Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Screenshot from The Straits Times

Finally our government has acknowledged the failings of our national educational system. For decades, parents have been expressing their concerns over the rapidly falling standards in our schools. Only now has the government decided to listen and take action, perhaps because of political expediency?

PM Najib and Education Minister Muhyiddin
(Photo: The Star)
The PM in launching the Malaysian Education Blueprint yesterday admitted that our students have performed dismally compared to their counterparts in other countries in the region.

This was not always the case.

The years after our country's independence in 1957 saw our schools produce some of the best minds that could match the brightest in other countries. Many of my schoolmates won Colombo Plan scholarships to study in top universities abroad. Our teachers did their training at the renowned Teachers Training College in Kirkby and Brinsford, UK. (Click here for Joe Chelliah's personal account and pictures of these UK-trained teachers.)

The teachers were dedicated and had a genuine desire to see their pupils succeed. Many of my primary school teachers had only LCE (Form 3) qualifications but I learned so much from them. I had Chinese, Malay and Indian teachers who opened up my young mind to fascinating worlds beyond our shores. They instilled in me a thirst for learning that has remained to this day.

19 'A's? That's a record!
During my high school years from 1960 to 1964, a distinction scored in any subject was truly reflective of the pupil's grasp of the subject. But today, there is little prestige attached to an 'A', at least that's the view of those in the teaching profession, the 'insiders' who know the true picture. Indeed every year when the SPM results are released, the media would highlight students obtaining 15 'A's or more. Each year the number of students reaping a harvest of distinctions would rise. It became so incredulous that the government had to step in and limit the number of subjects a student could take to 10 beginning from 2010.

The rot in our public schools has been so pervasive that an 'A' in English, for example, is probably equivalent to a 'C' now for the majority of our Form 5 students. They go on to local universities and spread the rot there. Today it is common to hear complaints from the corporate sector about the poor standard of English of our local graduates, and their lack of analytical thinking skills.

The situation has deteriorated so swiftly that concerned parents opt for private schools for their children. They are prepared to spend more than put their children's future at risk in the public schools. The roots of ethnic segregation have taken hold. Today, the staff and pupils in public schools are overwhelmingly from the Malay community. What a far cry from the schools of yesteryears where the schools were a melting pot of all races.

Still, I am glad Education Minister Muhyiddin, has finally faced up to reality. To quote from The Star, "Malaysian students' achievements in reading, Mathematics and Science are still low compared to students in developed countries.

“For example, of 74 countries that participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment or Pisa 2009, Malaysian students were in the bottom third for reading, Mathematics and Science."

“We are not proud of this,” he said. 

11 reforms have been outlined in the blueprint. Those that are of special significance to me are:

> Ensure that every child is proficient in both Bahasa Malaysia and English;

> Develop values-driven Malaysians and promote unity among the races;

> Transform teaching and ensure that only 30% of the top graduates are admitted into the profession;

> Increase transparency in the ministry's progress of the targets set in the blueprint.

Let's hope this marks a new beginning, a positive step in the right direction - for the sake of our children and for the future of our country.


Pak Idrus said...

I am surprised that they did not includes mandarin and making it a compulsory language like English. Mandarin is for our future to interact with the most powerful country in the world, China as well study there up to PhD level.

seniorsaloud said...

I don't think Mandarin should be made compulsory. It's not an easy language to learn. It should be offered as an option. I had some Malay students in the Chinese school where I taught. They had the distinct advantage of being multi-lingual: Malay, English and Mandarin. I taught some Indian students there too.

Winston said...

After fifty-five years of ruling this country, they still can't get the education policy right?
Not only that, they can't get the housing policy right as well, as there is no housing policy for the masses to speak of.
Same thing for health and everything that are of interest to the lives of Malaysians.
So, what have they been doing all this while?