Current Affairs

Bukit Bendera MP criticizes the handling of PPJBI programme

By Zairil Khir Johari, MP for Bukit Bendera

Additional RM184 million to be spent on foreign English mentors based on self-proclaimed “success”

On Monday, I raised a parliamentary question on whether the three-year RM270 million contract to hire 360 foreign native English-speaking mentors for the Program Penutur Jati Bahasa Inggeris, or PPJBI programme would be renewed after its expiry late last year.

According to Deputy Minister of Education P Kamalanathan’s reply, the programme had been renewed for a period of two years, from 1 October 2013 to 30 September 2015. The terms of the contract remain similar, with the same three consultants retained – the British Council, Brighton Education Group and SMR HR Group.

The Deputy Minister further explained that the PPJBI programme, designed to improve the capacity of local English teachers, is being implemented at 1,800 primary schools across the country, costing RM184.4 million over two years, which amounts to about RM21,300 a month for each of the 360 foreign mentors.

 Poorer UPSR English results after three years

In my supplementary question to the Deputy Minister, I asked whether the programme, which first ran from 2011 to 2013, is justifiable, being that last year’s UPSR exam showed a visible decline in the results of the English language paper amongst national school students. Not only did the average grade for the paper reduce, the number of candidates who obtained grades A, B and C also declined.

In his rebuttal, the Deputy Minister admitted the decline but defended the programme by saying that it was a long-term plan.

While I fully agree with the Deputy Minister that education programmes are necessarily long term, I find it hard to believe that three years of mentoring by native English-speaking teachers cannot produce even the slightest improvement.

 Success based on self-assessment by consultants

When pressed for empirical evidence to justify the need to extend the programme for another two years, the Deputy Minister responded by saying that, “According to the KPI assessment of… 6,054 teachers evaluated by the mentors based on the Common European Framework… the number of teachers in the bottom bands, A1, A2 and B1, had decreased,” while “teachers in the top bands of C1, C2 and B2 had increased significantly….”

According to this explanation, it would appear that the so-called “success” achieved in terms of increased proficiency of local English teachers is based on KPIs evaluated by the very same mentors who are hired to train them. In other words, the consultants, whose own contracts are at stake, are tasked to evaluate the proficiency of teachers under their charge.

I understand that the Ministry is moving forward with School-Based Assessment, but this Consultant-Based Assessment is taking self-assessment to another degree. Should not the teachers be evaluated independently and more importantly, by the outcomes achieved by their students? If last year’s UPSR results are anything to go by, then this programme should be seriously re-evaluated.

Considering that nearly half a billion ringgit (from 2011 to 2015) is going to be spent on this programme, there needs to be more accountability and KPIs based not only on teachers’ proficiency but also on student outcomes.


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