ELEVEN shifts or areas of reform are outlined in the draft Education Blueprint 2013–2025, with the aim of producing students with six key attributes over the next 13 years in three phases or “waves”.
Our students’ positions are to be moved up from the bottom third of an international students’ achievement rankings to the top third within the 13-year time frame.
Rightly, teachers have been identified as the key role players, the catalysts and the motivators to bring about the visionary school outcomes. Shift Four in the Blueprint specifically calls for quality teachers.
New teacher recruits from 2013 onwards will be from the top 30% of graduates. There will be Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and peer-led culture of excellence and certification.
And, it is not difficult to deduce that in the first phase/wave of the Blueprint years, training and retraining courses will be chiefly directed at existing teachers who need help.
The young new recruits are fresh and better “qualified”. Their time will come.
This is all well and good. But, let’s do a bit of simple auditing.
Haven’t we been conducting courses, many and a lot of them in fact in recent years, for teachers? Why then are there still problems of teachers who are deemed lacking in quality?
Teachers had been attending courses in subject matters, curricula, pedagogy, ICT exposure, languages proficiency, skills-based training, sports, leaderships and management and others.
The reality on the ground, however, seems to point to that “teachers had not improved much”. We continue to be plagued by poor quality teachers and bad classroom practices. Hence, there is a need for Shift Four.
When launching the Blueprint, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak aptly pointed out that “the weaknesses in the present system had to be acknowledged, and Malaysians cannot be in denial, if the country is to move forward” “Turning a new chapter” (The Star, Sept 12).
So, what are amiss in our present system?
First, usually courses are determined and designed by divisions/sectors/departments higher up in the Education Ministry and state departments. Yes, needs studies have been carried out before these courses are conducted.
Circulars are then sent out through the state departments/district offices to schools to identify participants for the different courses.
The many courses available (especially towards the end of the of the year when allocations for courses must be used up) and the normally very short response time given, push schools to simply nominate whichever teachers are available, even though least eligible.
Take cognizance also that end-of-year is busy time for schools. They can hardly afford teachers to be away.
As a result, teachers who finally attend the courses are not necessarily the target groups identified in the ministry’s needs studies. At times, “a square peg in a round hole” situation is created. This is sinful wastage of resources.
Second, some teachers who are “directed” to attend these courses understandably have a tendency to be lukewarm.
They do not do any significant, voluntary pre-course preparation.
They are present at the course venue but may just sit through all the sessions with little meaningful contribution.
Genuinely proactive, substantive and constructive participations are rare. Some may even enjoy the “outing”, time away from classes.
And, if a course is conducted far from home, it is common to observe that the participants may even be busy planning their sightseeing and shopping sprees in between the sessions.
No wonder private sector employees become envious of the “fortunes” our civil servants enjoy once too often. Any wonder then that these courses seldom bear the desired fruits.
Third, few courses include tests to assess and ascertain the participants’ achievement of the competencies expected as outcomes of the course. Usually only attendance certificates are issued in lieu. Any wonder then there is a lack of seriousness in following diligently the courses conducted.
A case in point is our bitter experience with PPSMI (Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English). The millions of ringgit and the thousands of man hours spent in preparing the teachers for the implementation of PPSMI had not produced the desired results.
A majority of the teachers was found complaining that they were not competent and confident to teach the subjects in English.
As a result, a good policy is sadly scrapped with teachers’ weak preparedness cited as one main factors.
In conclusion, it is imperative that there be (1) meticulous and stringent selection of teachers for courses, even time-consuming if necessary; (2) positive and correct attitude and approach towards courses held and attended; and (3) compulsory end-of-course evaluation tests.
These are the keys to ensure that the proposed teachers’ Continuing Professional Development (CPD) achieves the successes it desires.
LIONG KAM CHONG Seremban Source: The STAR Home News Opinion Tuesday September 18, 2012