Tag Archives: malaysian education system

Which matters more ? Better teachers or better learning processes?

What if the shortage of gifted, committed, teachers were a problem? (It is).

What if the best students get held back by a mediocre education system? (They are).

What if students who are already academically behind because of socioeconomic inequalities get left FURTHER behind because the students in the top 20% pull away and the top 60% push harder to pull up behind the front runners?

What if education became the Great Unequalizer?

Would a country be better off having 80% of its people of working age performing below their intellectual and other capabilities in order to accommodate the feelings of the 20% who cannot catch up?

Would a country be better off losing its top 20% to other economies because of a lack of educational stimulation or challenging and rewarding enough career opportunities at home?

I answered the first two questions. You, the reader, will have to answer the rest and see what it means for our country in terms of unity, integrity and prosperity.

The NEP was designed to bring the bottom 20% up and in doing so it created opportunities for 50% to have a false sense of achievement, 20% to leave and 10% struggling to make sense of the reality they are trapped in. We have a sum of mostly very average to inadequately mature or informed people forming the bulk of our population and labor market. They’re too smart for blue collar work and too dumb to create dynamic solutions and growth to match the world economy.

Catering to the bottom most portion has proven to be a disaster in the long run. And now we have to make a turn around and be an elitist society where the cream of the crop in schooling, are again, valued and worshipped and set the tone for the majority in the middle to pull up and  improve their personal standards.

Here’s the writing on the wall : (Parents, read this very carefully) :

1. The party is over. There are no more short cuts. All those years of criticizing the MOE for producing students who only know how to regurgitate answers? All those years criticizing endless tuition because the teachers at school are not skilled enough to transfer learning and asked students to attend tuition outside? That era is over.

2. If you are in the bottom 20 – 30% you will get increasingly left behind. This is more true of your family’s economic prospects and educational level than it is for your child’s one-time school results. If you are reading this blog you are likely in the middle 60%. The question is how to not be so far behind the top 20% that your children have to compete very hard in the open market with other 50% – 60%.

3. It is a scary time for unskilled teachers who are used to teaching by the book, buying workbooks, relying on smart boards and copy and paste for their school based assessments. It is a scary time for tuition teachers who rely on books that can be bought or imported to photocopy and let students practice in class. This is not the end of all published materials. Books and worksheets, along with other resources, will be used. The key word here is “rely”. Meaning, the teacher has to go through the book or material first before entering class and prepare the answers first in order to have the confidence to teach. KBAT will be extremely problematic for these teachers.

4.English – The focus and theme of this blog : I’m sorry, but your “pasar English” and communicative competence was enough to serve your needs during your time. However, for your children’s generation, they are coming up against a global world of ESL speakers who rank and judge each other by their level of intellectual clarity, diction and PROFICIENCY in Received Pronunciation English. Your Malaysian English may be good enough to communicate basic instructions to customers but in a future where computers are handling all basic correspondences and we need human beings to research, influence, persuade, negotiate, make an impression – your children’s level of English, unfortunately, reflects whether they had a prestigious education or not.

I’ll give you an example of how 20 years makes a difference. Whenever a 50 or 60 year old aunty realizes I have kids with a foreigner, their automatic assumption is I must have been relatively educated. I asked them why do they say that? They said it must be because I am able to speak in English that I am able to marry a foreigner. I find this HILARIOUS for 2 reasons. Why didn’t they think the foreigner is a Bangladeshi or someone from a generally non-English speaking country? Is it because Chinese women are of a higher social status than immigrant? Or that Malaysian women will want to “marry up” and the way to do that is being educated enough to be fluent in English? And why did they think being able to speak English is a pre-requisite to “marry up” ? (Since they have absolutely eliminated the possibility of me “coupling down”)

20 years, 30 years ago, being able to speak English was a tool for upward social mobility. Nowadays, even Thai prostitutes can speak enough English for upward mobility. We now judge and rank people not by their ability to communicate in” enough English to marry a foreigner” but in their ability to lead, persuade and influence. And in the future, if you only look across the Causeway at Singapore, the trend is starting that if you have broken English or do not write or speak with a certain level of diction and clarity, your “commercial and economic prospects” and respectability, among other things, become diminished.

