Shortcomings of the 2013-2025 National Education Blueprint

— Hussaini Abdul Karim
The Malaysian Insider
Sep 12, 2012

SEPT 12 — I laud both the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who is also the Minister for Education for their motivation, tireless efforts and initiatives to come up with a better education policy to replace the current very much attacked policy which is construed as being a weak one and also the people in MOE who have been working very hard since April this year firstly, to organise the National Education Dialogue that took the team led by former Education Director General Tan Sri Datuk Dr Wan Mohd Zahid bin Wan Mohd Noordin, the National Education Dialogue Panel Chairman to 16 locations throughout the country including Sabah and Sarawak to conduct the Townhall Series of the National Education Dialogue and to prepare the impressive and attractive Preliminary Report – Malaysia Education Blueprint 2103- 2025 in both Bahasa Malaysia and in English which we all, who were present at the launch, were presented a copy each.

The first impression I get of the launch of the Malaysia National Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025 is the seriousness given by the government to education due to the fact that both the PM and the DPM were present at the event and the ‘off-the-cuff’ statement made by the former who is also the Minister of Finance is that he expects the expenditure for education in this country given the new plans, policies, syllabus and systems to be put in place and implemented as stated in the blueprint will be much higher than previous years and as the minister in charge, he will approve it.

This was followed immediately by a loud applause from all present. The PM also made another ‘off-the-cuff’ statement commenting on his pet subject, English literature, which will be introduced from next year and given the situation now, he said, “If you can’t teach them Shakespeare, the full version, try the abridged version first and if that is also too difficult then, start with the books by Enid Blyton”. This was also followed by a loud applause from the audience.

It is most pleasing to note the emphasis the Prime Minister placed on English language knowing that this is the right way for our people to progress. He had earlier reminded the people, in no uncertain terms, to always use and uphold Bahasa Malaysia as this is our national language.

There are many aspects in the blueprint which are commendable but nothing is new, it is more like something old that are sent back to the people in new package.

Given the high-spirited way the PM talks about English language, about its importance, about the need to be good in it and about its usefulness, I would at least expect PPSMI to be re-instated as the re-introduction of English medium schools or national integrated schools may be too much to ask for but it was not going to be.

It is generally acknowledged that PPSMI may not be for all as it’s more for students whose command of English is good, except for some oddball hardcore PPSMI supporters but, the demands for PPSMI are still very high and the numbers are quite significant, comprising people from all communities, and for those who want to do mathematics and science in either Bahasa Malaysia or in a vernacular language of the students’ choice; MOE must cater for them too.

The big demand for PPSMI should be reason enough for MOE to re-instate it. There are already enough of other strong reasons given the members of the public over the years for MOE to consider to re-instate PPSMI and that no mention of PPSMI being re-instated in the blueprint also gives us the impression that the PM and the DPM may not be ‘at one’ in this matter. Is there a compromise here and done at the expense of a large group of interested parties including the many students throughout the country (denied what they have asked for and what they deserve)?

National schools will not be the school of choice for many and many, if not all, of the objectives in Shift One of the education transformation plan, i.e. ‘Provide equal access to quality education of international standard’ will ever be achieved.

More parents living in Johor Baru and as far as Kluang and Batu Pahat will send their children to study in schools in Singapore and more parents will send their children to study in private international schools and private schools and more children will be home-schooled.

Also, many more Malay and Indian children will enrol in SJK(C) schools. On pages 7-15 to 7-18, ‘Enhancement of unity in schools’, the blueprint discusses at length the subject on unity, how to foster unity and how to enhance it but with young people segregated since young into the many different types of schools available in the country, including private international schools, private schools, Arab schools, Tahfiz, etc., the permitted situation will make the implementation of government agendas such as to achieve unity (perpaduan) and making the young people and the people of the future generations true Malaysians and to embrace the true Malaysian spirit more difficult, maybe impossible even.

