EXEMPLARY: Three national schools receive strong support from their parent-teacher associations in their quest for delivering quality education
HEADMASTER Jaul Bunyau of SK Ulu Lubai in Sarawak is travelling to Brunei in 10 days to show teachers there how he manages his award-winning remote school located 55km from Limbang.
June will also be an eventful month for SM Arab (JAIM) Al-Ehya El-Karim in Masjid Tanah, Malacca.
It is expecting two busloads of visitors from a school in Klang, Selangor who are also keen to learn from the religious school.
These two schools have enjoyed a steady stream of guests and considerable attention since they won top honours in the recent inaugural National Excellent Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Award.
The parent-teacher body of SMA Al-Ehya El-Karim grabbed the grand prize of RM50,000 for being the best in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, the coalition of parents and educators at SK Ulu Lubai received RM10,000 as it was deemed the most deserving in the remote primary school category.
Organised by the Education Ministry, the PTA award celebrates the successes of model PTAs in government schools which have demonstrated good governance and commitment to making their schools nurturing places for young Malaysians.
“The ministry views such associations as its strategic partners. This award recognises the role of parents and teachers in realising the national education agenda,” says deputy prime minister and education minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on the rationale for the initiative.
Muhyiddin had mooted the idea for the project during the 2010 national PTA convention.
His vision is to allow all registered PTAs to demonstrate their management skills and share methods for creating innovative ways to improve academic attainment.
The contest is divided into district, state and national levels.
The six categories created for each phase — urban primary school; rural primary school and remote primary school; urban secondary school, rural secondary school and remote secondary school — ensure that schools compete on a level playing field.
Some 7711 associations submitted self-evaluation forms to their respective district education offices in January, in which they rated the impact of their activities on students and the community, and their aptitude for administration and financial management.
Only five associations per state made the cut for each category.
As Zaid Md Saman, president of the SMA Al-Ehya El-Karim PTA, puts it: “The selection process is stringent.”
Zaid, who has held the post of president for 14 years, recalls the judging panel spending five hours going through “the minutes of meetings, financial documents and interviewing parents, teachers and students”.
“Showing them videos of our projects was not enough. We had to present evidence to support our claims,” says Zaid, adding that his school went through two rounds of evaluations.
Hamzah Moidin, vice-president of SK (P) Methodist, Kuantan PTA, says the process was equally tough for his daughter’s school.
“Luckily we were able to satisfy the judges with our records and effective school programmes,” adds Hamzah, whose team won the best primary school PTA title and RM30,000.
Indeed, all the eight schools that were honoured this year (see table above) had proven their merit as dynamic and forward-looking institutions.
SK (P) Methodist had impressed the judging panel with its healthy breakfast programme which it introduced to its Year Six pupils last year.
“We discovered that the majority of our pupils came to school with empty stomachs. They only get to eat during recess at 10am after two hours of lessons. That should not be the way,” says Hamzah.
The group then sponsored milk and cereal for Year Six pupils to eat before class, goaded on by research findings that suggest children concentrate better in class after a nutritious meal.
The move worked — the pupils performed well in the last Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR).
The school has extended the meal programme to learners in Year Four and Five. It is also collaborating with the state health department to plan “a balanced menu that can be served at the school canteen”.
SMA Al-Ehya El-Karim, on the other hand, amassed some RM1m over a decade through fund-raising events.
This had enabled it to purchase school vans and build a multi-purpose complex, among other facilities.
“We are lucky to have generous alumni members. This school used to take in students who failed their Sijil Rendah Pelajaran and prepped them for resitting the exam. Many feel indebted to the school for giving them a second chance,” says Zaid.
SK Ulu Lubai’s recent accomplishments including winning the prestigious Commonwealth Education Good Practice award are indications that its parent-teacher association would do well in the
Headmaster Jaul Bunyau says that close ties between parents and teachers have made the PTA’s victory possible.
“Our students perform well in their studies because their parents are committed to spending a few hours on week nights to supervise their children’s homework,” adds Jaul, explaining the school’s 100 per cent pass rate in UPSR.
These exemplary schools are willing to share their formula for success with others, even though this means more competition for themselves next year.
Zaid sees the rising interest in his school as a sign that “others consider it as a benchmark for improvement”.
Jaul agrees, adding that the biggest challenge is “to improve on our performance this year”.
“The win has motivated the Ulu Lubai community to try even harder,” he says.
The same goes for SMA Al-Ehya El-Karim, says Zaid.
“We do not mind sharing but we also have a few ideas up our sleeves. We would like to retain our title for next year,” he adds.