A new "frank and bold" education blueprint styled as "Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025" faces up to weaknesses in the education system and pushes for excellence among teachers and students.
The weaknesses in Malaysia’s present education system had to be acknowledged, and Malaysians could not be in denial, if the country is to move forward, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said at the launch of the blueprint’s preliminary report in Kuala Lumpur last week.
Alluding to the dismal performance of Malaysian students in the bottom one-third in international assessments, the premier said the education system had to be revamped to produce thinking and innovative students to meet future needs.
“In the new economy, the thirst is for knowledge, innovation and technology. Our system must meet these needs. We must prepare our children for jobs that are yet to exist,” he said.
For a competitive edge, Malaysians should be bilingual, if not multilingual, Najib said, adding that this was because they lived in a multicultural environment.
“After 55 years, every Malaysian must be able to speak Bahasa Malaysia...this is not a political but a national issue.
“English is a reality ... (it is) not a zero sum game but an asset if we can speak English well,” he said.
He added that English literature could improve proficiency in the language and that students should build up their reading in stages.
The prime minister urged everyone to pick up three languages.
“We need that competitive edge. We can leverage on our multiracial component. Why lose that advantage? We should be pragmatic,” he told a packed hall at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre with over 2,000 people in attendance, including Cabinet ministers, MPs, educationists, non-government organisation representatives, teachers and students.
Najib added that education was a national issue and should not be politicised because “as leaders we should be brave enough to de-politicise education for the sake of our children”.
“We must not work in silos but be an integrated team to deliver real changes,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said one of the aims of the education overhaul was to transform teaching into a profession of choice.
“Only the top 30 per cent of graduates will be recruited for teaching,” he said.
Teachers would also get a new career package and reduced administrative duties, he said.
The blueprint outlines 11 shifts required to transform the national education system to be on par with and comparable to that of developed nations, over the next 13 years.
Muhyiddin Yassin said the transformation would be carried out in three “waves”.
The first wave calls for blueprint implementation – more support for teachers and focus on core student skills; the second wave calls for building upon progress; and third, from 2020 to 2025, envisages schools having autonomy to handle their own administration.
As part of the blueprint, the Education Ministry will conduct comprehensive “stock-takes” in 2015, 2020 and 2025, in which all stakeholders will be able to provide input.
An annual report on the progress will also be published.
These are the key points of the National Education Blueprint:
n It focuses on six student attributes – Knowledge, Thinking Skills, Leadership, Bilingual Proficiency, Ethics and National Identity;
n To achieve desired student outcomes, reform of education system to be approached in 11 shifts;
n Shift 1: Provide equal access to quality education of international standard. Initiatives under Shift 1 – revised curriculum for schools in 2017 and option for high achieving students to finish school earlier.
n Shift 2: Ensure every child is proficient in Bahasa Malaysia and English language. Under Shift 2, 70,000 English teachers to sit for Cambridge Placement Test and be given training to improve language proficiency.
n Standard Bahasa Malaysia curriculum for all government and vernacular primary schools – goal to abolish “remove” class in secondary schools by 2017.
n Shift 3: Develop Malaysians who are values-driven; expand the Student Integration Plan for Unity (RIMUP) programme for students;
n Shift 4: Transform teaching into a profession of choice. Only the top 30 per cent of graduates will be recruited for teaching. New career package and less administrative duties for teachers;
n Shift 5: Ensure high-performing school leaders in every school;
n Shift 6: Empower state and district Education Departments and schools to customise solutions based on need – they can tailor their approach for different schools;
n Shift 7: Leverage ICT to scale up quality learning across Malaysia. Ministry to expand 1Bestari (Wifi) to all schools;
n Shift 8: Transform Education Ministry delivery capabilities and capacity so there is no overlap of function and it’s more streamlined;
n Shift 9: Partner with parents, community and private sector at scale. Parents will be able to monitor student progress online through School Examination Analysis System (SAPS). Five hundred trust schools to be set up;
n Shift 10: Maximise student outcomes for every ringgit. To ensure “outcome-based budgeting” with government spending on education;
n Shift 11: Increase transparency for direct public accountability. Blueprint and progress of its goals will be made public.