Thinking and Education

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Continuous Education

Malaysia – Education Reformation 2.0

Once again, another round of “reformation” of another part of our educational system.

10 new strategies for producing excellence in higher education? A load of words. Make no impression on me at all. You think the people in the ivory towers would read, understand and implement all the 10 baskets of words?

I think there is a better chance of success for transforming our education system, the civil service and everything else if we just keep things simple. Lets whittle it down to four.

First item – Honesty.

Be totally HONEST! If there is something wrong, don’t blame others. If someone is responsible name that someone! We cannot allow wrong doers to hide away. If a group of people, a department is at fault, cast a spotlight on the whole group. The leader must put up his hand. Tell everybody what went wrong. Punish the negligent, retrain the inefficient and get rid of the lazy or useless ones. If need be the chief must be replaced!

Only by doing this can we get everybody to wake up.

Second item – No Religion at Work

This is a sensitive topic. Intentions and objectives are good but more often religious practices have interfered in negative ways in our working environment. Prayers have become compulsory for all. Unscrupulous people and charlatans have always found refuge in religion. Success and achievements in work and life is the result of hard work and continuous application. There is a person or persons who is/are responsible. Don’t blame God!

Third item – Meritocracy

Only qualified people should hold the position. The best must be put in place. It is not cruel. It is good. Save lives. Nurses, doctors, medical personnel..or those who think that 1 drop is 10 milligrams will kill you at best or make you suffer for the rest of your life. Roofs will stay intact. Machines will be properly calibrated, people will not be paid twice for doing nothing,  I can go on. Really people are not stupid. They will live up to your expectations. Expect the best, you get the best. Expect to fail people will help you fail. So no more concessions.

Fourth item – Master the Language of Knowledge – English

Anyone who says the Language of Knowledge is Arabic, is a fool. It is not Mandarin. It is not Malay. Not Tamil, Telegu or Malayalam. Just be honest. English. We started on the same English-level as Singapore. The chauvinists in Singapore was cut down to size by the no nonsense PM. The language of 90% of the people, the root of their culture, of their identity…Mandarin …was contained. English or perish! Pragmatism won.

Unfortunately we in Malaysia, succumbed to the threats of the chauvinists. The chauvinists have labelled the Malays as incapable of learning English. No need pass. Communication only okay lah. A few words, some gestures and head shaking became the English for us. But its ok, they have a natural affinity for Arabic! What an irony. And the result has been disastrous. If anything, this must be rectified immediately.

Fast Forward These 4 Steps

Don’t waste time. Just carry out the 4 measures now. You will see results in a month.

Filed under: Achieving Excellence, education

Parents, Beware!

There are vested interests in any institution. Schools are no different. Those who stand to benefit from schools are the administrators and the teachers. School principals in Malaysia have formed 2 organizations to protect themselves; the Headmasters’ Association for Primary Schools and the Principals’ Association for Secondary Schools. The teachers are protected by the different Teacher Unions, among which the NUT is most prominent. But generally there is an unwritten code of ethics which prevents teachers from speaking up against misconduct and dereliction of duty by fellow teachers.
What has hastened the crippling of our schools is that the predominant culture of the majority is not to be a “traitor” to your own race. While one does not want to “betray” the race, the other does not want to be accused of being “racists”. We have now got to the stage where bad practices have proliferated and entrenched itself.
Head teachers and teachers are responsible for the failure or success of the students. They have been trained for the job. They are being paid for the job. Their salary is also increasing automatically every year on the assumption that they are becoming more and more proficient, more knowledgeable, more skilful to carry out their duties.
Can parents ask the teachers why their children are not doing well? Can parents ask the English teacher why my daughter’s English homework is not marked? Can parent ask the Headmaster, why the Science teacher is not doing any experiment the whole year round? Can we ask the Headmaster what is the Grade Point Average of the school in the public examination?
If you send your children to one of the “better” schools, the head teacher and his/her team will tell you how “lucky” or “privileged” you and your child are to attend such an excellent school. Just remember, when your son/daughter is doing well, it is because of US and our great sacrifice! 5 “A”s? Come and thank us.
If your son/daughter fail, well you had better take him/her out. Our good school and good teachers cannot teach “bad” students, we only teach the clever ones. Take your child out before our good name is spoilt!

Filed under: education, GPA, schools, Teaching, , ,

Education – Your Child At Risk

Most children start their intellectual life with a handicap. From the day they are born they are taught what is right. They are then told to do what is right. This sounds very noble and good.

