THE focus of the Education Blueprint to produce a generation of all-round pupils is much lauded.
The blueprint not only aims to bridge the gap in the academic performance of urban and rural pupils, but also focuses on decreasing disparities caused by socio-economic and gender factors.
We are expected to see a significant transformation by the end of its 13-year course (2013-2025).
This blueprint is part of the backbone of the overall national programme that aspires to meet challenges of the increasingly competitive global environment.
The blueprint, designed to propel education to the next level, has three objectives:
FIRST, understanding the performance and challenges faced by the school system, focusing on improving access to education, raising standards, closing achievement gaps, promoting unity among students and maximising system efficiency;
SECOND, establishing vision and aspirations for the education system and students for the next 13 years; and,
THIRD, outlining a comprehensive transformation programme for the system, which will include key changes to the ministry to meet demands and expectations.
The above reforms will be conducted in three "waves":
WAVE 1 (201 - 2015) will focus on short-term initiatives to improve written, taught and assessed curricular activities individually, while laying the groundwork for more fundamental reforms;
WAVE 2 AND 3 (2016-2025) will see the introduction of the Kurrikulum Standard Sekolah Menengah, a revised Kurrikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah and the development of alternative models to allow for more learning at the students' own pace; and,
WAVE 3 will see the evaluation of these initiatives to develop a road map for more innovation.
While the reforms are admirable, 13 years is too short for a significant transformation.
I agree with Dr Azahari-Karim in his letter (NST, Sept 14) that the "what" and "how" issues in the blueprint have been well explained, but the "why", which is to gear the education system to meet the needs of a distinct national identity, has been kept vague.
Why do we need to see changes drastically, when we know for a fact that we cannot change overnight?
There are a lot of minor issues that need to be addressed before we can even talk about a new reform.
Take for example the issue of addressing the proficiency of our students in English. Increasing the contact hours for teaching English is not enough.
We have to look at other issues, such as whether those teaching the subject are trained to teach English, or whether the teachers are required to teach English because their language proficiency is slightly better than the others in that particular school.
We also need to look at English as a skill and not as a subject. Have the students been able to use the English language in class and outside of class?
What kind of environment are the students in? Are they from the rural or urban areas? Students in the rural areas do not have the opportunity to use the language outside the class at all.
I have no qualms that the blueprint will work, but we need to give time for the changes to materialise.
Let's learn from past mistakes, for example the PPSMI (Teaching of Maths and Science in English), which was scrapped before we could see results.
The batch that underwent PPSMI will finish their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia only this year.
Another mistake is the abolition of Penilaian Menengah Rendah. It was implemented without any pilot study.
Other issues such as maintaining quality in about 20,000 secondary schools have not been addressed initially.
On top of that, the briefing to teachers was only done four months after the announcement.
We need to be extra careful this time if we really hope to see a significant change in 13 years.
The Education Ministry, the Education Departments, headmasters, head of departments, teachers, parents and students need to play their roles in ensuring the success of this education blueprint.
Wan Norliza Wan Mustapha,Associate professor, Academy of Language Studies, UiTM, Shah Alam, Selangor. The New Straits Times Online Letters to the Editors 18 September 2012