May 22nd, 2015

Key is in quality teaching

I REFER to the report “Malaysia at 52 in global school placing” (The Star, May 14), which stated that we were placed 52 out of 76 countries in a global school ranking titledUniversal Basic Skills: What Countries Stand To Gain published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

We are once again in the bottom third, albeit at the top of it.

For all stakeholders of our education system it is frustrating news, to say the least, as we have been in this dire position for quite a while now. But there is hope!

The OECD’s director of Directorate for Education and Skills, Andreas Schleicher, said “Malaysian students from disadvantaged families trail far behind their peers in most of the world’s top performing education systems, but Malaysia’s top performing schools can compete with their peers internationally.”

He further opined that “Malaysia’s success with raising access to education needs to be matched with helping every child to benefit from excellent teaching”, “Education Plan Key to the Future” (The Star, May 16).

So the key is in quality teaching all round, be it in urban or rural schools.

How does this translate into action in our classrooms?

1) Students (lower formers) need to be proficient and competent in the language of the tests.

I understand that the language used in the tests in each country is their medium of instruction respectively. For our students it is Bahasa Malaysia.

Some questions are presented in long sentences so as to cover all the “terms and conditions” in the particular situation being described.

It is therefore of vital importance that the students have sufficient vocabulary and language prowess to understand the questions correctly before attempting to answer any of them.

2) Students need to know the contents of their subjects very well.

No amount of thinking, in whatever order, will help them come up with the correct answer to a question, in science and mathematics particularly, if they do not have knowledge of the topic concerned.

It is crucial therefore that our lower secondary syllabus encompasses all test items.

3) Students need to possess effective and efficient reading skills.

They should read a lot and on a wide range of subjects. In the tests, some passages are long and some questions have detailed descriptions.

If they have not cultivated the habit of reading, they may be put off by the long passages and descriptions.

Besides, they need to be able to quickly extract data and information from their reading and even to summarise this into note forms.

This will help them to choose the right responses to the questions.

4) Students need to be able to read, extract and decipher data and information from graphs, charts, tables, maps, pictures, photos, diagrams and other 2D-visual presentations on papers. They should also be able to consolidate the data and information given.

5) Students need to be able to write explanations and descriptions as answers to questions in correct, simple and short sentences.

6) Students need to possess simple reasoning power. They should be able to draw from specific facts or examples to form a general rule or conclusion.

And they should also be able to apply an established general rule or conclusion to specific cases or circumstances.

7) Given a set of numbers or data, students need to be able to do simple calculations and analysis.

Also, they should be able to work through successfully an unfamiliar mathematical equation or a scientific formula that is given.

What is required is a clear mind that can think systematically.

In conclusion, our students need to master the basic fundamental learning skills. These skills still reign supreme.

Teachers should teach every lesson in every subject in a thorough and complete manner, as they have been taught “how to” while in teachers training institutes.

These coupled with our students’ determination, diligence and perseverance will see our third-formers, aged 15, sail through future Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests.

Liong Kam Chong, Seremban The STAR Home News Opinion May 21, 2015