Are our teachers ready?


Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim,

CRACKS are beginning to appear in the implementation of Wave One of the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB).

The Parent Toolkit or Sarana Ibu Bapa, which was accorded a grand launch at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in February 2013 to formalise the involvement of parents in their children’s education, now seems to not have gone beyond the four walls of the convention centre.

Sarana, had it been properly activated at schools, would have provided a solid platform for parents, an important element of the equation but often conveniently forgotten, to provide invaluable and timely feedback to the education ministry on matters of concern.

When School-Based Assessment or Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (PBS), which was introduced in 2011, began to falter in its implementation, the ministry, through Sarana, should have been more attentive and alert. Loopholes could have been plugged and intervention instituted. Instead, things were allowed to fester until they reached crisis levels years later, warranting an unscheduled review to address the deadlock.

Parents had foreseen glaring weaknesses. Teachers were biased in assessing students based on whether or not they “liked” them rather than on merit.

Students were unsure as to what was expected of them to attain a certain level. In one instance, to achieve the maximum band six for history, students had to appear in traditional attire on a particular school day. In another, to attain maximum marks for Pendidikan Islam, female students had to don a tudung or attend the neighbourhood religious school.

Where projects were handed up in CD form, students who tested the teachers by sending in blank copies were given top marks. In a submarine project where students had to show evidence that the object could submerge and surface, not all were tested, yet marks were given. Emotions were running high among the students and parents were at a loss.

While autonomy and decentralisation and therefore active parental participation is encouraged and even endorsed by the World Bank, the question is, are our teachers ready it?

Did the ministry conduct a Readiness Baseline Assessment and what was the outcome? Were teachers truly ready for this massive change in mindset or was the ministry just toeing the line to impress the minister?

It is great to emulate the education system of Finland, which has developed and fine-tuned school-based assessments. But Singapore has not adopted such a system and yet remains among the top countries in education.

How comprehensive was the ministry’s pilot programme and how confident was it that PBS would succeed? Were interventions in place to address deviations from the norm?

Were the educators involved in the process synchronised on strategy, operations, monitoring and control, and implementation? Or were they, in the worst-case scenario, working in silos?