Overhaul the whole education system

The government has proposed to do away with UPSR and PMR examinations.

The kids will like it, of course, and many parents will welcome it, too.

However, I think any removal of these examinations should be coupled with a total overhaul of our education system, which at the present moment is producing –sorry to say– mediocre students; students who may get all As but cannot even write a coherent essay or cannot even pinpoint where is Malawi….  There are exceptions of course but these are real minority . I think many of those in the 40s and 50s will agree that in the 60s and 70s, even students with average results have better general knowledge than the students now.

So the thing is the whole system must be overhauled and the general lowering of standards of students should not be blamed on examinations such as UPSR and PMR  alone.

One model which the government should look at is the Finnish Model. Finland has consistently be ranked as the country with the best education system.

The Finnish system consists of one year of preschool at age 6. This is followed by 9 years of compulsory basic education. After the 9th year, students can opt for 3 years of higher secondary education or a 3 year vocational school. The curriculum is such that those from vocational school can switch back to upper secondary and vice versa, and also those who finish in one branch  can go back to finish the other branch if they so wish . Both branches  can go to university or polytechnic with bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Children in Finland are not graded until the 5th grade. For the first 4 grades, only the teachers know how a child is doing, and all the teachers of a particular class will meet weekly  to discuss the progress and remedy for children under their care. The parents as well as the students are not told how they are faring, and this helps build up self esteem and confidence of  a child , and cultivates a life long habit of treating learning and knowledge seeking as fun and as something most important in life.

The teachers of a particular class make the decision of how fast or how slow to go on their teaching, and they run the class with almost total autonomy.

Of course in the higher grades, there are assessment examinations, and Finland too have a national examination. By then the students are all well developed and able to cope with the heavy load in their higher secondary years, and the wide range of studies in higher secondary years enable them to switch to vocational schools and vice versa without being handicapped in any way.

The upper secondary school education completes with a matriculation examination, which is a national examination.

Education in Finland is regarded as egalitarian in which no tuition fee is collected. Students in the primary and secondary stage are also given free meals.

Any wonder why they , as a small nation, sell a brand of mobile phone which is better than most produced in big countries like US and Japan?

The teachers are of course well qualified, most of them with master’s degree. And well paid too. Because of the high productivity and versatility of the teachers, education expense per capita is not necessary excessive.

Perhaps, we should emulate the Finns. Even if we have to spend more initially to train good teachers by sending some of them overseas for specialise training, the cost is worth it in the long run, since excellent teachers will produce excellent students; excellent students will become excellent teachers themselves and the cycle repeats. It is better than spending billions on useless projects like the proposed 800 millions new Parliament etc.

Education is an investment. Education is about the future of the country. Education is about lifting people from poverty.

Ultimately the success of a country depends mainly on the success of its education system.


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CYC
    Jun 24, 2010 @ 12:20:28

    Noble view : Education is about lifting people from poverty.

    Today’s view : Education is about assemble ready cheap labour to serve the business tycoons.

    We will not see any improvement in our education system unless and until a new batch of better qualified and informed teachers are in place. Teachers include lecturers and professors in uni. and colleges. Always ask the question : why in those days teachers with Cambridge O level or A level can teach SPM at ease while today’s teachers with degree are only good enough to teach primary students?

    Too much emphasis on technology and science and ignoring humanity and arts will hasten the destruction of the fabrics of society and mother earth.

    Most great scientists are also great philosopher and with great passion on arts and music.

    Economists are the greatest enemies of humanity when their focus is one pointedness towards achieving higher GDP irregardless of the consequences.


  2. asiseesit
    Jun 24, 2010 @ 12:55:18

    a sudden overhaul will create chaos to the entire system and its implementations. our national education plans must be in place first with an objective to change the whole society in general. we are not just talking about knowledge here or scoring exams for better future livelyhood in all expects. instead, a curriculum system that will change our mindset and mentality. NZ schools have similar syallabus like the finnish. a first preschool year at 6 just to stimulate the minds of the kids. its all fun and play for them and most classes are interactive than just learning from books. it is at these early years we imbed in kids the values and importance of interdependance in society. what we have presently in our system is only rote learning, merely to score montrous A’s in cold hard facts. just showing a piece of paper result does not mean these students can adapt to a much much more fluid environment where the real world is neither black or white. critical thinking was never in our schools. we are always taught to obey our elders, not respect, just obey. so being taught to toe the line always have been our culture all these while. the system itself must encourage creativity to a certain context. otherwise, no amount of overhaul will work if the government continues to just strives for result orientation. a long term plan, and i do mean long term, at least 20 to 25 years, must be in place. include in its implementation a gradual transition to fine tune any setbacks, eg, teachers, funds, tools, access to classes, geographical locations, etc. we simply have to start somewhere. there are no immediate return and we can never see its true results till the full circle of school leavers joins the working society. our politicians have only eyesight and visions within their term of office only, this is the sad truth.


