The way forward


  • Education
  • Sunday, 08 Dec 2019

Come January, the plan is to ensure that all 2.7 million pupils throughout the country in government and government-aided primary schools, have something to eat before they begin classes for the day.- File photo

IN less than a month’s time, the 2020 school year will begin. I am sure most pupils and their parents are eagerly gearing up for the new learning experiences and challenges that lie ahead. This is the right way forward.

On the other hand, is the Education Ministry ready for the new year? There are issues brewing that have yet to draw out clear-cut answers or solutions from the ministry. The issue needs to be handled properly.

First, the “breakfast for all” programme that is to be implemented in all primary schools.

Come January, the well-intentioned plan is to ensure all 2.7 million pupils throughout the country in government and government-aided primary schools for both morning and afternoon sessions, have something to eat before they begin classes for the day.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik who announced this in September, said that this is the Free Breakfast Programme, or better known by its Malay acronym, PSP or Program Sarapan Percuma.

The programme will follow the same model as the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT).

So far, the only factor that differentiates the PSP from the RMT is that the new programme will benefit all primary school pupils across Malaysia.

The Free Breakfast Programme has not received the overwhelming support as expected. Instead there are calls for caution and thrift. Good reasons have been put forth.

It’s a very costly project that the government at this time can ill-afford. Breakfast should be provided only for those pupils who really need it.

Most parents prefer and can afford to feed their children before sending them off to school.

There will be a lot of food wastage. School times have to be allocated for the breakfast. Getting central kitchens to prepare the meals and deliver them on time to all schools concerned is logistically unviable.

In our multicultural setting, a common menu for all pupils could pose a problem.

The ministry needs to take all factors into consideration before making a final decision on the programme.

The minister announced in October that it will cost between RM800mil and RM1.67bil to run the Free Breakfast Programme.

Second, Form Four students will no longer be streamed into Arts or Sciences classes; instead they will be offered “packages” of mixed subjects.

They will have the flexibility to choose subjects that will help prepare them for their choice of future careers.

It is reported that there is something like 85 electives available. This is good news. Nevertheless, we need to be mindful of what is practical and therefore implementable in schools.

Schools can only offer “packages” of subjects based on the availability of facilities and qualified teachers.

Too much movement of students during lesson hours can create havoc, so schools will most likely keep to the traditional “classrooms” approach which invariably will limit the number of “packages” offered.

All applied science or technology-based subjects require a strong science and even an additional maths background, so it is inaccurate to say that those who lack interest in science and maths can opt for Fourth Industrial Revolution-based subjects and sail through their studies.

The proposal to hire retired teachers to fill in the gaps may not be a feasible solution as they have not learned these subjects in the past.

What is sorely required is to revamp, improve and increase the contents i.e. the curriculum and syllabus of the basic Science and Maths subjects of our upper secondary students so that they are better readied for the Fourth Industrial Revolution subjects.

The stigma linked to being in Science or Arts should no longer hold water.

For example, we should appreciate and applaud an established pianist and a badminton champion for what each can do and excel in. There is no need to compare.

We should encourage students to love and learn more science and maths. It is necessary and even mandatory for our present upper secondary arts stream students to learn more science and maths.

It is like learning a living skill necessary for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Third, the recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) is still pending. Admittedly, this is a “hot potato” that the present government has inherited from the previous one. But, let’s be clear minded about it.

It is an academic recognition. Many world renowned universities have accorded their recognition and opened their courses for application by UEC graduates.

Academic recognition does not automatically translate into acceptance for admission. There are other accompanying valid criteria that any university would consider before approving an application.

Our Public Service Department or better known by its Malay acronym, JPA, also has other criteria for selection or recruitment besides an academic recognition. One important yardstick is a candidate’s “suitability”.

Overseas universities may accredit and recognise UEC qualifications. But, are there any overseas public or government services that have offered positions for UEC qualifiers?

Many of our SPM and STPM holders with good and even excellent results are not automatically admitted to local public universities or offered jobs by JPA. Other criteria should and rightly need to be considered.

LIONG KAM CHONG

Seremban


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