Archive for the ‘21st Century Teaching and Learning.’ Category

Perak Sultan stresses need for diplomacy transformation to meet 21st century demands

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah delivering his Royal Address at the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR), Foreign Ministry, where he is also the IDFR’s Royal Patron. Pix by Mohd Yusni Ariffin

KUALA LUMPUR: Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah stressed the need for continuous diplomacy transformation to keep up with 21st century demands.

Sultan Nazrin was delivering his Royal Address at the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR), Foreign Ministry, where he is also the IDFR’s Royal Patron.

In his address, he specified that the need to transform and adapt is not something new in diplomacy.

“It has faced this challenge throughout recorded history. It has done so ever since organised political entities began interacting with one another.

“Then as now, the geopolitics, geo-economics and geo-technology of the day have been the primary drivers of transformation.

“Communication technology, especially the technology with which countries and peoples communicate with one another, exerts an especially powerful influence upon the conduct of diplomacy,” he said.

He added that the changes occurring in the environment for diplomacy are extremely important, and have been gaining momentum since the end of the last century.

“It is impossible to ignore them. The changes are already impacting upon the world of diplomacy and becoming the new norm.

“Nations that respond astutely will be able to leverage more effectively the new environment.

“This will entail making appropriate adjustments to the ways in which states formulate foreign policy and conduct diplomacy,” he said.

Sultan Nazrin also pointed out that national interest is best served when diplomats work together with civil society and NGOs to advance shared interests.

“Long-established and reputable cause- and issue-oriented international NGOs such as Amnesty International, CARE International, OXFAM International, Doctors Without Borders, and Mercy Malaysia, all make invaluable contributions to the alleviation of human suffering and the improvement of livelihoods.

“Working with NGOs may not always be easy, especially on the domestic scene. Things can get uncomfortable when governments become sensitive to critical scrutiny by assertive and vocal NGOs.


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Leaping into the 21st century

Thursday, June 8th, 2017
Students of SMK Puchong Batu 14 during a lesson in a Frog Classroom, where each classroom is equipped with 4G Internet and Chromebooks. FILE PIC

WHEN I was in school, there was no such thing as the World Wide Web. If you wanted to know more about something, you went to the library, hopefully, the one that carried the right books for you to refer to.

If you wanted to watch something, you had to wait until it appeared on television. Sometimes, you would just flip channels and find something interesting.

Way back before the Internet, the model of learning in schools was where a teacher possessed the knowledge on a topic and disseminated it to pupils. A teacher would read from a book or write on the blackboard so pupils could copy it down. It was the only way of sharing information that has worked wonderfully for eons.

But, with the Internet as a great source of information, what students learn and the way they learn have to change dramatically. The environment in which they learn cannot remain the same, as in classrooms with tables and chairs, arranged in rows, so that pupils face a teacher and a blackboard.

Teachers can do more than old-school information consumption and regurgitation. Classroom time must focus on facilitating pupils to process that information. They must go beyond creating an environment for pupils to participate in class. This means there should not only be one setting for learning.

Changing the environment, where they cannot function the same way as they used to, helps teachers and pupils break free from old habits. As Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan, during Celebrating Classrooms — Inspiring 21st Century Learning Conference attended by teachers last week, said: “You need to be ready to be the change, and change begins with you.”

The conference, in association with YTL Foundation, founded in 1997 on the belief that “education is the basis on which society progresses”, brought together head teachers and senior school administrators from 150 schools that have embraced 21st-century teaching and learning through the Frog Classroom programme.

The Frog Classroom is designed to boost and facilitate the use of technology, using online platforms, such as Frog VLE (virtual learning environment) provided under the Education Ministry’s 1BestariNet project.

“This is a long-term strategic collaboration and co-investment involving the Foundation, FrogAsia and our other partners for the development of 21st-century teaching and learning in Malaysian schools,” said YTL Foundation programme director Datin Kathleen Chew at the conference.

Each classroom has 4G Internet and Chromebooks. Cooled by air-conditioning, the walls of the room are painted in sections of blue, green and pink. In the room, the curved desks are arranged in a semi-circle to encourage collaborative learning among pupils, who now face each other.