Unfortunately the child is never told that what is right is open to question and doubt.

In fact whenever the child asks why, the parents and all significant others try to find all kinds of “reasons” to justify what they say, do or belief about the world. The child is taught to “rationalize”. Its like a continuous debating exercise where the family encourage the young child to look at all the facts( this is for most educated and knowledgeable parents) and select, arrange or twist the facts to support what they say is right.

The child’s young brain is being taken through a process of being “hard wired.” The neural pathways are laid down. Thinking means justifying what you feel, say or do. This goes on subtly, through gentle persuasion and finally through authoritarian dictation. Some people call this child abuse or indoctrination. But most of us call this education.

The children are never told that what the family think is right may not be the same as what other families think is right. They are never told that there are all kinds of people in the world who do things differently. They are never told that they have the option or choice to select and choose for themselves.

In an ideal parent dominated world the child will not be capable of seeing the other side. Aware of other possibilities or world view.

What saves almost all children from this intellectual disadvantage is that the child is surrounded by a very diverse environment. People do things differently. Even when they come from the same community. Very often there is disagreement between the older and the younger generation. The parents may tell it different from the grand parents. The child will become aware of the difference between “mummy” and the maid. When the child meet children from other families, they will notice differences. When they go home they will ask their parents to resolve the differences. The parents then go on to repeat the “rationalization” process. But the child will be hit by the differences at the very next meeting with their friends.

This interaction forces the child to question. All the explanations to justify or rationalize does not hold up in the face of all the differences which the child encounters daily.

Obviously another mode of explanation is necessary. Another mental path must be opened up.

This mental path is to tell the child that everything is open to question. We have to hard-wire our children’s mind so that they are free and able to questions anything. In the old days we have difficulties in getting simple answers. We need to look for a teacher. The teacher’s knowledge maybe deficient. We have difficulty verifying. We have to read a book. The book maybe hard to find or not available. But today the world has changed. We have the internet. We can find answers to anything if we know how to ask questions.

This constant questioning will contribute to the intellectual development of the children.

Filed under: brain, education, thinking, , ,

Intelligence by Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education Malaysia works on the assumption that intelligence is limited to a few students who passed the “examinations” especially the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah scoring all “A”s in the subjects. The know what it is and they are very sure they have the right technique to identify this quality.

The MOE collects all these clever children placed them in special schools like MRSM, Sekolah Asrama Penuh, Premier Schools, Controlled schools etc. Every year when the public examination results for Form 5 students are announced, inevitably the best performing students and the best performing schools are these pre-selected students and special schools.

Apparently they are right. They know and the UPSR examinations truly separates the clever from the stupid students. So convinced are they that they are going 1 step further by creating 40 High Performing Schools, 20 primary and 20 secondary schools. All the best of the best will be closeted in these schools. They will also identify and send all the best teachers and super principals and headmasters to take charge of these schools.

The public has also bought into this idea. They are now clamouring for more of these schools to be set up so that more children can be sent there. Looks like the support for this is overwhelming! Indeed we should not be surprised as most of our top officials and administrators are products of this type of schools.

But wait, something is wrong. Very wrong!

Question, Why does the MOE want to confine these students to special schools? If clever children have to be confined to special schools, are they the same as those that we confine to special places like Tanjung Rambutan or Pulau Jerejak of old? What is wrong with these children that they have to be confined to special environment?

One possible answer is that “intelligence” is very delicate. It evaporates, disintegrates or vaporizes when it is open to normal school environment. Perhaps if “intelligent” children stay in the same house as their parents, they will likely lose their special quality?

Or maybe it is because of the “other” students? The Stupid ones? When intelligence is juxtaposed with stupidity, intelligence will lose. Stupidity will permeate the brains of the intelligent children causing them to become stupid? Stupidity has nothing to worry. It will remain strong and dependable. Stupid will be stupid, always! Is that the reason why these “special schools” are created?

tbc

Filed under: brain, education, intelligence, , ,

General Intelligence Measure – Are We Up or Down?

