Putrajaya clamps down on dissent, transfers anti-assessment system teacher

by Lee Shi-Ian
The Malaysian Insider
February 22, 2014

The man behind the teacher pressure group’s planned protest today against the student-based assessment (SBA) has been given a 24-hour notice of transfer to a rural school in Pahang in what is seen as Putrajaya’s clampdown on dissent by civil servants.

Despite the sudden transfer notification, teacher Mohd Nor Izzat Mohd Johari, 29, who is the Suara Guru-Masyarakat Malaysia (SGMM) working group chief, refused to be cowed and said the protest would go ahead as planned.

The group planned to gather at the Bandar Baru Bangi mosque prior to the rally.

Nor Izzat, who has been called “Guru Setahun Jagung” (greenhorn teacher) by the ministry for being a vocal critic of the SBA, said his transfer was proof that the Education Ministry was exercising its powers over him.

He told The Malaysian Insider that his good friend and colleague, Mohd Zulkefli Seman, who teaches at the same school in Jerantut, Pahang, also received a transfer letter yesterday morning.

Nor Izzat said Zulkefli was not a SGMM member, but had accompanied him to meet with Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh last year.

“SGMM had sent a written request to meet with deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the Education Minister,” Nor Izzat said.

Last December, SGMM was invited to a discussion with Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh on the much-maligned school-based assessment system (SBA).

Nor Izzat said the ministry promised at the meeting to resolve the system’s weaknesses.

However, despite the meeting, SGMM decided to press ahead with tomorrow’s planned gathering because it regarded the promise as mere lip service from Putrajaya.

“We don’t want Putrajaya to re-examine SBA, we want it abolished,” Nor Izzat said yesterday.

“The transfer letters are clearly an attempt by the ministry to foil tomorrow’s (today’s) gathering.

“If the proper procedure is followed in terms of disciplinary measures, there are several steps to be taken before a transfer letter is issued,” he added.

Nor Izzat, who teaches Art at his current school, said he was surprised when he received the letter yesterday.

He has yet to decide on his next course of action as he is currently seeking legal advice.

On the “title” “Guru Setahun Jagung” bestowed on him by the ministry, Nor Izzat said: “My current teaching position is my first.

“The title was given to me by the ministry because I am considered an inexperienced teacher who was making too much noise for a rookie.

“Even teachers with 20 to 30 years of experience do not make as much noise as I do,” Nor Izzat said.

Despite being a relative greenhorn, Nor Izzat has been a vocal critic of the SBA.

He remains defiant as he is convinced that he is doing the right thing in pointing out weaknesses in the SBA.

“I do not feel that my teaching career will be affected by the transfer. I want to help improve the SBA system,” Nor Izzat said.

“It is unfair if the ministry takes it out on me because there is something wrong with the system.”

The Malaysian Insider had previously reported that teachers and school administrators, who found it hard to cope with the SBA to track students’ performances, had fallen back on examinations.

This has led to a situation where many schools have two systems. On the surface is the SBA, which is done to please officials in Putrajaya, but beneath that is the old annual examination system, SGMM revealed.

The examination system is being implemented by individual schools without the knowledge of Putrajaya but the schools are using it to track students’ performances.

Using two systems, SGMM said, was causing a lot of strain on teachers and school officials.

But the schools insisted that it was necessary to satisfy the needs of both Putrajaya and the students.

The approach reflects widespread rejection by educators towards the use of the SBA as an effective system for Malaysian schools .

This is despite Putrajaya’s insistence that the SBA, which was introduced in 2011, was important in reforming the nation’s maligned education system.

Nor Izzat said that while the SBA itself was a good system which was used successfully in developed countries, it was poorly implemented in Malaysia and did not suit local conditions.

One of the more serious problems, said Nor Izzat, was “streaming” or the process of placing students as they progressed each year to a higher level.

Schools are told by the government that they have to collect the SBA data on a daily basis for each student, said Nor Izzat.

But when the time comes for students to graduate from one form to another, the data is not made available to schools.

“So how are schools supposed to stream students and place them in the appropriate classes?” asked Nor Izzat.

He said this was the reason many schools have reverted to the annual examination system to gauge students’ performances to place them in the right classes.

There are no annual examinations under the SBA. Each day, teachers grade students on a subject based on a six-band spectrum starting from band one “understand” (the lowest) to band six “exemplary” (the highest).

The data has to be entered each day into a centralised computer system.

It was previously reported that congestion caused by the high number of users led teachers to stay awake until 3am, for instance, when traffic is low, to enter the data.

Problems with SBA led a group of teachers to form SGMM which has a Facebook page titled “We want SPPBS to be abolished” in October last year.

The page has attracted more than 64,800 “Likes”.

Another problem with the SBA, said Nor Izzat, was the effect it had on students’ motivation and learning.

“In the two years that we’ve had the SBA, we’ve seen a lack of interest among students to learn. They are more laid-back because there was no incentive to do better.”

The drop in students’ performances, Nor Izzat said, showed up in the 2012 Programme For International Students Assessment (PISA) rankings for Malaysia.

The PISA results showed that among 65 countries tested, Malaysian students ranked at the bottom third, or the 52nd spot.

Malaysian students trailed their counterparts from Singapore, China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam in reading, Mathematics and Science.

“The PISA rankings used students’ performance data from 2012,” Nor Izzat said.

He believed that instead of implementing the SBA, the Education Ministry should fix the old examination-oriented system.

“The PISA rankings proved that,” he added. – February 22, 2014.

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