Malaysian language policy blog

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Mar 23 13:31:10 UTC 2007

 Discerning the Magic of Micro LendingAn Education System Worthy of
Malaysia #61

Chapter 10: Putting It All Together

Educational institutions should educate as well as integrate Malaysians.
It is assumed that national unity would best be achieved through a rigid
and uniform school system enforced upon all. This was the basis of the
Razak Report. Today the consequences of that premise are obvious.
Malaysians remain even more segregated, and these institutions have done a
lousy job in their basic mission of educating the young. Malaysians today
are severely wanting in their English skills, mathematical competency, and
science literacy, severely handicapping them in the modern marketplace.
Malaysia can have a system of education that would both prepare its young
for the competitive world and at the same time bring them together. For
this we would need a system that is the very opposite of the present.
Whereas the current system is rigid and uniform, my proposed system would
be flexible and diverse, with just enough core commonality to identify us
as Malaysians. Achieving this calls for a Ministry of Education that is
radically different from the present form.

Whereas todays ministry is highly centralized, with strict top-down
command and rigid controls, I call for a more democratized structure with
power and responsibilities delegated to lower levels, in some cases right
down to the individual institution. The leadership role of the minister is
less that of a drill sergeant barking out orders to frightened raw
recruits, more of an orchestra conductor coaxing the best from his highly
skilled musicians. This flexible and diverse system would best meet the
varied and differing needs of a plural Malaysian society, and at the same
time promote greater unity. Getting there does not require major changes
in the current basic pattern, more of a shift in attitude and mindset,
away from rigid control and regimentation to that of consultation and
collaboration between the center and the periphery.

Reform does not occur in the ministers office or with some high profile
committee of esteemed citizens. Nor would it be achieved simply with the
issuance of some thick glossy reports accompanied by glittering ceremony
and pompous speechifying. Rather it takes place in the classrooms,
beginning with each child and individual teacher. The central and
essential element of a good learning environment is still the skillful
teacher who can capture the imagination of his or her pupils.The essence
of my reform is to get those teachers and then do everything possible to
make their job easier and more enjoyable. This means providing them with
an environment conducive to learning, and compensating them adequately.

Reform will fail or succeed in the classrooms. President Bush
appropriately named his monumental education reform legislation as the No
Child Left Behind Act Of 2001. The emphasis is rightly on the individual
child, and on maximizing his God-given potential. The individual child is
the central focus of education, not the politics of language, culture, or
race. When we single-mindedly focus on this basic theme, all the other
peripheral elements and goals that are commonly associated with education
would fall into place. If we educate our young well, they would become
better citizens of not only the nation but also the world. And national
unity would be that much easier to achieve. If we burden our schools with
extraneous missions, then we dilute and blur that central mission. And
when schools fail, that failure would spill over to and be amplified in
other arenas.

In his A Nation At Risk, David Gardner reaffirms the principle that all,
regardless of color, race, or economic status are entitled to a fair and
equal chance to develop his or her potential, and when that is done, the
benefits would accrue not only to that individual but also to society. The
report defines excellence in education from three perspectives. For
individuals, it would be to enable them to perform at the boundary of
their ability, and then to test and push back those personal limits. For
schools and colleges, it would be to set high expectations and goals for
all learners, and help them achieve those goals. For society, it is to
adopt those policies that would enhance those goals for individuals and
institutions. My reform reinforces Gardners themes.What I am proposing is
not revolutionary or radical, rather evolutionary and incremental. I have
not changed the basic premise such as the number of school years, the
paramountcy of Malay language, or the basic funding mechanism.

In making my proposals I am guided by the following assumptions.
Recognizing that Malaysia is a diverse nation, there is no one size fits
all system. We should expect and indeed encourage different models. A
school that would be suitable for rural and poor Ulu Kelantan would be
grossly inappropriate for urban and affluent Ukay Heights. We must also
have parental choice. We cannot force a system down any parents (or their
childrens) throat. Give parents the freedom to choose what is best for
their children. Parents know (and care about) their children better than
any civil servant or politician. We should recognize that educational
wisdom is never the exclusive preserve of government officials and
bureaucrats. Nor is the government the only entity that can provide
quality education. Thus I call for private sector participation in
education at all levels. Amidst the diverse models there must be a core of
commonality. All Malaysians must study Malay, English, mathematics, and
science, and the student body of all our institutions, private and public,
must reflect the greater society. A nation that studies together stays

We must encourage schools to achieve this goal. Schools whose student body
reflects society must be rewarded with enhanced state support; conversely
there should no funding for those catering only to a particular ethnic,
racial, or religious group. This applies both to vernacular as well as
religious schools unless they open up their enrollment to attract a more
diverse student body.

