Employing best practices to transform the education system
Best practices, strategies, tactics that work to achieve greater performance for students and schools should not just be a showcase of successes, but must be shared, via a detailed ‘how to do’ manual so that they can be replicated with ease to attain the desired outcome, much like how a franchise business operates.
PAGE was invited by PCORE (Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason) to attend a parent teacher (PIBG) discussion mooted by the District Education Office of Sentul, to discuss strategies to develop synergy between parents, school, teachers and students towards achieving TN50.
This is a good initiative to jumpstart the discussion on how schools can engage parents and the community to create partnerships and work collaboratively towards achieving academic and co-curricular accomplishments for the students and the schools.
Parent and community involvement in schools is one of the shifts required to transform our education system as envisioned in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB). The Ministry of Education (MOE) developed a programme called PIBK (Penglibatan Ibu Bapa dan Komuniti) to create interest and ensure wider take-up of this transformation process. The MOE groomed 96 PIBK coaches to engage parents nationwide, and to encourage them to get involved in their children’s education and be active volunteers at school. These coaches are made up of school PTA chairpersons who have had stints in successfully running various programmes within their respective schools and communities, and which have had an impact on the bottom line – students achieving better academic and extra curricular results, lower absenteeism and ultimately transforming the school to become an all-rounded positive learning environment.
It is encouraging to hear one of the PIBK coaches from SK Desa Pandan sharing his school’s success stories, and showcasing various programmes that worked for the school. The parents are exemplary in contributing their expertise and time to the school. They have become teaching assistants, extra curricular instructors, traffic wardens and the list goes on. It is astounding but heartening to hear how much parental participation takes place in the school. One can imagine the huge time, energy and commitment on the part of the PIBK leader to drive this transformation, and to get the support of parents to implement the programmes.
The PIBG discussion took place at a Chinese primary school (SJKC) in Kepong. What was most striking about the school was how outstanding the SJKC looks in comparison to most of the national schools in the country. Even the high performing national primary school located in one of the world’s Top 10 coolest neighbourhoods (according to travel website Lonely Planet) doesn’t look and feel half as good as the SJKC. One could imagine the ‘shock downer’ feeling of those graduating from such SJKC when they ascend to a national secondary school. National schools can certainly benefit by learning and employing the administration tactics of SJKC on how to improve the school’s infrastructure. These Chinese schools have many best practices to share. There should be more collaborative efforts between national and Chinese schools.
We should also learn the best practices from all over the world and observe the workings and aspects of the best education systems in other parts of the world. A recent conference in Kuala Lumpur organised by BFM Edge and Yayasan Hasanah entitled, Education in the 21st Century: The Finnish Experience showcased the much-revered Finnish education system.
There is no secret to the success of the Finnish education system. Finnish education ensures that students learn, and that nothing should get in the way of their ability to learn, be it socio-economic status, health or mental disabilities. This is equity in education in its truest form.
The Finnish teachers are highly trained and their profession is held in high esteem. Teachers are required to have a masters’ degree. Teacher recruitment is further filtered by psychometric suitability to ensure that they will be good teachers.
Every school is Finland offers the same quality education. They do not have such a thing as different bands of schools that categorise schools by achievements in national exams.
The strength of the Finnish system is the way they support pupils in need of special help and attention. Additional assistance is available for those with learning difficulties, developmental disabilities, and mental health issues, among many other issues that may hamper their learning.
They have a national curriculum to follow but the teachers can choose to teach the way they deem fit. Their curriculum highlights transversal competencies, which are broad based knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that are integral to life in the 21st century. The Finnish teach competency skills in contrast to the Malaysian method of rote learning, being content driven and aiming to complete the syllabus before exam time.
The way parents get involved in Finland is by having meaningful dialogues with the teachers about the progress of their children. They do not need to have such extensive parental and community involvement like our PIBK. They even provide free lunches, and have been doing so since 1948.
Collaboration and employing best practices can work, but we need to get our priorities and direction right.
But how adaptable is our education system to accommodate such best practices like transversal competencies? Will we be able to realise and remove ineffective and archaic ways of doing things?
It is high time we got our act together.