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Politicians at fault, not school system
Published on: Sunday, March 11, 2018

I LISTENED to the Prime Minister’s speech during his visit to Axiata Celcom recently and beg to differ with his views on why the country’s unity is not as it should be.

The PM alluded that disunity is due to the existence of two categories of schools at primary level – national and vernacular schools (Chinese and Tamil) and that with the different races preferring their respective schools, the children are deprived of opportunities to interact with each other.

He added that this preference resulted in students in national schools being mainly Malays.

Vernacular schools have existed for as long as our country has been independent, and maybe even longer.

The situation we see today, where pupils in national schools are mainly Malay and non-Malays are seen to prefer Chinese and Tamil primary schools or international and private schools, is a rather recent development.

Why was unity not an issue in the 60s and 70s when there were just as many Chinese and Tamil schools then?

Why are parents opting to pay heavily for their children’s education in private or international schools when they could have this for free in government schools?

In the last 10 to 15 years, there has been a boom in enrolments for international schools in this country.

What is behind this?

- Nature of the national curriculum; - Quality of teachers and teaching; - Culture and practice existing in national schools; - Absence of passion and sincerity in the teaching profession; - Government policies and preferences; and - Absence of the turun padang culture and practice. - suggest that the Education Ministry look into these areas and modify or revamp whatever is necessary.

Alluding that disunity and the diminishing enrolment in national schools are due to the existence of vernacular schools is simply a denial syndrome.

It is well and good to have an education blueprint and all sorts of reports. In fact, the “report culture” is weighing down the whole ethos and philosophy of providing good education.

Almost every aspect – from school to district to state level and thereon right to the Education Ministry – is based on reports.

While not denying that reports are important, they must not be accepted as the only means of assessing performance or problems.

Combine this with the turun padang culture and we would have a truer picture of what is happening on the ground.

By relying mainly on reports, we are cultivating a string of armchair administrators and officers.

If I wish to achieve high performance assessment from my superior, I can craft an excellent report.

But is this what our tasks are?

At school level, the principal should supervise their teachers and students by walking around several times a day.

This would keep both the teachers and students on their toes in every imaginable aspect. I can still recall my first meeting as an afternoon supervisor with about 40 teachers.

The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes and my message to them was simply: “Your job is to teach well, and to do that you need to prepare your lessons well. Leave everything else to me.”

And in my first address to the students, I told them in no uncertain terms that they come to school to learn as much as possible and I wanted them to focus their attention and energy on learning and nothing else.

I told them I did not want any nonsense from them.

Of course, along the way, I came across students with discipline problems and teachers who arrived for classes late. I did not have to mete out harsh punishments or call up the teachers to reprimand them.

The fact that teachers who were late for their classes were aware that I knew was sufficient to deter them from doing it again.

At the same time, I won respect from them as I had shown them respect by not calling them up.

I had excellent support from everyone – my superiors, fellow teachers and students.

They all knew I simply wanted the best for them and that I was serious about pursuing that objective.

I am willing to offer my services if needed, as I am still very passionate about education.


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