Archive for January, 2020

Fatimah: Nursery, kindergarten teachers required to have diploma in ECCE by 2021

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah

KUCHING: All nursery and kindergarten teachers are required to hold at least a diploma qualification in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) by next year.

Minister for Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said this was her ministry’s target as it strives to provide quality teachers and high value early childhood education for all children.

“At present, in terms of qualification, 3,676 out of 5,823 teachers do not have a diploma in ECCE. That is approximately 63 per cent of them.

“So, we need to work very hard and we have directed Sedidik nursery and kindergarten (run by the state) to have all its teachers acquire at least a diploma in ECCE by 2021,” she said at the Sidma College Sarawak 6th Convocation Ceremony held at Kompleks Islam Sarawak hall today.

She added that National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) assistance is difficult to obtain nowadays so the ministry is currently discussing with Yayasan Sarawak to provide loans for the teachers to pursue diploma in ECCE.

She said this is because these teachers play important role in education as they build a child’s foundation from the start.

She added that the Sarawak government recognises the importance of early childhood education and care by creating Early Childhood Development Division under the ministry, gazetted in May 2017 and approved post in June 28, 2018.

As such, the state government has been investing in grants and working to put a support system in place to provide quality ECCE, she said.

“The state government does this because it recognises that it is in pre-schools that the children with the help of the teachers learn and further develop their vocabularies and language skills, counting and numeracy skills, interaction and social skills outside their family circle.

“We have a commitment to ensure that everyone, practitioners or providers in this field, feel that they are as important as other teachers in primary school, in secondary school or in universities. This is the stand taken by the state government,” she said.

As of November last year, there are 258 registered nurseries in the state with 4,239 classes and 906 children.

For registered kindergartens, there are 2,904 institutions with 5,175 classes and 81,104 children.

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Make the most out of your school visit

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

CHOOSING a school for your child is a huge decision. As parents, we wonder: Will my child be happy here? Will they feel welcomed and supported? Does the school offer plenty of opportunities to bring out the best in them? Is this really the right fit for them?

The best way of making your decision is by visiting your shortlisted school(s) in person. Luckily, it’s the time of the year when many international schools are opening their doors.

Visiting schools in person has plenty of benefits: the chance to explore a school’s campus, witness teaching and learning in action, meet current teachers and families, and get a real feel for the school’s culture and community. Discover the top three reasons to attend a School Open Day here.

Here are four top tips for making the most of your school visit:

Do your research beforehan

Allow your child to grow in the best learning environment.Allow your child to grow in the best learning environment.

Before visiting a school, you should have gleaned everything you can from their website and social media channels beforehand: their curriculum, facilities, exam results and so on. By doing your research, you will be able to focus on what matters most at the school of your choice – the teaching and learning aspect of your child’s life.

Focus on the learning

Most school visits give you the chance to tour the school’s campus and facilities. It’s easy to be wowed by fancy facilities – but what’s really going to have the biggest impact on your child’s academic progress and wellbeing? Their teachers.

When you have the opportunity to witness some teaching and learning ‘in action’, try not to rush past. Even without stepping directly inside a classroom, you should be able to do the following:

• Look out for levels of student engagement. Do the children seem on task, busy and interested in their learning? Because they should!

• Are all children doing the same thing, or can you see evidence of differentiation (different tasks for different abilities)? Great teachers will ensure every child is supported and challenged, wherever they are at in their learning.

• Do the children look happy? No child can learn if they feel nervous, scared or worried. Happy children are great learners.

• Do the children seem comfortable asking their teacher for help? Can you see evidence of warm, positive teacher-student relationships? Positive relationships are crucial for children in a learning environment.

Witness the teaching and learning process in action when visiting an Open Day.

Witness the teaching and learning process in action when visiting an Open Day.

Get to know the teachers

You should feel confident knowing that the teachers guiding your child every day are passionate, qualified, experienced and able to support your child in every step of their learning journey. During your school visit, you may ask these questions to the teachers and senior leaders that you meet.

