IT was reported that 100,000 students had dropped out of school.
According to the Malaysia Millennium Development Goals 2010 report, 90% of lower secondary school students and 75% of upper secondary school students who quit schooling were from the B40 group.
The socio-economic status of a student can contribute to learning loss. Though we enjoy free education right up to Form Five, going to school comes at a price.
Children from primary school have to buy uniforms, shoes, stationery, workbooks and revision books, on top of paying for school bus services. As the child progresses to secondary school, the expenses increase.
B40 families usually have a number of schoolgoing children and this can pose serious financial problems to the parents. Apart from the money factor, many children in the B40 group may need to help their parents with their jobs or look after their younger siblings after school.
For most, their home environments and neighbourhoods may not be conducive for learning.
Poor attendance, low grades, sleeping in class and disciplinary issues are signs of these children becoming potential school dropouts.
The Education Ministry needs to identify and tackle these indicators before they become a major problem.
Every year, when Year Six children progress to Form One, it is common for Form One teachers to lament illiteracy among some of these children. It is baffling how a 12-year-old has not learnt to read and write after going through six years of primary schooling. This has to be addressed urgently in primary schools.
When children move to lower secondary school, they have to be monitored and supervised by the teachers. During their lower secondary education, the students’ learning and academic inclination should be looked into seriously.
Students who are not academically inclined should be sent for technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
We have such schools but the problem is that academically inclined children from influential families are sent there because such schools are a gateway to jobs. And so, non-academically inclined children are deprived of the avenue available for them to hone their skills and talents.
They remain in normal schools and over time, drop out when they feel that they are wasting their time and start to work in hotels, workshops and factories to supplement their family income. Unfortunately, a third of those who opt to remain in school and sit for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) are likely to fail.
Many of these students are in school not because of their academic merits but because of a system that does not address their non-academic inclination. They have difficulties coping with their studies and generally face serious social problems at home so they become problem students – the backbenchers and troublemakers.
Often, the ones who are hauled up to the principal’s office or discipline teacher’s room have no respect for authority and would ridicule their teachers during lessons. Their attendance also leaves much to be desired as they come as and when they like.
As a result, they do not do homework and fail their tests and when teachers take drastic action, these students retaliate by scratching the teachers’ cars or resorting to violence. Some teachers do not reprimand these students and ignore them in class for fear of unnecessary problems. Over time, these students become adults who resort to violence and gangsterism.
Cases of indiscipline in schools have been on the rise and it is alarming. Suspension and expulsion – the two most extreme measures a school can take against these students for gross indiscipline – merely result in the students moving to another school where they repeat their antics.
The pressure and expectations heaped on these non-academically inclined students by their parents, school and society cause them to rebel against the system and the establishment.
Thus, TVET subjects and other skills training programmes for lower secondary students must be reserved only for those who are not academically inclined, while primary schools need to ensure that children are able to read and write when they move to secondary schools.
The education system must be revamped to accommodate these students so that their energy can be channelled to useful pursuits and they are able to achieve their full potential.