The Frog Classroom also encourages the importance of community in learning — with a general consensus that we are all engaged in learning, and that responsibility for learning lies not just with teachers, but with parents and society. After the makeover of the first classroom in 2014, there are now 150 classrooms nationwide, transformed with the help of parent-teacher associations (PTA) and corporate partners.

But, how does using a different physical space have an impact on learning? A team of researchers, headed by Professor Dr Radha M.K. Nambiar from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, conducted a study to examine the impact of the Frog Classroom on schools.

The team, commissioned by YTL Foundation, looked into perceptions of the redesigned classroom and its impact on teacher pedagogy and student learning behaviour through the integration of technology.

Released at the same conference, results of the research concluded that when using the Frog Classroom, teachers became more creative and innovative through the materials, activities and methods during their lessons. Teachers also evolved into facilitators, guiding pupils in the learning process rather than serving as the source of knowledge and information.

Students, on the other hand, were found to display better peer interaction and learning from each other, at the same time developing 21st-century skills — self-directed, independent, less inhibited, more communicative and better at problem solving and collaboration.

However, while the physical changes implemented in the Frog Classroom makeovers make a big difference, as Chew said, the programme is much more than just the introduction of physical infrastructure and technology.

Training and support for teachers from school administrators are essential for these changes to take place in the classroom. Inspirational leaders who had introduced new learning environments in their schools could share the benefits of their approach with other schools.

Leadership is key, and it is about being bold and taking calculated or educated risks.​

In April last year, the headmaster of SK Tok Dir in Kuala Terengganu, Rosman Abadi, with the financial support of the school’s PTA, applied for a Frog Classroom for the school.

The classroom was launched in February this year, and since then, he said, it had not only benefited his pupils, but also opened doors for schools nearby.


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Grooming future proof work talents

Friday, May 19th, 2017

(File pix) In a 21st century classroom scenario, assignments can be in the form of presentations such as this.

IT is interesting times for tertiary education. Rapid technological advances have given rise to trends such as automation, globalisation and workplace change within industries requiring universities to produce students who have a broader set of 21st century skills that will enable them to thrive in the future.

Talents entering the workforce are expected to have strong foundational skills well as the ability to think independently, identify and solve problems on their own, work collaboratively, and learn new knowledge and skills when necessary.

At the same time, institutes of higher learning are already experiencing the enrolment of Gen Z — those born between 1996 and 2009 — who are digital natives with the always connected mentality and digital devices and profiles which they view as an extension of themselves.

Gen Z is technology-driven just like Gen Y but even more so as technology is more than a tool — it is part of who they are, said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Centre for Teaching and Learning Technologies director Professor Datuk Dr Mohamed Amin Embi.

In his inaugural lecture at UKM last year, Mohamed Amin said Gen Z has unique learning habits.

“They have a world of information at their fingertips; they can simply Google anything they need to know. Instead of wasting time at memorising, they focus on learning to find, interpret and take advantage of information,” he said.

They multi-task with an Internet-connected device while watching TV — surviving distraction.

And they learn visually as a result of constant stimulation in the form of video games, YouTube videos and television.

“If educators desire to remain relevant to Gen Z, they need to rethink teaching and redesign learning that will engage students in meaningful and deep learning,” said Mohamed Amin.

However, he added that the problem with today’s education — at the school and tertiary level — is that most educators teach the way they were taught in the past.

“There is a need to rethink and redesign 21st century teaching and learning so that they meet the needs of the era. As 21st century educators, it is imperative that we redesign the traditional concept of teaching and learning, and explore new ways to improve students’ experience to prepare them for tomorrow’s world.”

Redesigning Teaching:

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) School of Educational Studies dean Professor Dr Hairul Nizam Ismail said classrooms in Malaysian higher education institutions still predominantly adopt the “factory line” concept of teaching and learning where many university lecturers prefer the teacher-centred approach that emphasises delivering lectures during the duration of the class, while students listen passively in their seats.

“Tertiary students should possess learning and innovation techniques; information, media and technological competencies; and life and career skills that will increase their marketability, employability and readiness for citizenship in a competitive world.

“For learning and innovation skills, students need to be creative, think critically and possess problem-solving, communication and collaboration skills,” said Hairul Nizam.

