Toh : Emphasis on Teachers’ conduct in the classroom

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 20): More calls have emerged for the government to make public, two reports on Malaysia’s education system, released earlier this year by Unesco and the World Bank. Centre for Policy Initiative’s (CPI) director, Lim Teck Ghee, said that everyone should have access to the complete reports prepared by the two international bodies. Only snippets of the reports are currently available online. “I’m a tax-payer. I’m sure the (Education) Ministry paid good money to bring these foreign consultants from the World Bank and Unesco. These reports must have cost millions, so why hide it?” he asked. Speaking at a forum on the recently released preliminary report of the National Education Blueprint 2013-2025 on Wednesday night, Lim said that he had contacted Unesco for a copy of the report but was told that “the ministry would like to keep the report confidential”.   From left: Director of the Centre for Policy Initiative (CPI), Lim Teck Ghee, Forum Moderator, Deputy Chair of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) Zaid Kamaruddin, Chairperson of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE), Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim and Lim Lian Geok (LLG) Cultural Development Centre’s chairperson, Datuk Toh Kin Woon. Noting that one of the goals of the Blueprint was to increase transparency for direct public accountability, Lim questioned if the ministry could “walk the talk” in being transparent. Last week, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, the chief executive of another think-tank, IDEAS, had also asked for the two reports –  along with the Tan Sri Prof Dzukifli Abdul Razak’s Malaysia Review Panel report and the International Review Panel’s report –  to be made public, saying that they cost “millions”. The newly-formed Pakatan Rakyat Education Taskforce had also asked for public disclosure of the four documents, saying this would provide the public and stakeholders a point of reference to critique the Blueprint. The public has about three months to present their views on the preliminary report before the final version is presented to the Cabinet in December. On another matter, Lim pointed out that there was no mention of the new History syllabus in the preliminary Blueprint although the Education Ministry had announced that it was in the midst of preparing a new History syllabus for secondary school students. “I hope they don’t sneak it through without consulting the people,” said Lim, adding that any reform to the syllabus should be carried out in a comprehensive manner. He said the new syllabus must not project a skewed view of History and should “take into account the contributions of all races in the development of the country”. Another speaker at the forum, Datuk Toh Kin Woon, questioned the plausibility of some of the goals in the Blueprint. Toh, who is the chairman of the Lim Lian Geok Cultural Development Centre, zeroed in on the Education Ministry’s plan to recruit only the top 30% of graduates in the country into the teaching profession. “I don’t want to pour cold water … I am all for improving the quality of the teachers. Nobody would question that, but even if the ministry succeeds in recruiting the top 30%, assuming that this 30% want to become teachers, the impact (on student quality) will be minimal,” he said. He added that it had been proven by research that the gap between higher and poorer performing countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) can only be breached marginally over a long period of time. PISA is an international test taken by students in their native language where they are tested on numerous skills such as reading, Mathematics and Science. It is conducted every three years. Currently, Malaysia sits at the bottom third of the ranking. “Finland is one of the high performing countries. America is an average performing country. In 30 years, the gap could only be reduced by 20%,” he said, adding that it was difficult to catch up if the education system was flawed from the beginning. He also said that special emphasis must be given to teachers’ conduct in the classroom if the government was really serious about improving the quality of teachers. ‘We have 400,000 teachers in 10,000 schools nationwide. Many of them are under performing and below average. How do we solve the problem? It will be politically impossible to fire all the under-performing teachers. “The way to improve the quality of teachers is to pay attention to the way teachers manage classes, the way they deliver the lessons,” he said. Also present at the forum was Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia’s (PAGE) chairperson, Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, who once again stressed the importance of teaching Science and Mathematics in English.

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