Archive for December, 2012





Published in The Sun 24 December 2012

THERE’S no doubt that the private sector is a major stakeholder in the national education system. As the driving force behind the nation’s economic development, it is their business to collaborate with the public sector to nurture employable citizens equipped with the relevant knowledge and skills. They therefore need to play a more dynamic role in preparing students for the workplace.

Support from the private sector for government development efforts comes in many forms, one of which is the much-touted CSR (corporate social responsibility). Here, private sector players, including foundations and civil society organisations, define for themselves the kinds of collaborations they wish to enter into. Often the support comes in the form of outright monetary contributions to fund education programmes. The bigger corporations with established CSR departments run activities which are sustainable and give out grants and scholarships, some in specialised areas, with a view to employing the graduates.

Many of these contributions to the community are carried out in an ad hoc way when appeals are made, or when a need is identified. A lot of times the programmes are one-off efforts with non-sustainable resources. Or if the resources are plentiful, they are not managed well to optimise their effectiveness.

To ensure that the resources in and for the national education system are properly administered and distributed to the immediate beneficiaries viz the schools, teachers and students, there must be a policy governing public/private sector collaboration supported by clear procedures and a legal framework.

The Education Ministry must define a private sector collaboration policy which governs joint efforts to improve the national education system so that it brings direct benefits to the stakeholders, most of all the students who enter the job market.

Among others, the following measures must be prioritised:

» Integrate public and private school education to ensure there is greater socio-cultural unity and the development of a truly Malaysian identity. Equalising educational opportunities and narrowing the gaps created by a diverse and multi-pronged education system must be prioritised to ensure the country is not divided along educational lines which bring about great socio-economic disparities. The private school system must be included in the RIMUP initiative (student integration plan for unity) to share their resources, infrastructure and facilities with the public school system. For instance, private schools can identify partners from among the national and national-type schools to have mutual exchanges of staff and students through joint activities and programmes. In this way socio-economic, linguistic and ethnic boundaries will be crossed and greater understanding achieved.

» Get product and service providers, radio and telecommunication corporations and media giants to collaborate and provide custom-built teaching/ learning technology and equipment such as computer labs, media rooms, language labs, work stations, radio and video systems, etc that are urgently required to teach students. For instance, one of the most effective ways of learning a language is through continuous exposure and total immersion via language tapes. If language teachers and students are provided with their own “portable language-learning lab” their language proficiency will improve tremendously.

» Group corporations and businesses in terms of the educational CSR they have identified for themselves. If they have chosen to support the teaching/learning of IT, their contributions of materials and equipment must be better managed and their distribution structured to optimise benefits and minimise wastage. Schools and businesses within the same vicinity can be paired or grouped to ensure communication among them. Their representatives must meet regularly with the ministry or state education officers to monitor developments, check results and address discrepancies.

» Register industry players and manufacturing companies with the ministry to take part in an apprentice system. As part of the mentoring responsibility, private companies must be involved in teacher-training programmes for subjects or skills which are relevant to their needs.

Through smart partnerships between the private and public sectors there will be a build-up of human resource, educational infrastructure and facilities; equipment and tools and most of all, innovative programmes and activities designed for the education of the nation’s youth. The benefits will accrue to all parties and the nation as a whole as the workforce becomes better educated.

By having clear guidelines and an efficient system of managing resources and monitoring developments, private-sector collaboration will be a source of not only financial support but more importantly, it will nurture a culture of responsibility for and commitment to the nation’s children who will be the next generation of human resource to drive the country forward.





Published in NST Friday 14 December 2012

The emplacement of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language and medium of instruction in national schools has resulted in its steady growth as the language of official and academic communication.

Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) has played an outstanding role in standardising the linguistic structures of the language, viz its syntax, morphology, phonetics and phonology, as well as coordinating its vocabulary, viz semantics, lexicology and terminology. DBP has ensured that Bahasa Melayu has grown from its role as the lingua franca in pre-independence Malaya to being a veritable modern language with formal systems, structures and rules to govern its use.

The growth of a language with a large community of users who use the language for different purposes will produce regional dialects and socio-cultural varieties each with its own registers and conventions. DBP is playing a key role in monitoring the standard variety of Bahasa Malaysia and ensuring that its development upholds the most sound linguistic principles and theories as well as the most urgent national needs and aspirations. Bahasa Malaysia is now firmly entrenched as Malaysia’s official language and as the medium of instruction in the national schools (Sekolah Kebangsaan).

