PAGE: Education budget should focus on life skills, language proficiency

The education ministry has been urged to follow the teaching methodology of the Common European Framework Reference to improve the language skills of students. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: An education lobby group has urged Putrajaya to focus on a hands-on approach at schools in next year’s budget to equip students with life skills and ensure their language proficiency.

The Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) said English tutors should be introduced in high-need national schools while Malay plays and sketches should be encouraged in vernacular schools to improve students’ proficiency.

Its honorary secretary Tunku Munawirah Putra said life skills subjects like Kemahiran Hidup and extra-curricular activities like sports, uniformed bodies and musical competitions should be given priority.

She said this would also promote teamwork which students would need to succeed in the future.

“It should be a combination of formative and summative examinations benchmarked against acceptable international standards, with practical and hands-on tasks,” she told FMT.

On identifying talents in students, she said schools could select and focus on specific programmes and competitions based on their resources.

“Some schools may hire external coaches to help students excel in specific sports and competitions. Boarding school students have more opportunity to participate in different competitions as they spend more time in school.

“The easiest talents to spot are in sports, music and debate as there are many inter-school, interstate and international competitions that the students can participate in.”

As for improving the standard of English in national schools, Muniwarah said the group wanted the ministry to hire English tutors based on the needs of schools and to follow the teaching methodology of the Common European Framework Reference (CEFR), which has a six-point scale, from A1 for beginners to C2 for those who have mastered a language.

Munawirah said more attention should be given to vernacular schools to help students improve their Malay language skills, for instance by having Malay language month which could include activities such as plays, sketches and cultural shows by students.

“(They could also) designate Malay language day where students must only speak in the language, and carry out exchange programmes such as visiting Malay villages and participating in homestay programmes,” she said.

As for tahfiz schools, she hoped the ministry would push for these schools to be licensed following reports of cases of abuse of children in tahfiz schools, the most recent being the alleged sexual abuse of nine boys by their school principal.