Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Minister of Education, Please focus on the "software"

Over the weekend, there was the unfortunate interview Muhyiddin gave to Mingguan Malaysia which has generated negative excitement.

The interview has given rise to my concern that the new Education Minister may be obssessing with several matters that, I believe, will not serve the longer term strategy that Malaysia needs to undertake:

First, Muhyiddin's views reveals a frustration with the increasingly ineffective tactic of buying voter sympathies by throwing money at Chinese and Tamil schools. When money can't buy love there is much pouting and sulking.

Second, those views also reveal that Muhyiddin's appointment to the Education portfolio appears to have a deeper political agenda that may be counter-productive to Malaysia in the longer term. If the agenda is to create curriculum and, to get teachers to teach a curriculum designed to create blind loyalty to specific political parties, then, I'm sorry to say, Malaysia runs the risk of creating another lost generation.

Third, (which flows from the second point) the views will channel scarce resources away from the education of skills and techniques that will form the core foundation of a pool of human capital needed to augment Malaysia's shift from low-cost labour to high-skills human capital.

Granted that at primary and secondary school levels values must be taught. These values must be based on the broad aspirations contained in the Rukunegara.

But, due to the pressure of wanting to win the Thirteenth General Elections and, the self-imposed two-year time-frame to win the hearts and minds of Malaysians, I fear that Muhyiddin's focus as Education Minister will be misdirected to short-term goals at the expense of long term goals.

So, I may yet have to eat my own words and, review my earlier view of Muhyiddin's appointment as being an "inspired" one.

I had thought that he would be tackling bread-and-butter issues like the quality of education, quality of teachers, usefulness of the current curriculum, the medium of instruction and so on. But, if the focus is to regain lost political ground, then, these issues will be dealt with in a cursory and superficial fashion.

And, I say again, we risk creating yet another lost generation of Malaysians who do not have the skill sets to compete against Thailand and Vietnam and, certainly, cannot compete with China or Singapore. No need even to mention the Western economies.

In the past two decades, so much resources have been used to build schools (at very poor quality) and equipment (poorly maintained now) which may broadly be classified as "hardware".

Hardly any attention was paid to improving the "software" of better skilled and better motivated teachers. The end-product of Malaysian students were of below-average quality (below average when measured against students of the same age in other countries).

My call to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Deputy Prime Minister merangkap Minister of Education is to please focus on the "software" of the quality of teachers and the creation of high-quality human capital from our Malaysian schools.

We need better "software" in the forthcoming years when Malaysia's economic competitiveness or, the lack thereof, becomes even more glaring.


Anonymous said...

Well, its obvious that Malaysian education would have a lot in common with Malaysian football, i. e. it is in shambles because it is managed by incompetent/self serving people who got the job through politics rather than capability and qualification. Even the likes of the former Education Minister have some common sense to send his kids to study overseas. What is there to be surprised about? Even a simple thing like too many books couldn't be solved because of crony business interest. Makes you wonder, with all the money spent on IT equipment, they can't even have websites for the subjects they teach but are more interested in giving tuition for extra income. Looks like education is like "water filter", i. e. every man for himself!

leekh said...

Well said. If his views are allowed a free run then there is little hope of the education system coming out of the hole it is already in. Kindly keep on reading his lips.

Alan said...

Yes, the heavy schoolbags problem is solved... and more than that we are able to offer the following ...

1. Enables entire country (rural and urban) to access digital contents without expensive broadband
2. Empowers teachers from blackboard to digital enabled easily for entire country.
3. By going paperless homework/textbooks... a greener country.
<= 4. Lighter school bags ... use pen drives
5. Enable Ministry of Education to collate students' performance data for entire country anytime.
(You don't have to wait for year end examination results to know the progress of each student for the entire country. - Get it anytime)

Sounds impossible?

have a look here www.paperlesshomework.com

AGE is being promoted globally. Yes, there is a solution... you only need to know where to get that.


walla said...

Najib said the economy should be weaned from its dependence on electronics for forty percent of our exports and the new focus for the future will be on value-added services.

If this be so, then a good education system remains the backbone for the thrust to be made.

But if people continue to see everything persuaded primarily by the lens of politics, then it will be difficult to transform the economy from low-value high-volume labor-dependency to high-value smart-volume semi-automated services.

...meanwhile, to avoid boredom..


Ti Lian Ker said...

You put it rightly! The Chinese community used the hardware to be seen to be contributing to the education. The Nanyang Ten Most Popular Stars had through their concert raised millions of Ringgit to build halls and buildings etc
The politicians used hardware as a yardstick of their contribution.
In the process money acquired by illegal means were also accepted by schools to show the ability of the Board of Governors to raise funds for the schools.
This is morally wrong and against the spirit of education but Chinese schools gotta stoop down and compromise as a result of Government policies that do not provide biding funds for theses bantuan separuh schools.
Time for Muhyiddin to look into these policies that is out of time and contradict the spirit of our education.
Many convent schools are also facing this financial problem as a result of outdated policies. As a result, the teachers and headmaster ended up spending time and energy attending to the physical problems instead of education..