Building character at school

FIRSTLY, allow me to begin by wishing all teachers a Happy Teachers Day.

This year’s theme, “Teachers: Builders of Character and Knowledge”, is quite apt considering that teachers have the ability to mould and affect entire future generations.

Such is the power, such is the trust, and such is the responsibility. In this article, my focus will be on character building.

Last month, SP Setia Education Foundation under the leadership of chairman Tan Sri Wan Zahid Mohd Noordin launched the SP Setia Caring School Programme.

The schools involved in this programme were SK Jalan Meru Tap, SJK(C) Lee Min and SJK(T) Ladang Vallambrosa Klang, Selangor.

The Caring School concept was mooted by Tan Sri Wan Zahid in 1993 when he was Education director-general.

I was officially invited as patron of the programme

Schools involved under the programme will implement activities such as camping, field trips and extracurricular activities together.

This is consistent with the spirit of the Student Integration Programme for Unity (RIMUP) under the Education Ministry.

With a sponsorship from Huaren Education Foundation, the Chinese Schools Caring School Programme was launched in January 2005 by then Deputy Education Minister Datuk Hon Choon Kim.

It involved 20 Chinese primary schools throughout the peninsula.

The programme was a continuation of a research project carried out by the Deputy Education Minister’s office in 2001, called “No-One-Less”.

The results of this survey showed that 24.48% of Chinese school students in 1997 did not complete their secondary school with SPM certification.

Further research also showed that students who had dropped out of vernacular schools were facing learning problems.

Therefore, Hon had decided that the concept of a caring school would be implemented in the 20 selected schools since there was much room for improvement.

The aim of the programme was to foster and cultivate a loving and caring attitude within the school community.

This includes students, teachers, administrators, parents as well as the school governing board.

It is expected that problems that exist in the schools involved can be reduced by the cultivation of the caring attitude.

When I was appointed deputy education minister in 2013, I decided to continue the Caring Schools Programme, since it was also in line with the ministry’s Caring Teacher programme.

The Caring Teacher Progra-mme is for teachers to practise and cultivate an attitude of love and concern for every child in the school.

The progamme touches on matters pertaining to discipline and showing courtesy, mutual respect, care and patience.

This will help teachers practise a “way” of being cheerful, loving, friendly, caring, courteous, and having mutual respect.

Moreover, I am confident that with the successful implementation of this programme, we will be able to produce students with the six main characteristics required to enable them to compete on a global stage as enshrined in the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

They include knowledge, thinking skills, leadership skills, bilingual proficiency, ethics and spirituality as well as having national identity.

With the involvement of parents and the wider community in activities carried out, they will achieve the ninth shift in the blueprint which is to partner with parents, the community and the private sector.

The essence of the various activities planned are to educate through the environment, culture, community service, management and through teaching and learning.

The activities also hope to educate through the environment and culture, emphasising on the construction of an environment conducive to learning either in or outside the classroom.

Some of activities include the creation of a garden which is done by teachers and students together with school gardeners.

Mural paintings and various motivational slogans and values are promoted in Caring Schools.

Similarly, the reading habit is actively promoted and practiced at all times in school.

Leading by example is also encouraged.

Opportunities for community service are also provided.

The school community is encouraged to contribute labour and assistance to people, especially the less fortunate, through charitable activities from time to time.

Various courses, seminars and lectures for the school are also organised to help teachers stand out as educators.

As of this year, there are 35 Caring Schools under the supervision of the deputy education minister’s office and Huaren Education Foundation.

Our office, together with State Education Departments, offer advice and guidance in terms of teaching professionalism while Huaren Education Foundation helps with financial assistance through the parent-teacher associations (PTAs) or School Board of Governors to enable school teachers to attend courses, motivation talks and seminars annually.

For the Caring School community, these events serve as an important platform to share experiences and generate new ideas and knowledge.

Students who show improvements in their homework and examinations are rewarded through Caring Awards and motivation rewards.

Also, the Caring School Programme teachers have visited schools that have shown success, including SJK (C) Yok Bin Excellence Cluster School in Malacca and Pukou Xing Zhi Primary School in Nanjing, China.

Today, the Caring School Programme has brought about transformation in schools, especially in terms of culture and school image.

In addition to that, many schools have shown encouraging improvement in the UPSR examination results.

Also, I have, on occasion, met with the headmasters, teachers and parents of the programme.

I am totally impressed by their enthusiasm, confidence, determination and compassion.

I hope that under the SP Setia Foundation, these Caring Schools and its teachers will continue to move forward, as Wan Zahid shared more than two decades ago.

These schools will serve as a family where no one will be marginalised.

When this objective is reached, the goals of the blueprint will certainly be realised.

Like SP Setia, I hope more private companies as well as local communities will come forward to assist the ministry to support school programmes through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

We must not foget the importance of inculcating good values in schools as in the long run it helps balanced individuals.

Keep up your noble efforts for the sake of our children and on that note let me wish all teachers a Happy Teachers Day.

  • The writer, Datuk Mary Yap is Deputy Education Minister. Connect with her via Twitter @maryyapkc and This is one in a series of articles which appear every fortnight in this column. It also sees the contributions of Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh and Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan, who share their views on various education-related issues.