The unwritten and painful objective for educational administrators is for them to improve the general intelligence of the population. The stark truth is that our education is falling behind. The officials in the MOE have hoodwinked the Minister of Education and everybody else about the great heat and noise of a transformation plan they had put out.
For those who are in on the secret IQ tests measure intelligence. But going by popular sentiments examinations results is the key tool for measuring the general intelligence or abilities of our children. Accepted wisdom is that if exam results are improving then the level of intelligence is rising and vice versa. This accounts for the considerable excitement and trepidation whenever exam results are coming out.
Recently the Director General of education announced that there has been a decline of the Grade Point Average(GPA) in the SPM exam results from 5.04 to 5.08 but assured us that this is nothing to worry about as the decline is only 0.04 and not 0.05! He had promised to explain. I doubt if any parent or the Minister understood what is so earth-shaking about the 0.01 in GPA drop. Anyway we are still waiting. For the moment, please understand that after four years of toil and effort by 400,000 officials and teachers, the general level of intelligence of our kids are down.
I can’t help but think this because the MoE is not presenting us GPA scores going back a few years which I am sure they have. Is this the indication?
Let me repeat. The education system is not going to improve! All parents in Malaysia should be very afraid. Putting your children in our schools is not healthy for their future!
It may sound alarmist but really the problem is very serious and not likely to be changed much less “transformed”. We need to shout a little bit louder and do some scare mongering to give the MOE  officials and teachers a wake-up kick!
The reason is simple. In any system where performance of the people in charge is not measured, the universal rule is that the bad will always drive out the good. There are slackers, incompetents and irresponsible officials in every organization. Where there is no appropriate action taken to identify, improve or remove these elements the rest of the officials will learn that copying the worse will be in their best interests.
As it is the noble teaching profession has three tiers of blinders to protect itself. Firstly educationists have succeeded in getting everybody to believe that examination results (especially bad ones) is a function of student weakness. Failing students with their parents would hold their heads in shame and trod off to do some self flagellation. Have you heard of anyone coming to bang the table and demand an answer from the teachers why you highly paid professionals do not have the ability to get my son to score 35 marks so that he can pass the damn examination?
Secondly the teachers professional code of conduct will silence anyone who dare criticize a  fellow teacher. The delinquent, incompetent, and lazy teachers can rely on fellow teachers to shield them from any light to shine on them. Conscientious head teachers could not betray their colleagues. So a cloak of silence prevails. Mediocrity and irresponsibility thrive in the dark corridors of the school.
Thirdly the system is so structured that you just cannot assign responsibility to any one teacher. Every student in school would most probably be “handled” by more than 30 teachers by the time he/she gets to UPSR . So who is responsible for the poor results in mathematics or english? The secondary school teacher will point to the primary school. The Form 5 teacher will point to the Form 4 teacher and the Form 4 teacher will point to the Form 3 etc. The most conscientious teachers will go home wondering the extent of his/her responsibility. But for most, “What can I do with all the accumulated gaps in knowledge and skills among the students?” is a rhetorical question left unanswered.
To cap it all, the less than wonderful teachers are further shielded by our high socio-cultural tolerance for looking the other way. I speculate that we are afraid to point out who these people are for fear that it may turn out to be a reflection of ourselves!
It is difficult to fight against the trend. Bad money drives out good. Bad people drive out good people. And so our education system is flushed with seriously under performing teachers (and officials). And that is why we all should be very very afraid.

Filed under: education, GPA, school

Malaysian Education – Negative Transformation?

When the SPM results for 2012 were announced there was a lot of news about the performance and achievements of students and schools. Unfortunately the Director of Education announced that there has been a decline in the performance of students in general. The Grade Point Average came down from 5.04 to 5.08. The total number of students involved were 472,541. He said that the decline was not alarming as it was only a difference of 0.04. It would have been different had it been 0.05! He said he was going to explain later.

Apparently the GPA is a big deal! I think this GPA stuff has gone over the heads of most if not all parents. It would be great if the reporter or the DG of Education had given some clue as to how to go about understanding the situation so that all concerned can wrap their heads around this “big deal”.

GPA is derived from converting grades achieved by students in the form of alphabets like A, B, C, D etc into numerical values of 1 to 9 (or some such equivalent) with lowest score starting from A (in our case). The point to note therefore is that lower is better. If a student offers 10 subjects in an examination, we take his alphabet grades and assign the appropriate numerical value. Let us say that his total score from 10 subjects is 46. To get the GPA we divide 46 by 10, which equals 4.60. If we do this for all the students we can compare the relative performance of the students.

To calculate the GPA of a group of students in a school, district, state or country, we add all the scores (numerical) of all the students in all subjects and divide it by the number of subjects and then by the number of students. To illustrate, let us assume that we have 100 students in our school, each taking 10 subjects. The total number of scores we add is from 10×100 = 1000. Lets say the total score in our school is 5236. To get the GPA for the school we have to divide it by the number of subjects which is 10 and the number of students which is 100. Effectively this means 5236/1000 = 5.236.