In the second half century of Malaysia’s development, when the country is committed to becoming a global player in technology and innovation, commerce and industry, there has to be a firm commitment to a national education system where English, the global language, is positioned as the natural complement to Bahasa Malaysia.

The discourse on education has seen countless cries for the reinstatement of English as a strong second language in which Malaysians should acquire knowledge and skills. There is no doubt that English will equip the nation’s young with better prospects for employment, both locally and internationally.

What the country urgently needs to move forward is a transforming bilingual education system supported by a sound bilingual education philosophy or policy that governs teaching and learning in the public schools. To circumvent the continuous bargaining between the country’s three major ethnic groups in their bid to assume linguistic and cultural superiority, the English language must resurface as a peace and pacemaker. Whether they study in the Sekolah Kebangsaan or Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan, Malaysian students must be equalised in getting the same access to English.

The Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE) recommends that the Education Ministry define the integration of the various streams entrenched in the national education system in a clear policy statement on bilingualism, where English can be used to unite the schools, teachers and students who are growing further apart as they operate within their own linguistic and cultural silos. If Bahasa Malaysia is positioned as the language which fosters national integration, English can be positioned as the language which promotes national and international networking for pragmatic purposes.

To be seriously implemented on the ground, bilingualism must manifest itself in a clear policy statement such as: The national education system upholds and promotes bilingualism (Malay and English) in the curriculum of national schools and higher institutions of learning in order to produce students who will acquire knowledge and skills through their mastery of both languages. Malaysians who go through the national education system will enter the employment market with a high level of proficiency in both languages, where Malay will optimise their work and career opportunities at the local level, and English at the global level.

The teaching and learning of the English language in schools must be structured to produce a higher level of proficiency in the following ways:

STREAM students according to the different levels of proficiency or group them based on their skill level. This allows for the use of materials and methodologies that are suited to the needs of each level or group. Students who meet the target determined for each level or group can move to the higher level. This can be implemented within the year or the class;

RECRUIT teachers (local or foreign) from among those with a high level of proficiency in English and who are trained in the relevant methodologies. One cannot assume that because they are native speakers recruited from abroad they are necessarily well-trained or good models of spoken or written English. In-service training must be conducted regularly to enable them to be retrained and to share experiences and expertise;

PREPARE and select teaching materials carefully to ensure they are context-relevant and effective. External consultants, programme providers and contractors must, therefore, be selected with the greatest care and scrutiny to ensure they meet the local needs and requirements of Malaysian teachers and students;

PLEDGE a firm commitment to using alternative teaching and learning methodologies and methods which have proven to be very effective in the international arena. This includes the use of computer-aided learning, language labs and tapes to provide opportunities for immersion into the language. Distance learning through radio, audio and video is another area that needs to be fully exploited and developed in language learning and teaching. Films can be used effectively to augment teacher-talk. This will greatly help to circumvent the recurring problem of poor teacher quality and inadequate access to materials in English, especially in the remote areas;

INCREASE exposure to English in the curriculum in order to simulate an environment of total immersion by making English the language of instruction for subjects such as Moral Education, Civics and History where students will get more opportunities to use the language receptively and productively; and

INCORPORATE English reading and references for the subjects taught in Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil to enable teachers and students to operate in both or all the languages. This will increase their range of vocabulary and terminology besides improving their interpretation and translation skills.

DEVELOP Literature/Readings in English as an integral section of the greater English Language curriculum to be assessed as part of the English Language paper and not as a stand-alone subject. In this, the books and materials must be grouped and graded in terms of different levels of complexity or word lists. Schools can select the materials that are suitable for their students’ levels of proficiency.

With the Education Blueprint, the government is taking a giant step forward in formulating an expansive set of proposals to transform the national education system. It must be scrutinised with the greatest care to ensure the resources are properly utilised to produce optimum results.

If the democratisation of education and the equalising of educational opportunities, facilities and infrastructure for Malaysians is the outstanding battle cry, this must be formalised in a well-stated education philosophy and policy. It is time for bilingualism to take on this role.

.Whether they study in Sekolah Kebangsaan or Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan, students must get the same access to English as Bahasa Malaysia.

Datin Halimah Mohd Said

PCORE Education Committee

Read more: EDUCATION: Bilingualism is the way to go – Letters to the Editor – New Straits Times





Published in The Sun 10 December 2012

MALAYSIA is facing the growing problem of having to deal with students who are unable to cope with academic demands, where more than 30% of primary school pupils do not move on to secondary school.

