WHEN the school holidays started recently, a nephew believed he will be in a class for those who are weak in their studies next year.
His actual response was rather crude, especially describing those who are in the Arts stream as “stragglers” and their only hope to do good in school is excelling in sports.
For those who are near the half-century mark, this brings back memories of how the education system was, at the time, putting a label on “those who are smart and those who are not”.
About a week ago, the government announced that there will be no more Arts or Science stream from next year.
This was preceded by several hints from the government in Parliament since early this year by Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.
Suddenly, those who had prepared themselves to head on to their destined Arts or Science paths are faced with a route with a network of 89 subjects, which they may not be familiar with.
Let us rewind back to the late 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s, where the majority of the present crop of working Malaysians were in secondary school, struggling with getting the right education that set their career path.
Very few probably got it right. Unless, of course, if they did vocational training, which provided them skills to give them a career head start.
But way back when, vocational training, or trade school as it was called before, was for the “weak ones”.
And there are those who slogged and struggled past the Lower Certificate of Education, which later became Sijil Rendah Pelajaran and Penilaian Menengah Rendah, and Malaysian Certificate of Education, which became Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia. And then there’s the dreaded Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia.
Excelling in these exams did not necessarily bring them success in their chosen careers.
Not all found good use to their knowledge on ergs and glaciers as taught in geography.
This new undertaking, to be called STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Arts and Music), will chart the educational path for the young soon.
Educators will somehow need to work their way in dealing how to teach their students and make them reach their full potential using the new system.
With the new crop of Form 4 students taking their place next year with STREAM, hopefully things will be better and they get to learn things they like or probably use to improve their lives.
Malaysia can probably take a leaf from the Philippines, literally, in their move to introduce a law for students to plant 10 trees before they can graduate from elementary school, high school and college in May this year.
It also helped youth take on a better sense of responsibility and, at the same time, look after the environment, no matter how small a role they play.
On how to approach the younger generation, the nation could probably take a look at the casual yet cautious approach by the new Indonesian Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Anwar Makarim.
The former chief executive officer of ride-hailing company Gojek called on teachers to begin “small changes” in their classrooms and reach out to students.
“Change is a difficult thing and full of discomfort,” he said in his speech ahead of the Teachers Day celebration in Indonesia.
Nadiem went on to say teachers should “engage their students in discussions, rather than telling them to listen; to give students a chance to try and teach in class; to initiate a social programme that could be participated in by students; to help pupils who lack confidence to unlock their talents; and, to offer help to other teachers in need”.
To Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, all eyes are on you.
The writer is former NST editor