Education key to achieving goals

IN today’s innovation-led global economy, the correlation between quality education and a nation’s long-term economic growth could not be more evident.

In a local context, widening access to quality education is the only way for Malaysia to produce the knowledge workers necessary to become a developed nation by 2020.

The Education National Key Results Area (NKRA) aims to improve student outcomes across Malaysia’s school system to enable access to quality education for all students.

There are four imperatives based on the experiences of the world’s top performing school systems.

They are:

> the need to ensure every child succeeds;

> the need to hold schools accountable for changes in student outcomes;

> the need to invest in great leaders for every school; and

> the need to attract and develop top teachers.

Enormous strides have been made in the education system over the past 50 years and the adult literacy rate is now above 92%.

However, student outcomes are lagging behind countries like Singapore and South Korea and a transformation is needed in schools to strike a better balance.

To this end, High Performing Schools (HPS), which is part of the NKRA, and the School Improvement Programme (SIP) are two strategies that have been adopted.

HPS are primary and secondary schools that have met stringent criteria including academic achievement, strength of alumni, international recognition, network and linkages with external entities.

The first 20 HPS were launched on Jan 25 by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and another 30 would be announced soon. The plan is to have 100 HPS by 2012.

“These schools are the crème de la crème and we are pleased that they are meeting our expectations,” said Education deputy director-general (Education Operations) Datuk Noor Rezan Bapoo Hashim.

Explaining that HPS had to set the standard locally and internationally, Noor Rezan said that some schools were already projecting a good image for Malaysia and cited SK Bandar Uda 2 as an example.

“The headmistress has built a strong team and now the school is even a benchmark for Singapore.

“If a Malaysian school can rise to become a point of reference and uplift other schools in the process through the sharing of best practices, the future is bright and HPS are fulfilling their purpose,’’ she said.

The Government Transformation Programme (GTP) Roadmap states that HPS will receive incentives which include an annual allocation of RM700,000 per school, as well as RM1,000 and RM700 for school heads, teachers and non-academic staff in secondary and primary schools, respectively.

The schools also enjoy greater autonomy in decision-making and allow for high-achieving students to advance faster through the system.

Noor Rezan added that another interesting development was the nature of the links fostered between HPS and higher education institutions.

“SK Zainab (2) has links with Universiti Sains Malaysia and­ as more links are fostered, these HPS could even act as feeders for universities.”

While the HPS focuses on the top, the SIP is aimed at raising standards.

It challenges, motivates and supports all schools in Malaysia to improve student outcomes and make every school an excellent one. Low performing schools in Band 6 and 7 are given special assistance.

“We discovered that there were many low performing schools in Band 6 and 7 when we went about ranking schools and the SIP will help them improve their performance.

“Many of these schools have different problems – attendance, discipline, academic performance or teacher motivation amongst others – and a one-size-fits-all would not work,” says Noor Rezan.

The schools will be given partners, comprising lecturers of Institut Aminuddin Baki who are experienced in educational management as well as specialist coaches and excellent teachers.

After identifying the problems, key performance indicators (KPIs) are customised for the school and the partners brief the head teachers on the right approach.

Partners have been assigned to all 209 primary schools in Band 6 and 7.

Presently, 88 secondary schools are receiving assistance through the SIP and a second rollout which targets a further 340 will be done soon.

by Richard Lim.

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