Jul 8, 2005

5 questionable assumptions about schooling in Malaysia

1. The aim of schooling is to get all students to the same place at about the same time.

The education system expects students at the age of 15 to sit for PMR and by 17 or 18 to complete SPM. Hence below average students who were automatically promoted to Form 4 (although they didn't do well in PMR) struggle in SPM.

I once encountered a Year 6 student who can't even write a proper sentence in English nor Bahasa Melayu. Her parents asked permission from school to allow their daughter to study Year 6 for another year. However the school principal objected as it will affected the school track record. The girl failed in UPSR and continued to struggle in secondary school.

2. A teacher should work with 30-40 students for an academic year, and then students should move to another teacher.

Usually teachers resist working with the same group of students for two or three years period. It is understandable that teachers want to teach the same level or subjects as it makes their job easier.

By the time teacher get to know the students and their parents better, the students move on to another teacher.

3. The best form of school organization is age-grading.
This assumption is related to the previous two. The idea is very simply whereby children of the same age should be grouped together. The age-graded school system is an administrative convenience but has very little to do with what we know about child development.

4. The best way to identify schools that work well is to examine their students' test scores.

Principal, teachers, students, parents and the society judges a school through test scores. However, the function of school is broader and deeper. There is more in life than exams like co-curriculum, school's contributions, etc.

With the recent cheerleading competition at the national level, at least I see some good sign that schools are being honoured for something else besides tests.

5. The primary content that students learn in school is what their teachers intend to teach them.

Some proactive students tend to crave for more information than what the teachers intend to teach them. While teachers will teach according to the national syllabus, some teachers only teach what's in the book without further explanation or giving any good examples.

Instead of being textbook- or workbook- based, teachers should encourage students to find more information through research of certain topics that interest them.
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