By Ramon Navaratnam
Complaints about burdening our children with unnecessarily heavy book loads, have been around for a long time.
However, the education ministry has sadly not solved the burdens and pain of the book overload that our poor children are forced to bear every day.
Let’s put ourselves in our children’s shoes. We will quickly realise that going to school is a heavy burden that we literally carry every day – physically and psychology. This goes against their daily wellbeing and compares with the simple satisfaction of happily going to school as the older generations did.
Hence, it is no wonder that we have more indiscipline and frustration in our schools today, as the problem could possibly lead to more truancy and even bullying in our schools.
Poor ministry enforcement
The education ministry must largely accept the responsibility for this bad and burdensome state of affairs.
After all, the ministry had issued circulars on heavy workbooks and homework, more than a decade ago, first in 2000 and again in 2004.
But ministry officials, many school principals and also teachers have ignored the ministry’s instructions to limit the number of workbooks that need to be carried to school.
There is growing public perception that the authority of the government is being undermined, with heads of schools and staff continuing to be defiant.
The unfortunate results are that the overloaded students are left to suffer in silence. Thus, many parents are challenging the sound professional advice of the ministry.
Actually, the majority of parents and students are being let down because of poor enforcement of the ministry’s circulars by the majority in the education system.
This has happened due to the irresponsibility of a tiny minority of parents who foolishly insist on teachers giving more homework, thus creating the false need to carry more heavy book loads to school.
Where is the logic in this kind of education?
No wonder our school academic performances measured by international standards like Pisa are relatively low and our national productivity has become unimpressive and has even declined.
As former education director-general Alimuddin Md Dom has stated, the purpose of education is to produce holistic pupils and build character – and if I may add, nurture our future leaders.
But are we achieving this sacred goal by burdening our students with too much homework, cramping their enthusiasm to learn and think critically and to enjoy their childhood and school life?
In our time, we generally enjoyed school much more and yet prospered.
Can we give these same gifts to our children and grandchildren please?
The well-respected Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) Malaysia chairperson Noor Azimah Abd Rahim has advised that parents and schools agree on the number of workbooks to be used in school.
Such advice and those of other other enlightened education thought leaders and parents, can’t all be wrong? We must listen and act fast accordingly to improve the burdensome situation for our children’s sake.
With stronger leadership by the minister and senior officials in the education ministry, there will be stronger support for the enforcement of the ministry’s circulars.
Then parents and teachers can collaborate more to reduce the burden of bookloads for our helpless children.
Better enforcement of the ministry’s circulars will then bring more relief to our students, improve academic results, instill a greater sense of wellbeing and most importantly, make it more fun to go to school.
To the minister and all concerned, please don’t burden our children and stifle their precious childhood and the joy of school days.
Ramon Navaratnam is chairman of the Asli Center of Public Policy Studies
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