• What qualifications do the teachers have? And if they join the school unqualified, is the school investing in training or supporting them to become qualified?

• How do they ensure the ongoing professional development of teachers? The best schools worldwide offer weekly professional development and training for their teaching teams.

Talk to everyone

If you visit a school at any time, you should have the chance to meet current members of the school community – students, parents and teachers. Speaking to them will help you learn about what the school is really like on a day-to-day basis, so ask them as much as you can. In fact, its recommended going with a list of questions about things that really matter to you – What clubs and sports are on offer? As a parent, what activities can you get involved in? How do the teachers assess and communicate information about student progress and achievements?

Keeping these four tips in mind should help make your school visit as valuable as possible for you and your family!

Be a part of your child’s school activities.

Be a part of your child’s school activities.

Finding the right school is a tough decision, but you’re already doing the right thing by reading this article. Hopefully, by attending an Open Day, you will have a clear sense of which school is the right one for your child – but remember, it’s not just about the obvious things on offer.

The best schools equip their students with the right skills, habits, character traits and confidence to last a lifetime, and are committed in engaging their parent community too. Make sure to look out for what’s happening beyond the classroom.

Born to stand out?

100% scholarships are also available for outstanding A-Level students at Garden International School. Register your interest today by visiting

Prepare your child for the road ahead, visit GIS Open Days on Mar 5 (Primary & Secondary) Y1 to Y13 and Mar 12 (Early Years Centre) Nursery and Reception. Get #packedforlife at GIS. Full application fee waived for Open Day Attendance. (Terms and conditions apply)

Can’t make it to their Open Days? GIS doors are open (almost) every day. Book your personal tour online at or call their admissions team at 03-6209 6888.

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Coronavirus: Sabah suspends all incoming flights from China

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is temporarily suspending all scheduled and chartered flights from China with immediate effect, says Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christine Liew.

She said the decision was made during Wednesday’s (Jan 29) state cabinet meeting in the interest of the people’s welfare.

“This is only a temporary suspension and business operations are expected to resume once the situation returns to normal,” she said in a statement on Thursday (Jan 30).

Liew said although the suspension would have repercussions on Sabah’s tourism industry, the government was placing the health and welfare of Sabahans first.

“We want to avoid the risk of exposing our people to any possible carriers of the 2019-nCoV (coronavirus) infection,” she said adding this travel ban was a very difficult decision to make.

“This might not be well-received by tourism players but we cannot jeopardise the well-being of the people, given the uncertainty of how the coronavirus epidemic is developing,” said Liew, who is also the state Tourism, Culture and Environment minister.

Liew said the state secretary’s office would inform all airlines operating China-KK routes of the decision.

“This means that all flights from China will be halted, and there will be no entry for all travellers from the various Chinese cities to Kota Kinabalu during the suspension period,” she said.

She also noted that the Chinese government had already banned its citizens in Wuhan, Xi’an, Beijing, Tianjin and Guangzhou from travelling abroad.

Meanwhile, Liew assured the public that the state government was closely monitoring the situation.

“The government is constantly being updated by the State Health Department,” she said.

She said while there are no identified cases yet in Sabah, everyone had to be alert and practise good personal hygiene habits and keep themselves abreast of correct information from reliable sources.

“Please refrain from spreading fake or unverified news,” Liew advised.


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A wish-list for education

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

MOST Malaysians are passionate about education. Parents want what’s best for their children; educators want to see their students grow intellectually; students want to make lifelong friends and gain employment for a better life.

Ultimately, we all hope that an educated society will lead to greater prosperity, peace, development, and happiness.

The challenge therein, lies in the policies and pathways that lead us there.

With new (acting) Education Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, what would your education wish-list be? Here are five which come to mind:

1) Sekolah Wawasan 2.0

Having started in the early 2000s, the Sekolah Wawasan (Vision School) was aimed at bringing the three types of school streams (national, and Chinese and Indian vernaculars) within one compound.

