Parents, educators want ministry to help students get back on track

Long road ahead: Stakeholders are calling on Radzi to focus on improving students’ learning experience so that they will want to be in school. — Filepic

IT’S been 100 days since Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin was reappointed Education Minister.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had given all members of his Cabinet 100 days to achieve their performance targets once taking office and on Thursday, the Prime Minister announced that the ministers had achieved about 90% of their targets.

Parents, teachers and academics, however, say there is more work to be done.

They want Radzi to focus on improving the learning experience in schools so that students will want to go back and gain an education.

This is especially important as the country’s education system recovers from disruptions caused by Covid-19 over the past two years.

Parent Action Group for Education chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said there was a lack of policy changes to bridge learning loss due to the shuttering of schools, and to address mental health issues that proved detrimental to students in schools and tertiary institutions.

Rating Radzi with a score of 50 out of 100, Noor Azimah described his performance as a “poor pass”.

She said hybrid learning should be given priority to jump-start the learning process.

“The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 advocates for digital access at every school.

“We are already in the last wave. The minister (Radzi) would not want to fail the blueprint on his watch.

“Parents are also not convinced that the safety of their children are assured,” she said referring to recent reports of rape jokes made in schools and of period spot checks conducted in education institutions.

Noor Azimah said Malaysia needs its next generation of innovators to be brimming with new ideas, entrepreneurial, and driven yet grounded enough to do the right thing.

“Instead, we are more concerned with things like keeping substandard teachers and administration staff happy and decisions that pacify the masses.”

The rakyat, she said, want the ministry to adopt an objective approach in addressing challenges facing the education system.

Educationist Prof Tan Sri Dr T. Marimuthu said the ministry must actively look into making Internet access available in all areas.

“Homes of poorer families are overcrowded and their children do not have a conducive environment to learn.

“At least with a laptop, students can study anywhere.

“Access to guidance and counselling should also be made available; identify the NGOs that are providing these services and assist them in supporting these students,” he added.

Agreeing with Marimuthu, Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin said the lack of Internet connectivity must be resolved with the help of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

Calling on the ministry to engage more with parent-teacher associations (PTAs) instead of simply relying on the word of its officers, he urged Radzi to address the grouses raised by PTAs during dialogues he held with them recently.

“No point listening if there is no action,” he said.

He, however, commended Radzi for doing “fairly well” during the pandemic.

“Although we expect more from him, at least he has been firm in resolving issues surrounding the reopening of schools, exam and school holiday dates, and the period spot check controversy,” he said.Universiti Malaya Centre for Research in International and Comparative Education director Assoc Prof Dr Vishalache Balakrishnan said the ministry needs to bring students back to school by implementing “pull factors” like building rapport and trust.

She said it is time to allow schools to focus on the teaching and learning process, while at the same time, grooming independent learners.

“We need selfless teachers who see students as dynamic and unique individuals who have much potential that they can help to develop and flourish,” she said, adding that schools need to conduct holistic diagnostic tests to assess students and identify those facing mental health issues so that interventions can be arranged.

“The ministry must be forward-thinking and resolve issues using a sensitive and multicultural approach. There is no one size fits all solution,” Vishalache added.

National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Wang Heng Suan called for greater engagement between teachers and the ministry.The pandemic has made it tough for the union to discuss and highlight their problems to the ministry, he added.

“It’s hard to say if there’s been any significant achievement by the ministry in the 100 days.

“Since schools reopened, teachers have been extremely busy keying in students’ assessment data.“Such administrative work should stop. Give us the time and space to help our students catch up with their studies,” he said, adding that active engagement with the NUTP would allow the ministry to have a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground and together with the union, come up with solutions to overcome the issues.

During the ‘Malaysian Family Aspirations; 100 days in the Education Ministry’ live telecast with Bernama on Nov 23, Radzi said several key issues affecting the education system were tackled based on priority.

These included reopening schools after a prolonged closure, repairing and upgrading dilapidated schools, and tackling the perennial teacher shortage problem.

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