Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Numbed by the policy changes in our Education System

I am already numbed by the policy changes in the education system, it is to be expected that whenever a new Minister comes along...and yes true to form and without fail as soon as this new Minister of Education comes in after the slight cabinet reshuffle about a month ago he wasted no time in yet again changing a planned policy to make English a compulsory pass in SPM in 2016. 

So what is the point of having a National Blueprint on Education if you powerful political people who introduced  it then, do not want to follow it later?

Perhaps the solution for Malaysians is to have politicians totally out of the way and let Education Policies be decided by Education Professionals and apolitical Civil Society eminent persons to be chaired by a retired Judge or somebody else who has  more vision beyond getting the votes to stay in power in Government. Politics must be thrown out of the education system equation if this country is to have any hope of a progressive consistent education system.

Meanwhile, until then as nero plays the fiddle, rome is on fire as the ministers fiddle with the vote counts our children is made to suffer the u-turns, the cancellations n the agony of not being very marketable at the end of the long tunnel of Malaysia's education system.

From the NST written by Syed Nadzri:

U-turning our way to nowhere
NOBODY should be taken by surprise anymore at the latest volte-face in our education system, this time on the English pass in SPM. Disappointed, yes. Upset, certainly. But, surprised? Not in the least, since there have been far too many flip-flops already while standards continue to drop. Too many U-turns make our heads spin.   

It was announced last week that a compulsory pass in English in the Form Five examination, scheduled to come into force next year, had been postponed. And perhaps the people in the Education Ministry have turned so comfortably numb by all the turnarounds that they saw it fit to disclose such a major policy shift in a mere four-paragraph statement.   

The U-turn also came when Malaysians are still recovering from the scrapping of the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) that was introduced in all its glory in 2003 to help students overcome the fast evolving world of Science and Mathematics, for which references are mostly in English. After nine years, it was cancelled with excuses such as the students and teachers not being able to cope. So, now, we see traces of the same in the latest misstep.   

Just consider: when he announced three years ago about the passing requirement for English, the then deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who was also education minister, said the government had placed emphasis on English to strengthen students’ grasp of the subject, with an intention of producing a globalised generation. It was also to improve proficiency which in turn would help them get jobs easily. 

He was on record to say that English teachers would be made to undergo the Cambridge Placement Test (CPT) to gauge their knowledge in the language. The first batch of 5,000 teachers, he said, had participated in the training by the British Council and 9,000 more were set for the course. 

It is futile to ask what has happened to all this even if the policy was part of the Malaysia Education Blueprint. After all, policy changes have become a norm. But that is the whole trouble when politicians, aided by meek policy advisers, get too involved in critical matters like education. The Form Three examination, once called the LCE and then PMR, is no more. Just like the many other changes. 

The point to note is that all those responsible for the tinkering throughout the years thought they were doing growing-up children here a favour and were always declaring that the Malaysian education system is “world class” while they themselves opt to enrol their children abroad.   

The change in the medium of instruction for all national schools to Malay 40 years ago was a good example. It was hailed as a good move then, but now, seeing employment difficulties and global challenges, many people have begun to realise that empty emotions could fall flat.   

I still remember how a long-standing school-term and examination arrangement was changed abruptly nearly 30 years ago when it was announced that the crucial Forms Three, Five and Six examinations would be held much earlier to avoid the year-end monsoon floods.   

Because of this too, there was a change in the term-holiday schedules, with the new school year set to begin in December instead of the first week of January.   

The change was effected through the oratorical skills of an up-and-coming politician at a gathering that had the crowd roaring in support.   

At the time, it looked like this new system would stay forever. But no; it was short-lived because reality sank in later when parents started to complain about the new school year having to start before Christmas and New Year. 

So, the old system was reinstated when a new minister took charge. Then, there was the perpetual concern for the lack of proficiency in English, especially among students in rural schools. 

This proved to be a tough proposition. 

Support and opposition hinged on who said what and when, until even PPSMI was met with muted protests every now and then. 

There are so many other examples of the tendency of a policy going one way only to make a U-turn later, whether it concerns the over-emphasis on religious routines or regulations on how students should dress on the playing field.  

Even the move to appoint a non-politician as education minister for a brief spell not too long ago failed to change matters, though I still think this is the best option.   

Now, I will not be surprised if the latest policy changes abruptly again when many school-leavers fail to land jobs due to a lack of proficiency in English. 

We will go spinning in U-turns again for sure. And definitely whatever blueprint that comes next will not be taken seriously. 

The freelance writer is an award-winning columnist

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