Producing effective teachers and critical learners the focus of national blueprint

Saturday September 8, 2012
http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/9/8/nation/11990180&sec=nation

By Leanne Goh
newsdesk@thestar.com.my

PETALING JAYA: The focus of the National Education Blueprint 2013-2025 will be on the making of effective teachers and critical learners.

The two elements will get greater emphasis in the transformation of the education system, under the blueprint to be unveiled on Tuesday.

Measures, some old and some new, will be taken to ensure that more effective teaching takes place in the classroom to produce students who are more than mere rote learners.

In acknowledging weaknesses in the system and how below average our students rank in international assessments, the Government will review and improve primary and secondary school curricula to produce learners with better thinking skills.

There is concern over the declining performance among students in external tests although there are pockets of high achievers and international award-winning students, as well as excellent schools, including the 66 designated High Performing Schools.

To achieve teaching excellence, the teaching profession is likely to be made more attractive to draw high calibre graduates with more avenues for promotions and career growth.

These are among some of measures that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to share when he unveils the preliminary blueprint. The event will be aired live over RTM, TV3 and Astro at 10am.

The blueprint is expected to take stock of both the successes and shortcomings of the education system and from there, chart an action plan to move it towards world-class education.

With Malaysia being one of the countries with the highest percentage of the national budget (16% in 2011) set aside for education, there are high expectations for the returns on the investment.

The ministry is expected to review this under the blueprint and look for more effective ways to get value for the money spent, in terms of student outcomes.

Unlike the previous education reform that paid greater attention to physical infrastructure and systems, the blueprint for 2013 to 2025 looks at teachers as the driving force behind a superior education system. Hence, teacher training, retraining and “up-skilling” will be priorities.

For example, 70,000 English teachers have to sit for the Cambridge Placement Test and those found to be low or non-proficient would be given intensive “up-skilling” courses.

Steps such as this have already been taken to get the ball rolling even before the official implementation of the blueprint under the purview of Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

After the document is made public, the Education Ministry will continue to gather feedback from stakeholders.

The information will be fine-tuned and compiled in the final blueprint to be submitted to the Cabinet by December.

It has been a ground-breaking achievement for the ministry to put together the preliminary blueprint, after garnering views of international bodies like the World Bank and Unesco, local universities and organisations and most importantly, engaging the people through roundtable and townhall discussions over the past year.

Naturally, stakeholders from parents and the community to the private sector as well as state education departments should have a say as well as a role in raising the bar for the country’s education system.

A worrying development is the growing homogenous learning environments with the mushrooming of private and international schools in addition to existing vernacular and agama schools. Thus, programmes that foster national unity are likely to get much-needed attention.

Another concern is the gender achievement gap, as shown by the fact that 70% of the country’s undergraduates are females. Questions are being asked as to why boys are lagging so far behind in school.

This has been an issue the ministry has been grappling with and is expected to be redressed under the blueprint.

There is greater awareness that our students will be best served in a global workforce if they are bilingual, if not trilingual, hence the need to brush up on English – the language that Malaysian students are generally weaker in.

Najib has already expressed his desire to see English Literature in the school curriculum and this has already resonated well with parents and teachers.

Interestingly, in the preparation for the blueprint, the document was completed in English before work began on the Bahasa Malaysia version.

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