MOST Malaysians, including me, are happy that the Education Ministry is conducting the history-making nationwide National Education Dialogue, which started in Putrajaya on April 29.
It was launched by Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
It aims to get information and requirements that meet the demands of all stakeholders to enable the ministry to come up with a thorough National Education Development Plan.
The ministry is focusing on nine areas, including strengthening the teaching profession, upgrading the quality of schools, improving the curriculum, increasing the ability of students to master languages and encouraging the involvement of parents and the public and private sectors.
At the first dialogue held last Sunday, the majority of comments, criticisms, suggestions and proposals came from teachers, and it gave me an impression that teachers are the ones with the biggest problems now.
Among the concerns of parents is the poor command of English among our students, from primary school to university.
Generally, most people are satisfied with the way Bahasa Malaysia is used and taught in schools.
Proposals, such as the introduction of English medium schools, reinstatement of the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English policy (PPSMI), more time spent in the teaching of the English language in primary and secondary schools, were made.
Many commented on the lack of ability of students to think and to be creative.
I proposed the setting up of junior colleges to place A-level or Form 6 students.
I think it is appropriate that they be separated from students in secondary schools.
I proposed that facilities, such as football fields, tennis courts, squash and badminton and gymnasiums be shared and events, such as annual school sports day and National Day, be organised as major events for all the schools sharing those facilities. This is to reduce costs.
The most common complaint from teachers was about making them do administrative work and keying in data, which is taking up too much of their time. This results in classes often being without teachers.
A senior official from the Education Ministry even said, at a different education summit I attended a week before the dialogue, that classes were without teachers for as much as 49 per cent of the time. This is shocking.
Teachers want only to teach. That's what they are paid for.
The Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening the English Language (MBMMBI) curriculum, which was introduced at the beginning of the year, is not opposed.
However, many want the implementation of Bahasa Malaysia and English to be done fairly and not as it is now where Bahasa Malaysia is implemented intensively but English is not.
One of the main issues that parents and students have is with teachers who act as though they know everything and do not even acknowledge the mistakes they commit. They get angry when someone corrects them. If someone has corrected your mistake, just accept it.
Panel members must be impartial, or at least they must be seen to be impartial, and not make irrelevant comments about things they are unsure of. I had to rebut a statement made by one of them during the afternoon panel session and I had to request that he keep his comments to within the parameters of the dialogue.
Earlier, before the start of the morning session, I spoke with some of the members of the National Education System Evaluation Panel, including the former Securities Commission of Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar and Albukhary International University Vice-Chancellor Professor Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak and others about my observations and proposals.
I also met my former boss, Sunway Group Foundation chairman Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah.
I also had the opportunity to meet historian Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim and Cempaka International School chairwoman Datin Freida Mohd Pilus.
I hope to meet the other corporate figures on the panel, such as AirAsia Bhd chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, as well as the rest of the panel members.
I also attended the regional dialogue sessions in Taiping, Perak, yesterday.
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 07 May 2012
Hussaini Abdul Karim, Shah Alam, Selangor