Responding to queries: School, tuition and purgatory

NOV 23 – I’m happy that education is as ever a central issue for readers based on the feedback through comments received.

The column did not intend to redefine education. A general government attempt at educating the masses will always yield a far greater benefit than when there is none.

The focus was on getting people to consider the realities of public education and its relationship with the tuition industry, and wish for a reaction from stakeholders.

Let me clarify or engage on some of the issues I picked up from the readers.

School based assessments: ill-equipped and prone to abuse

Will school teachers discriminate, that is the key point? Teachers are individuals and there will be problems, but that is why all grading can also be challenged inside schools, when there issues with marking.

There is already school based assessments. Only that since only the leaving exams matter (UPSR, SPM and STPM) the value of the type of personalised teaching any school can provide is usurped.

You don’t care you failed one chapter in geometry in March as long as you get the A in the overall math paper in SPM. But the process of appreciating every element of the math curriculum may be passed over. Making the need to pass geometry necessary for the student to move on empowers the teacher.

Good teachers prefer goals to meet rather than an overly-exam oriented learning. Why would a student take a class presentation seriously? Or bringing a relative to speak at career sharing sessions?

You direct resource to improve teachers, provide equipment and skill-up with new/different pedagogies.

Reducing the number of reluctant teachers is another issue, which needs handling of course.

Second, the safeguard is, you still have the school leaving aptitude test. If the child just got along with teachers or was predisposed to getting treated better by that particular school, the aptitude test will expose the student.

Plus, school based assessments when material will result in review process when students reject grading. Just like in university. This will not be common. But teachers know that when they set papers, their peers evaluate the set paper and may face enquiries internally. Teachers would not get a free ride or unfettered power to discriminate.

The summary is fixing the bugs in the proposal will always be a concern.

Parents involvement

It is vital in modern education. But not all parents are graduates themselves or have jobs which let them take family time. The working class will always be short in providing resource to their children, even if their commitment to their children is not an iota lower.

Giving schools the power to educate their kids and grade them in that education, forces parents to engage with their child’s school.

But in any reality schools need to engage parents and not just leave it to the PTA.

I’d like to thank AchaTuHamChalteHe for asking a bit more.

I’ll try to respond to his issues

1) What should the teacher be paid?
Some say teachers should be the highest paid persons in a country. They do good, the country prospers.
But market economy does not accept it. Cuba used to pay its teachers and any others in fields which have great social impact more, in relative terms to its modest economy.

In practical terms, teachers will always in a free market earn less than those who are as able and skilled like them in profit –driven enterprises like banking.

So that brings us to asking, how much is reasonable. An increase in pay by 30 per cent across the board might start the ball-rolling, but the reasonable exchange will be in removing teacher tenure.

Teaching cannot be permanent job if you fail at it. Again, this is not about excelling. There will be brilliant teachers, good teachers and teachers. But those who are just in schools because they can’t be arsed, then they might need to feel teaching is not economic refuge.

But an increase in pay must come with reductions elsewhere. Construction and reconstruction, building and rebuilding, furnishing and refurnishing from Putrajaya will have to stop.

District education departments have to manage their funds, and prioritise ringgit to value to most number of students in real terms — the realest one would be qualified teachers, have reasonable physical space and equipment.

The Pudu education department would know how to get a LCD projector cheaper and faster than a whole process of tendering and procurement ending with many electronics vendors standing outside Putrajaya’s MOF.

Since the school having issues will be one train ride away, then the layers of bureaucracy will start to disappear.

Read more: upsizing our schools

2) How would they be evaluated, what is their kpi and competencies yearly?

Teachers and headmasters need assessments, and those assessments exist albeit with educators criticising it.
I am always worried about getting caught up with quantitative methods to decide quite an emotional process like education. Sure student grades and other core observations.

But there is very little qualitative assessment.  Students are rarely asked to assess their teachers, maybe they should.

We are most likely going to revisit this point my Hindi speaking friend.

3) How should the headmaster and consequently the pengarah for state be evaluated?

My alternative opinion is to elect the district supervisors of education. This is strong, but why not?
You can kick-out the guy in charge of public education in your district, and the layers between you and the decision maker are reduced.

There will still be an Education minister, education secretary-general, state chiefs and district chiefs. But now the district heads are accountable more to their district’s voters.

All of these might be new to this part of the world, however I want to keep to the key argument here.

Let districts run education, not from remote control Putrajaya. They can work out broad education policy.

4) What should be the curriculum? Specifics , couple of paragraphs on one or two of your favourite subject

5) how much all this will cost the government this year and subsequent year and how long you need to run this actively before you can go ahead

Both questions may get me ahead of myself.

I want to understand history as a real thing. The reason why there is so much retardation in the social debates in the country is because so many of us are arguing in absolutes.

The world has not been an absolute. Everyday you learn there is an equal amount of evil in you as good.

So in history classes, getting a lesson about my immediate community will make history more impactful.
I’ll round it up there for now.

And yes, there so much more to explain and even clarify from what I’ve said.

But like in any dialogue this is when I listen.

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