THE impact and central role education plays in expanding a country’s economic growth and its influence on society is undeniable.
Realising this increasing importance, the Government launched several educational initiatives.
The Education Ministry, in its bid to ensure these initiatives are met and well executed in its delivery, launched a comprehensive review of the education system to develop a new national education blueprint in 2011; known as the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025.
It details an ambitious and challenging transformation plan as it lists five system aspirations for the education system (see graphic).
To rigorously monitor the implementation plans, an independent unit known as the Performance and Delivery Unit (PADU) was established.
Due to the magnitude of the blueprint and its impact on the country’s education system, PADU chief executive officer Khadijah Abdullah said it is vital for them to work in alignment with the ministry.
“It is crucial to work closely in a strong and mutually supportive environment when developing action plans, monitoring and tracking implementation, as well as providing solutions and interventions to eliminate stumbling blocks.
“PADU was formed specifically to help the ministry drive the execution of the blueprint’s initiatives and gather ongoing feedback,” she added.
Executing the initiatives extends beyond merely tracking its progress, she emphasised.
Khadijah says a key challenge is in the shift of stakeholders’ mindset to embrace transformation.
“This especially involves the buy-in to do things differently in order to have speedy positive outcomes.
“It requires high perseverance and tenacity to stay on course, be focused and committed to deliver the outcomes,” she added.
The relationship between the quality of a nation’s education system and school teachers and leaders is a co-dependent one; hence it is important to upskill both teachers and school leaders.
PADU Teachers and Schools Leader executive director Dr Ruhaya Hassan said credibility, ability and vision are identified as the most effective leadership qualities of a successful school leader.
“School leaders are essentially principals and headmasters.
“The blueprint emphasises the improvement of leadership training which caters to continuous professional development of school leaders and strengthens leadership capabilities in all pivotal positions.
“It further outlines the importance of empowering school leaders in decision-making pertaining to their schools and encourages them to customise solutions based on contexts and need,” she added.
Reiterating the importance of equipping students with such skills in an increasingly challenging world, Dr Ruhaya said PADU is optimistic it will be able to achieve what it has pledged to achieve in the blueprint through its strategy and workforce.
As teachers and school leaders fall under her purview, Dr Ruhaya said her team has pledged to place high performing school leaders in all schools across the nation by 2021, which is the start of the third wave of the blueprint.
A high performing school leader is an individual who has achieved certain competencies and criterias as outlined by the ministry.
PADU Student Learning executive director Dr Azwan Abd Aziz said more classrooms in the country are implementing 21st century learning with an emphasis on students’ active participation and application of HOTS in solving issues and problems.
He stated that close to 300,000 teachers have been trained for the 21st century learning pedagogy, focusing on the inculcation of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) among students.
Upskilling teachers to inculcate HOTS in their teaching has shown a profound effect on the teaching and learning process.
Critical skills for the 21st century such as technological skills and communicative competence are now embedded in the curriculum.
“We are trying to uplift the acquisition of 21st century learning skills among our students in order for them to remain relevant in the future, in light of technological challenges and inventions.
“It is very important for students to be holistically developed.
“Together with the Education Ministry, we are targeting to produce not just future employees, but future employers.
“Therefore, we need to develop students who are problem solvers, critical thinkers, team players as well as those who are able to cope with difficulties using their soft skills, and students who are able to converse in English,” he said.
Dr Azwan believes the atmosphere in classrooms today are more dynamic, interesting and conducive to instil learning across disciplines that enables knowledge sharing and experiential learning.
This approach is an indication of HOTS application in the curriculum, assessment and co-curricular activities, coupled with the use of information and communication technology to prepare students for the changing landscape of higher education and future opportunities, he added.
Echoing Dr Ruhaya, Dr Azwan said it is imperative to future proof students to face obstacles they may encounter.
He said the ministry’s 21st century framework focuses on the 4Cs – communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
“In Malaysia, in addition to the 4Cs, a fifth component is included which we call values and ethics; we believe this element is crucial for students’ holistic development.
“We are looking into exposing our students to more collaborative learning.
“When they collaborate with others, they are required to communicate more – it comes hand in hand.
“Most students are used to rote learning, something that doesn’t require critical thinking. What we want is for students to identify issues on their own, using their critical thinking skills,” he emphasised.
The blueprint has entered its second wave, thus it is important to analyse some of its key targets, which include increasing awareness in STEM education and piloting options to increase students’ exposure towards the English language.
The achievements obtained in the first wave of the blueprint is used as a springboard for the initiatives under the second wave.