Members of the National Education Advisory Council, or Majlis Penasihat Pendidikan Kebangsaan (MPPK), were presented their letters of appointment in a simple ceremony on Oct 2, officiated by Minister of Education Dr Maszlee Malik, with heads of department in attendance.
The MPPK comprises Tan Sri Wan Zahid Wan Noordin (former director-general of education), Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon (industry representative), Datuk Satinah Syed Saleh (former teacher/private-public partnership), Datuk Dr Sukiman Sarmani (nuclear scientist), Brigadier-General Datuk Anwar (strategy), Prof Dr Ruzita Mohd Amin (economist/special needs), Datuk Boonler Somchit (technical and vocational), P Ramanathan (former National Union of Teaching Profession president), Prof Dr Omar Yaakob (maritime engineer/IKRAM), Prof Madya Dr Ramzah Dambul (climate change expert/arts), and yours truly (accountant/parental perspective).
The appointments will be for two years, starting from Aug 1. Each of us bring our own strengths and specialities to the table.
It was 10 years ago that the Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) was formed as a casual grouping, and subsequently registered as a national society. To date, we have held eight annual general meetings.
When I arrived at the Ministry of Education for the MPPK ceremony, a parking lot was reserved for my car. I was amused at the irony. I recall the completely different reception we received some years back, when a group of parents demonstrated at the ministry for the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English policy (PPMSI) to be maintained.
In the past, we have written about and taken a stance on several issues, specifically, the teaching and learning of the English language, the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and most crucially, teacher reform. Some of these initiatives were carried out under previous ministers of education. Where they have proved to be making progress, these initiatives should continue, with intervention along the way, rather than having to reinvent the wheel.
We also believe the teachers’ influence on students and delivery of the subject matters most in educating our children and making them wholesome youths, notwithstanding the support and effort of parents. We all know that wrong teachings retard the growth of children.
Teacher reform has been going on for the past few years. It began with the home-grown Trust School Programme (TSP) — a private-public partnership (PPP) involving five schools in Johor and another five in Sarawak. Now, it has reached 83 schools, staffed by 280 personnel and counting, but still a far cry from its target of 500 schools by 2025. The challenge, however, has always been the high cost of operation and finding suitable private sponsors with deep pockets.
Although the new minister supports and acknowledges TSP in principle, the Pakatan Harapan government, in its manifesto, promised it would look at other PPP models such as charter schools and the voucher system. There are still thousands of teachers to reform and schools to turn around, and the ministry is spoilt for choice. It is a matter of budgeting and achieving outcomes and any call for collaboration should be welcomed. No one size fits all anyway.
The TSP uses existing government resources at an additional cost of about RM75 per student per month now reduced to RM50 under a redefined TSP 2.0, funded entirely by sponsors, or equivalent to a total expenditure of RM7,500 per annum. That is one third the fees of the “cheapest” private school. The TSP model uses a tried and tested methodology and its impact is proven.
An interesting pilot exercise the TSP has undertaken is the Islamic School Enhancement Programme (ISEP), in which it envisions placing tahfiz institutions at the forefront of Islamic education for the 21st century. Its mission is “to deliver a holistic school enhancement programme that reflects the unique identity of tahfiz schools; optimise Islamic education through incorporating 21st century teaching and learning; and develop capacity building within the tahfiz school community to enable students to achieve their potential as global citizens”. Yayasan Pahang currently funds Maahad Tahfiz Negeri Pahang.
Another exciting initiative is the DTP-AMAN (District Transformation Programme — the name can be changed if the government desires). Kedah has become the launching pad for a new three-year pilot for this scheme. The “approach is based on a circle of trust, hands-on empowerment, and accountability between its teacher-coaches, PPD officers and school staff creating positive teamwork, encouraging teams to be solutions-focused and reflective when faced with challenges as part of the change”.
Among the byproducts of the TSP is the my.harapan project. At a recent education summit, four students of SMK Salak South Tinggi — Nur Aisyah, Nur Athina, Nuranisha and Raidatul — showcased an innovative solution to a challenge faced by their school. The problem was truancy among the boys and the solution was to find an attraction — and it wasn’t girls. Instead, it was the love of music. The boys were provided assistance to get musical instruments and forming a band gave them a sense of purpose, and succeeded in curbing truancy.
There is, however, an even bigger attraction. The Asean landscape has infinite opportunities. The Gates Foundation has committed to contribute US$68 million for teacher reform, and Thailand and Burma have expressed interest. The Asian Development Bank has proposed, for its secondary development programme, a sum of US$300 million for the Philippines.
But first, we have to tidy up our own backyard.
Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim is the chairman of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia