Teacher in school assessment controversy warned, but says this is not for personal glory

by Elizabeth Zachariah
The Malaysian Insider
February 26, 2014

Teacher Mohd Nor Izzat Mohd Johari was warned that speaking up against the administration could cost him dearly.

His good friends cautioned him. So did his father, a teacher with 15 years’ experience.

“I am not doing this for personal glory,” the teacher caught in the middle of the school-based assessment (SBA) controversy, adding that he was doing this to champion the rights of his overburdened colleagues.

The 29-year-old, who heads the Suara Guru Masyarakat Malaysia (SGMM), is adamant about seeing an overhaul to SBA even if he loses his government job along the way.

“Yes, many of my teacher friends and even my father, who was a teacher, told me that action will be taken against me if I spoke up against the Education Ministry.

“And this was proven right recently,” he said, referring to the 24-hour transfer order he received three days ago.

He was transferred to a rural school some 80km away from his previous school in Jerantut, Pahang.

The sudden transfer is believed to be over Nor Izzat’s vocal criticism of the SBA system and is seen as an attempt to clamp down on SGMM’s protest last weekend.

“But my lawyer has advised me not to report to the new school until they have heard my appeal against the transfer.”

He is still teaching in his old school.

Just two years in the service, and Nor Izzat has already carved a name for himself.

Even Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was forced to address Nor Izzat’s transfer when he denied he had a hand in it.

Nor Izzat said he was convinced that he was 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. All I want to do is to help improve the SBA system,” he had said.

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

The Arts teacher of two years said he first became aware that the SBA system was flawed in 2011 while he was still a student.

“But I couldn’t do anything since I wasn’t a teacher yet and last year, the problems I saw were still there and when the ministry officials did not act on the teachers’ feedback, I decided to do something.

“There were too many discrepancies in the implementation of SBA and what’s worse is that we were told not to ask any questions about the flaws.”

The Malaysian Insider had reported that teachers and school administrators, who found it hard to cope with the SBA to track pupils’ 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 said.

The examination system is being implemented by individual schools without the knowledge of Putrajaya.

Using two systems, SGMM said, was causing a lot of strain on teachers and school officials. Following SGMM’s protest last week, the ministry announced that SBA has been put on hold until it could be reviewed and amendments made to it.

Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said that the ministry had decided to postpone its implementation for improvements to be done, adding that they would still go on with the SBA system as this was what “the people wanted”.

“We will continue with the SBA because this is what the people want. We will definitely not abolish it, just postpone its implementation to improve it.

“There are no problems with the SBA in its objectives and policies, we just have to tidy up the implementation and this will be announced on April 1,” he had said.

Nor Izzat said he was not against the system but was campaigning for it to be improved.

“To say that I am against SBA is unfair. I should not even be a teacher if I opposed the whole system,” he added.

Despite the bravado, Nor Izzat, who is a graduate of Teaching Visual Communications Art from the Universiti Perguruan Sultan Idris, said he could not help but feel tense at the pressure mounting against him.

“My wife, who is also a teacher and our families have been in the spotlight since the whole issue blew up,” said the father-of-one.

“It has been a difficult time but I am thankful for the support and encouragement I received from them and my colleagues.”

The teacher also hit out at critics who linked him to the opposition, saying that the flaws in the SBA had nothing to do with politics.

“Of course, the allegations come because there are a few NGOs aligned to the opposition supporting SGMM’s cause. Who am I to stop them from supporting us?

“Similarly, there are those in the government sector who want to support us but are too afraid of the backlash. Should I be upset about that?” – February 26, 2014.

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