By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
The National Education Blueprint (2013-2025) is voluminous and magnificent. To put it simple, it is a timetable, as well as a set of important data and targets.
It is an ambitious plan. The target would be to turn third grade Malaysian students into first grade in 13 years. Other countries have spent over 20 years to do so.
The blueprint sets nine key areas, 11 education transformations to cultivate students with six qualifications.
The country has been independent for 55 years, but students are still in the lowest standard in the fields of reading, mathematics and science. A large number of educational resources has failed to bring expected effects. Where does the problem lie? And now, a bald target is set. It would be an impossible task with the current efficiency of the public delivery system of Malaysia if weaknesses are not corrected.
The implementation of any plans is inseparable from leadership, execution and organisational management mechanism. According to the report, the Education Ministry will strive to improve the level and quality of teachers while restructuring and strengthening state and district Education Departments.
Restructuring state and district Education Departments can strengthen local leadership, but how about the leadership of middle and high levels? Enhancing teachers' ability can strengthen execution, but would they have enough time to have in-service training for all the 400,000 teachers nationwide, as it is difficult to dismiss civil servants with poor performance under the existing system? Teachers are the key causing low academic standards, but 60% of teachers will continue to teach for as long as 20 years. Could the in-service training really change the "diehards"?
In student cultivation, some can be assessed instantly. For example, students' bilingual ability can be determined through testing. However, some require long observation, such as the ability to think. In addition to morality, I personally think that the ability to think should be prioritised. Good ability to think should be followed by the ability of self-development. The results of forced study will never be as good as those of spontaneous study.
The blueprint has also neglected the point of stimulating students' creativity. If young people lack creativity, the country's achievement will also be limited.
The blueprint basically preserves the existing mode of education and consists partial improvement plans. There are both pros and cons. The advantage is, recognition has been given to the benefits of multi-stream education, with a promise to enhance the quality of Chinese and Tamil education. However, if the mode remains unchanged, there is a possibility of being trapped in the old frame, in which only data are stressed, while the spirit of education reform is neglected.
Since the multi-stream education is accepted, why don't they provide funding to Chinese independent schools, allowing them to assist in the expansion of the country's soft power? To inspire the potential of children, there should not be distinction between mainstream and non-mainstream.
Chinese education groups should also be prepared to deal with the impacts brought by the blueprint. For example, National or National-type students will use a standard Bahasa Malaysia curriculum starting from the Year 4 cohort in 2014. Could Chinese primary school students be able to cope with the intensified language education? Would it aggravate their learning burden?
The Prime Minister stressed that political elements should be removed from the field of education. Political dominance has always been the people's concern over all these years and it has also caused the lack of persistence in education policies.
Education is a monumental career and hopefully, the blueprint can lead the country to achieve the target of advanced state, instead of ending up as only a historical document.