5. Your children can’t get into the top 20% cream of the crop doing the exact same things the years before have done. You can’t actually go to any of the many tuition centres or hire untrained “freelance” tuition teachers who are not experienced and knowledgeable about how HOT and KBAT works to help your child get into the top 20%. What is possible is to be mentored under former professionals in their field who have trained others in systematic thinking and practice. It is one thing to help your child with someone supervising your child’s work but you could be sabotaging your child if the person who is his or her tutor either drills your child for answers or makes your child accommodate their old way of thinking of obtaining answers. You have to think carefully about whether your child will model after Lower Order Thinking processes (the common practice) or Higher Order Thinking (the way forward to the future.)

So, now, let’s look at this scenario of all the points above and put them together – is the answer better and more qualified teachers? Have you come to agreement about Higher Order Thinking becoming the aims of Malaysian education? Or do you think we still want to focus on school children memorizing, regurgitating, going to tuition and spitting out answers? Do you want a nation of Straight A-s who can’t think creatively and critically? Or do you prefer a tested solution where with enough tuition and stress the child will get 90 to 100 marks without understanding anything they’ve learned or why.

If you have any questions and comments please put them below or on my Facebook post and I’ll be happy to answer them.

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Filed under Future of Education, Malaysia, On teachers

More hours for English lessons in primary schools.

The Star is always encouraging students to “read” by offering a subsidized subscription for school students. You can take the teacher out of an NiE program but you can’t take an NiE program out of a teacher, it seems.

So last Sunday we took a look at the freshest news in the Education section. First up : more periods for English and Bahasa Malaysia in primary national and vernacular schools. In general, students disagree with the move – which periods are going to be replaced without extending school hours? Most suspect it’s a political move to reduce the number of periods that are being conducted in the Mother Tongue language. Well, it’s been approved by the Cabinet so what is there to do about it?

A homeschooling parent commented on my Facebook Page that adding more time for the teaching of English (let’s leave out Bahasa Malaysia) is akin to drowning a plant with more and more water when we realize it’s withering. Honestly, that’s how I kill my plants – from leafy ones to cacti. I ignore the fact that I have to be sensitive to what each plant needs for it’s optimum growth – all I knew about plants was what I had learned in my primary Science textbook. That’s generally the way I’ve been approaching everything in my life – using a sanitized,textbook approach. Isn’t that the consequence of modern schooling?

The general feeling, from the teachers and parents interviewed in the article and from students in class is that we should just have better teachers. So what makes a better teacher? It’s true that with better teachers you might not even need a standardized curriculum after all – only the most incompetent teachers or the most elementary of students need a textbook to lean on. A majority of English teachers just wing it and they are often able to take students to greater heights this way.

We had a raised hand offering the idea that “CRITICAL THINKING” maketh a good teacher. But critical thinking is not something you can teach – or can you? Another student suggested, then start nurturing critical thinking from a young age.

I think we have to look at the origins of schooling for some context. The purpose of schooling was never to help us learn. We were learning fine for thousands of years and great civilizations have come and gone and brilliant technologies and arts have been devised and created without the need for schooling as we have come to know it. The purpose of 20th Century schooling – and to highlight a point made by Ken Robinson – there were no mass schools prior to the 20th Century, they came to be to support the needs of Industrialism – is to create good, obedient, factory workers.

If critical thinking were allowed, our world would be a lot flatter. If critical thinking were allowed we wouldn’t have had the same government for as long as the Chinese have had a Communist Party.

So you see, it is pointless to argue about how to solve the problem of English language proficiency in Malaysian schools. It is just another sugar-coated distraction to placate voters angered by the abolishment of the teaching of Science and Math in English. We simply cannot find enough people in their 20s and 30s with the proficiency and with-itness, willing to be a cog in the terrible machinery of 20th Century schools. Teaching is the one profession where more money is not necessarily the carrot that moves the donkey. Good teachers do not make good, little, factory workers nor efficient paper pushers.

Voters and vernacular schools beware. I honestly doubt the BN-government’s intentions of adding more English periods. It’s about the kind of teachers you have, not cheaper textbooks, more workbooks or longer hours.  Do read this post about what teachers in other parts of the world have to say about what really matters when it comes to a quality learning experience.

