THIS article is specially penned to elucidate the milestones that have been achieved by the Education Ministry.
Our milestones are neither perfect nor have we been able to solve the challenges at hand but we have got off to a good start. Riding strong on the people’s mandate, we shall work tirelessly to deliver results to them.
PILLAR 1: Benefits for Students from B40 Backgrounds
The Education Ministry has outlined nine core milestones. These milestones are focused on nine priority groups that we have identified. First, we want to ensure a balanced and equitable access to education so that no one is left behind, and in doing so, shall give undivided attention to the B40 group.
Besides the 60 per cent placements at fully residential schools and matriculation centres, beginning this year, B40 students shall also enjoy preferential access to public universities, as well as scholarship and financial assistance. This initiative is expected to benefit 23,895 students.
PILLAR 2: Primary Focus on Teachers
The second pillar shall be teachers; our primary focus. We acknowledge that teachers are the real heroic agents of change whose plight cannot be ignored. We are taking a two-pronged approach on this.
FIRST, in the interest of teachers’ welfare, the MOE is holding consultation with stakeholders to draw up a standard operating procedure to ensure teachers’ safety and wellbeing when taking students off-campus.
The MOE is also beefing up the roles and functions of the Inspection and Quality Assurance Board to boost teaching and provide better learning experience for students.
SECOND, we recognise that our teachers are bogged down with various duties. Starting this year, we have introduced five initiatives to reduce the teachers’ burden. Among others, these initiatives seek to eliminate overlaps and redundancies so that teachers can focus on teaching and learning, thereby increasing classroom interaction or facetime, which is a critical element in education and talent development.
We are also looking at several long-term solutions to tackle more complex issues which require revising the existing rules and policies, upgrading IT facilities and infrastructure. This includes the working hours for teachers, Internet penetration in schools, information system integration, administration and implementation at schools and teachers’ allocation.
PILLAR 3: Students at the Core
At the core of education is, of course, the students. Our third pillar is to give full attention to them. Examinations during the first phase of primary education (standards 1-3) have been abolished.
We want pupils to look forward to going to school and to have inquisitive minds. They must be able to learn without being pressured or forced.
We want fun learning to facilitate better knowledge absorption among pupils. This is part of our aggressive push towards a new paradigm of pupil-centred learning.
For children who are born to Malaysian parents, but who do not have the proper documents, they now can attend school. Some 2,635 children have enrolled since the beginning of this year under this policy.
Our principles are clear — education is the right of every child regardless of who they are or where they come from. Previously, upon being denied their rights to education, children in this group would often be out on the streets. Education would be able to save them from falling prey to crime and social ills.
This is in line with the ministry’s zero-dropout policy — Program Sifar Murid Cicir — a programme where no child is left behind.
Under this programme, 26.1 per cent or 262 students at secondary level have returned to schools.
Pillar 4: Commitment to Dilapidated Schools
We must also strive to future-proof our education, especially in meeting the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Towards this, MOE has pledged to always invest in our most basic infrastructure and facilities, all of which are vital for our children’s decent education.
The fourth pillar, therefore, is our biggest commitment today; to address the issue of dilapidated schools, something that I have personally witnessed on the ground. I have set up a dashboard in my office so that I can always get updates on this.
Of the 394 dilapidated schools, 301 have been refurbished and obtained the certificate of practical completion while 93 are in the process.
PILLAR 5: Full Attention to Special Needs Children
Our fifth focus requires special and frequent attention. Children who are disabled or with special needs will not be deprived of education.
In January, we had 1,486 special needs children who registered with us manually at schools, having missed the opportunity to do so online. On April 8, the number rose to 10,948. This is more than a 10-fold increase and is a huge achievement.
Those with disabilities can also continue their studies in public universities. Public universities are required to implement disabled-friendly policies on campuses. This will also be rolled out at private universities nationwide.
PILLAR 6: The Competence of Higher Education Institutions
We have implemented six initiatives under this, which are:
Abolishing Section 15(c) of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, which is the prelude towards totally replacing the act in 2020 with a more comprehensive legislation.
Campus elections for the first time were organised by students themselves after over 30 years.
A students’ union at each of the universities.
October 5th every year shall be Academia Day, something which academics themselves proposed to better recognise contributions that they make towards the academia.
Higher education institutions will be completely open for intellectual discourses, forums and debates for scholars and politicians alike.
RM455.35 million is allocated towards research.
To give students a more prominent voice by allowing them participation in a university’s decision-making.
The MOE is shifting the university’s trajectory towards becoming a solution or a problem solver for our society. Universities must be a competent social agent that drive social discourse.
PILLAR 7: More Collaboration in Higher Education Institutions
A roadmap specifically for this sector is being drawn up. Private HEIs will, for the first time, be involved in the crafting of policies that include them.
The MOE is also seeking to further strengthen efforts to internationalise the higher education sector. Among countries which will be involved are the United Kingdom, Japan, Jordan, France, China, Morocco, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Brunei. MOE is also in the process of signing memorandum of understanding to further collaborate in higher education and to push towards becoming the region’s education hub. We hope to make Malaysia the premier education destination.
PILLAR 8: Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)
MOE has convened a TVET Empowerment Committee in June last year. For the first time, we have implemented a harmonised accreditation and quality assurance system which allows for a flexible pathway for TVET article-ships up to level 6 and 7.
This is also the system that will be used by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) and Department of Skills Development (JPK) to accreditise courses offered by public and private TVET institutions within the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF).
PILLAR 9: Upholding Language, Culture and Literature
The ninth and final pillar is to address issues surrounding language, culture and literature. This is closely related to Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), the Malaysian Translation and Books Institute (ITBM), the National Book Council of Malaysia (MBKM) and Kota Buku Incorporated.
We have so far run the “Sasterawan di Universiti” (Laureates at Universities) programme where poet and laureates are placed at each university. This programme will be expanded to polytechnics, teachers’ training institutes (IPGs) and later at schools. Among others, we seek to make National Laurates more visible and play a bigger role in our society.
We also would like to make Malaysia a reading nation by 2030. For this purpose, we are running a National Reading Decade campaign with over 36,000 activities planned nationwide.
The MOE is also in the process of drawing up the National Book Policy and National Literature Policy, as well as revising the National Language Policy to promote language, culture and literature.
I believe these nine pillars will be the stepping stone for us to work towards higher achievements. The people have spoken, and their voice shall be our strength and guide.
The writer is education minister.