We are told that the GPA of 472,541 students in 2012 is 5.08. In a general way we can say that the GPA is an indicator of the academic ability of our student population. Alternatively we can say that efficiency of the school system or the competency of the teachers has declined. Is 0.04 a cause for concern? What was the GPA for the years before 2011? A 0.04 decline for an individual student may not be much but extrapolate for 472,541 students could be huge. We wait to hear from the DG the statistical implication of this decline.

We should all be surprised that there is a decline at all! All the talk is about transformation. There are endless claims of transformation. We have heard many grand announcements. We know of great spikes in expenditure. We also have a new DG of Education. More plans, more resources, more costs ….and we are becoming worse off? Or tell us we have nothing to worry about?

Filed under: Blogroll, education, school, ,

Verbal Assault v Physical Assault

Everyday teachers in school “scold”, admonish, verbally assault students for doing something “wrong”. They do this openly in front of all the students. While the students cringe and keep a brave face the turmoil going on inside and its long term effect is not studied or appreciated. And so caning is not ok but public hiding is ok!

Sometimes we hear of teachers being physically attacked by students. I suspect that if we were to study the background, you will find that somewhere leading to that event, the teacher would have scolded, insulted the student to cause him/her to lose face among his/her peers. Teachers very often do not appreciate the dynamics in the inter-relationships among the students. A person who considers himself a leader among his friends or is respected by the other students finds himself at the end of a teacher tongue -lashing. How will he respond?

Let me pose a question to all teachers. What would you do if your headmaster were to “scold”, insult you in front of all your colleagues? In situations where you are close enough and angry enough would you not strike out at your headmaster? In such cases it is always the HM who is at fault.

The teacher insults the students daily! Yes. We all can go sit outside a classroom. When the student respond the student is wrong, the student is naughty, children today are gangsters etc.

Just think about this for a while…calling all teachers please.

Filed under: discipline, education

The Brain and Language Learning

The technology is here! We can now find out which parts of our brain is “turned on” when we think of something, do something or even imagine doing something. 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines can take a picture of the brain. We should be able to see which part of the brain is switched on when we learn a language, do mathematics, kick a ball or have a drink of water.

Our experts in the universities should get to work on this.

Seems like a lot of emotions, prejudice and pride is always bubbling to the top in any discussion on language. People are carried away. Decisions are made that maybe detrimental to the real development of our people. In the absence of acceptable evidence people tend to flow with their feelings! If there are incontrovertible facts that can be shown then the correct decisions will be clear.

The whole academic community must weigh in on this. Make all your before and after studies on as many samples as you can and make sure that the methodology is properly spelled out. But for our future’s sake get the MRI machines to work!

Filed under: brain, education

The Big Language March

In Malaysia we take our learning seriously! 

We undertand that on the 1st of April there will be a march to parliament to hand over a memorandum to the new PM by no less than 43 people representing all the “races” in Malaysia. They all want learning of Mathematics and Science to be carried out in their own languages. We managed to interview Andal Anak Kabul from Sarawak. 

“Learning science is already difficult for us pribumis in Sarawak! And then we have to learn English too!” Raising his voice, he says, “We are hit with a double whammy! Surely our chance to fail is double.” Why the double whammy? “Cant you see? We were having difficulty learning Science and Maths in Malay! Then we were asked to switch to English! Let us learn in our own language!”

The above sums up the general sentiment of the group. Are they afraid of the water canons? They think the police will not do anything because they are going to march in single file each carrying a flag with the name of the language, starting with Malay, Javanese, Mandarin, Thai, Tamil, Telegu, Malayalam, Hindi, Kadazan, Murut, Dayak……

Learning of anything should begin with the mother tongue! Let a new chapter begin with our new PM!

Filed under: education, ,

Knowledge Now!!

People who can drive change in Malaysia are teachers. There is plenty that you can do. Start with opening the eyes of the people with knowledge that is abundant and all around us. Teach the children under your care how to learn!

Get the children to be internet savvy. Show them the wealth of knowledge that is circling them. Show them how to tap into this. Get them to engage.

It is unfortunate that a large proportion of our teachers are still not literate in IT. They have not embraced IT. The MOE should include computer literacy in training and include it in tests for confirmation or promotions in service. Those who dont get through this component should not be qualified to teach or suitable for promotions. This will ensure that all will learn.

Filed under: education, IT literacy

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