By having the students eat and play sports together, share a library (and more), the hope was that this would foster unity as students of different backgrounds would share collective growth experiences.

Despite having been less-prioritised in recent years (necessitating Dr Mahathir to call for its revival), I believe the concept should be expanded and improved – let’s call it Sekolah Wawasan 2.0.

Students can be grouped in sports-houses across the streams; teachers can do co-teaching; and parent-teacher associations (PTAs) can collectively support (and fund) the school as a whole – yes, make the parents play nice too.

It might be worthwhile getting private institutions or boarding schools set up within it (my secondary school, Victoria Institution, was a day-school but also had a hostel), and encourage industry to support the school (and local community) with CSR (corporate social responsibility) projects.

Sekolah Wawasan 2.0 can also be the expansion ground for the teaching of math and science in English and a compulsory third or fourth language, since diverse teaching resources would be present.

Short of having a homogenous-single-national school system, which by now has become a political lightning-rod, this model could be powerful in its own right.

Sekolah Wawasan has the powerful potential of striking a balance between maintaining our nation’s unique multi-stream education system while addressing the existing race-relations gap. Unlike other education systems in predominantly homogenous societies, we must embrace the strengths within our diversity.

2) Reintroduce a Higher Education Ministry with an additional portfolio

I had the privilege to serve both the Education Ministry (2014-2015) and Higher Education Ministry (when it was split in 2015 until 2018).

When merged, it was a humongous ministry – both in size and expectation. I recall the school directors and higher education directors jostling for the-then minister’s attention in meetings. Both had distinct challenges and objectives.

The split actually brought a lot of relief and focus.

Between 2004 and 2014, the higher education space grew by leaps and bound. According to the Higher Education Blueprint, total enrolment increased by 70%, international student numbers doubled, bachelor’s degree enrolment increased sixfold and masters by 10 times.

We now have 20 public universities, over 400 private institutions, 36 polytechnics, and 100 community colleges.

In short, the higher education space has taken a life of its own.

However, I feel it should stand with a different portfolio – maybe with science, research, or technology, or even lifelong learning, the reason being that around the world, scientific research coordination, essentially the brains of a nation, needs to be done systematically.

And with technology and the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s relentless march, it could merit its own ministerial oversight.

This will also balance off the need for more autonomy, which is a dire issue for both public and private universities (from the appointment of top leadership to financial management and student empowerment), and this means less top-down regulation to encourage innovation, growth and progress.

An inter-ministerial committee can be formed to ensure that the schools and higher education sectors coordinate for seamless “cradle-to-grave” policy impact.

3) Use the Education and Higher Education Blueprints as the foundation to take stock and measure progress

It was an exciting time in 2013 when the School Blueprint was launched. Back then I was still in legal practice and like many Malaysians, highly interested in its potential game-changing prospects.

The reality, however, was that the 11 “shifts” stated in the School Blueprint weren’t exactly earth-shattering.

However, having joined the Education Ministry a year later, I came to realise that the Blueprint brought stability and clarity. The 11 shifts, from providing equal access to transforming the teaching profession to empowering parents, identified gaps and measurable targets.

Similarly, when the Higher Education Blueprint was launched in 2015, the 10 shifts it identified, from creating entrepreneurial graduates to prioritising TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) and growing endowment and Waqf, also had a clear purpose.

It made me realise that policy-making does not have to be sensational but more common-sensical. It is about taking many little steps forward.

An example: Our nation’s Pisa (Programme for International Students Assessment) results, albeit still below the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) average, has actually improved for a third assessment in a row (after 2015 and 2018).

After the wake-up call from our abysmal 2012 Pisa results, the Blueprint identified this as one of the areas that must be measured, tracked and improved upon. Simple, yet vital – assessment, evaluation and betterment.

Once our foundations are clear, then more ambitious goals, such as Sekolah Wawasan 2.0 and more, can be pursued in tandem.

