I am blessed. My job enabled me to work with teachers, students and parents.
I've met many great principals who are inspiring, teachers who do not hesitate to go beyond the call of duty and students whose lives have improved because of them.
It gives me joy to give hope. More importantly, I am proud to have been part of the process to make our nation's education system great.
The Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) has been around for nearly two years. And the execution of this grand plan has been rigorously monitored and tracked.
Recently, the 2014 Annual Report was published, and I want to share snippets of the outcomes today.
Naysayers stay away! The horror stories are the exception and not the norm.
This is about the positives.
99.98% of new teacher trainees in 2014 had obtained at least 5As in SPM. 51% obtained at least 7As while 22% at least 9As. Only the top 30% of SPM leavers are accepted. In reality, the bar is much higher. Here's to fantastic teachers in the near future.
Higher Order Thinking Skills.
The education system is no longer about memorizing-and-regurgitating or learning for exams. Students need to apply Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) in order to succeed. 31,891 Maths and science teachers (and 50,957 from other subjects) have been trained to incorporate HOTS in the pedagogy. Scientific inquiry, reasoning and application are key to our education system. 20% of public examination questions are HOTS based. Some complained because they didn't get A for their exams, but many see this as the way to go.
The Education Ministry now screens and tests language proficiency for all students aged 7, 8, 9 as part of the Literacy and Numeracy Screening (LINUS) initiative. The 2013 cohort achieved 63.3% in English literacy in Year 1 (age 7) and improved by 24% to 78.3% in Year 2. Year 1 students in the 2014 cohort achieved 70.2% in English literacy.
The Professional English Language Training (ProELT) Programme has seen the upskilling and pedagogical improvement of English language teachers. 2014 saw 10,502 teachers participate, with 87.8% improving one band level from B1 to B2 and 43.1% improving from B2 to C1 according to the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR). To note, to qualify for a teaching position in Europe the minimum is C1. C2 is the highest on the scale.
Also in 2014, 360 native English speakers mentored about 5,000 teachers from 1,800 schools nationwide. Since 2012, up to 225 English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) consisting of Fulbright Scholars have taught in 101 of our local schools.
The above aside, there are many other initiatives to improve English proficiency in schools. These include English drama camps, a more robust literature component, intervention lessons for weak students, choral speaking and more.
The key point here is that English is taken seriously. Command of the language requires effective teaching and a strong curriculum - and not just teaching other subjects in English.
Technical and vocational education and training.
This will be a big area of growth for Malaysia (I wrote about this in a separate article). 1.6 million jobs in this sector is expected to be created by 2020.
TVET is for the skills-inclined student. The emphasis on TVET is recognition that different children have different interests and talents.
Currently, there are 81 secondary schools that offer Basic Vocational Education (PAV) for 13 to 15 year old students. This includes classes on food preparation, electrical wiring and furniture making.
Further up, there are 80 vocational colleges (KVs) offering the Malaysia Vocational Diploma (DVM) and Malaysia Skills Certificate (SKM). In 2014, 5.2% or 22,096 post lower secondary students were enrolled in vocational programmed. The target is 20% by end 2020.
90 Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) were signed between the Education Ministry and industries to provide training opportunities to vocational students in 2014 bringing the total to 208 (including companies like Proton, Continental Tyres, and even Shell- which has been involved for more than 20 years).
Lower secondary enrollment rates are at 92.5% (comparatively in Vietnam it is about 63%).
Preschool enrollment rates have increased from 81.7% to 84.2%. This is contributed by 1,273 new preschool classes available (with199 public, 1074 private). Awareness for quality early childhood education is on the rise and becoming more accessible.
Under the District Transformation Programme, carried out in 5 priority states, the urban-rural performance gap narrowed by 10%.
10,700 Special Education Needs (SEN) students are enrolled into 2,798 schools which offer Inclusive Education Programmes (IEPs). Under this Programme, SEN students are taught in the same classes as non-SEN students with teachers in the schools specially trained to manage all the students.
41,207 Orang Asli children are in schools. There are four Orang Asli cluster schools, one of them high performance.
3,070 upgrading or repair projects in 2,410 schools were completed in 2014. This included physical infrastructure, classroom, toilets and electricity.
All 10,000+ schools will have its walls. It's a mammoth effort but an effort to be carried nonetheless.
My conclusion? Our education system is improving.
Many good men and women have worked and continue to work hard to make the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB)'s implementation successful.
I know these people. Their drive, passion and dedication are unparalleled, and they are as much vested in our education as the next person.
To them I say good job on the achievements so far and thanks for giving your all.
There is still quite a lot to be done. Keep it up. I expect to see real continued improvements in the years to come.
With a new minister in place, I wish the Education Ministry all the best.
May you continue soaring upwards.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.
Danial Rahman has education close to his heart. He tweets at @danial_ari and welcomes feedback at email@example.com.