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Making ‘grade’ strides: Fixing Malaysia’s education system

March 3, 2016

Inspired by the A+ rant of Nur Ameera Mohd Noor, The Level offers suggestions on how to improve our bottom-of-the-class education system’s report card

Image credit: KitaiKini.com

Image credit: KitaiKini.com

By Shazwan Zulkifli of The Level

Younger sister of glamorous Malaysian personality Neelofa, Nur Ameera Mohd Noor, recently kicked up a storm on Facebook when a video of her condemning the local education system, entitled “Q&A Education”, went viral with more than 45,000 views.

“Government schools in Malaysia, they only focus on Malaysian history, Malaysian culture, and it’s all about Malaysia. The students don’t get a chance to learn about other countries as well.

“The teachers in a government school, they do not need to be as qualified as the teachers in an international school and they don’t think outside the box for children. They do cincai work. They give us work, we do it, submit it, they mark, and they teach another topic. That’s it. They make their jobs simple”, she added, in a brutal jab towards teachers in government schools nationwide.

Ameera’s comments received a largely negative response, as furious netizens verbally attacked her in the comments. Some irresponsible commenters even threw in some largely unwarranted sexual remarks.

However, Ameera isn’t entirely wrong.

Stereotypes of government school teachers aside, she did raise some valid points for us to ponder and take into account.

Watch the video:

“The teachers there often depend on the grades to measure the intelligence of a student. It’s more like ‘You take the test and I’ll grade you based on how you took the test’ rather than making a greater effort so that students can understand the topic.

“The current education system is failing and they should not fix it, but just replace it with something that actually works for Malaysian students because this can either ruin lives or improve lives” Ameera ranted.

Whoa, hold your horses there young lady. “Replacing it with something that actually works for Malaysians” isn’t as easy as changing a flat tire. There are lots of protocols and red tape that one needs to go through in order to replace even a part of the education system, let alone the whole system itself.

Let’s face it, the education system in Malaysia is indeed terrible. Whether you like it or not, statistics show that we are in the 52nd spot (out of 76 countries) in mathematics and science proficiency, well behind Thailand and Kazakhstan. It’s not just terrible, it’s horrendous to the point that a very worrying percentage of students who complete their studies are somehow still unable to speak proper English. Of course the English language is not the benchmark of excellence, but isn’t it a vital component to more opportunities, both domestically and internationally?

But of course, plain ranting cannot and will not solve anything. That’s why we’ve come up with a few suggestions on what we think may change the numbers and affect Malaysian students in a positive and inspiring way.

Make education and the whole school experience attractive and appealing
The schooling experience is mostly boring, dull and for some, excruciating. Yes, the school experience is a learning process, but why can’t it be memorable, enjoyable, and beneficial in more than one aspect? Making the school experience exciting can make students want to learn, instead of just forcing themselves to go to school every day with a blurry purpose and lack of motivation. You can’t expect someone to truly understand and comprehend something if that particular subject doesn’t interest them. Yes, they may pass exams, but to what extent will the knowledge be beneficial and practical if they don’t fully understand what they learned? Students are humans too, and humans display a greater degree of understanding and comprehension when they are able to relate or resonate with the subject. With a more attractive perception of school, students will willingly work hard for themselves, and not to just simply please their parents or others.

Make more room for art and expression-oriented activities
Students definitely need more room for expression in their lives. Art allows students to express themselves in various channels of their liking, thus creating a new field of communication between the students and the teachers, or even just the students themselves. Other than being an opinion-based method, art can also open up a new way of learning things, through an attractive and interactive medium. Imagine learning history through art, or literacy through music?

Loosen up on the rules
Some school rules are completely unnecessary, created for the sake of “making students more disciplined”. Restrictions on hair length for boys? Super strict school uniform rules? It’s as if coming to school at 7.30AM, being forced to stand in the middle of the hot sun, and wearing pretty much the same thing as the other 1,000 students in the school is not enough to discipline students. Why can’t we allow students to express themselves fashion-wise? Is it wrong for students to be a bit more creative, so they can look and feel good when they come to an academically competitive classroom? Give more freedom to students to express and discover themselves. Confidence goes a long way.

More efforts for a harmonious multiracial environment
It’s a bitter truth to swallow that racism is alive, and living well in classrooms. In the past year alone, many videos of school students fighting each other involved racial disputes. What is the education ministry doing to curb this problem? Are there even any effective programs for these kind of problems? The ministry needs to sit down and come up with a viable solution to this problem, and maybe start by putting everyone in the Pendidikan Moral class and make it compulsory. It’s not about Moral as a subject, but as a motion that everyone, regardless of their race, religion, or background, should not be segregated based on their beliefs. No, we shouldn’t abolish religion related subjects, but instead make it optional for the students.

No one is doing much to help control, or even acknowledge bully cases unless, you know, someone tragically dies in a dorm or a horrific video of a kid who gets violently beaten up by his peers goes viral. And more often than not, bully victims are taught to “toughen up” against the bullies, instead of educating students to stop bullying others. Bully and psychological awareness programs are needed to counter this problem, as well as educate students on the existence of disorders and how bullying can affect people. These programs will have a long-lasting effect on a lot of students and teach others not to bully, no matter what their reasons are.

Relevant syllabus
This is by far the most important problem. The most popular myth regarding our education system is true: the Malaysian education syllabus is irrelevant. Its contents are outdated, the methods of teaching are neither from the 21st century, nor adjusted for educating the young minds of the 21st century.

Fun fact: Pluto is still taught as a planet in Malaysia, despite no longer being classified by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) as a planet since 2006. That’s a whopping 10 years.

The formula is simple: A relevant syllabus will produce relevant students, and relevant students can solve relevant problems, achieve relevant goals, earn relevant paychecks, and live relevant lives.The ministry needs to keep up with the times and open up to new approaches, a syllabus that will make students love what they’re learning, and in the end, produce high quality students who are happy, and capable of serving the country.

The people and the ministry need to be more open to criticism, whether it comes from an adult, an association, or even the students themselves. Criticism gives insight on what is lacking, and in this case, that the entire education system needs a lot of improvement. We can’t keep blaming students for failing or cheating on exams if the education system has failed to educate them. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now, so that the future generations can be nurtured and flourish, and in turn lead Malaysia into a glorious and successful future.

For more, click here.

First published in FMT’s new youth portal, www.TheLevel.my.


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