Move to expand students’ potential

MALAYSIA - Students will be poised to make waves in the world job market as the Malaysia Education Blueprint aims to expand their potential and produce global leaders.

To produce these quality individuals, Education Ministry curriculum development division deputy director Dr Azian T. S. Abdullah said students must practise high level thinking, be fluent in English and Bahasa Malaysia and have a strong sense of ethics.

"Our current education system is considered good, but if we want to compete on the global stage, we must ensure that we meet international standards," she said in an interview at her office in Putrajaya.

Dr Azian said Malaysian students fared below the international average score in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Pisa is an international standard that evaluates three types of expertise which are the ability to read, sound knowledge of Science & Mathematics and how to apply it by student within an education system.Pisa also focuses questions that provides students with high level of thinking, while the current school examination, only focuses on the academic subjects.

Pisa is an international study that aims to evaluate education systems worldwide every three years by testing the competencies of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science.

Dr Azian said Malaysian students recorded scores of 400 and above but still below Pisa's international average of 500.

"We narrowly missed the mark. We have good students who score straight As but when it comes to competing on the international level, we could be better," she said.

She said one of the weaknesses in the education system was that questions in school examinations tend to be based on memory work rather than the application of knowledge.

"This is why beginning next year, more questions to stimulate high level thinking will be included in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM)," Dr Azian said.

She said the questions will be presented in a way that will make students analyse, evaluate and come up with creative ideas.

"We will also ask questions based on current affairs affecting the world such as food production.

"If we give them a chance to think, they will have to generate ideas. We cannot be spoon-feeding our students all the time," Dr Azian said.

She said there were also plans by the ministry to shorten the number of schooling years for excellent students.

"For primary schools, bright students will be allowed to sit for UPSR when they are in Year Five compared to others who will sit for it in Year Six.

"Similarly, for secondary schools, exceptional students will be able to finish studies in four years compared to five years," she said.

This meant that a student may be able to complete school after nine years as opposed to the conventional minimum of 11 schooling years.

"By doing this, we do not waste the student's time. If that student is brilliant, we should not hinder his or her progress. However, this is still in the planning stage," Dr Azian said.

In a bid to promote environ­­­­­men­­-tal awareness/conservation, Dr Azian said the ministry was also mulling to introduce a subject on environmental education to primary school pupils.

"We will consider introducing the subject in 2017 when the Standard Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR) syllabus is due for a review," she said.

She said the reason for exposing the subject to children was because of the various environmental issues which have cropped up of late.

"It is good to teach them about saving the environment at a tender age," Dr Azian said.

She said the ministry will also try to enable primary and secondary schools to have a more flexible schedule by allocating the number of hours a subject must be taught in a year.Currently, the ministry sets the number of minutes a certain subject must be taught in a week.

"For example, we can allocate for Mathematics to be taught in schools for a total of 200 hours in a year. Hence, schools must fulfil the 200 hours but it is up to them in planning the schedule to teach the subject," Dr Azian said.

She added that schools also have the option of increasing the hours as long as they meet the ministry's minimum requirement.

Aside from academics, Dr Azian said unity among students of various races and religions will also be given focus in the blueprint.

"We want to strengthen the unity among our children. There are some schools which are homogeneous, meaning that it is dominated by a single race and hence, students do not interact with peers from other backgrounds," she said.

She said the ministry planned to strengthen its programme to bring students of various races together via sports and co-curricular activities.

"In sports and games, our youths can interact, play together and compete with each other in a healthy way."

Dr Azian also noted that teachers have a big role to play in ensuring the quality of education in the country.

She said one of the targets in the education blueprint was to make teaching as a profession of choice.

"We have competent and well-qualified teachers but we also want them to have a sincere passion of teaching children," she said.

Dr Azian said teachers must have "pedagogical content knowledge", or a way to make ideas easy for others to understand.

"Some teachers do not know how to present their lessons in a way their students can grasp. Some even seem to be talking to the blackboard," she said, adding that such habits must change.

Dr Azian also pointed out that students must also have soft skills aside from doing well academically.

"At the end of the day, employers do not stress on how many As one has scored.

"They consider a candidate's communication skills and their ability to work in a team."

She said there was a need for balance in individuals and it was hoped that the education blueprint would bring out the best in every student.

The Malaysia Education Blueprint is set to be launched by Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Friday.

The preliminary report on the blueprint was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in September last year.

The blueprint will be implemented in three waves from 2013 to 2025.