16 May 2012
| last updated at 10:04AM
US shares winning educational reform with Malaysia
WASHINGTON: Pioneering educational reforms deployed in 27 US states are being exported to Malaysia to bring down dropout rates and keep children from lower-income families in school, educators said yesterday.
It is the first time that the data-driven Strive programme, intended to boost student success “from cradle to college,” is to be implemented outside the United States and on a national scale.
“We’re trying to stem the leaks in the educational pipeline,” said Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York and originator of Strive.
Zimpher meets today with Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and members of his cabinet at The New York Academy of Sciences, which she also chairs.
Strive attempts to keep children in school, and eventually emerge from university with diplomas in hand, by forging dynamic partnerships among educators, government leaders, social services, foundations and others.
“It’s really a fully integrated engagement that excites us,” said Professor Emiritus Datuk Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid, science adviser to Najib. “I am confident we can derive a lot of benefit from it.” In Cincinnati, Ohio, the Strive methodology has generated a 10 per cent jump in college enrollment — or four times that percentage in the case of one particular low-performing school compared to a year earlier.
“It has equalised what we call the achievement gap” between lower-income households and the middle class, Zimpher said in a telephone conference call.
Tighter collaboration between different levels of education, she explained, could lead to preschoolers proceeding to kindergarten after being capable of recognising letters and numbers — something that is not often the case.
But while the general concept is being shared with Malaysia, preliminary studies could result in changes to suit local needs as well as the Southeast Asian nation’s long-term push to become a modern knowledge-based economy.
“There are too many of our students (in Malaysia and the United States alike) dropping out of our educational system before they have reached college or tertiary degree completion,” Zimpher said.
“And that won’t work for students in a knowledge economy,” where someone with a bachelor’s degree typically gets a better job, higher income and, further down the road, healthier and better educated offspring, she said.
Those who stand to benefit the most in Malaysia are children in rural districts where family incomes trail well behind those in urban areas, home to much of the middle class.
“We know that middle class kids are getting educated very very well and they’re going to college in droves,” Zimpher said.
“But in fact, low-income students — which are disproportionately students of color or ethnic diversity — are not experiencing the same opportunities,” she added.
“The challenger for the United States and Malaysia and everybody else in the world is to get every kid educated to the quality that a middle class student has been used to for many, many years.” -- AFP
Candidates of the Penilaian Menengah Rendah examination (PMR) at Malacca's sports school,SMK Seri Kota,Jalan Ayer Leleh, Malacca.