‘New Malaysian education plan good, but important to learn lessons from past failures’

Sarawak school

The Malaysian government’s plan to introduce a new education plan called ‘Future of Malaysian Education 2026-2036’ is timely, as the current Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025, will end next year.

However, an expert has cautioned on the need to have follow-throughs, and a commitment to ensure education in the country progresses.

Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong, a senior fellow with the National Council of Professors, said while the new education plan should take into account future development, the Education Ministry must also ensure that proposals under the 2013-2025 plan, especially those which have not materialised, see the light of day.

“The 2013-2025 blueprint was good at the time it was planned. The problem in Malaysia is the poor implementation, and this is why some of the main proposals have not been achieved,” said Teo, one of the architects of the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

Teo said one of the main glaring failures of the 2013-2025 Education Blueprint was to make national schools the number one school of choice by 2025.

“This was highlighted in Chapter 7 of the blueprint. Yet, we are nowhere near this. We failed to put back the national element in national schools.”

He said national schools today have become “too Islamic”, with some stakeholders saying back then, that they had turned into “religious schools”.

“We must accept this fact,” he said, adding that the views were shared by both non-Muslim, and Muslim parents.

“As a result, more and more parents are sending their children to vernacular, private, or international schools. I am not sure if the government then had viewed this matter seriously, and if the current government is serious about this,” said Teo.

Another failure of the 2013-2025 Education Blueprint, he said, was in not making English a compulsory pass subject for SPM by 2016.

“We just did not dare do it. Why? because it could have resulted in at least 60 per cent of students failing the exams,” he said.

The National Education Blueprint 2013-2025 had stated that ethnic stratification in schools had increased in recent years. The number of Chinese students enrolled in Chinese medium schools had increased from 92 per cent in 2000, to 96 per cent in 2011. The number of Indian students enrolled in Tamil medium schools had also increased from 47 per cent, to 56 per cent, during the same period. In national schools, 97 per cent of students are ethnically Bumiputera.

The blueprint noted that as student environments became more homogenous, there was a growing need for the ministry to create avenues for students from different school types to interact. To foster unity, it was important for students to interact and learn with peers and teachers from various ethnic, religious, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds.

The 2013-2025 blueprint, was the result of 15 months of work, with input from a broad range of stakeholders, including local and international educationist at Unesco, World Bank, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It also included academics, parents, and students.

Eleven strategic and operational shifts were outlined in the 2013-2025 blueprint. They were:

Shift 1: Provide equal access to quality education of international standard (Benchmark learning of languages, Science and Mathematics to international standards, revamp examinations and assessments to increase focus on higher-order thinking (HOT) skills by 2016).

Shift 2: Ensure every child is proficient in Bahasa Melayu and English language, and encourage them to learn an additional language (This also includes upskilling English language teachers, and making English language SPM paper a compulsory pass subject).

Shift 3: Develop values-driven Malaysians (This includes developing students holistically by reinforcing the requirement for every student to participate in one Sport, one Club, and one Uniformed Body).

Shift 4: Transform teaching into the profession of choice (Teaching will be a prestigious, elite profession that only recruits from the top 30 per cent of graduates in the country).

Shift 5: Ensure high-performing school leaders in every school (Success will mean every school will have a high-performing principal who is relentless in his or her focus on improving student outcomes, both academic and non-academic).

Shift 6: Empower State Education Departments and District Education Offices and schools to customise solutions based on needs (This includes ensuring all government and government-aided schools receive equitable financial support).

Shift 7: Leverage information and communications technology (ICT) to scale up quality learning across Malaysia (Success would mean across all 10,000 schools in Malaysia, ICT will enhance how teaching and learning happens).

Shift 8: Transform the Education Ministry’s delivery capabilities and capacity (The transformed ministry will have strong leaders at every level, new processes and structures, and a culture of high performance).

Shift 9: Partner with parents, community, and private sector at scale (Equip every parent to support their child’s learning through a parent engagement toolkit and online access to their child’s in-school progress, expand the trust school model to 500 schools by 2025 by including alumni groups and NGOs as potential sponsors).

Shift 10: Maximise student outcomes for every ringgit (Capture efficiency opportunities, with funding reallocated to the most critical areas, such as teacher training and upskilling).

Shift 11: Increase transparency for direct public accountability (Publish an annual public report on progress against Blueprint targets and initiatives, starting from the year 2013).

The Education Ministry is currently calling on the public to contribute suggestions for a new education development plan to replace the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025. The public can send proposals for the ‘Future of Malaysian Education 2026-2036’ to https://www.moe.gov.my/pelanpendidikan2026/public

On the proposed new education plan, Teo said the basic structure of the old blueprint, including 3R (three basic skills taught in schools: reading, writing and arithmetic) should be retained.

“These are the basics of education, no matter what age, the focus on the ability to read, write, and count, should be retained,” said Teo.

“At the same time, we should take into account the current developments – regarding the future of education, and this includes paying heed to the recent World Bank report (Bending Bamboo Shoots: Strengthening Foundation Skills), which highlights what was sorely lacking in our education system, as we are even behind Vietnam,” he said.

The report had painted a disconcerting picture of Malaysia’s education system, including that only 58 per cent of students in Malaysia were proficient in reading by the end of Standard 5, significantly worse than her regional peers. Malaysian students also spent an average of 12.5 years in school, but learnt the equivalent of only 8.9 years. In contrast, Vietnamese students achieve 10.7 years of learning in a similar timeframe.

“The work culture among teachers at national schools was also still lacking… there are still lazy teachers around and this too, should be the main thrust of the new education plan.”

“We must make this a priority. In addition, we must also ensure facilities in national schools are adequate and meet the demands of teachers and students,” he added.

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