When our institutions enhance their standards and have high expectations,
our students will respond. Success depends on continually elevating the
bars and challenges, not in lowering them. We must also recognize that
success in schools has other correlates outside of education, in
particular, parents socioeconomic status and educational attainment. While
we cannot do much to alter these factors, we can, through effective and
imaginative policies, intervene and negate their impacts on the children.
My reform seeks to improve the evident weaknesses of the current system
and build on the proven successes. I deal only with the broad framework
and leave the pedagogical details of what and how to teach to teachers and
educators. They are the ones who are trained and qualified to make those
decisions. More importantly they are the ones who see the children
everyday, not the politicians or policy makers. Those closest to the
studentstheir teachersshould make decisions regarding details of the
curriculum, pedagogy, class scheduling, and other educational matters.

I would change the present school years of K-6/3/2/2
(preschool-primary/lower secondary/upper secondary/pre-university) to
K-6/3/4 (preschool-primary/middle/high school). I would incorporate
preschool with primary school and lower the admission age from the current
five years to four. There would not be much change in the curriculum
except that there will be only four core subjects: Malay, English,
science, and mathematics. These core subjects must be taught daily, and
except for Malay, they would be taught in English. Passing them would also
be mandatory. Beyond the core, each school is free to choose whatever
subjects in whatever language to fill in the rest of the school day.
 The sooner pupils are taught multiple languages the better. The benefits
would spill over into other intellectual areas like the ability for
abstract thinking and to sift the core data from the surrounding noise.

There are numerous clinical studies supporting my contention. We should
capitalize on this scientific insight. Students would sit for only three
national examinations: at the end of primary 6 (UPSR); middle school
(PMR); and high school (STP). The UPSR and PMR would test only the four
core subjects. Further these examinations would contribute only 70 percent
of the students final score;  the rest would come from the teachers
yearlong evaluation (the students GPA). For USPR, the students GPA at
Years 5 and 6 would each contribute 15 percent to the final score. For
PMR, the students GPA in each of three years of middle school would
contribute equally (10 percent each) to the final score.

With the reduced load the examination syndicate could release the results
much sooner and there would be no need to have these examinations held so
early in the school year and thus taking away valuable teaching time. They
could be held in late November with the results out by late December, in
time for the students to begin their new school year the following January
with minimal interruption.

There would be minimal changes to the present primary national-type
Chinese and Tamil schools. They should be viewed less as vernacular
schools and more as schools that happen to use Mandarin or Tamil as the
medium of instruction. Thus I would make them even more welcoming to
others outside their particular racial group. To a certain extent the
national-type Chinese schools are already successful in this. More and
more Malay parents are sending their children to such schools. More can be
done to make these schools Malay-friendly, like offering Islamic classes
(taught in Mandarin) and having Malays on the governing board. After
middle school the students would be streamed to enter academic, regular,
or vocational stream. This streaming would be based both on the PMR scores
as well as the GPAs for all subjects. I envisage the top third to be in
the academic stream, and I would encourage a similar number to pursue the
vocational, the rest would continue in the regular stream.  There should
be sufficient flexibility so students could switch during the first two
years, based on their performance and teachers recommendations.  The
academic schools would prepare students for universities. The regular
stream would prepare students to enter directly into the job market or for
entry into non-degree granting institutions.

For the Year 13 examination (STP), students would take six instead of the
present five subjects. Four would be the core mandatory subjects mentioned
earlier. Again, as with the reformed UPSR and PMR, the final examination
would contribute only 70 percent to the final score, with the rest coming
from the students GPAs as per the following formula: 5 percent each for
the first two years of high school, 8 for the third, and 12 for the last
year. My proposal would dispense with both MUET and the General Paper. The
dramatic change from the present is that the students final grade would
not be dependent exclusively on that one final end-of-year examination,
rather it factors in the students year round performance.  This would give
a better evaluation of the students true ability and potential.
Interschool variations in GPA standards could be adjusted using modern
statistical tools.

M. Bakri Musa is proudly powered by WordPress


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.


More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list