To keep the nation’s young within the school system, it is necessary to provide an alternative curriculum for those not academically inclined. It has become a matter of great urgency to develop vocational or technical education as part of the mainstream national education system and to put in place alternative paths that can meet the needs of schoolchildren.

Everywhere in the world, as the labour market becomes more specialised and economies demand higher levels of skill, the government and businesses are increasingly investing in vocational education through publicly funded training organisations and subsidised apprenticeship or traineeship initiatives for businesses.

Vocational programmes will help students to choose their field of interest, be honed in knowledge and trained with skills that can earn them a living. Educational values must be reoriented to respect not only the academic achievements of students but also their practical skills and know-how.

In the employment market, value must be placed not only on the traditional professions but also on work which requires technical skills and apprenticeship. Society must augment employment opportunities based on vocational training where the less academically inclined are given useful skills to gain employment.

To do this in a sustainable way, it is necessary for the Education Ministry to define a comprehensive Vocational Education Policy where, after primary school students can enter the vocational stream. Just as students are channelled into arts or science streams, those with poor results can be oriented towards technical subjects.

Schools will identify the less academic students in primary school and enable them to choose vocational education. This is a necessary provision to prevent the nation’s young becoming drop-outs. The school curriculum is obliged to equip youths with the necessary technical knowledge and skills to enter the job market.

To ensure the effective and efficient delivery of vocational education, schools must be equipped with the infrastructure, facilities and equipment as well as qualified technical teaching staff. The vocational/technical subjects will be designed and structured to enable students to acquire theoretical knowledge, follow instructions and do practical work.

To implement the Vocational Education Policy in a concerted manner, the following measures must be undertaken:

(i) Allocate a budget for schools to equip themselves with the necessary resources, infrastructure and equipment for the specific technical sector. For example, if information technology is chosen, there must be trained teachers/facilitators and adequate computer labs and IT equipment for the students. If mechanics is chosen, there must be work rooms, equipment and tools for their practical training.

(ii) Establish links with businesses and industries to lend their expertise in providing trainers and equipment for teachers and students in technical fields.

(iii) Set up apprenticeship programmes which will last from a few weeks to a few months. For example, students can spend three days a week in the workplace and two days studying at school – a combination that will hone the knowledge and skills, and provide the exposure to make them highly employable. They will enter the job market as real techno-professionals, with the school and work experience together forming a solid basis of theoretical and practical skills.

(iv) Encourage young people to start thinking about their future early. The most academic students are generally allocated to a secondary school in their early teens (based on exam results). A smaller percentage will go on to do matriculation or A levels for entry into college and university. The majority will stay in general education before choosing apprenticeships or specialist vocational schools at 14 or 15.

Giant corporations as well as smaller business houses must make it their business to offer training facilities to teachers and apprentice students. In this way, Malaysia will develop a pool of trained and skilled workers to meet its needs in the technical sectors. An effective vocational education with an apprenticeship system will propel the economic system to produce workers, goods and services that meet the highest international standards.






Published in NST 7 December 2012

MUCH has been said about the role of national schools in fostering racio-ethnic integration. However, more and more Malaysian schoolchildren in the national and national-type schools are being segregated and driven apart.

This is happening first, by the medium of instruction viz Bahasa Malaysia for the Sekolah Kebangsaan, Mandarin for the Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) and Tamil for the Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Tamil); second, by the socio-cultural exclusiveness of each school type and, third, by the lack of effort to bring the schools together through a well-structured set of activities or programmes.

To require the schools and individual school heads to organise the integration efforts would evoke comments such as the lack of time, resources and facilities.

In order for the integration programmes to work and be sustained across the schools in the public education system, there must be proper planning along all levels of the hierarchy.

The stakeholders in the national education system must be persuaded to own the system and be fully involved in its organisation and management.

The Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE) has made the following recommendation:

That the Education Ministry define a clear racio-ethnic integration policy for the national and national-type schools and for the efforts to be undertaken at the state and district levels to ensure effective structuring and coordination.

Schools in the same vicinity should be grouped, for example, each Sekolah Kebangsaan should be assigned a Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina and a Sekolah Kebangsaan Tamil.

The three schools should share their resources and facilities to minimise the inequalities in the educational hardware and software and to encourage the cross-fertilisation of information, knowledge, skills and expertise.

