A Cacophonous Comedy!

What is the value of an ‘A’ in a public exam of our country?

The Star carried THIS ARTICLE written by my old friend Lim Ai Lee on how US has agreed to send volunteer English teachers to our country in response to Malaysia’s proposal to revive its Peace Corps programme after a 21-year lapse. It is certainly heartening news as this can alleviate the shortage of English teachers in Malaysia and improve proficiency of the language. Besides, this will not overly burden our national expenditure as Najib had said Malaysia was prepared to partly sponsor the programme of bringing in qualified teachers to teach English.

In the past, many USED to have a colonialistic view that the west is leading in many fields, particularly in education. Realistically, this is not really true any more, especially with regards to standards of education in many western countries including US.

Just last week, I met up with a former student who resides in US with her family. The present she gave me was a copy of November/December issue of Foreign Affairs. In that issue, I came across an article by Arne Duncan titled Back to School – Enhancing U.S. Education and Competitiveness. You can read a summarised digital version HERE.

I was quite surprised to see that the issues raised by Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, are quite similar to what we are facing in Malaysia.

Just as “U.S. students are falling behind their peers in advanced nations in the global race for economic competitiveness (extracted from page 65 of Nov/Dec issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, page 91 of the Malaysia Economic Monitor stated that results indicate not only that students—and eventually workers are not ready to compete with students from higher income countries but also that their competitiveness in mathematics has been worsening over time.

Arne Duncan observed that “to succeed in today’s knowledge economy, the United States will have to become more economically competitive and more collaborative.” Now if he as U.S. Secretary of Education can realize this fact even at their level of development, it is about time our leaders, especially those in the education field do MORE than just raising the proficiency of English in our country.
We have to go beyond protectionist ethic (a term that Arne Duncan also used in his article) to realize that we cannot imagine or fantasize that our nation’s prosperity is dependent on how they launch popular policies that gain mileage for some quarters by winning hearts and minds rather than truly executing programs and policies that arrest and elevate the deteriorating standards of education in our country!

Arne Duncan’s article also mentioned how other developed nations are more successful at recruiting talented teachers, providing first-rate teaching preparation and professional development and honoring the teaching profession. The article mentioned that unlike in the United States, South Korean teachers are selected from the top 10% of graudates and those who teach are viewed as making an important contribution to building their nation.

How about in Malaysia? How have some teachers or heads been making headlines??? I do not wish to repeat those heartbreaking incidents. What I hope is to see a definite improvement in teaching standards and teaching faculties across the board.

While some may be lauding policies promoting History as a compulsory subject without realizing how narrow is the new syllabus, the very same people who proposed such ‘progressive’ moves have failed to realize that we are now living in global community where IT has wrought fantastic revolutionary changes that have propelled many world economies forward.

Our leaders have failed to realize that while we are still in the backwaters in many academic areas just because the system churns out straight A students like hamsters/rabbits propagating, Malaysian students have now to compete throughout their careers with their peers from other developing and developed nations!

In other words, if we do not arrest the decline in education standards, other nations which currently have BETTER education standards will outclass our population in terms of competitiveness!

Read more at: http://masterwordsmith-unplugged.blogspot.com/2011/01/cacophonous-comedy.html