Wednesday September 5, 2012
By KANG SOON CHEN
Reading, writing, arithmetic are implicit in the basic right to education.
Without these abilities, it is nearly impossible for students to attain higher education and function in the modern society. However, statistics showed that a sizeable student population in Malaysia are still ill-equipped with basic literacy and numeracy skills.
In 2008, 54,000 Year One pupils identified with low literary skills were enrolled in the Early Intervention Reading and Writing Class (KIA2M) while 117,000 Year Four pupils without basic numeracy skills were on the 3R Remedial Programme (Protim).
In 2008 alone, 31,939 students dropped out from school at both the primary and secondary levels.
The Literacy and Numeracy Screening (LINUS) programme is aimed at ensuring that all Malaysian children acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills after three years of mainstream primary education.
The Education NKRA has set a 100% literacy and numeracy target for all Year Three pupils in Malaysia.
By basic literacy skills, the children are expected to have the ability to read, write and understand words, simple and complex sentences (using conjunctions) in Bahasa Malaysia and apply such knowledge in learning and everyday communication.
For basic numeracy, the children must be able to read, write, count and arrange (in order) whole numbers from one till 1,000 by Year Three.
They are also expected to demonstrate the ability to solve basic mathematical operations, apply mathematical skills and knowledge in everyday activities involving time, currencies and measurements.
Unlike previous efforts to address the numeracy and literacy problems, LINUS focuses on early intervention in the early primary years before the pupils enter Year Four.
Previous programmes either only focused on literacy skills (KIA2M) or conducted much later between Year Four to Six (Protim).
LINUS is different from special education in that it is a remedial programme which conducts screenings of Year One pupil in March every year to identify pupils who are weak in literacy and numeracy skills.
Literacy and numeracy screenings are conducted by the school teachers in March, June and September every year. The instruments with 12 constructs are prepared by the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate and passed on to the district education offices to be distributed to schools.
There are two parts to the screening – written and oral.
The screening can be conducted in class by the teacher any time within the stipulated timeframe.
As this is a screening as opposed to a test, teachers are allowed to provide guidance to the students by rewording the questions and giving examples.
Pupils who fail the screening test will be enrolled in remedial classes with 10 periods per week for literacy remedial and seven periods per week for numeracy remedial.
Pupils who do not pass the construct 1 and 2 are classified as LINUS Tegar (hardcore) and required to attend remedial classes.
The performance of the pupils enrolled in the LINUS program so far has been encouraging.
The first cohort of 446,332 pupils who were enrolled in the programme in 2010 achieved 99% in their reading and writing test for their eighth screening conducted in June this year, compared to the average score of below 50% in the first screening test.
The pupils who are in Year Three now recorded the average score of 99.5% in their screening test for numeracy skills.
Besides the earlier intervention factor, LINUS aims to reduce pupil-remedial teacher ratio from one teacher per school to one teacher for 15 pupils.
There is no doubt that pupils with learning difficulties such as dyslexia need individual attention from teachers.
By reducing the pupil-teacher ratio, teachers can effectively monitor the progress of each pupil.
Given the shortage of teachers who are experienced in teaching remedial classes, close to 17,000 teachers were trained between November 2009 and February 2010 to deliver the new literacy and numeracy modules under the LINUS programme.
Also, initiatives are put in place to upskill remedial teachers including the collaboration with the Singapore-based College of Allied Educators to train 300 remedial teachers in a year-long programme starting from this November.
The public-private partnership in the upskilling of remedial teachers is a step forward in the objectives of the LINUS programme.
The remedial teachers are given a challenging task to ensure that pupils in the LINUS programme master the required skills within three years.
It is important that they keep themselves updated to the new methods in handling children with learning difficulties.
The main aim of the training programme is to introduce the teachers to the differentiated pedagogical skills for pupils with learning disabilities and techniques to identify pupils with special needs and learning difficulties.
For the first phase of training, teachers are selected from states with a high number of LINUS Tegar pupils, primarily Sabah, Terengganu, Kelantan, Sarawak, Perak, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Labuan and Negri Sembilan.