QUALITY EDUCATION: Those in key management positions must take the lead in fulfilling aims of blueprint
THE Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, launched on Sept 6 with the objective of setting the deliverables to improve the quality of education with significant additions such as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics discipline, should not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the preliminary education blueprint launched last year.
A colleague wondered how impactful will this "yet another education plan" be. Didn't the previous ones have the same objectives?
Voices of frustration reflect the high expectations Malaysians place on education, demanding quality education from schools as their right in a country as advanced as Malaysia. The fundamentals of why we educate have not changed much but the environment that we live in has and, therefore, we need to progress in education in order to stay ahead, and on top.
Teachers in key administrative and management positions (6,800 in the Education Ministry, 6,400 in state offices and 6,000 in district offices) have provided input for the blueprint.
The framework of the blueprint needs to be understood from the perspective of deliverables by all officers at all levels of management. Policies and processes that impede or promote quality instructional leadership and instructions in schools should be scrutinised, unpacked, kept or binned if the targets set in the (three) Waves (or stages of the blueprint) are to be met in the shortest time and the most efficient manner possible.
Hard questions need to be asked by those in key management positions and answered with pragmatic and doable solutions.
Is the management ready to work differently, such as streamlining processes so that teacher recruitment and placement does not involve six divisions?
This overlap in processes has caused a lot of confusion in projections of teachers according to state, specialisation and year, notwithstanding a waste of resources that could otherwise be optimised elsewhere. Do more sectors and divisions bring about greater efficiency or do they give rise to misinterpretation and dilution at the operational level?
Can the ministry (and the state offices) do with fewer sectors and divisions, and redeploy the teachers from these administrative and management positions to take on the professional duties they are trained for? After all, no one can do a better job of improving the quality of teaching and learning in schools than those who have been trained in education and the management of learning.
Too many decisions made at the administrative and management levels with the intention of improving the quality of instruction are handed to school heads. This has distracted the primary focus of the schools, that is, to educate children to help them realise their potentials.
As reported in the blueprint, school heads' understanding of their primary function as instructional leaders in the school is what drives improvements in learning. Too many directives from the central offices have neither served nor enabled the operators at the schools to do better.
The ministry has worked hard at improving school leadership. It is a measure of confidence and trust to allow school heads to improve school management and learning with professional engagement with other school heads through their state education organisations.
Perhaps it is time to do away with the multitude of instructions and directives on how to improve the quality of learning from the central or state offices, and instead implement a system of exit for under-performing school heads and another to select the best to lead a school.
The outcome of successful education blueprints of the past is a generation of Malaysians who are now demanding quality education for their children to better prepare them to face the future. But it must begin with educators in key management positions. They must take the lead and deliver the blueprint in pragmatic terms, fast.
Datuk Dr. Siti Zaleha Abdullah Sani The NST Home News Opinion Columnist 15/10/2013