As such, Malaysian higher education institutions are to implement various teaching strategies and approaches such as e- and blended learning, flipped classrooms and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

These strategies and approaches are suitable to be introduced in higher education institutions as the teaching tools provide flexibility and interactivity to attract 21st century students.

“A technology-based student-centred learning approach will not only make learning more interesting for students, it can also encourage them to actively learn and have confidence to interact with coursemates and lecturers. These characteristics are important to enhance marketability upon graduating.

“This is different from traditional teacher-centred learning, which allows students to remain rather passive. This type of ‘redesigning’ is needed to shape students’ attitudes and improve their skills towards becoming more competitive in the job market. Providing students with specific competencies, such as the ability to utilise information and communications technology tools and higher order thinking skills, will give them the edge they need for the current job market.”

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Faculty of Educational Studies dean Professor Dr Aida Suraya Md. Yunus meanwhile highlighted students need real-life learning experiences, and to work on tasks and attend meetings (or briefings) with chief executive officers and industry players.

“We try to arrange more engagement with the industry, therefore the lecturer will also need industry experience. We conduct field trips, collaborate with organisations to allow students to translate theory into practice,” said Aida Suraya.

Students also expect to have different kinds of learning spaces, no longer a lecture theatre or tables in a classroom with them facing the teacher.

“They need a more relaxed atmosphere, tables that can be shifted to allow group discussions and flip charts.

“Our lecturers upload their teaching materials online for students to refer. Not only are lecture notes uploaded, but also links to relevant websites, videos, animated materials, platform for students to share their materials with the class, online discussions/chat rooms with the lecturer and fellow students. This allows students to explore beyond the confines of the course content,” she added.

“A lot of discussion and presentation take place in the course of our programmes. Although the budget is limited, the faculty plans to transform all classrooms into conducive learning spaces — the ‘future classroom’ — for students.

“It will not only expose them to emerging technologies but it will also be a research lab to test technology-integrated teaching and learning. The classrooms will be ready by October.


Educational philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952) once said: “If we teach today’s students as we been taught yesterday, we rob them of tomorrow.”

As such, Hairul Nizam said educators cannot omit technology from teaching as it is dynamic and changing the way the education industry is shaped today.

“Technology provides the flexibility and learning platform for the teaching and learning process. The lecturers’ role in the 21st century teaching and learning environment is to facilitate students to create knowledge and unleash their creativity to enable them to be innovative. The 21st century lecturer does not go into a classroom to ‘deliver knowledge’ but to assist student to explore, experience and co-create knowledge. These can be done through various teaching and learning activities via technology applications,” he added.

While the importance of a lecturer as the content expert in any course or field cannot be denied, the lecturer also needs to be a good guide to shape critical thinking among students.

“At the end of the day technology is just a tool — how lecturers generate their lessons, readings and activities is important. Making use of tools to boost the learning experience is even more important.” Hairul Nizam added that USM recognises the important and challenging task of changing the mindset of its teaching staff, mostly known as digital immigrants.


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Johor Introduces Six Measures To Upgrade State Education Quality

Monday, May 15th, 2017

KOTA ISKANDAR, May 14 (Bernama) — Six long term measures have been planned to upgrade the quality of education in Johor, including the capacity of teachers and school administrators for the 21st Millennium Learning (PAK21).

Johor Environment, Health, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the state government wanted to ensure at least two secondary schools and five primary schools at every parliamentary constituency would be involved directly in these efforts.

“A total of 15,000 teachers will be assessed and they must have an evaluation level of 85 per cent.

“All these are carried out to enable students in Johor to be more creative and innovative in learning as well as always give a high level thinking skills evaluation,” he said when winding up the debate on the Education Committee porfolio at the 13th Johor State Legislative Assembly sitting here today.

Ayub said the state government also agreed to intensify efforts to train 1,100 teachers in Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM-J) to enable Johor to attain a 60:40 ratio for Science students compared to Literature students.


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Teachers as co-learners in class

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

I refer to ‘Shift to student-centred learning’ (StarEducate, March 19). The paradigm shift from traditional teaching methods by focusing on how students learn instead of how teachers teach is called learner-centred teaching.

