Sunday, July 08, 2012
PLATFORM FOR IMPROVEMENT: What is the role of parent-teacher associations today? Do they contribute towards enhancing the quality of schools and the education of their children? Are parents even interested? Chandra Devi Renganayar finds out.
THE Education Act 1996 stipulates that one of the key objectives of a parent-teacher association (PTA) is to provide a forum and service for the welfare and development of students.
It also states the association is to act as a platform for parents and teachers to discuss issues pertaining to their children’s education.
These objectives, however, appear to have taken a back seat.
Parents sitting in PTA committees now focus on raising funds to upgrade school facilities, said Nik Elin Nik Rashid, a past committee member of several PTAs.
She said in some schools, PTAs are nothing more than “showpieces”, set up to meet the requirements of the Education Act.
“How effective a PTA is depends on the principal. If the person is accommodating and welcomes views from the parents, then the PTA will be involved in matters concerning education.
“In most cases, however, the principals and teachers don’t want to engage parents on issues related to their children’s performance as they are afraid it would interfere with their job.
“They fail to realise that by working with parents, they can better meet the needs of the students.”
C.K. Teoh, a former PTA committee member of a school in Klang said many parents shy away from speaking up for fear their children will be victimised by the teachers.
He said some teachers take advantage of a clause in the Education Act which states the PTA cannot interfere in a school’s administration.
“They prefer PTAs to play a diminutive role such as raising money for school activities. They want PTAs to focus on beautifying the school rather than equipping it with better learning materials.
“Parents are there to merely endorse what the headmaster and teachers have decided.”
Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, vice-chairperson of a PTA in a school in Kuala Lumpur, said: “PTAs have to broaden their thinking beyond day-to-day matters of canteen, toilets and traffic. The quality of education can be improved if parents provide ideas, constructive criticism, suggestions and schools are open to positive feedback.”
Noor Azimah, who is also the chairperson for the Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (Page), said PTAs can be a key source of reference for the Education Ministry to gather feedback from parents before introducing new policies.
“Parents have high aspirations for their children and they should be given the right to be heard. Parents via the PTAs must be allowed to raise policy matters and engage with the authorities.”