Only the best for Orang Asli

IN 2022, no dropout among Orang Asli students was detected at the primary school level, while at the secondary level, the dropout rate was as high as 4.65%, says Fadhlina Sidek.

The Education Minister added that as of January this year, a total of 348 Orang Asli children who dropped out had resumed schooling in 10 schools across the country.

This was based on statistics on Orang Asli students in national schools only.

Fadhlina said to ensure Orang Asli and Pribumi students receive the best education, the ministry had introduced the Orang Asli Education Transformation initiative in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

“This is to increase the enrolment and attendance of Orang Asli students in school and ensure that they obtain quality education that is relevant to their needs,” she told Parliament on June 13.

Fadhlina was responding to Bentong MP Young Syefura Othman, who posed a question on the access to education for children from the Orang Asli community, during debates on the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) 2020 Annual Report.

The ministry, said Fadhlina, had also implemented the Primary Literacy and Numeracy programme (PLaN) in 117 Orang Asli schools nationwide.

“This is to support Orang Asli students who have not yet achieved the minimum level of proficiency in Bahasa Melayu, English and Mathematics,” she said.

She added that the ministry’s Adult Classes for Orang Asli, Penan/Pribumi (Kedap) were aimed at improving the mastery of basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills among parents of Orang Asli students.

“The classes also serve to increase awareness of the importance of education among these parents, who will in turn be concerned about their children’s learning development,” she said.

As remote placement is a factor that causes Orang Asli students to be at risk of dropping out, the ministry had provided hostels in 45 primary schools and a secondary school with 100% enrolment of these students, added Fadhlina.

She also pointed out that in Perak, which has the second highest Orang Asli community in the country, Teach For Malaysia (TFM) had been committed to supporting the state Education Department.

“As of June this year, there are seven schools with Orang Asli students in Perak following the TFM programme involving 24 of its fellows,” she said.

TFM, a nonprofit organisation, focuses on student leadership development through classroom and community activities, such as art, literature and communication, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Among other efforts by the ministry include expanding the Comprehensive School 9 (K9) Programme as part of its strategy to address Orang Asli student attendance in rural areas.

“As of May this year, there are eight Orang Asli schools that implemented this programme,” she offered, adding that the ministry has expanded the K9 concept to K11.

“As a start, the ministry has initiated a K11 pilot programme at SK RPS Betau, Kuala Lipis, Pahang, which is now known as SMK RPS Betau, specifically for Orang Asli students in the area,” she said.

It is hoped that K9 and K11 schools will ensure that the children are in school from Year One to Form Three, and Year One to Form Five, respectively.

On another question by Young Syefura, who asked about teachers’ exposure to the culture of the Orang Asli community, Fadhlina said since 2013, the ministry had offered 20 Orang Asli and 20 Penan students every year to pursue the Bachelor in Teaching Programme specialising in Bahasa Melayu at Teacher Education Institutes (IPGs).

“To date, a total of 99 Orang Asli students and 53 Penan students have furthered their studies in various fields,” she said.

She added that the IPGs also provide courses for prospective teachers related to sociology in education.

“This course allows students to understand, appreciate and be aware of the importance of education for all and the fostering of national integration in a diverse sociocultural school environment,” she said.

She also said the ministry has strengthened teacher competence through Continuous Professional Development, including for teachers who teach in rural areas and schools with a majority of Orang Asli students.

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