Lots to do for national schools to be great again, says academic

PETALING JAYA: An educationist has given a list of issues for Putrajaya to tackle if it wants to improve the standard of national schools, following the prime minister’s call to make these great again.

Teo Kok Seong, a professor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said first on the list would be to deal with the opposing views of parents on several sensitive issues.

“Some Malay and non-Malay parents say national schools are too Islamic. We also have another group that says national schools are not Islamic enough,” he told FMT.

He suggested that the government either scrap Chinese, Tamil and Islamic schools, or make national schools so attractive that they become the first choice for all parents.

Teo acknowledged that doing away with vernacular schools might not sit well with the Chinese community in particular, but said he is “speaking the truth for the sake of unity in the country”.

Having organised forums in Kuala Lumpur and Sabah in 2015, Teo said parents who attended these meetings told him they wanted school heads appointed based on their dedication.

Teo Kok Seong.

“Parents really don’t care about a headmaster’s race. They just want school heads who are able to make the school great and less Islamic,” he added.

Teo said he had compiled the feedback from parents on why they did not send their children to national schools into a report and sent it to the education ministry.

But, he said, when an official report was published by the previous administration, the education ministry only listed two complaints: discipline problems and poor infrastructure in schools.

“Nothing was mentioned about religion or schools run by those who are not dedicated,” he added.

He voiced hope that the present government would not sweep such matters under the carpet.

Meanwhile, Parent Action Group for Education secretary Tunku Munawirah Putra said the role of education should be to prepare students for the challenges of Industry 4.0.

“We need to take stock of the current situation in our education system, prioritise and improve on our shortcomings and how to get there,” she added.

She also called for a review of the curriculum and syllabus, and for the government to remove elements that are no longer compatible, adding that schooling should be less focused on exams.

Munawirah said the government needs to establish English-medium schools to produce adequate English language teachers.

She suggested a review of teacher training programmes as well, adding that there must be accountability and zero tolerance of absenteeism among teachers.

“For existing teachers, ensure that continuous professional development is structured, purposeful and effective.”

She also urged authorities to guard against ideas of religious supremacy creeping into schools, saying national schools should be the bedrock of unity in the country.