Preschool coordination: A small step towards a bigger educational reform - academics

KUALA LUMPUR: The government's move to centralise all preschool education systems under the Education Ministry has earned applause from academicians who believe this initiative will have a profound impact on the nation's education landscape.

Emir Research founder, Dr Rais Hussin, in commending the government's decision, emphasised that this step must be part of broader and immediate reforms aimed at transforming the entire education ecosystem in the country in line with global best practices.

In the spirit of impending reforms, he suggested that the government consider several changes in policies to restore much-needed education equity in the country, such as subsidising early education, similar to successful models implemented by Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, and New Zealand.

Highlighting the need for sweeping changes, Dr Hussin recommended reevaluating policies on school selection and class tracking based on performance.

He argued that such practices contribute to socioeconomic disparities, urging a shift similar to education systems in Belgium, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, and others.

"Moreover, leading nations in education either eliminate or considerably postpone the selection process for different schools, classes, or tracks within a school based on performance and/or individual subjects. Countries like Belgium, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, etc., have adopted this approach.

"With abundant empirical evidence, it is evident that these segregation practices disadvantage students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, contributing to the perpetuation and intensification of regional, social, and gender inequality.

"Conversely, deferring or eliminating such segregation has been found to, at the very least, not negatively impact overall performance," he told Bernama.

Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil was reported to have said that the curriculum for preschools would be coordinated by the Ministry of Education to streamline the system.

On Jan 22, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim emphasised the need to review the preschool education system, ensuring it receives additional facilities to improve the learning process. He observed that Malaysia lags in providing facilities to preschools, including digitalisation.

The Prime Minister also urged the Education Minister to review the entire preschool system.

Rais opined one of the urgent matters the government should look into to supplement its efforts towards restoring educational equity is the quality of educators at all levels, especially at preschool and primary level as a student's success depends primarily on the impactful teachers they meet on their academic voyage.

"Teaching cannot be simply subcontracted to those who could not find placement elsewhere in the industry. Among the top education nations, at least a Master's degree is a common requirement for a teacher in a school at all levels to bring more science to pedagogical practice.

However, more often, they hold dual PhDs, one in education and one in their respective teaching fields.

"For example, in Finland, becoming a teacher is more challenging than becoming a medical doctor. Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Singapore, and Switzerland are a few other countries where pedagogy is as serious a field as medicine or law," he said.

Meanwhile, senior lecturer at the Centre of Education and Diversity, Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Dr Anuar Ahmad stated that preschool institutions in the country, managed by various government and private entities, are perceived as disorganised and need to be strengthened.

"When we coordinate, we will clearly see where the need is to help our children in rural areas, children from poor families and so on. Right now, we lack clarity, and this coordination will result in a more efficient use of teacher manpower and allocations.

"This will, inadvertently, make the utilisation of funds more effective - not necessarily saving, but more efficient, and it will also standardise human resources. So, in my opinion, it is something good," he said.

Anuar also said the provision of infrastructure, especially internet access, also needs attention because children will be more motivated to engage in learning activities.

In addition to this, he said teachers should be equipped with child psychology skills.

"We want to enhance the quality of early childhood education by coordinating and improving infrastructure, which in my opinion, is a good starting point to build a higher-quality education system in the future," he added. --BERNAMA

Most Popular
Related Article
Says Stories