THE revised Education Blueprint 2013-2025 will soon be out. I hope this new version will adequately address our education woes.
Will the 11 strategic "shifts" reverse the current situation? The core issues appear to run deeper. Let's look at some of the proposals to see if the 11 "shifts" could solve the problem.
Shift 1 talks of providing quality education by benchmarking languages to international standards.
Higher-order thinking skills are to be tested in "national examinations and school-based assessments", but an important principle in evaluation is that you cannot test something that is not taught or learnt.
Saying that "...students will be trained to think critically..." may not assure us that this will or can be done. Can we pull out the roots of rote learning from our school culture and allow everyone to think? A million-dollar question, indeed.
Shift 2 emphasises language proficiency. Where English is concerned, "upskilling" English teachers or giving students "remedial coaching" may sound nice but the Education Ministry must ensure that the textbooks under its purview are error-free, especially at the lower levels.
One of the objectives in Shift 4 is reducing teachers' administrative duties so that they can focus on teaching. The fact is, every time this statement is made, it is followed by an increase in administrative and clerical work. Ask any teacher.
Pumping more money into information and communications technology (Shift 7) and providing "Internet access and virtual learning environments" sound nice on paper, but how do you ensure that the subject is properly taught?
It is not uncommon to hear of students being directed to copy notes during every ICT period!
The same goes for essay-writing and science experiments, where students copy long texts from reference books into exercise books.
Shift 10 is particularly interesting -- maximising student outcomes. What are these outcomes -- producing more straight-A students? Who is responsible for the pressure exerted on schools to produce students with A upon A, and letting all else that is important fall by the wayside?
Many can't seem to get out of this mindset; this kind of thinking is reinforced in the media and by educators themselves.
The ministry officials must take cognisance of what is happening on the ground. Have they analysed how national schools are run, how teachers teach, and whether school heads implement sound education practices?
We need to ensure that quality communication, interaction and teaching, respect, logic, honesty, sincerity and integrity flourish in schools and, for that matter, all institutions of education.
Consider sincerely the basic tenets outlined in our Philosophy of Education, which proposes character-building and the holistic development of a child. One example of a lack of professionalism is the way the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) policy has been handled. The ministry's guidelines on PPSMI have been ignored by schools.
Even though the advice is for certain batches to continue learning the subjects in English, what is happening runs contrary to the recommendation.
Schools have made decisions not based on sound reasoning but according to the whims and fancies of the person in charge.
Allowing different interpretations by heads of schools may give the impression that the ministry has washed its hands of the matter. It is no coincidence that results of the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study 2011 show Malaysia in a dismal position.
Students nowadays are "taught to the test", which only serves to undermine learning and demoralise them. Imagine, there are secondary school students who may have "passed the test" but are not aware, for instance, that America and Australia are two different countries, and that Singapore is not a state in Malaysia.
Then, there are those who don't "pass the test" because they cannot cope with their studies. These students get left behind as they do not get the help they need. Do we want to see more unemployable graduates and social misfits in our society?
Students need to be motivated to learn. They should be encouraged to read, and not just textbooks. We want to create a reading society and this habit must be inculcated in schools.
Education officials must check school libraries to see if there is a good stock of proper reading materials.
The Education Blueprint may appear to be "the solution', but there are still pertinent issues to be examined.
The ministry has a duty and moral obligation to do the right thing, especially for our children whose future is at stake.
All things, good or bad, stem from education. Let's return to the fundamentals in education and move the focus back to students and their development.
Sandra Rajoo, Ipoh, Perak | firstname.lastname@example.org New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 24 January 2013