4) Policy consistency

The “Education for All” campaign initiated by the former education minister was successful in its own ways; from zero rejections for displaced children and more opportunities for special-needs children, many parents felt its positive impact.

Prior to this, the higher education minister – before the change in government – championed the “Redesigning Higher Education” campaign. That too was successful with its “Soaring Upwards” chant that saw greater industry participation in higher education, continuous improvement in university rankings, and increased graduate employability numbers.

As with all Malaysians, policy flip-flops especially in education is a great fear. It takes many years for policies to bear positive outcomes, and consistency is thus key.

In this regard, the hope is that the Education Minister (and future ministers), will make the time to listen to Education Ministry officials, teachers, researchers, and students. Engage with civil society organisation and social enterprises, such as Teach for Malaysia, Arus Academy, Dignity for Children Foundation, Global School Leaders etc. Take advice from the National Education Advisory Council (NEAC), which has many experienced members.

5) Empower educators

The final point goes without saying, but I’ll reiterate it anyway – our educators are our education system’s lifeline.

We need to reduce their administrative burdens, reward them better, give them professional development opportunities, and have faith in their ability to educate our nation’s future.


Whether interim or permanent, there will always be someone helming the Education Ministry. And as Malaysians and education stakeholders, I believe it’s important to share our views and speak up.

So, what’s on your education wish-list?

By Danial Rahman.

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Language conference explores digital world

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

Exploring how language and literature in the digital age can amplify ideas and opinions is the main focus of the International Conference on Language and Literature 2020 (ICLL 2020) at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) recently.

ICLL 2020 co-convener Dr Rabiah Tul Adawiyah Mohamed Salleh said with IIUM holding the responsibility as an Islamic institution, the conference hoped to deconstruct the narrative that Muslims are socially and culturally stagnant.

“Among the ideas that have been mediated and amplified by digital technologies and which has been the main motivation for us to organise this conference is Islamophobia. We acknowledge the role of the Internet and social media in the propagation of Islamophobic ideas.”

Themed “Digital Trends in Language and Literature: Asia in the 21st Century”, the three-day conference is a collaborative effort of IIUM’s Department of English Language and Literature with the Bilingual Research Lab of Western Sydney University, Australia and Jinan University, Guangzhou, China.

A total of 102 papers were presented, covering topics such as language learning, language pedagogy, language policy, learning technology, discourse analysis, literature and literary interpretation on digital technologies.

(Seated, from left) Professor Hart Cohen, Professor Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf, Dr Rabiah Tul Adawiyah Mohamed Salleh, Associate Professor Dr Aini Maznina A Manaf, Datuk Dr Daud Abu Bakar, Associate Professor Dr Ruying Qi, Associate Professor Dr Bruno Di Biase, Dr Siti Nuraishah Ahmad, Associate Professor Satomi Kawaguchi and Dr Rusaslina Idrus at the launch of the International Conference on Language and Literature 2020 at International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, recently.IIUM’s Kulliyyah of Islamic and Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences deputy dean, Associate Professor Dr Aini Maznina A Manaf, said the digital era has seen rapid innovations in the usage of English.

“English is no longer colonial-based, but a powerful tool for writing back to the imperial centre, reclaiming identities, forging global citizenships, reaching out to diverse communities and mobilising ideas and actions.”

In a keynote speech, IIUM rector Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak highlighted the importance of striking a balance between the humanities and the sciences as the nation moves towards a more digitalised era.

“Trans-disciplinary studies, which allow the comprehension of knowledge in the convergence of disciplines, are best in preparing the nation to take advantage of the increasing knowledge of the world.”

Keynote speakers included Professor Hart Cohen and Associate Professor Dr Satomi Kawaguchi from Western Sydney University.

The event attracted more than 100 participants from universities in Malaysia and 16 other countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Oman, China and France.