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Filed under ESL in Asia, Malaysia, TEMS policy, Up the ante on teaching

Do Chinese schools kill creativity double time?

Do Chinese schools kill creativity double time?

Slide1I’ve posted some videos and an article here and there surrounding the theme of Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED Conference keynote – “Do Schools Kill Creativity.”

With regards to that, I think Chinese schools kill creativity on overdrive, triple-time and with a C-word sense of duty.

Doing more and being better at killing creativity.

First, there’s tons more meaningless, repetitive, drill work in Chinese schools. I cannot believe my eyes that students copy word for word (words they don’t understand, sometimes) off a textbook. Continue reading

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Get out of school – NOW!

Year : 2008. Get out of school NOW if you haven’t done so yet is akin to getting out of the mass-comm-advertising-marketing train back in 1995. From Futurist Speaker Thomas Frey of the Davinci Institute : This future learning system will start outside our existing education systems sometime within the next two years, and cause a revolution to begin. It will be greeted by some with open arms, welcomed by most inside our existing education system, but will eventually force new systems to develop, and schools as we know them today will cease to exist within ten years. Their replacement will be far better. Continue reading

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Filed under learning about learning, Rethinking Parenting & Teaching

A message to my students.

Dear students,

Let me tell you what I’m up to. As some of you might know, I have been trying to bring world-class English language learning into our classrooms hoping to prepare learners for the 21st Century. In the past 2 years, I have been running my own Incubator Language Center to experiment with how Chinese-speakers improve the best. I have come up with very useful information and experience to help EVERYONE succeed. I have found an approach which GUARANTEES success in learning.

website

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Filed under Rethinking Parenting & Teaching, Up the ante on teaching

Me No Stupid – The irony of the Malaysian education system

For more than 2 years I have been running a sole-proprietor entity where I hope to actualize my theory that Leadership and Environment are essential in Second-Language Acquisition. The idea was to do everything school isn’t doing. The logic was, if Malaysian schools are failing so miserably in teaching English as a Second Language shouldn’t we do the exact opposite to obtain some success?  How I’m reverse engineering failure.

To know how miserably school is failing is to know that the tuition or cram-school industry in Malaysia is a multi-billion dollar one. Continue reading

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Abolishing vernacular schools and focussing on the actual problems of teaching Science and Math in English

Yes. We should abolish the term vernacular schools and make them equals to kebangsaan schools. Why do we call them ‘kebangsaan’ schools anyway? Schools that nationalize people? Do we need to actually ‘teach’ nationalization? We wouldn’t have had to if politics simply got out of the way of education. So, yes – we should abolish the term ‘salah satu jenis kebangsaan’ and make verncular schools kebangsaan schools. What’s wrong with simply celebrating the richness and diversity in languages that makes Malaysia so unique? What’s wrong with switching from one type of school to another? There would be nothing wrong if vernacular schools were simply just schools.

That Mahathir’s son…what’s his face – said that all vernacular schools should be abolished to promote unity. He has a point there eventhough he dared not say what really needs to be told. The problem is not in the teaching of non-Malay languages, the problem is the race-politics and racist indoctrinations promoted through these schools! He couldn’t come on out to just say that unless he went undercover (like I did) and saw it with his own dua-biji….mata.

I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that he’s not some ignorant race-chauvinist because I have deep reverence for his father and respect for his sister. However, if he is the black sheep of the flock, then it would be truly regrettable despite the fact he came from such a pedigree stock.

Speaking of my reverence for Mahathir, there has been only one public policy he has stamped his mark on that I have not supported. (There may have been other views by him but I only pay attention to the headlines that get the most airtime, like KLCC, standing up to the IMF, the Look-East policy, championing South countries,…). Everything Mahathir suggests and says in public, I jump out of my chair in support. He could not have delivered it better. People who call him pemimpin kuku besi or hate his guts simply have none of their own. I suppose that’ explains the unmerited gravitational towards  Abdullah Badawi which ended up giving him such a landslide victory. Now that Malaysians get a true taste of what it’s like to have no-LP, I am sure they have a new appreciation of Mahathir.

