulously implemented and vigilantly monitored, there will be little gap between the recommended and learned curricula.
Relevance view of the cur riculum Core curriculum is deemed central and usually made mandatory for all students; that which should be mastered by them. It is an essential component of each subject.
A student who does not satisfy the core requirements may not be allowed to move to next level of the course.
Special study modules are also called electives. These areas of study are chosen by students with the help of teachers.
The modules provide opportunity to study the chosen areas in depth. It is preferred that the topics or areas of study not only enhance knowledge and skills but also help in the overall personal and professional development of the student.
Hidden curriculum needs special attention of institution managers.
In his article, Super-complexity and the Curriculum, published in Studies in Higher Education ( Vol.25), Ronald Barnett wrote: “Curricula in higher education are to a large degree ‘hidden cur r icula’… They have an elusive quality about them. Their actual dimensions and elements are tacit. They take on certain patterns and relationships but those patterns and relationships will be hidden from all concerned, except as they are experienced by the students.” Students’ observations of behaviours are a far greater influence than prescription for behaviours offered in the classrooms.
The norms, values and social expectations indirectly conveyed to students by the styles of teaching, unarticulated assumptions in teaching materials and the organisational characteristics of educational institutions influence students’ behaviours significantly.
Hidden curriculum is more related to the actions of the staff and students, and policies of the institutions.
Does the institution provide equal opportunities to all students? Is there clear policy and actions to discourage racial discr iminations? Do classes and meetings start at scheduled times? Do all participants get equal opportunity to voice their opinions? Are there separate bins available for recyclable materials? Are there efforts not to waste water and energy? Do the canteens provide only healthy foods? Are students encouraged to take part in sport and physical activities? These are few examples of the hidden curriculum.
The writer is Professor of Paediatrics and curriculum coordinator of the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Teknologi MARA. Email him at email@example.com
By Alam Sher Malik 2011/09/17
Source: The NST Home Lerning Curve 2011/09/17
THE critical question that animates discussion in regard to the discourse of performance and productivity in higher educational institutions is to what extent the culture of performance assessment — itself a result of an all-pervasive audit culture — acts to dissipate and diminish forms of social capital such as inter-subjective trust, cooperative values, honesty, integrity and inclusiveness.
Does Key Performance Index (KPI) culture crowd out “other regarding” values (forms of social capital) such as collaboration and teamwork within an institution because of the implicit values of individualism and competition that characterise the way our identities as academics are influenced and constructed by the culture?
Scholars such as Frey and Jegen argue that in many cases the reduction of motivation to extrinsic rewards (in our case KPI), may lead to a diminution and crowding out of intrinsic motivation. (See Frey, Bruno S. and Reto Jegen, 2001, Motivational Interactions: Effects on Behaviour, pages 1-32. Zurich: University of Zurich, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics.)
One critical issue in respect of the introduction of KPI frameworks in tertiary education is the extent to which these frameworks act to erode values in higher educational institutions that are not individualistically competitive.
To what extent does KPI culture radically transform and challenge the motivations academics have? To what extent are the identities that many academics have of themselves — as scholars committed to the pursuit of truth as a value rewarding in itself or as engaged academics pursuing social justice — undermined by a competitive extrinsic KPI rewards culture?
The key here is that non-pecuniary and intr insic motives are critical to understand in the context of comprehending a large part of academic behaviour and performance.
The extent to which performance cultures gel with non-instrumental and non-economic motivations in academic staff is critical to understanding the success of universities and, equally importantly, their cohesion as social institutions.
“Other regarding” social capital and values of reciprocity, and caring are critical for institutions of higher learning both in terms of ensuring a social environment that is conducive to intellectual productivity and also in ensuring the social cohesion of the organisations themselves.
Tertiary institutions rely on social capital for their productivity, identity and internal social cohesion.
Drawing upon this insight in regard to social capital and intrinsic motivation seems increasingly significant given the need for higher educational institutions to both innovate and provide values leadership for their respective societies.
The significance of positive social capital to organisational performance and the performance of individuals within institutions is now well established in contemporary research literature.
Given the importance of social capital to innovation, cohesion and academic identity; performance indicator culture, if followed crudely and without reference to a deeper understanding of human motivation, can act to crowd out forms of “other regarding” social capital and inadvertently reduce the possible sources of motivation in univer sities.
We have to be aware that extrinsic rewards or financial incentives for performance may have a crowding out effect on other intrinsically important forms of motivation.
A significant cohort of people in higher educational institutions is motivated to action and productive innovation for intrinsic reasons which are not necessarily finding a place under the sun in current KPI culture.
Academic identity itself has historically possessed moral and intangible character istics.