The prime minister also mentioned in his speech about the unique school system that Malaysia has been having for many years, probably the only country in the world that has many school systems, i.e. the many different types of schools we have here in the country viz. national schools, national type (Chinese) schools, national type (Tamil) schools, agama schools, mission schools, private schools and private international schools. The last two are not under the ministry’s jurisdiction but the ministry’s private school’s division issues the licenses for those schools to operate in the country.

There are no restrictions or limits placed on the number of local students enrolled by these schools. I am not sure whether he wants us to be proud of this uniqueness or otherwise but he did mention it with gusto. I mentioned this because, in a multi-racial and multi religious country, garnering unity (perpaduan) among the people is of high importance. We have this many national school system since 1957 and this has proven that difficult for our government to create unity amongst the people, it is actually doing exactly the opposite.

The people are, from the age of seven, segregated into different communities. No amount of efforts, campaign or even force (which have not been tried) applied will result in moulding unity among the diverse people of this country.

I and many others thought that unity (perpaduan) is best started in schools by putting young boys and girls of different races and religion in the same class and schools and let them mix.

I have suggested a solution for this by introducing the national integrated schools systems, both primary and secondary, and offer all that students or what parents want their child or children to choose in their education, nothing that are being offered now is denied.

Ironically, unity (perpaduan) is not among the eleven shifts to transform the national education system even though it is widely discussed in the blueprint. Has this been overlooked?

We may have citizens in future who are citizens in name only by virtue of being born in the country to parents who are Malaysian citizens who may not know how to sing the national anthem, how to speak Bahasa Melayu, not know how to speak our national language, not know what is Rukunegara, may not be loyal citizens or citizens with nationalistic and patriotic spirit. The first thing they hear about trouble looming, we will see them packing their bags and leave. Do we want these types of people as citizens?

Shift No. 2 of the blueprint states, ‘Ensure every child is proficient in Bahasa Malaysia and English language’, this is an excellent paradigm shift and I believe this will be undertaken by enhancing the recently introduced (MBMMBI) programme.

I do not have any doubts at all about the efficiency of our teachers to teach and guide students to achieve the former aim but, knowing what the MBMMBI programme is like and, I can also expect what the enhanced MBMMBI programme would be like, what it entails and without either re-instating PPSMI, re-introducing English medium schools or put in place the national integrated schools proposal, I and many others, a huge chunk of the rakyat, do not see how the aim, ‘to be proficient in English language’, i.e., the other aim of Shift No. 2, can be achieved.

So, in 13 to 15 years starting from 2013, after the new national education transformation plan is put into place, the poor command of English language among our students including our undergraduates and graduates and all the problems that come along with that, will still be the same or even worse and we all wonder how many great opportunities we would all be losing and how far further down the slide the situation will be.

We can already sense the many more ‘goofs’ and ‘debacles’ happening as a result of this decision and some, not surprisingly, will be ‘goofs’ and ‘debacles’ repeated over and over again because, we notice that, MOE does not seem to learn from the past mistakes they made.

You can see me in five to ten years from now, if I am still around, and waiting for me to say, “I told you so, didn’t I?” But why gloat or regret it, it won’t make things better. So, if I am still around and if you come to see me in five or ten years from now, I will not say to anyone of you that but what you may hear from me is my great feeling of loss and regret because I was not able to get people to make the right change meaning, I have failed. I have failed to do the right thing for people of the younger generation and the generations to come!

The policy and decision makers may also not be around anymore in five or ten years from now and so, the wrong decision made today and its repercussions will mean little or nothing at all to them.

Members of the public, including me, have for years criticised the country’s poor education policies and systems, flip-flopping from one to another leaving many frustrated and our young people, some are our very own children, have become victims of those failed policies and systems.

Almost two generations of young people suffered and calls to the government to make changes to check the decline in standards where in the late 70s and earlier, we had one of the best education systems in the world and for the government, since the mid-80s, changed that for an inferior one baffles many.

Now that a golden opportunity has come our way, the fact that the government is still not going to make the changes that meet the demands of the present and the future, of the people and the country again baffles me.