Selected papers are set to be published in top journals, including Translation and Interpreting, Journal of Huayu Teaching, Chinese Journal of Language Policy and Planning and IIUM’s own peer-reviewed online journal, Asiatic.

Other highlight of the conference was the Travel Poetry book launch by IIUM deputy rector (internationalisation and global network) Professor Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf with National.

By Rayyan Rafidi.

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More TVET opportunities with YSD skill programme

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020
A group picture of bursary recipients under the skill enrichment programme.

YAYASAN Sime Darby aims to create more Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) opportunities for youths through a new initiative called the YSD Skill Enrichment Programme.

In line with the national aspiration to equip youths with employable skills that meet labour market demands, the programme is set to benefit 400 youths annually as compared to 35 under YSD’s previous annual allocation for TVET bursaries — with focus on assisting those from underprivileged and marginalised backgrounds.

YSD chairman Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar said the programme will see the organisation working with four strategic partners: the Department of Polytechnic and Community College Education under the Ministry of Education (MOE), Sime Darby Industrial Academy, Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare College, and KRU Academy.

“This is to provide more scholars with technical skills and assist with job placements upon the completion of their training courses,” he said in his welcoming address at the launch of the programme held in Kuala Lumpur last week.

Through YSD’s collaborations with its TVET partners, the fields of vocational study opportunities offered under the programme are broadened to support more Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and creative arts courses.

Tunku Imran added that it was reported that currently, almost 90 per cent of TVET graduates have been able to get a job after graduation. With the support of the foundation’s TVET partners, YSD intends to push the number higher.

The event also saw YSD hosting its annual Scholarship Award Ceremony with the foundation awarding over RM21 million worth of various scholarships and bursaries to 584 deserving individuals, a majority of which are from underprivileged households.

Among others, 264 vocationally inclined students received a total of RM6.61 million for the skill enrichment category to pursue diploma in engineering, diploma in architecture, diploma in quantity surveying, professional certificate in 3D animation, diploma in nursing and medical assistant under MOE’s Polytechnic and Community College Department, KRU Academy, Sime Darby Industrial Aacademy and Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare College.

Under YSD Special Needs Bursary Programme (undergraduate and diploma bursaries for persons with disabilities), 29 recipients received more than RM1.04 million.

The YSD Special Support Bursary programme (undergraduate and diploma bursaries for students with monthly household income of RM4,000 and below) saw 216 recipients with bursaries worth RM7.56 million.

39 students with outstanding academic achievement and strong leadership qualities were awarded excellence scholarships worth RM4.75 million to pursue pre-university, undergraduate and postgraduate studies at universities in Malaysia, United Kingdom and China.

YSD also celebrated individuals with compelling stories who have weathered many challenges to beat the odds. Among them was TVET scholar Muhammad Afiq Aminuddin, who was awarded the YSD Role Model Award 2020.

Afiq, 29, who hailed from a single-parent B40 household in Penang completed his Certificate in Heavy Equipment from Sime Darby Industrial Academy in 2011. He worked at Sime Darby Industrial – Tractors Malaysia as a mechanic and electrician in heavy equipment maintenance and is now an accomplished field mechanic for Baker Hughes, an international energy technology company.

Muhammad Firdaus Abu Hassan, 29, the recipient of YSD Inspirational Award 2020, has proven that success is not beyond reach despite disability and poverty. Being completely blind since the age of 14, he remained ambitious and tenacious in chasing his goals.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology & Sociology, and then a Master of Professional Counselling, both with flying colours. His life story was documented and analysed in a postgraduate study to understand the development of resilience in the underprivileged.

Education has been the main thrust of YSD since its inception in 1982 to offer wisdom, expertise and assistance at all levels of education to promote and advance what people believe they can achieve, especially the underprivileged.

By Rozana Sani.

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The case of split Education Ministries

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

Academicians in universities are not only expected to produce graduates for the job market, but they are also required to generate new knowledge through research and publication. FILE PIC

UPON assuming the interim post of Education Minister some three weeks ago, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently declared that he’s open to all possibilities, including reverting back to the old system of having two separate ministries on education, namely the Education Ministry and the Higher Education Ministry.

