Maszlee Malik

By AINUL HUDA MOHAMED SAAID

KUALA LUMPUR: The nation’s education sector has seen the introduction of various reforms aimed at promoting excellence in human capital development in the past one year since Pakatan Harapan helmed the federal government.

Driven by its slogan, “Schools for the Community, Universities for Society” the ministry is endeavouring to enhance the status and image of the teaching profession via the implementation of various initiatives aimed at reducing the workload of teachers and ensuring their well-being.

To relieve teachers of the clerical work they have been burdened with all these years, the ministry has simplified file management and documentation through three interventions, namely Textbook Loan Scheme, committee files and classroom-based assessment reports.

Data and online system management has also been simplified via two interventions, namely collecting data from the ministry’s existing sources and recording student attendance online.

Teachers are now also no longer required to fill up forms not related to their teaching duties, while committees unrelated to their sphere of work would be abolished.

Focus on Teaching

National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan told Bernama the new measures introduced by the ministry would give teachers more time to interact with their students.

He said NUTP has been working with the ministry since last July and has been having discussions with Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik and his deputy Teo Nie Ching on the implementation of the new work processes.

“What’s important is that the minister, who I feel is a teacher at heart, has begun the process of instilling into the ministry the fact that it should focus on ensuring that teachers perform their rightful task which is teaching and not be bogged down with filling up forms,” said Tan.

He also said that the challenges faced by teachers today are related to the issue of professionalism.

Citing the shortage of English teachers in Kelantan as an example, he said those who did not take that subject as an option were being forced to teach the subject.

“Surely there are shortcomings (in their quality of teaching) and their superiors, as well as the community, are putting the blame on the teachers concerned,” he said.

Teachers as facilitators

Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohammad Shatar, who welcomed the Education Ministry’s efforts to reduce teachers’ clerical duties so that they could focus on teaching, stressed on the student-centred learning concept.

He said this concept should be practised more diligently in schools to enable students to master 21st-century skills such as thinking and communicating skills and being able to work in groups.

According to Mohammad, the “one-way communications methods that have been in practice (in schools) for a long time” have not been effective insofar as the learning process among students is concerned.

He also urged existing and future teachers to stay abreast of the changes and developments taking place in society, such as Industry 4.0.

“Teachers have to be prepared to change their ways and methods. As teachers, they have to equip themselves with the knowledge and act as facilitators, where the learning process will be undertaken by the students themselves,” he explained.

Maszlee Malik

Abolition of level one exams

The Education Ministry has also abolished Level One examinations for Year 1 to Year 3 students, beginning this year.

Maszlee has said that the move to abolish the exams would hopefully mitigate the pressure faced by teachers and pupils and make learning fun.

He said the departure from examination-oriented learning would also encourage a higher level of interaction and cooperation between parents and teachers in developing and harnessing the children’s potential.

Through discussions with the teachers, the parents can identify the strengths and skills of their children, as well as weaknesses that need to be rectified.

It will also give teachers the space to be more creative in their teaching methods, as well as give them a chance to identify aspects of themselves that need to be improved, said Maszlee.

“Previously when the teacher gave a test, he or she would only be assessing the pupil. But when teachers make a more comprehensive assessment (of the pupil as is required now), they will also get to know their own shortcomings as well and will try to improve.

“So, it works both ways. Schools are not just there for students to develop themselves but also for teachers’ development,” the minister told a press conference at his office here, recently in conjunction with the first anniversary of the Pakatan Harapan government on May 9.

A preliminary assessment report on the abolition of the Level One exams for 1.3 million pupils nationwide will be released in June, he added.

Positive move

Ainul Fadzillah Mustafa, whose daughter Arreessa Zulaikha, 9, studies at a primary school in Shah Alam, is happy with the initiatives to improve the quality of teaching.

However, she is slightly concerned that the abolition of examinations for Level One may make it difficult for teachers and parents to detect which subjects their children were weak in.

“Nevertheless, I believe that education is more than just academic prowess. A good education should also make a person more creative, as well as equip them with noble values.

“More importantly, they should know what to do when inevitable problems crop up, especially when they start job-hunting and have to face rejections,” said Ainul Fadzillah, an entrepreneur.

She also said that it is still too early to gauge the effectiveness of the initiatives as they have only been implemented for four months now.

Media senior executive Liew Kok Ling welcomed the move to abolish examinations for Level One, saying that it was one of the best reforms the nation’s education system has seen so far.

“This is because children and their parents often face a lot of stress just before a school examination. What is more important is to hone the children’s communication and presentation skills and get them to participate in community activities,” said Liew, who has two children aged 14 and 11.

She hoped, however, that the teachers would set tests periodically to assess their pupils’ understanding of the subjects being taught, as well as evaluate their progress. – Bernama