When the heads and staff collaborate in pursuit of professional integration and educational excellence, the benefits will accrue to their students.

Malaysian teachers and students will then be educated in an open environment which is inclusive of one another’s needs and aspirations.

Parents will support programmes and activities which contribute to the development of their children and their community.

PCORE carried out a pilot English in Harmony Camp in September in three schools in Kompleks Sekolah Wawasan in USJ15, Subang Jaya in Selangor — Sekolah Kebangsaan Dato’ Onn Jaafar, Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (C) Tun Tan Cheng Lok and Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (T) Tun Sambathan.

The weekend camp involving 10 Year Five pupils from each school met for three hours on five Saturdays, making up a total of 15 hours contact time.

The camp was designed to fulfil both English-language learning and national integration objectives, where participants engaged in communicative activities and games while interacting and collaborating with pupils from the different school systems.

Participants practised language structures and vocabulary, and improved their pronunciation, grammar and social-interaction skills. Positive feedback was received from the pupils, teachers and school heads, many of whom were interacting across school lines for the first time, despite being located in the same compound. It is hoped this positive experience will encourage further collaboration among the schools involved.

In the first quarter of 2013, seven more camps will be run in the Klang Valley school districts, with plans to expand the programme to other districts and states.

The PCORE English in Harmony Camp is an example of how a citizen movement can support the public school system and assist in the government’s efforts to enhance English-language proficiency and promote racio-ethnic integration.

Such programmes will create integrative possibilities beyond the participant level, enabling schools to share resources, space and expertise and to cooperate with one another, rather than remain separate communities within the public education system.

To implement the National Integration Policy in the education system effectively, the following measures must be undertaken:

REVIVE the Vision School concept to bring together teachers and students from the three different streams in the most pragmatic way through the sharing of facilities, resources, teaching/learning methodology;

MANIFEST the true meaning of egalitarianism and the democratisation of education by ensuring the fair and equal distribution of resources among the different school types across the national demographics.

There must be zero tolerance of discrepancies and gaps in the national education system where every one, regardless of ethnic origin or background, is given equal access and opportunity;

ALLOCATE a bigger budget for the underprivileged schools in remote areas to ensure their infrastructure and resources are brought up to mark. Schools in town and urban areas that are already well developed and equipped must share their resources;

WORK out a system or structure in each area where a privileged school adopts an underprivileged school to share skills, resources and facilities;

WORK out a system or structure at the district and state levels where national and national type schools in the same vicinity can be grouped. By sharing infrastructure, resources and skills, staff and pupils can be brought together for subject-specific, co-curricular and sporting activities;

WORK out a schedule for subjects such as the languages, Mathematics and Science where teachers from the three streams can move around and serve in one another’s schools. English or Bahasa Malaysia can be used as the medium of instruction for these special classes;

FORGE greater networks for teaching and learning programmes and activities which bring together teachers and pupils from different ethnic backgrounds to work together and communicate with one another.

Schools that have a reputation for having sound teaching or learning methodologies and well-qualified and trained teachers must share their expertise in group training programmes. For example, teachers from Sekolah Kebangsaan Cina, which have a strong tradition in teaching Mathematics, can mentor the teachers from the other schools;

INTRODUCE and emphasise the characteristics of a Malaysian national identity among the teachers and students of national schools and national-type schools;

BALANCE the appointments of school heads and teachers to ensure all ethnic groups are represented in the staff of national and national type schools;

BALANCE the intake of students from all ethnic groups in national and national-type schools to ensure the schools reflect the Malaysian population; and,

TRANSFORM the national schools to become the school of choice for Malaysian parents and their children.

To reinforce the growth and development of Bahasa Malaysia as the official or national language, the national schools with Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction must be positioned as schools which uphold the spirit of inclusiveness and oneness of the national ideology. Position the national-type schools as brother and sister schools which play a complementary role in the family.

The transformation requires courage and conviction, and a transparently-structured implementation plan.

To uphold the government’s commitment to national integration, the public education system, which nurtures the majority of Malaysian schoolchildren who will grow into the next generation of adult citizens, must admit its failings.

It must now seize the opportunity to repair the country’s education system which has built exclusive socio-cultural silos and communities, segregated further by a fast-growing private school system.

Datin Halimah Mohd Said

PCORE Education Committee,Kuala Lumpur

Read more: NATIONAL EDUCATION SYSTEM: More integration, inclusiveness needed – Letters to the Editor – New Straits Times

December 2012