Although both ministries are two sides of the same coin, each has its own tasks. Primary and secondary school education in this country is already complex and varied: national schools, national-type schools, private schools and religious schools.

The challenges are overwhelming. Tertiary education has its own set of features.

According to Prof Mohd Jamil Maah of the University of Malaya, trends in higher education are parts of a giant jigsaw puzzle, which comprise: globalisation and internationalisation; university autonomy; benchmarking via global standard; flexible education; changing roles of the university–socioeconomic impacts; rising cost of education; attract and retain talents; financial challenges; and, graduate employability.

Academicians in universities are not only expected to produce graduates for the job market, but they are also required to generate new knowledge through research and publication, and contribute towards producing new products and processes for economic gains, possibly in collaboration with the private sector.

In tabling the 2020 Budget in October last year, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced the allocation of RM564 million to enhance Malaysia’s Research and Development (R&D) Framework.

“Besides this, the government will establish a Research Management Agency (RMA), with an allocation of RM10 million to centralise and coordinate management of public research resources,” he said.

As in previous practice, most of this R&D funding is channelled to public universities to enhance R&D through collaborations with agencies, both locally and overseas, for high-impact research and innovation.

This is a welcome gesture despite the budgetary constraints that the country is facing. Putting a substantial amount of R&D money into public research universities is common worldwide.

In fact, in some countries, there are dedicated ministries of higher education and research established to foster R&D. These include Algeria, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. And in Japan, there’s MEXT — the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The proposed RMA should naturally be placed under this new ministry.

However, its mandate and modus operandi should be open, transparent and fair, and not to the detriment of other ministries, in particular those that house R&D institutes in their midst, such as the Agriculture Ministry with the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute); the Health Ministry with the Institute of Medical Research (IMR); and the Primary Industries Ministry with its Malaysian Palm Oil Board, Malaysian Rubber Board and Forest Research Institute Malaysia.

The Energy, Science, Technology, Environment And Climate Change Ministry also has its own allocation for R&D, mainly catering to the needs of the private sector. In fact, many of the ministries have their own R&D budget, although they are not as big as the one allocated to public universities.

Although the intention is noble but in the main, it creates duplication and unnecessary silos among the ministries.

Think how big the potential and how positive the impacts would be if all these funds could be pooled together under the RMA.

We would then be able to initiate multi-million ringgit “Grand Challenges” projects to solve problems facing our country today, such as those named under the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to include climate change, biodiversity loss, emerging and re-emerging diseases, water and sanitation, food security and renewable energy.

We used to be world leaders in R&D at one time. The Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia used to be the global hub of rubber scientists when researchers at the institute made many breakthroughs that were eventually utilised by the rubber industry. The IMR is one of the other centres of excellence in R&D, well known for its research in the diseases of the tropics.

The demise of R&D in Malaysia was well documented in three recent seminal works: the 2011 National Science and Research Council’s assessment on the performance of public research assets led by Prof Khalid Yusoff and Prof Jalani Sukaimi; the OECD Reviews of Innovation Policy in Malaysia published in 2016; and, a study along the same lines by the Economic Planning Unit released in 2017.

All these studies pointed out on the need to break down the silos among various government agencies, better collaboration between academia and researchers in research agencies, and eventually, cooperation between these two groups of players and the entrepreneurs, as well as innovators in the private sector.

The proposed Higher Education and Research Ministry would provide the solution and relief to the pent-up frustration prevailing among many academicians, researchers and industry players in the country today.

The writer is a senior fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and a former board member of the Global Research Council


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Having quality teachers crucial

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020
THE cornerstone of a truly successful nation in the 21st century characterised by the emergence of a knowledge-based economy is undoubtedly its human capital, which, in turn, is greatly shaped by its education system. As aptly stated by American political economist Lester Thurow, “In the twenty-first century the education and skills of the work force will be the dominant competitive weapon”.

