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Transparent policies required in national schools

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Has the education system been reviewed? If it has been, there seem to be few progressive policies implemented, complain Very Angry Parents.

Photograph: wn.com

It is with great shock that I have just come to know that streaming of students in my daughter’s school was based on their performance in Bahasa Malaysia, and I have heard that this is the practice in many other schools as well. Really there is a limit to the unfairness that students are faced with in Malaysian school system.

It is a known fact that students in good classes (or the A class) get more attention and better teachers. This is based on the premise that that these ‘good students’ deserve to get great results! Now if streaming is done according to the grades in Bahasa Malaysia, those students whose mother tongue is Bahasa Malaysia, will have an unfair advantage and an edge over the others because they would have the benefits of better teaching as they are given the best teachers and the best attention. Then aren’t we penalising students whose mother tongue is not Bahasa Malaysia? Are you parents getting it now?

Now, if really streaming is to be done so as to select good students, should it not be on the basis of the aggregate marks they secured, rather than marks secured only in the Bahasa Malaysia language paper? This undoubtedly amounts to unfairly depriving other students of their grades, if you have not given them the same set of conditions! It is time that all these policies are put in writing and published by the schools.

I feel terrible when people ask me which class my daughter is in when I go to fetch her from school. I squirm when I reply she is in the third class. I truly understand how she felt when she cried to me that she wanted her school to be changed for the shame she felt when she went to the third class in the school.

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I had to console my daughter that this policy of unfairness in our school system is endemic, that other national schools too would have pretty much the same policy. I had to explain to her that because her parents are not cronies of ministers, we cannot afford to send her anywhere else but to a national school.

Now with the compulsory passing of History in the SPM, I will ask you to glance at the Form 4 syllabus, which has 50 per cent of topics on Islam. We all agree it is an exceptional religion and it most certainly needs to be studied, but so do other religions being practised in the country, don’t you agree?

Again, think about this, if 50 per cent of the topics have already been studied in Islamic Studies by a section of students, they will certainly manage a good grade. Now this may not be the case for those students who start off with a great disadvantage and are not so academically inclined and who may not be able to secure a pass. Bear in mind these students are also not familiar with the terms or the verses in the Holy Book. A point to note is the number of credits secured in the SPM exam, which determines the programme or course a student can gain admission to.

Furthermore. many of us parents whose children are in urban schools actually smelt something really fishy when the grades for Maths and Science in the schools went down in this year’s UPSR examinations. As if by magic, when it is time for a decision to be made to switch to Bahasa Malaysia, the results in these two subjects showed a down-trend! Amazing? Was this to prove a point, Mr Minister of Education?

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The number of prescribed note books for each subject should be reduced; the wastage is horrific. At the end of the year, many of the books have just one or two pages used. This is a huge waste and I wonder how the lower-income families cope.

There are no complaint mechanisms in schools for parents or students; neither is there any platform for student’s voices to be heard in schools with regard to their learning and the student experience. Many of us parents know that it is fruitless for us to complain to the schools as many of the teachers and heads are busy apple-polishing their bosses and care little about knowledge and how our children are affected by their policies. Pupils fear punishment from their teachers when parents approach the teacher over any issues faced by our kids and because of this, we have no choice but to remain silent.

Has the education system been reviewed? If it has been, there seem to be few progressive policies implemented. We seem to be stuck with politicians who are bartering our children’s future for votes in the elections. Our children are not pawns on a chess board to be traded for a seat in government or for high salaries and hefty perks. For us, the common citizenry, you continue with policies that are scarcely beneficial as we struggle to pay our monthly bills on our very meagre salaries.

So much for a high-income economy; let’s all forget about competing at the international level, when national policies seem to be pushing our kids back by decades and into the kampongs! Seriously, where are the voices of the academicians in our country? Why is civil society not speaking up for the rights of children who are being slowly marginalised? Do our elected representatives hear us?

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May we now remind our very noble Ministry of Education that Malaysia is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the child. The Convention “places a high value on education” to develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest. Bear in mind that the “best interest of the child” must be the primary concern in making decisions that affect them.

Parents, we are the stakeholders for the future of our children and this nation. Let our voices and choices be known and heard. Is it too much to ask that the schools our children are placed in have good governance? Yes, there are PIBGs but by now every one knows that mostly the influential ones get on board.

To the government, kindly make known the KPIs of teachers and school heads and how they have been formulated. We would like more representation of parents and students so that they have a voice in the education process. Policies followed in schools should be clearly published and our children treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve. Your impact on their lives is life -long.

Very Angry Parents is the pseudonym of an occasional contributor to TA Online.

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