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KUALA LUMPUR: Truancy, especially among primary schoolchildren, is rampant, with more than 8,000 cases registered by the Education Ministry in 2010 and last year.
Although there was a decrease from 8,313 cases in 2010 to 8,266 last year, the number of pupils playing truant and resorting to indiscipline is still high. As for secondary schools, 11,232 cases were reported in 2010 and 10,488 cases last year. Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said yesterday that the high truancy rate could be attributed to several reasons.
“Inadequate infrastructure, especially in rural and remote schools, contributed to the higher truancy rate in rural areas compared with urban schools.”
According to a survey conducted by the ministry, 58.85 per cent of truancy cases last year involved students in rural areas, as compared with 41.15 per cent in cities.
Puad said: "Poverty and lack of interest in studies are other factors contributing to truancy."
The ministry had announced in January that it was conducting a study with the Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF) and Universiti Malaya on factors contributing to truancy. It expects the study to be completed in October.
Education director-general Datuk Abdul Ghafar Mahmud said the statistics indicated that students' disciplinary problems, including truancy, were under control.
"The average rate of students' disciplinary misconduct was as low as 2.07 per cent between 2007 and last year."
Ghafar said the ministry had taken measures to overcome truancy, including getting teachers to become students' mentors.
National Parent-Teacher Association president Datuk Mohd Ali Hassan said the education system, which focused too much on academic performance, was partially to blame.
"The physical and emotional development of children is not taken into account when teaching.
"This imbalance causes them (children) to lose focus and interest in their studies."
Ali said teaching methods also needed to improve as "one method that fits all" didn't work.
"One class has an average of 40 students and each of them is different. Therefore, teachers need to combine different methods for the students."
He said students who had lost interest in their studies could start a chain reaction of truancy.
MCPF vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye cited students' increasing lack of commitment to their studies as a factor.
"When not feeling committed, these students are easily influenced by their peers or other environmental factors."
He said schools could not be blamed entirely as they were "trying very hard to curb truancy".