These norms and the culture of the academy, which have sustained hard work and creativity, are central to why many academics became academics in the first place.
What if an unintended consequence of KPI motivational structures is to crowd out “other regarding” social capital and intrinsic motivations and both undermine innovation and contravene the deeply held beliefs, identities and values of many academics?
What if it leads to large scale dissent and a breakdown of cohesion within the academy? The problem here is not performance indictors as such although some critics do see the problem lying at the root.
Rather the issue is the depth of sophistication and understanding that goes into building and assessing perfor mance.
Grasping the significance of intangibles to performance in higher education and realising the critical importance of social capital and “other regarding” values is a first step.
Recognising the critical function of intrinsic values is fundamental.
Osterloh and Frey make a key point: “…it is difficult to think of a leading scientist who was not mainly, and sometimes entirely, motivated by his or her curiosity.
Just consider the greatest natural scientists of the world, such as Newton or Einstein, or the greatest social scientists, such as Schumpeter or Keynes.
“The problem is that the intrinsic interest in doing research is crowded out when academics are evaluated based on extrinsic rewards that are contingent on indicator s.” (See Margit Osterloh, Bruno S.Frey, Are More and Better Indicators the Solution? Scandinavian Journal of Management (2009) 25, page 226.)
Two critical questions confront us when we consider the problems of key performance indicators.
Firstly, to what extent is performance reliant on non-tangible forms of social capital: “other regarding” values and intrinsic motivation?
Secondly, to what extent does the current culture of KPI’s crowd out forms of social capital and intrinsic motivation in universities?
An awareness of the role that intangible values and forms of social capital have on work and performance is critical to under stand.
Addressing the possibility that KPI systems in organisations can possibly crowd out intangible forms of motivation such as “other regarding” behaviour, civic motivations, altruism, group solidarity or simply personal passion and curiosity is important to grasp.
We need to understand both tangible and intangible motivations for performance. Both are necessary for innovation and cohesion within the academy? Perhaps we should read headlines in regard to higher education with this in mind.
The writer is a Lecturer in Education in Australia and author of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Sustainability and the Struggle for A Vital Centre in Education, Penerbit USM 2011. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
By James Campbell 2011/09/17
Source: The NST Home Learning Curve 2011/09/17
MANY students have come and gone from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Tanjung Malim, Perak.
Academician Tan Sri Awang Had Salleh, former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Ghafar Baba and novelist Harun Aminurrashid are among former students of the institution, popularly known as UPSI.
| A selection of teaching aids from a Chinese school |
The university is the oldest existing teachers’ training college in the country and was upgraded to university status in 1997.
It was established in 1922 by the then deputy director of Malay schools R. O.
Winstedt and named Sultan Idris Training College (SITC) after Sultan Idris Mursyidul ‘Adzam Shah I, the 28th Sultan of Perak who ruled from 1887 till 1916.
“Those with no inkling of the national education system will get an idea of it by the time they conclude the visit,” says Safna.
Posters, dioramas, miniatures and interactive touch-screen computers provide easily accessible information for all visitors.
Among the exhibits that will attract visitors are the various teaching aids used in the days before the advent of computers and other electronic devices.
“The museum is also a resource centre for those interested in the history of and development of education in Malaysia,” says Safna.
Contributions of various education systems such as the Malay and English mediums, vernacular schools and sekolah pondok (Islamic religious schools) are also highlighted.
The challenge for the museum is to secure artefacts especially from the Fifties and the years prior to that.
Ishak SaatUPSI National Education Museum director Associate Professor Ishak Saat says that the museum aims to preserve Malaysia’s education heritage.
“It hopes to educate people on the need to appreciate the contributions of teachers and educators,” says Ishak, adding that teacher training and education at SITC had contributed to the development of national consciousness in the run-up to independence.
“About 70 to 80 per cent of those who participated in politics during those days were teachers,” he says.
Among them was Malay language linguist Tan Sri Zainal Abidin Ahmad (also known as Za’ba), who has a gallery dedicated entirely to him.
His stint in SITC as a translator and teacher led to a writing career and some of his thought-provoking articles goaded Malayans into action during the Colonial era.
Each exhibition room at the education museum focuses on a specific theme from Early Education in Malaysia to Science and Technology in Education.
The main hall, usually empty, is open to other exhibitors for a limited period.
|UPSI National Education Museum curator Safna Asaruddin says visitors will learn about the development of education in Malaysia from pre-independence to the present time.|
| A museum visitor can use touch-screen computers to view quick facts about the museum exhibits |
Sharifah Arfah email@example.com 2011/09/17
Source: The NST Home Learning Curve 2011/09/17