SERDANG: Maszlee Malik has again underlined an emphasis on character-building and school autonomy, saying they form the basis for improving the country’s education system.
In his first major policy announcement since he was appointed as education minister last year, Maszlee said government schools and public universities should become institutions of choice, by injecting a more global approach of learning and doing away with exam-oriented curriculum.
He said three key directions which would act as a “compass” towards achieving this were a value-driven education, quality of the education system, as well as autonomy and accountability for schools and universities.
“Schools and universities must become the happiest places where the learning process is fun, so that students will love knowledge. They must also be places where differences are not just respected but appreciated and celebrated,” he said in a speech at Universiti Putra Malaysia.
He said students should learn out of curiosity instead of being taught to answer exam questions without asking questions themselves.
Maszlee said a key way to ensure high quality education was to make science, technology, reading, engineering, arts, and mathematics, or STREAM, focal points, adding that this must be accompanied by a mastery of the English language.
Maszlee, who has made greater autonomy for learning institutions his focus since becoming minister, said he believed a top-down and one-size-fits-all approach was no longer relevant.
“Every community understands their needs better and needs to be given the room and trust to make decisions. The granting of autonomy must be accompanied by a strong sense of accountability to produce quality education.”
He said autonomy wasn’t limited to administration, but the efforts of school and university authorities to accommodate members of their surrounding communities to support the teaching and learning process.
“As an example, the involvement of parents and retired teachers as teaching assistants can be one way to support the education system. Indeed, a school is for the community and a university for society.”
He said he was committed to ensuring that the government would provide a conducive environment and infrastructure for schools.
This, he said, would include lightening the administrative burden on teachers.
He said another major concern of the government was to ensure that the disabled, the poor, the Orang Asli and stateless children are not denied education.
For public universities, Maszlee said special focus would be given to improving their quality and increasing their autonomy while encouraging greater collaboration.
He said local universities must up their benchmark in Malaysia’s quest to become an international education hub.
“Most importantly, public university academics must become international reference points in their respective fields and not merely local heroes.”