Educators need to question themselves on “How can I improve my students’ learning?” instead of the oft-asked question “How can I improve my teaching?”

Learner-centred teaching is based on the assumption that students are capable learners who will blossom as power shifts to a more egalitarian classroom. It allows students to critically think about questions using content not just as a collection of isolated facts.

Teachers are like knowledge explorers and students are responsible for their own learning and assessment. This form of education instruction enables educators to take on the role of co-learners. They help in active learning, assist in problem-based learning and, more generally, a thoughtful understanding of what the best teachers actually do in classrooms.

Educators now need to foster critical thinking, have a strong trust in students, and become life-long learners themselves.

Activities expected of the learner-centred teaching is the exchanging of lecture notes and multi-bullet point slides for a more active, engaging, collaborative style of teaching.

Learner-centred teaching involves connecting with knowledge and students at the same time. Educators must be able to learn and understand the way their students understand and analyse.

Students become lifelong learners by developing their critical thinking skills and self-management abilities. By doing so, they are more likely to have success in the “real world” than if they were merely test takers.

Learner-centred teaching requires us to progress from “doing something to students” (teaching) to “doing something with students” (teaching and learning) and to “being with students” (learning).

Utilising small work groups, personal work portfolios, and student-driven classroom experiences, and taking responsibility for their learning are among the measures called for.

A key in understanding the impact of a learner-centred model is seeing through the eyes of students. Collecting data from the students’ perspective is consistent with this approach.

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Shift to student-centred learning

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

THROUGHOUT 2016, we saw a global shift from personalised learning to student-centred learning.

It’s true that students have always demanded an always-on, anytime, anywhere learning experience, delivered by modern learning tools. However, this time we also witnessed an increasing demand from students for a more autonomous, self-directed learning experience.

A recent survey by Canvas highlighted this growing trend as a foundation for working life. The research, which surveyed 500 undergraduates from both public and private universities, found that 65% of students indicated that their university courses play a vital role in increasing their chances of employment, yet only 25% say they’re equipped with the necessary skills required for employment.

Universities took notice of this in 2016 and have begun the evolution process, spurred by the demands on their well-informed students.

Already, 42% of students say that they have fast broadband access to support video interaction with tutors, and 41% say that they have access to Learning Management Systems (LMS), which enable collaborative problem solving and self-directed learning, all crucial in establishing a student-centred learning environment.

Just three months into 2017, there’s already a bigger demand for student-centred learning, spurred by four digitally driven educational disruptions: analytics, open technologies, 24/7 access to course materials and preparatory education.

These four trends are forcing academic institutions to re-evaluate the services they offer, with a focus on enhancing the student experience.

Over the years, we have seen education institutions embrace data to demonstrate student achievement through pass rates or grades, and it was easy to find education leaders who dismissed the industrial use of data analytics in education.

Today, we’ve come full circle, with the education industry broadly embracing data-based decision making and research-based practice. In Malaysia, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation has been championing the nation’s big data and analytics (BDA) initiatives, with aspirations of making Malaysia the leading BDA solutions hub in Southeast Asia.

It’s no wonder we see more industries and sectors adopting analytics-based modelling within the country. The education industry is no exception, using real-time data to inform changes in teaching methods and address student needs as they arise.

This can help increase student engagement and motivation, all hugely important in ensuring continuation rates and, ultimately, improving results and grades. Technology experts are united in the view that schools and colleges can reap the same benefits of cloud services and open application programming interfaces (APIs) as their counterparts in commercial industries. Open APIs allow educators to easily choose applications and resources that best fit their students’ needs.

Malaysia is on the right track, with its higher education ministry offering over 60 open online courses within 20 of its public universities.

This year, we will continue to see educators embrace open technology and move away from proprietary models and products created by a handful of developers to ones built by communities of thousands.

With students calling for always-on access to course materials, more institutions will demand improved availability from their technology partners.

Cloud computing continues to be at the core of this evolution, helping unleash the next wave of tech-enabled innovation in schools by enabling educators to change the way courses are delivered to a new generation of tech-savvy, social students.

In 2016, 41% of Malaysia university students say their number one educational experience is having an always-on learning experience that enables access to learning materials, anytime, anywhere, on any device.

