Teachers, catalysts for the national education transformation

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) | May 16, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

MAY 16 — “A teacher is an educator who determines the future of our children and that of our country.” — Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

“Teachers are the backbone that will determine the success of Vision 2020.” —Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

“Education reform must go with economic transformation in order to improve students’ performance in schools in addition to providing them with access to better quality education.” —Datuk Noor Rezan Bapoo Hashim, deputy director-general of Education at the time.

“Teachers must be innovative, creative, prepared to change and keep pace with advancement in ICT in order to enhance their classroom lessons. They are expected to be more technologically savvy than their students, especially when compared to the ones in secondary schools.” — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Noor Rezan Bapoo Hashim.

The above statements show some of the bold plans that the government has devised to drive Malaysia forward into becoming a global player, and transform us into a higher-income nation. The setting up of a world-class education hub is part of the grand strategy for Malaysia to become an Asian hub of western education, with the development of Educity in Nusajaya in Johor and Bandar Enstek, KL Education City and Education Park.

This is a good plan no doubt, and certainly may propel us forward, but is it achievable?

The key question is, are we ready for this to take place or are we getting ahead of ourselves? What are the steps and actions taken to lay the foundation for this to take place at the speed required for the Government Transformation Programme in the National Key Results Area to meet its objective?

Without a doubt, the main players that will ensure that these ambitious plans materialise are the teachers themselves. They are the ones who would have to take the brunt of the load. They are expected to carry out the transformation, whether they are prepared to or not, and change is inevitable. It is indeed a tall order for the teachers to keep up with the demands of this globalised world, whilst juggling with the changes requested of them by the top-down policymakers.

Put simply, the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and principals, and the quality of teachers cannot exceed the quality of teacher selection, teacher development and teacher evaluation.

According to Andreas Schleicher, head of the Indicators and Analysis Division (Directorate for Education) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “an impressive outcome of world-class education systems is perhaps that they deliver high-quality learning consistently across the entire education system so that every student benefits from excellent learning opportunities.

“To achieve this, they invest educational resources where they can make most of a difference, they attract the most talented teachers into the most challenging classrooms, and they establish effective spending choices that prioritise the quality of teachers. Shanghai in China is a great example of this.”

We can proudly talk about all these great plans but the bottom line remains — little is done to motivate, encourage, incentivise, compensate, care for and elevate the teaching profession to be of a higher standard that is at par with the developed nation.

In order to walk the path of world-class education, we really ought to look into uplifting and strengthening the teaching profession into a respectable one. We need to take better care of the nation’s most important builders. The future of this country depends on the seeds that the teachers sow today.

We need to recognise and reward great teaching, give new or struggling teachers the support they need to succeed, and deal fairly, efficiently and compassionately with teachers who are simply not up to the job.

In countries with the most advanced systems like Finland, Canada, Australia, Japan and our neighbour in the south, they attract the best people for the job because they have made teaching a profession of high-level knowledge workers, and that — not higher salaries — is what makes teaching so attractive.

We need to mirror these advanced systems and attract higher-calibre people into the teaching profession. The positive thing is that we had done this before not too long ago. We must revisit this success story and adapt it for use in the current times. We not only need to look into the salary scale — which should be at par with the white-collared corporate people, but also make it even more attractive, such as tax exemption from income tax and in the form of tax relief in buying a home and a car. After all, a minor loss of income through tax exemption offered to the teachers may well be compensated by tremendous intangible benefits to be gained by the nation as a whole.

It would also be interesting to offer those who are of most service to King and country, like the teachers, and those in the military and police, some preferential merchant supplier stores equivalent to that of the Naafi (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) store we once had.

The most important fundamental to attract the best candidates for teacher training is that all aspects of selecting, training, placements, rewarding and promotions of teaching personnel must be strictly based on merit and ability, and with no regard to ethnicity. Everyone will gain with this in place.

We need to honour teachers like national heroes, as they rightly so deserve to be.

Teachers, we salute you. You are the catalyst to propel this country into a better, bolder, and stronger Malaysia.

For our children and for the love of this nation, Happy Teacher’s Day. May God always reward your good deeds.

* Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) is an educational lobbyist that serves as a channel between concerned parents, the Ministry of Education and other educational stakeholders. With PAGE, parents have a platform to voice their opinion and feedback on educational issues collectively as a bigger voice. We are optimistic that Malaysia will be able to produce more first world talents.

  1. #1 by hvpl on Monday, 16 May 2011 - 1:42 pm

    I have common cause with PAGE. However, I think they are going ahead of themselves in praise of our current batch of teachers. Many of them are totally lacking.

    On Teachers’ Day, PAGE should be calling for the complete revamp of the Education Ministry downwards. First off, by removing its “Malay First, Malaysian Second” head.

    How does such a declaration reconcile with uniting the country through education?

  2. #2 by jaychelliah on Monday, 16 May 2011 - 8:50 pm

    May I make a suggestion. Education is the key driver to Malaysia achieving a developed status. We need a schools building programme. We might have the tallest building in Malaysia but we have the poorest schools akin to schools in Uganda. We need school buildings and facilities that enhance knowledge and condusive to good learning and sport development. In the UK, there are several new Academies which are Education trusts not controlled by government agencies. These Academies are run in a more commercial ideology. Education is transparent with parents and local businesses playing a key role. School facilities are excellent with good IT infrastructure. We should lobby for such a school to be built and the DAP should be central to giving this an impetus for its success. The Chinese always complain that they are strangled by the Malaysian Education System and this is their chance to make the difference. Can you do it with empowerment or you need to sit back and complain and no bother because you have the money to go overseas to study.

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