  3. Richard Loh
    Jun 24, 2010 @ 14:30:02

    First, look at who is the education minister, is he qualified and knowledgable enough to hold this position.

    Second, quality of the teachers.

    Third, leave politics out of education, teaching about politics in uni is different from letting the politicians to decide what is good or bad to teach in school.

    Fourth, what kind of subjects and syllabus.

    As what Dr. Hsu said, “Overhaul the whole education system”.

    How to do it, when they cannot decide between using English or Bahasa Malaysia for certain subjects…due to politics they are trying to shut out the minds of the students from knowing too much so that they can control them…they cannot accept meritocracy… and lastly they are not interested to having real talents in their mist other than their selected own or their own children.

    Just to recall what I learned in the sixties and early seventies…

    Geography, covered practically every country in this world including details of what they produce, their weather, culture etc…do you know Burma at that time was the largest producer of rice, we learned the important states of the US, wheat producing Wyoming…China biggest and longest river, their terrace system of padi planting…India, Egypt, Afican continent, Europe etc

    History which many of us hated most, from China to ancient Greece, to American revolution and their Presidents, Stalin, Bolsheviks, England Kings, French revolution, Rome…history during the ages of BC to AD…..mind you, these were what we learned during our secondary school.

    I am lucky for not being intelligent enough to enter uni…lol…I dread to think what more knowledge were impounded onto the uni students…

    Sorry for bragging a little….Education is very important to each and every one of us, but here we have our leaders who know nuts about education running as ministers and toying and playing with it like no body business….


  4. klm
    Jun 24, 2010 @ 14:33:19

    Good suggestion. But I think Malaysia had dug a hole so deep in its education system that it cannot get out. There are far too many vested interests, from race, religion, book printers and education ministry staff.

    I say that Malaysia should accept that it is a mediocre country and make the best of it. Forget about all these cemerlang thingy. Be th the best mediocre.


  5. disgusted
    Jun 24, 2010 @ 21:38:56

    What education? Each time a new PM or cabinet reshuffle, a new education minister, a change in policy. Can be almost 10 times since independence, education system is a large laboratory, young Malaysians, nothing but guinea pigs. There is no consistency to maintain the positive aspects and rid the useless policies.

    Everything backwards, locally educated, cannot speak English fluently, cannot write, but can score strings of A’s. We have the best constipated students, cannot critically think but all “yes” citizens. Wanderfool future


  6. sosong
    Jun 25, 2010 @ 13:11:49

    Msia education is tied down by quota, ketuanan, racist, nep…. etc, how to overhaul??


  7. WEC
    Jun 25, 2010 @ 22:06:50

    Dr. Hsu,

    Those people must have rocks in their brain if they ever dream of Malaysia’s education to be in par with Finland.

    Our education is based on memorizing and don’t require critical thinking. Tell me, what is our judgement on the performance of our graduates.

    Even lecturers of some local private universities were giving tips on exam papers so that they will not be answerable to the University Board on their student’s performance.

    Our education system will not advance if we still have that mentality – you know lah.


  8. tonyphuah
    Jun 26, 2010 @ 04:53:54

    The most important question is: do our current education prepared our young generation for their future? A globally uncertain, highly potential turmoil future? It is a matter of life or death.


  9. wisely
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 11:36:18

    I think we should look closer, that is at Singapore. Both follow British style.

    Making sport a compulsary factor to enter u is not the way. There are other ways to improve sport. Give more local scholarship to sportman and other special talents.

    Education system need to be more flexible and open to accomodate more variety of need and centre controlling must give way. Autonomy to school or different types or categories of school can be introduced.

    One thing for sure, education is more just about studying books or memorizing facts or just academy achievement. Thre are many more aspects that we need to cover and educate our students today like EQ, SQ and financial intelligent to name a few which are more relevant to life than history or geography!

    What do u think!


  10. Dr Hsu
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 12:16:44

    Yes, there is a need to revamp the whole system, but in any case, bring back meritocracy in schools.


  11. wisely
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 23:48:31

    I just heard today in awani that there a national level of forum to rethink the whole education system. I the dean of ukm education school saying all level of people will be there from politicians to parents. That great! She confirm that EQ, SQ and hand on and problem solving should be the focus in school and a lot of paradigm shift in all level of people esp the teachers in embrancing the latest method.

    Sadly speaking, Malaysian teachers are ‘lazy’ to upgrade themselves with up to date knowledge and skill but too busy earning extra money. Majority don’t read and even if they do -not education material!!

    Also many times i feel, the politician should not be the one who made decision bec there are not academician nor are they there for a long time. Also political reason should not be the reason for the cause of any decision or changes. Leave the decision to those who are expects in this line. That will make thing better!


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