Personally, given the time taken, the people involved, the efforts put into preparing the blueprint and the hype it has created, not to mention the cost incurred, I do not consider the blueprint as something that is ‘par excellence’ and this is very much contrary to the view given by one of the three international panel members, the former Korean education minister, Mr Byong-Man Ahn.

It is not mediocre either but it is just an average one and it won’t make things better for us, the people and the country. Nothing, to me and to many of us, in there, is new or something that I and the others have never heard of before and say, if the same blueprint becomes the final blueprint, I and the others are still doubtful of its successful implementation, given the poor record of MOE in implementing new systems and policies in the past, in spite of the assurance given by one of the independent national education transformation plan panel members, Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah binte Syed Hasan Shahabudin who is also the UKM Vice Chancellor, who told me after the launch that this time there will be a delivery systems unit that will monitor the implementation of the new policies, syllabus, curriculum, activities and plans as per the blueprint which will be placed at all state and district education offices and manned by qualified and experienced staff, it still isn’t enough to convince me and many others that policies will be implemented effectively.

There are far too many ‘Little Napoleons’ within and without the whole system, including some politicians, and nothing seems to be done to remove these people who were proven to be creating plenty of obstacles before, and the situation would still be the same now and in the short-term, middle-term and the long-term future.

I and many others (all are stakeholders) are extremely disappointed that the two main issues that have been discussed and talked about umpteenth times since about eight years ago, which have become very big issues in themselves, i.e. PPSMI and the re-introduction of English medium schools, are not given any consideration for inclusion in the blueprint at all.

We know that the government is not expected to come out with a populist type of blueprint that may be wrongly construed as a General Election’s lure but surely, knowing how important English language is as acknowledged by someone none other than the Prime Minister himself, a better and more concrete decision should have been made on English language vis-à-vis the national education policy.

There’s no need for me to stress on the critical situation of this point because I and many others have written numerous articles and letters, in particular PAGE, led by their ever venerable and outspoken president ,a good personal friend of mine and fellow activist, Datin Noor Azimah Rahim, who have been called by many unkind names by her adversaries such as Perkasa and language nationalists (Pejuang Bahasa) in particular which were published by mainstream newspapers as well as alternative online newspapers on the subject of the importance of English language.

However, the fact that neither of these proposals is included in the blueprint as solutions to check the slide of the standard of English language of our students including many university undergraduates and graduates can also be seen as pleasing one party at the expense of the other. I can already feel the ‘drift’ and hear the noisy and loud victory cries and jeers of some people and followed by their loud applause celebrating their ‘win’.

These people, to me, are more interested in pushing their own agendas and are even willing to relegate the importance of national development and they may not realise how much the country would lose and how far behind some more the country and the people will be because of the wrong decision made and also because the present leaders are more bent on pleasing them than making the right decision that will benefit the majority of the rakyat. So, if this is not a lure for ‘GE13’ for some people, what else is?

I am indirectly involved in preparing the intensive English language programme for IPTA undergraduates, a continuous programme which all IPTA graduates will undergo to improve their command of English so that when they leave after they graduate from the respective IPTAs, their English will be as good as their command of Bahasa Melayu (Bahasa Malaysia).

Generally, students in Malaysia go through thirteen years of education before they enter university and they are all taught English language as a subject. However, due to the poor syllabus, poor method of teaching and the lack of good English language teachers, which are the normal complaints that we all hear all the time since the country’s education policy switched to the current policy since the 70s, the general standard of English of our students is considered very poor.

Now, it is the universities (IPTA) that have to handle the problem and shoulder the burden which should not be the case had the Ministry of Education ensured that a better English language syllabus, sufficient qualified teachers and proper emphasis on English language were given at national primary and secondary schools very much like the earlier days when our students’ command of the English language were at par with the best in the world.