Hence, a high-performing school system is crucial for transforming Malaysia into a high-income and sustainable economy. We also need to empower and “future proof” young Malaysians to thrive in the rapidly changing and disruptive workplace of the future that will be the result of the fourth industrial revolution.

We don’t need foreign experts to tell us what ails our school system and how to go about transforming it. What we need is to face stark reality, learn from our past shortcomings, and to muster the political will to institute much needed education reforms. We have sacrificed meritocracy and quality teaching for mediocrity, politics and an overdose of social re-engineering. Failure to transform our school system based upon systemic and brutal change will erode our nation’s global competitiveness, organisational productivity and individual well-being.

The fact that our school system needs immediate and drastic transformation is clearly evident. In the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, Malaysia (Form Two students) scored merely 465 in Mathematics and 471 in Science as compared to Singapore that scored 621 and 597 respectively. According to the Programme for International Students Assessment 2015 report, Malaysian students ranked 50th out of 72 countries in terms of reading proficiency, 45th in Mathematics and 47th position for Science, all below the corresponding OECD mean scores. Malaysia’s quality of school education even lags behind that of Vietnam (a lower-income nation) by a wide margin.

English proficiency has also deteriorated over time and this is one of the causes of the unemployment (besides a lack of soft skills and the required technical competence) of more than 200,000 Malaysian graduates.

Another area of grave concern is teacher quality: 46pc of principals report a lack of qualified teaching staff as a constraint in enhancing teaching quality. In 2011, researchers from Akademi Kepimpinan Pengajian Tinggi observed 125 lessons in 41 schools across Malaysia. They found that 50pc of the lessons were delivered unsatisfactorily with a focus on passive and surface learning rather than on active and deep learning, which are necessary to cultivate higher order thinking skills in students.

In short, the products of our school system are generally ill-prepared either for higher education or work. Our students lack critical and creative thinking skills because our education system promotes conformity and uniformity. Worse still, they have been “conditioned” to be spoon-fed.

The first step in transforming our school system is to determine the desired outcomes of Malaysian education: “What kind of knowledge, skills, values and personal traits should students have to enable them to thrive in a dynamic workplace and to function productively in society as ethical citizens?” To my mind, Malaysian students should possess adequate disciplinary knowledge (conceptual understanding); be self-confident and achievement-oriented; persuasive and effective communicators; demonstrate integrity and a strong work ethic; be fast, self-directed, self-reflective and lifelong learners; be resilient; demonstrate good interpersonal and teamwork skills; be good problem solvers with analytical and creative minds; be computer and information literate; and be productive and responsible citizens with inter-cultural tolerance.

Towards this end, schools should provide a high quality, broad-based and holistic education with emphasis on cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, moral intelligence, spiritual intelligence, and physical well-being.

Learning in Malaysian schools should shift from rote learning to conceptual understanding (deep learning) and real-world applications (authentic learning); from classroom learning to lifelong learning; from students as passive learners to active learners; from one-size fits all to customized learning; and from lower-order thinking to higher-order thinking. In the 21st century school, teachers need to function primarily as facilitators of learning and mentors and not merely as dispensers of knowledge.

Second, we need to recruit teachers based strictly on meritocracy and certain core attributes such as willingness to learn, strong communication and interpersonal skills, and being passionate about teaching. Hiring proper candidates into the teaching profession is extremely important as teacher quality is the most significant school-based factor in determining student outcomes.

Research findings show that over 30pc of the variance of school student achievement resulted from professional characteristics of teachers, teaching skills and classroom climate. Indeed, students placed with high-performing teachers are likely to progress three times faster as those placed with low-performing teachers. Simply put, the quality of a system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.

