Decentralisation of Malaysian Education to Salvage a disrupted education system
Dr. Tan Ai Mei
Despite having the best National Education Philosophy and a very developed Education Blueprint (MEB), the root problem is the vast abuse of power and trust underpinned by political patronage in Malaysia. The issue of leadership accountability and system transparency is reflected in politically appointed leaders without insight and professional competency to carry out education reform. Every new Education Minister brings repetitive changes in education policy, KSU appointments and recruitments and fast track promotion of education officers and leaders from the same ruling party. It is reflected in school maintenance procurement projects awarded to JKR contractors and PTPTN loan donations channeled to state religious departments.
The most undesirable shift in the MEB implementation is empowering 10,000 PPD officers to customise school level changes. The PPD leadership lacks 3Cs (Commitment, Coordination and Communication) to see through reforms from A to Z. The PPD is a stepping for quick promotion of officers and upward movement to Head of JPN and the Director to head MOE departments.
The ‘nationalist agenda’ to standardize the SK Malay teaching curriculum in SJK schools and strongly biased One race History curriculum in the name of social integration and patriotism, has given rise to a conformist majority ethnic group intolerant of inclusiveness and diversity of a multi-racial society. It is reflected in the hate speech and abusive behavior school principals and rightwing political parties NGOs and Youth Wings seeking court injunctions to close the vernacular schools in the country.
National schools have transformed into monocultural (a single race and religion) learning institutions, with students from B40 to B50 largely in Kebangsaan Schools, middle and upper class in better-run national and vernacular schools and the wealthy in international and homeschooling. The trust deficit and aspiration for quality education among parents regardless of race and social economic status is evidenced in 15% to 19.6% Malay and Orang Asli children (2018-2020 statistics) enrolment in the SJKC schools.
The current public examination system does not assess student achievements nor teacher competencies and school effectiveness in delivering quality education. The failure of 11- year elementary education is reflected in the One-size fits all’ and ‘One-Rule fix all’ coercive curriculum policy (reflected in the phrase’ Menurut perintah’). In the past decade Mathematics performance dipped below average in the TIMSS assessment and Malaysia ranked 52th in PISA while Vietnam the 10th.
The KSSM enlarged and enriched the curriculum subjects to 82 but shortage of competent STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and arts and social sciences teachers has impacted on the delivery of education. The recent June Education Ministry announcement of 17,800 teacher vacancies reflects the long existing problem of commitment, coordination and accountability of leadership of MOE all these years.
The reward of lifelong rice bowl, automatic career path promotion and removal of professional competency test has created a 400,000 civil service teacher comfort zone. The reluctance to change the teaching approach and administration of classroom-based assessment has resulted in failure to master literacy and numeracy with a 20% lower secondary school student drop-out.
The transfer of senior teachers and administrators under the Teacher Redployment project has increasingly homogenised national and well-established Missionary and Chinese conforming schools to be mediocre like the majority of Kebangsaan schools. Senior teachers, administrators and school principals Educators increasingly opt for early retirement as a signal their lack of faith in the disrupted education system
Value(s) and Belief(s):
In order to salvage the country, we need to salvage education. The way ahead is to look in the direction of decentralizing education in the country. The UK ‘Academy School Model’ provides us a good recommendation and insight.
Proposal of Solution:
The UK ‘Academy School’ Model* is a progressive pioneer project initiative to realise the Decentralisation of education and fulfil students, parents and community’s aspirations in education. Politics is separated from education, underperforming school teachers are removed and those with attitude and ability issues dealt with decisively. Schools and teachers are given due autonomy respectively in the discharge of mission. So are their accountability for education.
The teaching curriculum adheres to parameters set out under the national curriculur framework. Schools have full autonomy to prioritise, sequence and focus teaching subjects and additional school-based curriculum in the best interest to benefit students. For eg. SMK St Mary Girl’s School conducts culinary life skill classes to benefit B40students as a potential career in future.
At the final stage of primary school learning, students are required (with flexibility to decide the time and number of times) to sit for literacy and numeracy competency test as well as the use of science knowledge in daily life. In the final year of secondary schooling, students are required to sit for standardised public exams such as SPM.
Schools under the status of ‘Academy School’ are 80% funded by the Government and 20% from the school TRUST fund. Teachers enjoy better pension scheme and job security. Professional accreditation bodies visit schools to ascertain if they are on track with self -determined performance goals. Teachers and principals are disengaged. Underperforming schools are aided by an agreed recovery plan and continual failure to perform resolved
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