A further 52% of students believe their universities are providing them with modern technology and teaching that delivers a personalised learning experience, and 77% of undergraduates say the teaching methods experienced at universities are more in tune with their learning styles than those experienced at school, and are all delivered through the cloud.

2017 will be no different, and will see an increase in always-on settings, as education institutions continue to provide student-centred learning environments that are conducive preparatory platforms for today’s workforce.

Global research by Canvas showed that just 10 percent of students believe that their education adequately prepares them for the workplace.

Pressure from students, combined with an increasing need for institutions to demonstrate the return on investment from education, will put renewed focus on employability.

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More ‘honest conversations’ needed with Gen Y-ers

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) corporate sector head Jamie Lyon.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) corporate sector head Jamie Lyon

WE need to talk.

No, not about a relationship break-up. This is about maintaining relationships – between bosses and staff, between an organisation and its employees.

With many young Malaysian employees expressing interest in working overseas, perhaps it is time for more Malaysian bosses to discuss their workers’ plans for the future openly.

Saying that it is a common mistake not to have such discussions, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) corporate sector head Jamie Lyon recommends that bosses have more “honest conversations” with their workers to understand and tackle issues.

“Employers need to find out how quickly people want to move, how many want to and what roles they plan to move to.

“For young employees, they question whether they will be getting any career development.

“How do employers tackle that? They start by having honest conversations with their employees. Ask them: what do you want from your career and what can we do as an organisation to support you in that?” he explains.

Lyon adds that employers should also think about offering their staff more coaching and mentoring.

“This is a generation that wants personalised interventions. They want that collaboration to happen.

“I think just talking to this generation, ensuring conversations flow through leadership and making leadership accessible to them is key, along with breaking hierarchies,” he says.

To harness the entrepreneurial streak in Gen Y-ers, Lyon also encourages employers to tap such interests by offering lateral moves within an organisation.

“If someone comes in as a finance person, it doesn’t mean they have to stay as that. Both employers and workers can consider a rotation or secondment in roles and see how such talent can be honed,” he suggests, adding that it is up to organisations to think creatively about creating opportunities for their staff to grow.

Giving a pay rise to workers may help entice them to stay, but Lyon believes that this is a short-term solution and companies should be thinking of more long-term, holistic solutions.

“If people are going to be happy in their careers, something has to be done about it. The irony is even though we live in a global knowledge economy, the biggest asset of a company is its people,” he points out.

As for his advice to Malaysian youth, Lyon encourages them to think out of the box.

“Sometimes, people think the better option is to go somewhere else. Start by having honest conversations with your employer. Think also about what options you have, not just by leaving office, but about how to build a portfolio of skills, which will be relevant in the future world of work,” he says.

While acknowledging that more open discussions should be held, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan admits Malaysian bosses aren’t very open with employees.

“We are very conservative in this area. But this should be one of our long-term goals,” he says.

Shamsuddin, however, says more employers are becoming more open with their workers, but this usually happens in bigger firms, and, “the reality in Malaysia is that 98% of employers run small and medium sized enterprises”, he says.

Shamsuddin observes that Gen Y-ers generally do not like to be monitored a lot and tend to prioritise a healthy work-life balance.

“As such, if Malaysian employers want to retain young talent in the long run, they are encouraged to create an attractive environment for this group to excel, including allowing them a certain amount of flexibility,” he says.

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Follow Curriculum Prepared For P&P, Teachers Told

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

SUNGAI PETANI, Jan 16 (Bernama) — Teachers have been advised not to wait for or use last year’s examination format as reference in their teaching and learning (P&P) sessions this year, said Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof.

Instead, Khair urged the teachers to follow the new curriculum prepared by the Education Ministry as it had been completed and comprehensively fulfilled all aspects of education.

“The new standard curriculum for primary and secondary schools have been reviewed. Thus, we do not want teachers to wait for last year’s examination format or even use the older format.

“In the curriculum, we have clarified what needs to be taught, what needs to be achieved and what needs to be defined… that is sufficient,” he told reporters after attending the 1Malaysia Young Teachers’ Professional Discourse for Kuala Muda and Yan districts, here today.

Meanwhile, Khair assured that in empowering the 21st century education, students with special needs and Orang Asli children would not be neglected.

