THE biggest shake-up ever of our education system, which touches almost every Malaysian, is fast taking shape.
The 13-year road map will reshape how our policymakers, education officials, teachers and parents deal with educating and teaching millions of our schoolchildren and preparing them and the nation for the future.
Judging by the thickness of the preliminary report of the "Malaysia Education Blueprint (2013-2025)", which Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will unveil on Tuesday, the education system will definitely undergo a massive transformation.
The plan, if fully implemented, will ultimately put Malaysia in the top one-third in the global ranking among 15-year-olds in reading, Mathematics and Science, up from current bottom one-third category. The top-ranking countries, at present, include Finland, South Korea and Singapore.
It is by no means an impossible task but not doing anything is not an option. We want our children to have access to a world-class education in order to help them better compete in a globalised world.
The education revamp is long overdue. But it is imperative as we embark on the Economic Transformation Plan and other transformation initiatives ahead of Vision 2020.
No doubt there are detractors or naysayers, who doubt that the ambitious education master plan will work. But the Education Ministry's track record in providing an education to millions since Merdeka speaks for itself.
True, no plan is perfect. That is why the ministry has embarked on the country's biggest-ever public consultation process in drawing up the preliminary report of the blueprint. The process, just short of a national referendum, involved input from 37,000 people from all walks of life. This is on top of the 209 proposals submitted to the ministry, 90 per cent of which were accepted by the review panel.
In fact, soon after the blueprint is released, the ministry will embark on a second round of intensive public consultation to gather feedback through open days and roundtable discussions with various stakeholders. It will be then be reviewed by Malaysian and international review panels before the final submission to the cabinet by mid-December.
So the process of drawing up the blueprint is thorough indeed, taking into account the views of various people who have a say in the education system.
In fact, it is a holistic review of the education system, looking into the current challenges, setting a clear road map and outlining a comprehensive transformation programme for the education system. As such, the ministry should avoid piecemeal or ad hoc initiatives or flip-flopping. Schools should not be turned into "test beds" to try out new things.
There should also be a greater buy-in from the people on the education overhaul. It will bring more benefits to the country. It also reflects a big commitment by the prime minister and his deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the education minister, to put things right.
We know that education, like everything else, is highly politicised in Malaysia. But if the government does it right, there will be more political dividends for the incumbent.
I am sure there is enough political will to make this blueprint work. It must be backed up with solid and sustained government funding, with minimal fund leakages and less red tape, of course, to finance the various programmes under the blueprint.
Funding our schools and colleges has not been a problem. We are already spending (in terms of gross domestic product ratio) on a par with top-performing education systems, such as Japan and South Korea. But our "returns on investment" have not been on a par with those countries, ranking wise.
One major challenge facing the ministry is to improve the capability of teachers. Apparently, about 60 per cent of teachers will still be in service for the next 20 years. Efforts will have to be made to retool or retrain them. There should also be a higher bar for intake of new teachers.
Our neighbours are watching us closely. We have no choice but to revolutionise our education system. It is a matter of survival. A more developed education system means a more developed nation.
By A. Jalil Hamid | email@example.com Source: New Straits Times Education overhaul to put Malaysia among top ranks - Columnist - 09 September 2012