Picking up pointers from other schools of thought

EVER since Dr Maszlee Malik took office as the Education Minister, everyone seems to have something to say about our education system.

In the media some said it is good while others are calling for a revamp. But what exactly would constitute a successful education system that would work for us?

I would say to study our curriculums from preschool to university and incorporate workable views that come from different schools of thought.

Hong Kong emphasises diligence and will there would be complaints if schools don’t provide enough homework. And if that’s not enough, most opt to have private tuition. That works for Hong Kong.

To a large extent our style of teaching is traditional but it is not rote learning without understanding, it is memorising with understanding. Pedagogy, on the other hand, is a mix of academic rigour and structure. There’s a theory of learning behind everything.

The idea that children can learn through discussion has not always been taken into account in our education system. There have been some moves towards activity-based learning but success has been limited.

The teaching profession in Finland is well respected and it is said to have highly-qualified teachers.

Teachers in Finland are given a lot of freedom and responsibility to tailor learning according to the needs of every child. They are not just paying lip service or following a script. There are core subjects such as literacy, numeracy and science but they try to achieve a balance in the curriculum. A school day is a mix of core subjects and also art, physical education, woodwork and entrepreneurial education (at secondary level).

The 21st Century skills, such as collaboration, social interaction, problem solving and life-long learning are integrated with the core subjects.

There are elements of the Finnish model which could be implemented here.

The teaching environment is also important. In relaxed and educationally-supportive environments children are granted authority and accountability when learning.

Another country that’s said to have a successful system would be South Korea, though their curriculum effectively measures what needs to be measured. Exams are embedded into the culture.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results for South Korea probably reflects a strong overlap between the test questions and the exam-driven curriculum that schools focus on, as well as the hard work by the pupils and the strong support (or pressure) from parents to succeed. Whether you get into a good school or university is dependent on exam results. A child’s future, status and social mobility are strongly connected to exam outcomes.

Schools can be stressful for children. Surveys tend to suggest that they don’t like going to school, are often stressed and not happy or bored. Schooling is seen to be a process of certification. Many questions are being asked as to whether the system is producing the sorts of people the society needs.

The system does encourage hard work and diligence but the concerns are that it is unduly stressful, does not promote creativity and the ability to be critical. So what do we really want of our education system?


Kuala Lumpur

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