If this was the case, local students now need not go through the proposed six month intensive English language programme before starting their degree courses but unfortunately, due to many not having a good command of English and some even with zero English proficiency, they have to go through an intensive crash course and it is hoped that as they go along at their respective faculties, they will use more English in the course of their studies and their day-to-day life, their proficiency will increase and be as good as those who are in MUET’s Band 5 or Band 6.

The continuous intensive English language programme for IPTA undergraduates is expected to be conducted until such time, schools can come out with students who’s command of English is good enough and acceptable by all the IPTAs and that is expected to happen between 12 and fifteen years from next year, However, it looks like, if not much changes are made to the Preliminary Malaysia National Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025,IPTAs may have to continue conducting the continuous intensive English language programme for a longer indefinite period.

During lunch, I was seated with some officials from the Ministry of Education and we had some discussions about the blueprint and the weaknesses in the country’s education system. One of the items discussed, which later turned to be an almost heated argument, is the teacher/student ratio which at 1:13, I think, is inaccurate and it does not represent the actual countrywide situation especially in schools that are located in towns and high density areas.

I believe, the ratio, which even the Minister of Education brags about, include crowded schools in towns and high density areas and schools that have more teachers than students in rural areas in the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak. What, I think, would me more accurate and would reflect the actual situation is to assess the two situations separately; have one ratio for crowded schools in towns and high density areas and one for rural schools.

In an attempt to support my assumption, I also told the people who were on the same table, that a very senior official from MOE has not too long ago, declared that 59% of the time, teachers were ‘absent’ from class. If the teacher/student ratio is 1:13, this should not happen.

The official who was talking to me said that MOE has already done that and it has the two ratios but when I asked what the ratios are, she told me that she cannot reveal the figures and when I insisted (in a raised voice), she told me that she had forgotten the figures so, is she speaking the truth or was she bluffing and does MOE actually have the figures or not?

I believe, when talking to members of the public, officials from MOE must not take us, members of the public, for a ride because, we will eventually know whether they speak the truth or lying and if we later discover that the official has lied, it won’t be good either for her or for MOE.

I do hope the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the minister, other ministers, politicians, policy makers, administrators and the people in MOE would look again at the preliminary report of the Malaysia education blueprint again very carefully this time and re-study all the arguments that support them and those against and re-consider to include all the important components I mentioned above to be made part of the new education policies in order for us to have an excellent national education transform plan and to meet all the aspirations, missions and objectives to raise the country’s standard and become a 1st World country and for the people to enjoy a high income.

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 2:38 am

    Proficiency in a language including and especially a not so easy one like English is acquired through primarily currency of usage (oral and written). If usage is not encouraged/favoured – because it would be perceived as undermining the paramount status of the national language – then Shakespeare or even PPSMI or proficient English teachers can help the cause of proficiency but up to only a limited point but not much more beyond. Lets not kid ourselves and engage in double talk or double think here. If one views proficiency of English necessarily means lesser importance to national language and vice versa and that proficiency of the latter requires subordination of English usage, then what could else be done to arrest downward decline of English? It is this sum zero mindset that is the dead set obstacle to change for the better. It need not be that way but it is made so for political motivations to be consistent with if no uphold the paramountcy of UMNO’s Ketuanan ideology. Till this mindset is reset, I am not optimistic whatever the Education Blue print lays out and whatever the PM said about Shakespeare or Enid Blyton!

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 2:48 am

    When teaching a language, it is important that we do not let students rely solely on what is being taught to them by their teacher. They should be encouraged to read other literature such as newspapers and magazines in the language that they are taught. They can also improve their language skill by watching news broadcast and documentary films on TV and speaking to each other in the language.

    When Bahasa Malaysia was first introduced to replace Bahasa Kebangsaan in the Form Five MCE examination in 1971, some 90% of my classmates failed the subject. However, one or two of them (Chinese students) did score an “A” for the subject. They later told me that they read Utusan Melayu every day and that was how they scored “A” in the subject.

    To do well in a language, it is important that the student reads widely and speaks frequently in the language.