“We will continue with what has been implemented and further boost the P&P to ensure these students are not left behind.

“The 21st century is the time for student-centred learning, we evaluate them based on their activities and interaction ability, not focusing only on examinations,” he said.


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Changes in store at schools

Saturday, December 24th, 2016
Time for update: The Primary School Standard Curriculum, which was introduced to Year One pupils in 2011, will be reviewed in 2017.

Time for update: The Primary School Standard Curriculum, which was introduced to Year One pupils in 2011, will be reviewed in 2017.

The Education Ministry is implementing a new curriculum in secondary schools and revising the current one in primary schools.

THE Education Ministry awaits 2017 with much anticipation as it is the year that sees the implementation of the new Standard Curriculum for Secondary Schools (KSSM) for Form One students and a revised Primary School Standard Curriculum (KSSR) for Year One pupils.

The first cohort of KSSR began in 2011 starting with Year One.

In an interview outlining several changes made in reviewing the KSSR, the Education Ministry’s head for the policy and research sector, Naza Idris Saadon, said: “The first cycle of the KSSR which was implemented in 2011 has ended and we will now do a review of it in 2017, concurrent with the implementation of the KSSM.

“These changes will be done in stages and new textbooks will be provided to students.

“In line with the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, several changes must be made to our national curriculum in order to produce students who are resilient, curious, innovative and able to communicate well.”

Naza Idris said some of the changes made in the KSSR review and simultaneously the KSSM include the content of the subjects as the ministry believes it has to be up to date with the changing times.

“We want relevant content to be taught to our students.”

He emphasised that the content taught today has to change in accordance, by including new information and content into the subject especially for those that revolve around technology.

“The structure of the subjects taught is still the same but there will be tweaks in its content.

“We are also improving the content of our syllabus in accordance with global trends and international benchmarking to ensure our curriculum is on par internationally.

“Other changes include the organisation and management of the curriculum, changes in the pedagogy aspect of teaching and learning and in the allocation of time for each subject,” he added.

Naza Idris explained that in the past, teachers were required to complete a certain amount of minutes in a week for each subject.

Now, it will be completed in minimum hours per year.

“This is where we want schools to manage the allocation of time for each subject.

“The minimum hours a subject has to be completed within a year depends on the subject itself as different subjects have different requirements. How many hours in a week the teacher uses to teach his or her students their subjects is their prerogative, but they must meet the minimum hours set for the year,” he added.

Merely focusing on the national education’s syllabus isn’t enough as the ministry and teachers must look into how to deliver and teach their students effectively, added Naza Idris.

“Teaching pedagogy is of paramount importance so that the content that has been set for the syllabus will be delivered effectively.

“We want to emphasise on the importance of taking an in-depth and contextual approach in learning as well as problem-solving and project-based approach.

“To execute this, teachers need time to plan and this is why we eliminated the requirement of completing the teaching and learning of a subject in minutes per week and substituted it with hours per year,” he said.

The ministry places significant importance on a teaching and learning pedagogy based on higher order thinking skills (HOTS).

Assessments are carried out continuously through summative and formative methods to ensure the progress and achievements of student.

Naza Idris added that teachers will assess the extent to which students are able to master learning standards with reference to the performance standards.


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Testing and supporting struggling students

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

The Education Ministry has come up with a test that assesses pupils with learning difficulties and helps them define their strengths and skills, to move on to the next level.

THE Year Six boy carefully counts the change and hands the money to his “customer” on the other side of the counter.

The “customer’ has bought some popiah from his “stall’ to have for her mid-morning break.

Just behind him is his teacher who observes the transaction. She takes note of the cash he has as the boy puts it away in the till.

The teacher’s presence at the “stall” is to grade her pupil for his basic counting ability and his interactive and conversational skills with his customer.

Her rating of the pupil is a requirement that has been outlined in the Pentaksiran Alternatif Sekolah Rendah (PASR).

Introduced in February, the PASR is an assessment to gauge pupils with learning disabilities who have between six and eight years of schooling. It is similar in concept to how mainstream Year Six pupils are gauged in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR).