In this regard, the world’s top-performing school systems recruit teachers from the top third of their academic cohort, pay good starting salaries, and undertake high quality teacher professional development programmes to ensure effective instruction in the classroom. Take heed that poor selection decisions can result in up to 40 years of poor teaching.

Third, we must ensure effective school leadership as the quality of school leaders is the second biggest school-based factor in determining student outcomes, after teacher quality. Effective school leaders can raise student outcomes by as much as 20pc to 25pc. Transformational school leaders have a strong focus on instructional leadership and are visionary, inspirational, change-adept and, more importantly, they nurture a high-performance school culture which brings out the best in others.

Fourth, it is important to adopt an integrated and systemic approach – and not take a piece-meal approach – towards transforming schools. School transformation efforts must encompass clear student outcomes; a broad-based and holistic curriculum; competent teacher recruitment and development; effective school governance; varied and student-centric instructional strategies; optimisation of e-learning, appropriate assessment and feedback, and a high-performance school culture committed to excellence and continuous improvement.

Fifth and finally, both the Education Ministry and schools must ensure that there is a constructive alignment between learning outcomes, teaching and learning activities, and the assessment tasks.

To conclude, our nation’s future and the wellbeing of its citizens are greatly dependent on high quality education in our schools. Take heed that no amount of education reforms will bring about the desired outcomes without first having quality and dedicated teachers, high-performing school leaders, and a nurturing school climate that brings out the best in both students and teachers.

By: Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi.

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Child marriages: Sabah among top states

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

SOOK: About 14,999 child marriage cases have been recorded throughout Malaysia where Sabah is ranked among the top three together with Sarawak and Kelantan.

Sabah Democratic Action Party (DAP) Women Chief Clare Taunek said an awareness campaign is important to end child marriage for the future of the children and nation.

She said that child marriage affects all races, ethnicity, religion and gender and that it occurs in other communities, particularly in rural areas.

She said this during the Stop Child Marriage Talk campaign, held at SK Nandangan Sook recently.

Taunek said Sabah DAP Women is committed in organising the campaign at all districts.

She said the tentative programme include awareness talks with students and parents and forums between non-governmental organisations (NGO) and government departments.

There will also be study sessions in selected district based on the high number of child marriage cases, she said.

“Let’s break this tradition and I call upon parents and teachers to join us in making this campaign a success. We want to ensure the future of our children, especially our girls, so that they can have better future for themselves.

“Many in our society are still lack of awareness that children under the age of 18 have the right to education and to marry them off is a crime,” she said.

She, meanwhile, commended the school community’s efforts in raising motivated pupils.

Also present at the event were school principal Puan Safiah, PIBG head Puan Suana, village chief KK Raulin, teachers, parents and pupils.

By: Mail Matthew

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Tambunan school maintains 100pc UPSR pass

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

TAMBUNAN: Sekolah Kebangsaan Monsok Tengah maintained its 100 per cent excellent performance in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) for seven consecutive years, thus contributing to the overall achievement for the examination in the district here.

School Headmaster, Raphael Yahyo attributed the school’s achievement to the efforts and cooperation of all parties, especially teachers, parents and pupils.

He said based on level one of the Evaluation Assessment in Classroom (PBD), language proficiency is a staggering 90 per cent.

“The successful UPSR results has helped Tambunan secure first place in Sabah, with SK Monsok Tengah contributing 100 per cent to the success,” he said during the school’s Jasamu di Kenang and Orientation Transition closing ceremony, here, recently.

He said the three-week orientation programme aimed to get first-year pupils comfortable in the class in addition to building relationship with teachers, pupils and parents.

He said the programme was also to gather ideas from parents on how to further develop the school’s academic development, as well as explain on the roles of the Parent Teachers Association.

He said strong collaboration can maintain the schools’ performance, thus the reason each year they have programmes which can stimulate pupils’ learning and Parent Teachers Association towards success.

The programme also saw recognition given to two teachers, Vincent Tiun and Pius Kiob who will be retiring soon.

By: Yayasan Dalimpos.

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