    Teaching Philosophy

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 7:22 am

    UmnoB/BN’s objective is 2 hv obedient rakyat who will always accept UmnoB/BN without Q
    So, hv an education system dat gives lots of A’s 2 students (who appear 2 b very smart but really dumb) but unable 2 think critically n judge UmnoB/BN; but can do butt dance lah

  4. #4 by sotong on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 7:26 am

    Like other policies, the decades of highly political charged education had done enormous damage with permanent and far reaching consequences…..national schools became non inclusive and grossly unattractive.

    We have lost the education battle.

  5. #5 by waterfrontcoolie on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 7:32 am

    We appear to follow US footstep in the basic education of our children; plenty of description of our plan but just cannot apply the basics in any honesty. Do remember the US has the largest budget for school education and with her vast technological creation, she stays in the middle of the PISA test. Let us apply the basic first: get teachers with passion in teaching, not because they cannot find a job elsewhere! Teachers who cannot ‘ count’ should not be involved in Mathematics or Science. Period. These subjects require more than basic competency to impart the knowledge. I used to remember a Maths teacher who would tell his students that the answers given at the back of the book were wrong when he could find the answers himself! The education policy had been politicized since the Mamak took over, you can’t change it overnight. Only the rural poor, misguided through half lies, had been led to feel happy because their children have ‘Graduated’ from Unibasiti!! but soon realized that the Certificate could find him a job in the private sector except Gomen service! As it is , we nave such advocates, fighting in the false pretense of national interests to continue the policy. Reports are impressive, let’s eat the pudding to find the quality!

  6. #6 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 8:11 am

    I second jeffery’s comment#1. Practice makes perfect. Dont we all know it? And for languages, that means speaking and writing more frequently.

    And dont forget this. Yeah, jib’s “W”-tongue. He never meant what he said. Never!

  7. #7 by monsterball on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 8:15 am

    It’s another way to say…vote BN in and all will be done as promised..after the GE.

  8. #8 by Bunch of Suckers on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 8:21 am

    1) “Do you know over 350,000 Chinese speak English daily in China, BN/UMNO suckers?”
    2) “Do you know over millions Chinese in China learning English alone, excluding other foreign languages, suckers?”
    3) “Likewise, they are millions learning Chinese Mandarin worldwide”

    For example, take a look

    Suckers, if you’re proud of our only Bahasa Malaysia will be doomed with poor national progressions and stagnant economy. Worst off, profound and abundant corruptions also play a part in downgrading of our educational systems apart from bad blueprints and qualified teachers and lecturers!!!

    Keep sucking! You suck pretty well, BN/UMNO suckers!!!

  9. #9 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 9:04 am

    Woow. Tan Koon Swan was ‘wrongly’ charged and hence he was also ‘wrongly’ convicted(?), fined and jailed in singapore several decades ago.

    How odd. The charge may be wrong but surely the judges (4 of them, one sitting in the first instant court and three in appeal) should hv picked the error up and put right the wrong. Anyway, to err is human, isnt it. But, poor thing. That fella had to endure imprisonment and the stigma of criminal incrimination thereafter, needlessly.

    Well, at least he was not pressured to commit suicide by self-strangulation or by some other equivalent techniques. AND because of that he got to hear glenn knight’s apology in person. And that is quite something, huh! Well, I suppose must be.

    But dont get me wrong ppl. I hv not lowered my standards. It is just that you see for someone who comes from a country with abdul ghani as attorney general and umno as gobermen, the error committed by glenn seems almost oooh soo trivial.

    Actually I am more alarmed by something else. Usually errors committed by the little red dot, esp when those errors had negative or prejudicial impacts on malaysia, would set umno youths and mca into a state of heightened frenzy. Well helloooo there, umno. mca. Anybody home?

  10. #10 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 9:13 am

    Ok back to main topic.

    IMHO (no offence intended) BM would vanish as a language sometime in future.