The PASR objective is to assess pupils’ aptitude for numbers, their ability to interact with others and learn a skill.It also aims to measure the achievement and the development level of special needs pupils using an integrated assessment approach which encourages meaningful learning by using skills that can be applied in real life.

Prior to the PASR implementation, pupils with learning disabilities did not have any alternative to cater to their learning needs.

In fact, there has so far been no centralised assessment at all for special needs pupils.

While no single test or evaluation can capture a child’s full spectrum of strengths and challenges, an assessment like the PASR helps teachers gauge their pupils to some extent.

Examinations Syndicate Alternative Assessment Development Sector head Mohd Satar Ramli says the Education Ministry wanted a fair way to assess these pupils.

“We explored and studied the assessment instruments used in foreign countries and found that they had modified their mainstream syllabus to suit the pupils’ needs,” he adds.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (second from left) presents Khoo Jenny (second from right), a special needs student from SK Bukit Rahman Putra, Sungai Buloh, with her PASR certificate. — File photo

“We didn’t want to modify the national syllabus for special needs pupils just for the sake of doing so,” he adds, saying that the ministry wants to make sure the assessment report has a purpose in helping and defining the pupil’s development to the next level.

He says the ministry is taking a “gentle approach’’ as the children are sensitive.

In 2016, 2,550 pupils from 738 schools took the PASR.

One of the ways the ministry is using a gentle approach for this assessment is to do away with grades.

Instead, candidates are given a competency level ranking.

“They are either “not competent”, “competent” and “more than competent”.

Under the PASR, there is no “fail” or “distinction”.

“We are not judging them by grades, neither are we trying to sugar-coat and give false impressions,” he adds.

“This is what we call an authentic assessment.”

“The ministry believes that if a candidate is rated “not competent” in a skill, but continues to be taught and guided, he can become competent in that skill.

“We also do not want to draw comparisons among candidates as this will cause competition and that is not what the PASR is about,” he points out.

A comprehensive report is also given at the end of the assessment.

The PASR provides a holistic and comprehensive overview of what a child has picked up in primary school, says Mohd Satar.

Mohd Satar says that the candidates will receive a physical activity, sports and co-curricular assessment, and psychometric assessment reports as well.

Those who sit for the PASR must be from national, national-type and schools with special needs classes and integrated schools that are following the Primary School Standard Curriculum (KSSR) Special Education also known by its Malay acronym KSSRPK.

Only children who have completed the KSSRPK Level 2 can sit for the assessment.

Examinations Syndicate Alternative Assessment Development Sector assistant director Ku Azman Tuan Mat says candidates must also be in their final year of primary school, and since they have learning disabilities, they are allowed to take the exam between the ages of 12 and 14.

Assessment instruments

Mohd Satar says that the only thing “centralised” in the PASR is the assessment instrument and the scoring rubric used.

The PASR consists of two integrated assessment instruments carried out at the school level, better known as school-based assessments.

Pupils are given eight weeks to complete the instruments known as Special Project (ProKhas) 1 and four weeks to complete ProKhas 2.

ProKhas 1 consists of Bahasa Melayu, Mathematics and Life Skills carried out for eight weeks throughout July and August.

All the subjects are integrated and assessed concurrently through an activity.

Life Skills can be divided into four areas – farming (perkebunan), cooking (masakan), animal husbandry (penternakan) and sewing (jahitan).

For this year, the cooking assessment was based on making, marketing and selling popiah, and it was held in conjunction with Entrepreneur’s Day at the schools.

It is kept very flexible for these pupils as the teacher has a choice of assessing all four life skills or choosing only the best score.

Pupils with special learning needs undergo the PASR at the school level when they finish their primary education. — File photo

“It all depends on the candidate’s capabilities,” he says, adding that the life skill taught to the child would also depend on the facilities available in the school.

He adds that it does not matter how much popiah they sell but rather, whether they can communicate effectively, measure the ingredients correctly, follow the recipe taught to them and count the change meant to be given to their customers.

“What we want to measure is how they fare – whether they can read, write, speak and count correctly, as well as the knowledge, skills and values demonstrated in the 20 constructs in a holistic and integrated assessment,” he adds.

“They need to talk to their customers, they need to design a poster with words to promote their product — these are ways we assess their Bahasa Melayu skills.”


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