Mahdzir blogs on stint so far
IT has been a year since Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid’s debut as the country’s 20th Education Minister.
In his first blog entry on http://portal.tokdet.my/, Mahdzir gives his take on Malaysia’s education system, especially the heavy influence that technology has on teaching today.
“Watching television and listening to the radio were luxuries back when I was in school. We could only watch television by peeking through the windows of our well-off neighbours,” he says in the blog.
“Now, times have changed. Rapidly changing technology has made our children into digital natives, constantly exposed to information from all around the world through all kinds of media, which we would not have imagined was possible just a few years ago.”
He says that today’s younger generation constantly has information at their fingertips.
Changing roles: Teachers must act as facilitators in class and cannot merely feed students with information, says Mahdzir.
He adds that the ease with which information is obtained is bound to raise many questions in the minds of teachers.
“How can easily-accessed information be translated into beneficial knowledge?”
“What is our role as educators when facing students who might know more than us?”
“How can the limited classroom time be fully utilised to form well-rounded students?”
While acknowledging that educators are facing a challenging time as Malaysia undergoes a massive education reform through the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, Mahdzir says it is clear that Malaysians have high expectations of the country’s education system to equip our students with the necessary skills so that they become successful.
“Actually, society doesn’t need to worry because the direction of the nation’s education is spelt out in the Blueprint.
“In 10 years, Malaysia will be in the top third list of countries with the best education systems,” he says.
He adds that Malaysia will achieve this by fulfilling six student aspirations that encompass knowledge, thinking skills, leadership skills, bilingual proficiency, ethics and spirituality, and national identity.
“The ministry will provide access to quality education, ensure equity, instil unity and maximise service efficiency.”
Mahdzir adds that in his many school visits he has seen the changes happening in the classrooms.
Most notably is the spike in student participation.
“Students now sit in groups making it easier to have discussions and debates while the teacher acts as the facilitator,” he shares.
“When asked, most of the students say they obtain the information for their discussions through the Internet, either at home or the computers in the library,” he says, adding that they seem more confident and often work together to complete their assignments.
This is 21st century learning, he adds.
Mahdzir says that the teachers also understand that their roles have changed. Instead of just feeding knowledge to their pupils, they are now facilitators who encourage student interaction in groups.
“They now encourage students to get information from outside the classroom through various sources and media,” he says.
He also says that teachers are more open to working with parents because they understand that student development requires cooperation from all parties.
“I am thankful that the teachers have a positive outlook towards this education transformation.”
However, he says the 21st century challenges faced by teachers is not something to be taken lightly.
“In our efforts to use information technology and communication (ICT) in education, we cannot run away from issues involving connectivity.”
As of the end of 2015, 6,695 schools have high-speed Internet access and another 2,245 are using Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) or Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT).
However, the Internet speed in several schools isn’t fast enough which has an effect on the learning and teaching process .
“All these things have been noted by the ministry and we are working to improve the current service to keep up with the fast-paced changes happening in this global technological era,” adds Mahdzir.
He says that educators need to prepare students for the future by recognising their talents and skills.
“How can an individual (student) contribute to the country?”
“How can the student grow holistically so that he can appreciate values and spirituality?”
“Clearly, a teacher’s job is challenging but I am confident that if a large number of our teachers have a positive and proactive spirit like those I’ve met, our goal to transform our education system will be achieved.”
Coming to grips with HOTs
HIGHER order thinking skills (HOTs), is one of the key attributes mentioned in the Malaysia Education Blueprint, officially launched in 2013.
It is meant to equip Malaysian schoolchildren to apply what they have learnt in different situations or settings. It helps students to analyse, reason, communicate in their decision-making abilities – all useful living skills.
Teachers have been attending various courses on the subject to enhance their HOTs skills.
Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) have also been told to play an active role in improving teaching and learning in schools.
Schools are also looking towards 21st century learning by redesigning their existing classroom.
These classes are expected to create better learning environments for students to meet new challenges.
The changes are necessary for students to acquire knowledge using different methods of learning through communication, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving.
While all this sounds impressive, are teachers being trained enough for HOTs and these new techniques in education?
While conducting motivation and exam seminars are helpful, school heads must realise that students must be taught how to make thinking visible. Teachers should also be taught on how to incorporate HOTs into their content instruction.
In order for Malaysians to think out of the box, it is fundamental that those formulating education policies and content for teacher training courses, include critical thinking and problem solving elements into them. Zahari Othman International Islamic University Malaysia The STAR Home News Education Sunday, 1 May 2016