  11. #11 by Dap man on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 9:22 am

    I presume the writer is aware that teachers who cannot string a proper sentence in English and those who do not know the difference between Past and Present Tenses are teaching English in our schools.

    Our system falters at the very first step. Now how far can we progress.

    Its all OK for UMNO and BNputras, since they send off their children overseas for their education.
    UMNO has destroyed the future of many young girls and boys who have been denied jobs because of their poor command of the English Language.

  12. #12 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 10:10 am

    Every critic that I have read came to the same conclusion that the blueprint is an improvement but not good enough..However, its also glaring, the criticism is not uniform and no clear agreement of the top few missing pieces although there is uniform agreement certain pieces clearly should be better..

    Truth be told, we still struggle with traditional problems of education of our society but yet faces no less than the most cutting edge challenges. Due to UMNO/BN wrong-headedness, we still have traditional social problems and handicaps including in education that even in this blueprint does not address far enough..What need to be done in rural schools particularly in Sarawak & Sabah still fall short..Teacher training has always been a failure and yet its being repeated again without anything particularly new.

    Yet we are rushing headlong to make the system more in line with the practises of some countries like Singapore, HK, Korea that no longer have the traditional issue but struggles with best practises still despite their investments and effort.

    In eduction, as with the rest of administrating this country, UMNO/BN continue to mimic and pretend it is just as good as anyone else but is not and so they will continue to fall short like the administration of this country

  13. #13 by balance88 on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 10:31 am

    Shortcomings? It is the understatement of the century. Just like the “MACC Revamp”, the Education Blueprint is just another case of putting old wine into a new bottle! The blueprint looks impressive on the surface with many impressive terms and names like Linus.

    To start with, do you know that a majority of our teachers in the national schools are lazy especially those in the seondary schools? They do not teach in class with the slightest excuse like pregnancy or tiredness or meetings? A lot of them are not proficient in English. And most of them has an attitude problem. The blueprint does not address this.

    There are students who are quick learners and slow learners. The smart ones and the not so smart ones. Currently, in some schools, the smart and good students are grouped into a few classes where the school’s best teachers teaches them. The lesser students are not given the best. The blueprint does not address how these students are managed.

    I can go on and on, And I have not even gone into the implementation process. We can have a fantastic blueprint but if it is not implemented effectively to the dot, then the blueprint would remain just that – a blueprint! And how many times have we seen this happened in Malaysia. And years later we may have another set of blueprint with a new Education Minister or Prime Minister in place.

  14. #14 by PoliticoKat on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 1:38 pm

    All I can say is I am amused. What else is there to say aside from “I told you so.”

    Malaysia had reasonably good command of English in the 1970s. If we had progressed from there, the big question faced by Malaysia would be “How to make Malaysians trilingual (English, BN, and mandarin) or even quadlingual (tamil) and thus accessing the markets of China and India.

    But then came along the ultra nationalist and their demand that Malaysians speak only Malay and nothing else in school cause BM is the national language and nothing should challenged its supremacy. “We don’t need to know the language of the penjajah!” was the theme of the day.

    But what do you know, English is the language of business (and science). 30 years on, we find our work force just can’t move up the management ladder of international commerce.

  15. #15 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 1:57 pm

    I think I said this before. Anyway let me say it again. Those idiots in umno thought that as long as one remains in the country it is not necessary for one to learn the english language. One can simply live and work here without any need to use english. In other words it would be bahasa all the way.

    How very wrong. Like it or not malaysia is an inextricable part of what is now known as the global village. And in this village everyone speaks (mainly) english as well as a couple of other major languages (including chinese).

    So there umno, you can continue to emphasise on the malay language. For me, I would do what is necessary for the country to remain relevant and competitive 20yrs from now.

    BTW, are there any malay kids now living in the country who could not read or write malay properly? Go. Check out the international schools in the country. I am sure you can find a number of them there.

  16. #16 by HJ Angus on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 7:45 pm

    This is my opinion of the latest exercise in public relations!

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