There is a drastic need to revamp the Malaysian education system and it has to be done now.
This is the opinion of Pua Chee Ling, an educationist specialising in early childhood education for more than 14 years.
She said the problem is there are too many stakeholders and they do not have a common objective.
“We need to do more and the faster we do it, the better it will be for the children,” said Pua, who is the chief executive of Dika College, the specialist in early childhood education.
Pua was speaking ahead of this weekend’s Early Childhood Education Symposium at Dwi Emas International School. The symposium will gather and connect industry players and is aimed at putting the child as the focus of the community.
Pua said those in the early childhood education field, primary school and secondary school as well as those at university level are working at their own pace, leaving children to fend for themselves.
“When children go to university, they must learn to think for themselves but were not taught to think when they were in the lower levels.
“Most of the time they just parrot what teachers tell them and that, sadly, is good enough for them to get high marks.
“How can we expect children to suddenly become thinkers?”
Pua said children need to be taught to think for themselves from their formative years to become flexible and adaptable to any given situation.
She added a more aligned education system is needed, one which does not just upgrade children from one level to the next but that which prepares children academically, emotionally and physically before they can move to the next grade.
“We need to make sure our children are well equipped to face challenges as adults. Right now, we are not teaching them that. It is not just about scoring top marks,” said Pua.
“Studying is easy. You take the lessons from the textbook, learn the course material and complete your assignments and the knowledge you gain would probably be enough to graduate.
“But no one is teaching the children people skills or how to communicate with other humans. They are not taught how to accept different ideas and the ability to put forward their arguments if they have a difference of opinion.”
Pua said there is no point scoring straight As if the child is not flexible enough to change or adapt as the world is moving forward rapidly.
“Some jobs available now would be obsolete in the near future. How would the children react once that happens?”
She added another key component missing from the national education system is financial literacy.
“None of us are taught how to manage our money and this is one reason we have such a high bankruptcy rate in the country.”
The Insolvency Department revealed youth aged 25 to 44 make up nearly 60 per cent of new bankruptcy cases.
On a separate matter, Pua welcomed the move by Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik to adapt the Finland education system which is not exam oriented but cautioned it would take time.
“First, parents and teachers must be ready to accept the change. Parents must evaluate the pros and cons of switching systems.
“It’s not about having the tools to change but the ability to use the tools correctly. The intention is good but it would not be useful if those involved are not ready to embrace change.”
Pua said if changes are implemented, teachers would have to “go back to school” as the whole facet of a classroom would change.
“The easiest way to handle an opinionated child is to shut him or her up. Tell them to be quiet. The teacher may not be able to handle it if some of them question the material being taught,” said Pua adding that emotional intelligence is also very important.
Children in Finland rarely sit for exams or have homework. Children clever or otherwise are also taught in one classroom.