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The Great Malaysian Education Debate: Readers speak

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Francis Loh’s piece “How to reform Malaysia’s ailing educational system” has prompted several of our newsletter subscribers to respond. (Subscribe to our free newsletters.) We reproduce their comments in the hope of sparking further discussion and debate. Please leave your comments at the bottom.

Khong Kah Yeong: Thanks for this piece. It brings to mind a flood of other factors that I thought contributed to the worsening standard of our education. Apart from the alleged abuse of the marking schemes used to assess the answers from the candidates in the national exams, I wonder whether the way the majority of the teachers were taught in their religion has not influenced their attitude and the way they in turn teach their charges.

If I am not mistaken, their learning of their religion is more by rote learning than by discussion and logical reasoning with the result they have been drilled into accepting word for word from their holy book, and nothing else.

This in turn might have translated into their accepting their students’ answers as correct only if these answers are from the prescribed textbooks or in the marking schemes. This makes them drum into their students that they should reproduce only what is in the textbooks for their answers, hence stifling any original or analytical thoughts by the students.

How then can the students do well in international tests such as the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), which requires analytical and logical thinking?

Wouldn’t this lead to a nation of yes-men zombies?

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Another factor is the policy of requiring schools to have a certain percentage of their students in the science stream. The result? School heads push hardly qualified students into the science stream to comply with the directive.

These students, however weak they may be in the sciences, are not allowed to – or at least strongly discouraged from – changing to the arts stream or whatever other stream that they would do well in. What results can one expect then when they sit for the Pisa tests?

There are many other factors as well including how teachers are selected for promotion or school heads selected for higher posts. Suffice to say, that many hardworking but not outstanding teachers are nearly always bypassed year after year resulting in them in them being discouraged and refraining from giving their best again. Instead, they spend more time seeking other sources of income instead of focusing on their school work. Can we blame them?

E Yee: I would like to share my thoughts. It is not wrong to follow Estonia‘s and Finland’s good education systems to better our education system.

But why not follow our next-door neighbour in the South, which was part of us in the past? We even have the same ethnic, cultural and religious mix! Would it not be best? Statistics already show it to be second just after China. Just do it now. This might even save our leaders’ travelling expenses to visit Estonia and Finland to ‘learn’ from them in future?  

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Yes, each time a new education minister replaces the previous one, inevitably there will be changes to the system, whether or not we like it. Don’t we realise it causes all sorts of mixed feelings like confusion and even unnecessary expenses to comply with new rules and regulations. May God bless us all! 

R Ng: Any surprise we are still a third world nation and some of our leaders have backward minds even if they have so-called PhDs…

G Singh: Reforming the current education system may not be considered to be compatible with the interest of some in positions of authority or power, and thus no changes may be considered.

Join in the discussion. Leave your comments below.

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