Bringing in the best to teach

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From left to right to right are Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris Vice-Chancellor Profesor Dato' Dr. Zakaria B. Kasa, Universiti Malaya Vice-Chancellor Professor Dato’ Dr Mohd. Amin bin Jalaludin, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) Director and  Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) Chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, PEMANDU’s Director of Education Tengku Nurul Azian Tengku Shahriman and  QI Group of Companies / Quest University’s Executive Chairman Dato’ Seri Dr. Vijay Eswaran.

From left to right to right are Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris Vice-Chancellor Profesor Dato’ Dr. Zakaria B. Kasa, Universiti Malaya Vice-Chancellor Professor Dato’ Dr Mohd. Amin bin Jalaludin, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) Director and Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) Chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, PEMANDU’s Director of Education Tengku Nurul Azian Tengku Shahriman and QI Group of Companies / Quest University’s Executive Chairman Dato’ Seri Dr. Vijay Eswaran.

By T.K. Tamby

Teaching is a profession that has the greatest impact in nation building as it helps create a workforce that gives the nation its competitive edge globally.

As such, it is not a profession to be taken lightly and this is why the Government is single minded in its effort to attract the best to the profession, said PEMANDU’s Director of Education Tengku Nurul Azian Tengku Shahriman.

Tengku Nurul Azian (pic), who was a panellist at the 18th Malaysian Education Summit 2014 held recently, said the efforts included a high profile marketing campaign, which seemed to have worked, as it saw 5A students among the 53,337 who applied for 3,000 teachers’ training spots that opened up recently.

However, just attracting the brightest into the profession is insufficient, when two thirds of the 410,000 teachers still in service, are under the age of 40 and that 60% of them would still teaching for the next 20 years.

Hence for transformation to successfully take place as envisioned under the Education Blueprint for 2013-2025, there is an urgent need to improve the quality of those still in service, she said.

The Education Blueprint comes with 11 shifts for transformation. However, according to Tengku Nurul Azian, significant impact can already be made by just focusing on the four principal levers – at the principal, teachers, students and parents.

“Granted all 11 levers are important. However, by focusing on the four principal levers encompassing principal, teachers, students and parents, a lot can already be achieved to further thrust education in Malaysia in the right direction,” she added.

Performance-based contracts for principals and teachers

In the case of principals, the selection criteria have been tightened and all selected candidates will have to undergo the National Professional Qualification for Educational Leaders before they can become principals.

The improved selection requirement complements the “New Deals incentive” which was introduced in 2010, whereby principals and teachers are rewarded yearly based on performance. Each top performing principal would receive RM7,500. In the case of teachers, the top 5% would each receive RM1,800 as compared to the RM900 received by the other teachers.

This year, 566 primary school head teachers were awarded performance bonuses in recognition of their efforts and hard work. (Secondary school principals have yet to receive the New Deals for 2014.)

One of them is the headmaster of Sekolah Kebangsaan Tasik Chini, Pekan in the state of Pahang (pic). Previously, the school was under-enrolled with less than 100 orang asli pupils and 13 teachers overseeing them.

Since then, the school has made tremendous progress by moving from Band 5 in 2009 to Band 1 in 2014, shared Tengku Nurul Azian.

This was achieved through a combination of factors and primarily due to:

  • Strong local community support to diminish absenteeism
  • Teachers’ dedication and care towards pupils – e.g. Adoption programme where selected pupils live with teachers throughout school-week
  • The leverage on local facilities – e.g. hold sporting events at a public field in the nearest village

Unified performance assessment for teaching competencies

Teachers, on the other hand, will be assessed by a unified performance assessment instrument which will look at teaching competencies and student outcomes. For those who perform, there will be faster career progression and performance based rewards.

Underperforming teachers will undergo remedial programmes; part of the continuous professional development master plan, which is under development with a target completion by year-end. The possibility of the Public Services Department coming up with an early exit policy for those who are not performing was also brought up during the discussion at the summit.

During the panel discussion on Transforming Malaysian Education in the 21st Century, Tengku Nurul Azian also suggested the idea of a licensing requirement for teaching as a measure of ensuring professionalism.

“We should start a conversation on licensing and not be afraid to debate on it. After all teaching is a high skilled profession, just like law and medicine,” she said.

Other areas being looked at, in the effort to raise the quality of teaching and teachers’ training, include the rating of 27 Teachers Training Institutes nationwide, with the possibility of allowing them to take in external students for teachers’ training and even training in-service teachers to maximise resources.

Parent-teacher support system

The Blueprint also places strong emphasis on a strong network and links between parents and teachers to create a support system that helps push for best practices in teaching and learning. Parents are also to be provided with a self assessment toolkit to create awareness on the importance of education support at home.

For the students, the emphasis will be on the development of “higher order thinking skills” as well as connectivity and exposure through the 1Bestarinet Virtual Learning Environment (pic).

The education summit organised by ASLI was officiated by the Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh who spoke about the upcoming the blueprint for the higher education sector to include various measures that could provide students a competitive edge for the job market here and globally.

The higher education blueprint would be an extension of the National Education Blueprint launched last year.

At last month’s Global Malaysia Series (GMS) organised by the Economic Transformation Programme, PEMANDU Chief Executive Officer Senator Dato’ Sri Idris Jala pointed out that the Education Blueprint will help create the highly skilled talent pool crucial for an innovation driven development post-2020.

The Blueprint, among others, focuses on revising curricula to embed skills and knowledge such as creative thinking, innovation, problem solving and leadership as well as the pedagogical approaches to nurturing these skills.

The World Bank has also commended Malaysia on having made great strides on access to education.

“Malaysia has made great strides on access to education. We found that official figures actually understate enrolment in secondary education. Just about every Malaysian child under 17 is in school, and this is no small feat,” said World Bank Senior Economist for Malaysia Dr Frederico Gil Sander.

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