CONGRATULATIONS to the government for coming up with the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013–2025, an earnest and sincere attempt at addressing the shortcomings in our education system. The blueprint promises a better and brighter future for our children.
However, there is still a vital ingredient conspicuously missing from our education menu — soft skills or “kemahiran insaniah”, as it is commonly referred to in institutions of higher learning.
The Internet aptly sums up soft skills as “a term often associated with a person’s emotional intelligence, cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness and optimism that characterises relationships with other people”. In short, soft skills are the essence of life and humanity but how do we teach these to our school children? Perhaps the experts will be able to help us here.
Interestingly, many years ago, Albert Einstein warned us that it was becoming “appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. Today the truth is staring at us in the face. The fast advancement of technology, especially in the digital world, has alienated our children from us. Their fixation with the digital media and the time they spend on the Internet are alarming.
Part of the secret to the problem lies in grooming our students with soft skills. The need to inculcate these priceless skills in our students at an early age can never be over-emphasised as they would help to enforce the much-needed ethics, morals and manners in our students. Indeed, an overview of empirical literature suggests that in real life, the hard skills contribute only 15 per cent of one’s success while the remaining 85 per cent is made up by the soft skills.
Soft skills education should be made a visible, ostentatious part of our education. It must never remain a hidden agenda in the curriculum. For far too long we have allowed students who are good in academics but lacking in social graces and manners to get away with it. Hence, there is a need to incorporate the soft skills in all our school subjects and evaluated alongside the academic skills.
For this to happen, we need to go beyond mere mechanical evaluation of the academics and technical skills. The focus should shift to a more balanced evaluation which must include behaviour, attitudes and personality traits of the students and a small percentage of marks given for these skills in every subject.
Perhaps, more effective approaches such as experiential learning and learning outside the classroom should be given priority. These have been proven to be more effective as they generally involve group participation. Through the group projects, presentations, discussions, brain storming, problem solving, critical self reflections and community services, teachers would have a better chance of observing and evaluating not only the hard skills but also the soft skills.
However, caution should be exercised when giving marks for the skills due to the overall implications on the students. It should never be done by a single teacher but by a panel of teachers/lecturers teaching the various subjects. Once decided, the marks should be added to all the subjects. This should dispense with accusations of favouritism.
Finally, a rubric should also be drawn up to evaluate these skills. Among the other elements, it should include aspects of students’ communication skills, attendance, participation, team spirit, humility, attitude, co-operation, leadership qualities, manners, etiquette, eco- friendliness, organisation, religious tolerance and racial inclinations.
A.L. Kut, Kota Baru, Kelantan NST Letters 20 JUNE 2014 @ 8:02 AM