Saturday, April 23, 2005

My Vision of A Model School in Malaysia

It was reported on the 7th April by Bernama that the Education Ministry plans to turn 15 in Cyberjaya and Putrajaya into model institutions. Our Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the schools -- eight primary and seven secondary -- could become showcase institutions for schools in the country.

The only measure highlighted by the minister to make these schools centre of excellence was for links to be set up with leading schools abroad.

He suggested that the schools step up relations and co-operation in teachingwith leading schools abroad, with which links had been established -- including via the Internet -- following his visits abroad.

These foreign schools are in the league of the Rimba Secondary School in Brunei and the Lancaster Grammar School in the United Kingdom.

While setting up these links will benefit to some extent in help the schools gain stature, it will be clearly insufficient to make these schools model and respected institutions.

Having experienced quality education first hand in the region and in United Kingdom, the following are my personal opinion of what it will take to create model institutions in Malaysia, irrespective of whether they are located in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur or for that matter Kuala Terengganu.

There are 3 major critical ingredients in creating and producing model schools – the students, the academic staff (teachers) and the school facilities & environment.

  1. The Students

    a. While it’s probably not possible to “stream” for primary school students, it’s possible to “select” the crème-de-la-crème of primary school graduates for secondary school education. The top students in the country should be given the opportunity to fulfil their utmost potential in an educational institution which will provide them the best environment to blossom. It is these students who will one day become the leaders of the country, and it is only rightful that they be given the best education to make wise and informed decisions on the country’s behalf in the future.

    Primary school students who have performed exceptionally well should be given the opportunity to apply to these model schools. Candidates from poorer financial background should be provided with the necessary scholarship and financial assistance.

    Students who “blossom” later in PMR examinations should be given the opportunity to join these schools midway in the secondary schools.

    b. To promote the Malaysian national identity, the racial balance of students in the schools should reflect that of the country. There should however, not be the typical inflexible strict adherence to quota numbers which typically discourage performance measures but instead encourages unhealthy racial bias. The racial mix should probably read a minimum mix of 30%:20%:10% of Malay, Chinese and Indian students respectively. This ratio doesn't encourage racial bias, but will instead take in the best students from each race.

  2. The Teachers

    a. The schools should have the best teachers and academicians hired to educate our brightest students. By the best teachers, they will not be restricted to our local pool of teachers. For e.g., if we have not got enough quality teachers in English, we should "import" qualified expatriate teachers for the language courses. In Singapore, despite the fact that the standards of English are already very high, they have continued to hire expatriate teachers for their very best schools to maintain and further improve the standards. Such should be the standards of excellence that the Malaysian model schools should target for.

    b. In addition, these teachers should be paid at the private sector rates to encourage performance as well as better retention of teachers. As these are the best teachers in the country, tasked with the heavy responsibility to educate our brightest students, it's only fair that these teachers are remunerated in accordance to their quality, performance and responsibilities. In setting these private sector rates, the Ministry of Education should not be concerned with the existing pay structure of teachers but instead be reviewing them from the perspective of what will be necessary to attract and retain the best teachers.

  3. The Facilities and The Environment

    The best teachers and students will probably collaborate best in a well-equipped school with all the required text and learning materials, as well as the necessary learning tools such as computer and internet facilities. This "part" of the "model school" is unfornately, what was exactly planned under the "Smart School" plans by the Ministry. Unfortunately, the execution of the project was so weak, there was much monies wasted for the above.

    In addition, the students should also have the environment to "blossom" as an all-rounder equipped with the necessary resourcefulness as well as critical thinking skills. These skills can all be encouraged both on the sports fields and halls, and for those less inclined to sports, societies and clubs. Students must be encouraged to take part in these extra curricular activities and should be given the required freedom to explore on interests and areas which they are keen on. The freedom enjoyed will then nurture the more creative individuals to lead our country in various sectors in the future.

The Ministry should take heed of the 3 very simple key steps listed above in their plans to design "model schools". The Ministry of Education has too often focused on the "hardware" (school buildings, land, equipment etc.) and too little on the necessary "software" to nurture top students (e.g., teachers, syllabus, course structure etc.). Creating the right "model schools" will not only produce excellent leaders and citizens for the future, but it will also help resolve the other major issue (not to be discussed in this article) confronting the country - that is the loss of talents through brain drains.


Anonymous said...


I agree with your vision. I wish to add that we still have with us in our own backyard, very good teachers who have opted to retire early or simply left the profession due various reasons.

Someone should look into these invaluable pool of human capital and resource. Offer them the same pay and benefits -what we would offer the new recruits. Whereever they are from.

There need to be some emphasis on a well balanced and rounded student. Character development is important.

Syabas on your blog. I enjoy reading your thoughts and hope that our policy makers will take note of them

Anonymous said...

Dear Uncle Tony,

Your thinking damn Singaporean lah. A model school like that promotes elitism among students. School should be a fun place to learn stuff, grow up with friends and gaining personal developement. Like anonymous said, there are very good teachers (usually Chinese and Indian) in our schools but this breed of teachers are from the old generation and most are retiring. I was very fortunate to have been taught by some of them. I think that all we need is to return to the old system of education like my parents time in the 60s. Back then, they had no internet and no computers but I feel somehow that, that generation was offered a better education.

I don't think throwing losts of money into a model school to hire expatriate teachers, buy and maintain expensive facilities and "selecting" the brightest students and putting them in an elistist (kiasu-ist) environment would be a good idea or a very good model school. For one thing, it's very Singaporean. For another, it will probably only one of its kind unless the govenrment is rich to have all schools equally funded. A model school is not much of a model school if it can't be emulated by all other schools at a national level.

I feel that what needs to be done is to give teaching profession a makeover. Make the profession more attrative to graduates. Raise the standards in teaching colleges. Actually have teachers who like what they teach and teach it well. Students will then begin to respect teachers like they used to. The UK has a very interesting program to attract highly qualified graduates into the profession.

It is a shame that most secondary and primary students do most of their learning in tuition classes rather than classrooms. The rationale being that their parents are paying lots of money to go for tuition and the teaching in school isn't up to par.


Anonymous said...

More from down south (lesson to be learn):

Old Man

Anonymous said...

Education Institutes should also take in account technology in order to be ahead.

Next generation school management system like EduSwift

which is also available in Malay language is one of the best solution for Modern Malaysian Education System.