There are still many problems in our education system yet the reforms needed are moving at a glacial pace, compared with the world our children will grow up in.
A RECENT headline claimed that Malaysia’s education system is fast becoming the world’s best.
I really had to blink several times because it seemed as far fetched a claim as Malaysian women now being equal to our men.
Further down in the article it said that we still had a long way to go before we could “justify” the claim that we are at par with the world’s best.
Once again, we are handed a confusing statement. Are we improving or are we not?
According to our Government Transfor-mation Plan (GTP) report: “The rate of improvement of the system in the last 15 years is among the fastest in the world.”
But that actually says very little because it can mean that while 15 people can now read when previously there were 10, it still means there are only 15 literate people.
I really wish the media would ask tougher questions of pronouncements like this.
One of the GTP targets is to get 92% enrolment in pre-schools.
For a long time, we have been proud of our literacy rates. But it turns out we measure our literacy rates through school enrolment rates, which any schoolchild will tell you is not the same thing. Just because you went to school doesn’t mean you’re literate.
Indeed, just because you pass your school exams, it doesn’t mean you’re literate either, as any frustrated employer can tell you.
So achieving high enrolment should be only part of the goal, the rest is about giving our children quality education.
Undoubtedly, there are supposed to be four key GTP initiatives to improve the quality of education but this does not necessarily translate into a “fast-improving” education system.
Our problems are so numerous yet the reforms needed in our education system are moving at a glacial pace, compared with the world our kids will grow up in.
I also have a problem with the stated target of reducing the rural-urban achievement gap by 25%. What is the gap in the first place?
If it is huge, is reducing it by 25% enough? When will this be achieved?
In another study a few years ago, urban parents who cannot afford to care for their children in the cities are sending them to their home villages to be cared for by their grandparents.
Undoubtedly, the schooling that these kids will get will be inferior to what is available in the city, not to mention other disadvantages they will have, including the lack of civic amenities in the rural areas.
What’s more, the family background they will be in may not be as conducive to high achievement as if they stayed with their own parents, who are in all likelihood better educated than the grandparents.
Are these issues considered in the Education Blueprint? What would be the psychological cost of separating children from their parents for most of their impressionable years?
While a good educational foundation is good for our children, we should not also neglect the other end of the educational scale – tertiary education.
Assuming our children survive their early education to get to tertiary education, what happens there?
As it is, employers are complaining about the quality of the graduates we bring out. What are we doing about this end?
And here’s a question: If our youths coming out of public universities are not meeting employable standards, how is it that we are going all out to market our universities to foreign students? What will they get out of it?
It makes me wonder why any foreign student would want to come here and study because if the quality of our local graduates are not up to par, then they cannot be much better off.
But yet in our public universities, there are thousands upon thousands of foreign students here. How do we select them?
Are we selecting the best and the brightest, or just anyone who can pay the fees?
What exactly is our reason for opening up our low-ranking universities to foreign students?
A neighbour of ours has made it their policy to give scholarships to the best and the brightest from the countries around them. In this way they not only attract the best brains to study there but eventually these brains don’t want to go home.
Even if they do, like all foreign students who study overseas, they will retain friendly ties with the country of their alma mater, useful for both parties in the future.
Our policy, however, is not to invest in brains, whether it’s ours or other people’s.
As long as foreign students pay to put their warm bodies behind our desks, we don’t care what they have to offer, and then feign surprise when some of them get into some very troublesome activities.