National Education Blueprint still no substance, little change

By Ong Kian Ming

Almost one year after the release of the preliminary report of the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025, the finalized document shows very little substantive changes and fails to address the concerns and incorporate the feedback of many stakeholders

The final version of the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 was released on the 6th of September, almost one year after 11th of September, 2012, when the preliminary report was released. During this one year period, in the run-up to the Final Blueprint, the Minister was supposed to ‘embark on a second round of intensive public consultations to gather feedback from different stakeholder groups to incorporate into the Final Blueprint’.

We were waiting in anticipation that the Ministry would be true to its word and incorporate much of this feedback into the final document, especially in areas where shortcomings have been identified. Unfortunately, the final document fails to address many of the concerns previously expressed by stakeholders after the release of the preliminary blueprint. Furthermore, what is ‘new’ in the final blueprint is not transformational and fails to give confidence that the state of the education system in Malaysia is making a turn for the better.

Among the key additions to the Final Blueprint are (i) Making SPM English a compulsory pass in 2016 (ii) A new BM syllabus for National-Type Schools (iii) Increase the % of higher order thinking skills (HOTS) questions for the UPSR, Form 3 and SPM exams (iv) revamping the teacher training colleges (v) expanding the initiatives for special needs education.

While these and other aspirations, ideals and programs outlined in the Final Blueprint are laudable and are deserving of support, these are largely incremental and administration changes rather than the much needed reform and renewal which is necessary to turn around our education system.

This view was expressed in an internal memo by the Malaysian Independent Review Panel led by Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, the vice-chancellor of the Albukhary International University after the Preliminary Blueprint. The Final Blueprint does not seem to have taken the advice of this Review Panel which was established by the Minister.

Furthermore, many of the concerns and recommendations of stakeholders were totally ignored. There was no mention of building new schools according to the needs and demands of parents, most notably Sekolah Agama Rakyat and Sekolah Kebangsaan Jenis Cina and Tamil.

While we welcome the plan to recruit teachers from the top 30% of each graduating cohort, the Final Blueprint is silent on steps to ensure a more diverse teaching workforce. While the Final Blueprint outlines a strategy to devolve more decision making power to education agencies at the state and local levels, it has no provision to include the state and local governments in any decision making process. While the intention to place more emphasis and resources into vocational education has been expressed in the Final Blueprint, it makes no mention of any efforts to streamline technical, vocational and skills training among the different Ministries which offer these programs namely the Ministry of Human Resources and the Ministry of Youth and Sports in addition to the Ministry of Education.

Many NGOs and stakeholders requested for the Ministry to not rush to implement the Education Blueprint but allow them to study the Final draft. Unfortunately, the Minister has turned a deaf ear to these requests and have gone on to announce a Final Blueprint which fails to excite, neglects many concerns and recommendations of stakeholders and does not inspire confidence that a substantive renewal and reform of our education system will take place.

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