Way back when, I knew Mahathir made the wrong move in pushing for Maths and Science in English. But to his credit, he didn’t have much time left. Whether he left it as it is or drove the gear into this massive experiment, nothing much is lost. He knew his successors would have neither the will, vision nor LP to consider radical change. At least in this way, we were jolted out of our very infamous Malaysian attitude of dragging our feet about getting anything worth doing done.

There are those who fret about how it’s been a great waste of time and money and our children being treated as guinea pigs. But what makes us so sure that the same amount of time and money would not have been spent on even more wasteful activities? Like, sending five space tourists instead of one?

At least, having done this form of ACTION RESEARCH we have amassed a mountain of data and insight into the deep problems of our nation’s human productivity and capacity and not wait til it is way too late. We Malaysians have a way of ignoring falling rocks and tilting buildings with an over-optimistic view that a massive erosion and landslide will not occur just because all the signs says it will. (Yes, just because). If we can ignore signs of devastating floods and landslides, do you trust us to actually ring the alarm on a quiet deterioration of Malaysian minds?

So now we know that most of our schoolteachers are not qualified! Hahahahaha! I am so delighted to know that I was right about some of my teachers – that they did not become qualified teachers by virtue of their initiative in learning nor pioneering insights to teaching. It also has nothing to do with inherent intelligence and productivity since everyone knows that teaching is the last resort for those who did not qualify for choice courses.

Memories are fallible, but perhaps some of my classmates could validate this later on. I remember one time in Form 4, I told my History teacher that in order to teach a chapter on the Industrial Revolution or the Renaissance or Islamic history, she needed to acquire the experience and covered reading the width and breadth of those his-stories. She did not know who Michaelangelo was and could not extend further about his works and pronounced his name, “Mee-kah-eh-lang-e-lo”.

Anyway, time to grow up and be an adult about this. I spoke at length to some primary school teachers and I actually sympathise with them. In front of a class, they have to present themselves as authorities. It’s probably very damaging for their self-esteem to have a student point out their ineffectiveness and ignorance, and disheartening to know that they cannot do their job to their best ability and holding their students back at the same time. That is what any teacher who is not proficient in English would be made to feel.

As Head of Department once, I had a choice between hiring a teacher who is fluent (but neither proficient nor had a convincing recipe for effective teaching) or a Chinese-educated teacher who has demonstrated a great ability to bond with students, is highly committed and dedicated to learning and is passionate about guiding her students to achieve. I chose the latter, because you can buy a piece of certificate, but you can never buy passion and the drive to learn. Of course, if I really had a choice, I’d go for a proficient speaker with insights into language learning and acquisition, training, width and breadth in knowledge, applications and theory, great presenter with humor yet able to control a class without being an impeding authority, etc.

From the day I started teaching, I’ve always had this fantasy that we could do teacher-training the way we do direct-selling training. I really love the way the MLM-ers achieve their goals. The good companies have a wonderful mentoring system with practical coaching and motivating approaches and tools to drive people to become self-starters. I’ve always told myself, if I had not had a taste for words and writing and teaching, there is nothing I would love better to be than a network marketing coach who started out as the door-to-door saleslady working on commissions.

The only way I can see the government really helping teachers train and be self-starters is to include other-medium language schools in their fold – not as stepmothers, but lawful mothers of our future nation. I am sick and tired of the race politics being played out in school. I know though, that if we allow students to transfer from one-medium to another and have the flexibility of starting at a lower grade for certain subjects which they want to take in the other language and be allowed to take effective FL classes, racial politics could never happen in school. Imagine what would happen if children came back and could give feedback of what’s happening in their school that is negatively different from what they’ve experienced elsewhere? Imagine if there was a programme where teachers can transfer to different medium schools to share with other teachers their strengths and expertise in teaching a particular subject in L1 or as a second-language? Not only would it eradicate the opportunities for creating strongholds in racist ideologies, it would promote the proliferation of knowledge and languages.

Sigh…someone should really make me Hishamuddin’s policy writer. His policies would be so successful and popular it would propel him to Premiership even if his cousin was in his way.

Read more articles like this :

More Hours For English Lessons in Primary School 

Singapore and Malaysia Education for the 21st Century : More alike than different. 

In Support of Bahasa Malaysia Not English

Why Malay and Chinese Nationalists Protest over the teaching of Math and Science in English 

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