Moving education forward post-pandemic
The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB) is a useful gauge and a good indicator that serves as a diagnostic tool for the current climate in our education system. However, the situation has not progressed much in nine years, despite the targets that are set to be achieved in the MEB, which is currently in its final leg of implementation.
It is no surprise that many of the aspirations in the MEB remain unachieved. Critics of the blueprint had their reservations from the beginning and cautioned that some ambitious goals would be tall orders to fulfil.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) target — which measures 15-year-olds’ scholastic performance in mathematics, science and reading — for example, is for Malaysia to be among the top performing countries by the final wave of the MEB. But in reality, will we be able to climb from the bottom tier to the top tier in four years, which we were unable to do in the nine years before this?
Who is accountable for this letdown, considering that the MEB is also known as the Muhyiddin Report, a project of the current prime minister? Not much is being planned and discussed by the Ministry of Education (MoE) at this time to make up for the shortfall.
The Covid-19 situation, needless to say, has made it more complicated for any reforms and progress to be made. Instead of moving forward, it has put us in reverse gear and left us grappling with more difficult issues that need serious attention and quick recovery.
Today, who in the MoE is looking into developing the much-needed recovery education when schools reopen for face-to-face learning? With the track record of managing the MEB, the need for new plans for recovery education is a big concern indeed.
How will we be able to bridge the learning gap of those who are supposed to reach a certain level of achievement based on their age group? What about the learning gaps between urban and rural students based on their socioeconomic backgrounds?
Conversations and discussions on the recovery curriculum should have already been finalised — perhaps it has been — but with silence from the MoE, which seems to be on sleep mode, any developments will not be known or open for discussion. This is an opportune time to embark on a new age curriculum and syllabus, when other countries are also coming out of the pandemic and are at the starting line.
As much as the country needs to adopt a National Recovery Plan, our education system too needs to be properly strategised with a recovery plan. It would be a missed opportunity if we fail to recognise that the current curriculum and content is already obsolete, and that there is a dire need for reform. It would not be wise to return to the status quo in terms of teaching and learning, as had been the method of pre-Covid-19 times.
The scope of the World Bank’s Recovering Education in 2021 is for all schools to open fully or partially and remain open by the end of this year. Along with its partners Unesco and Unicef, it has pledged to “join forces to support countries to take all actions possible to plan, prioritise and ensure that all learners are back in school; that schools take all measures to reopen safely; that students receive effective remedial learning and comprehensive services to help recover learning losses and improve overall welfare; and their teachers are prepared and supported to meet their learning needs”.
The support given by these partners include design and support for remedial learning and digital transformation implementation, teacher training and blended learning teaching approaches. Therefore, part of the planning and strategy has already been undertaken by the partners.
MoE would just need to ensure that it is suited to, and able to fit well into, our national education system. Hopefully, this collaboration is a short-cut remedy and exactly what we need at this time to jump-start education post-Covid-19.
The focus now would be on schools reopening and ensuring that they remain open and are safe for all.