IT IS indeed heartening to note the recent announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, that it is time to review the entire education system in the country, so that we keep abreast of the changing times. He had said that such a change would enable us to cultivate in-depth thinking and learning.
The Science and Mathematics Cluster of the National Council of Professors welcomes such a move. In fact it recently compiled the findings of 380 research papers and reports that touched on the status of Science and Mathematics education in the country.
Allow me to share some of the points raised from the findings together with suggestions that may help the ministry deal with the issues.
● The National Education policy of 1967 which targets a 60:40 ratio of enrolments of students in Science versus non-Science has never been achieved.
Suggestions: There is an urgent need to initiate an extended “lab” or brain-storming session over why the target was never met. An action plan needs to be drawn.
● The 2009 report of the World Economic Forum on the quality of Science and Mathematics education in 133 countries placed Malaysia at the 34th position.
● The 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) which compared the achievments of Grade 4-8 students in both subjects reported that the score for Malaysian students is at the “intermediate benchmark”, which is only one level above the “low benchmark”.
Suggestions: A board with representatives from the National Council of Professors, parents, employers, educationists and tertiary level institutions should be given the task of revamping both subjects from primary to the tertiary level.
English Language should be made a compulsory subject and all students must pass the subject with a credit in major examinations.
We must allow creativity and ideas to flourishbut there must also be recognition given to them.
● Most findings in the compilation indicated that there exists a pedagogical content knowledge gap between new and long-serving teachers. In many cases misconceptions have also been detected.
Suggestions: The teacher training curriculum and programmes need to be reviewed and their content of both subjects must be increased.
For the existing cohort of young, and less experienced teachers, a private institution must be identified to enhance their understanding and knowledge in both subjects.. Retired teachers can also help out.
For the future, only top or near top students be chosen to follow teacher training programmes in Science and Mathematics.
● Weaknesses in teaching strategies of the 1990’s that were identified by the Jemaah Nazir Sekolah Persekutuan (Federal School Inspectorate) report are still being repeated.
● Some studies indicate that evaluations administered by teachers have not been in accordance to the procedures.
● Teachers still employ teaching strategies that give emphasis to examinations rather than thinking skills.
● Teachers are not well-briefed and trained in the concept and implementation of practical work assessments or “Pentaksiran Kerja Amali (PEKA)”.
Suggestions: Revisit the system of monitoring the professional performance of teachers as well as the implementation of curriculum and education policies,
Introduce a continuous professional development programme for all teachers.
Revisit the workload of teachers vis-a-vis the administrative duties required of them.
● Lab equipment are insufficient as schools lack the financial means to acquire them.
Suggestions: Set up an independent audit team to look into this and to recommend plans of action.
● The achievements of students in Science and Mathematics in rural schools lag behind those in urban schools. The percentage of students who take the subjects in urban schools is more than double the percentage in rural schools. At times the number of students in rural schools who qualify for both subjects is so small that such classes cannot be held.
Suggestions:Enrolment into boarding schools should favour rural students and if necessary the entry requirements for such students be lowered.
The setting up of mobile science laboratories is necessary to enhance the understanding of rural students and to attract them to enrol in both subjects.
Our other suggestions are to implement an incentive scheme to attract students at all levels to take up studies in Science and Mathematics.
Salaries of high-performing Science and Mathematics teachers be higher (e.g 1.5 times) than those of others and teachers with Masters and Doctorate degrees in science or mathematics be rewarded accordingly in their service schemes.
Revisit the system of assessing students e.g formative assessment to complement summative assessment and laboratory work be included in the evaluation.
Implementation of some of the suggested plans of action may have to involve independent third parties, including those from the private sector.
For any review to be meaningful, some mindset change may be in order. There may be a need to introduce new and innovative delivery systems such as those practised and offered by the Khan Academy.
■ By Prof Emeritus Dr Lim Koon Ong. The writer is head of the Science and Mathematics Cluster, National Council of Professors and is also deputy vice-chancellor (Academic Affairs and Research) UCSI University. He can be reached at kolim@UCSI.edu.my
Source: The STAR Home Education Sunday August 7, 2011