Monday, April 23, 2012

PEMANDU TEKSI DAN KASIH IBU


Sepanjang perjalanan dari LCCT Sepang ke rumah saya di Bandar Baru Bangi dengan menaiki teksi begitu bermakna. Kebiasaannya salah seorang anak saya akan jemput saya di LCCT. Tapi pada hari petang Khamis yang lalu, mereka ada urusan masing-masing. Yang biasa menjemput saya anak kedua, tapi kini sedang bercuti dengan isterinya di London. Yang sulung pula bertugas di luar stesen di Labuan. Anak lelaki keempat pula baru saja mula kerja di Bangi dan pulang lewat petang.

Begitulah sibuk anak-anak sekarang. Mungkin waktu saya balik dari Brunei tidak kena masanya. Jadi terpaksa naik teksi dari LCCT Sepang. Tapi semua itu tidak menjadi masalah sebab ada banyak teksi yang boleh dinaiki. Bayar saja di kaunter, teksi sudah sedia untuk dinaiki. Saya naik teksi yang pemandu bangsa Cina. Pada awalnya, pemandu teksi tersebut hanya asyik memandun. Tak bercakap sepatah kata pun. Namun, dia nampak gelisah masa memandu. Tingkahlakunya saya perhatikan sejak mula duduk di bahagian belakang. Mungkin ada sesuatu yang difikirkannya. Sesekali dia baca mesej yang diterima melalui telefon bimbitnya.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Rombak sistem pendidikan, bukan sekadar kosmetik

Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid,
13 Apr 2012

Pengumuman kerajaan untuk melaksanakan reformasi pendidikan bukan suatu yang baru. Seruan pelbagai pihak agar sistem pendidikan dirombak sudah lama disuarakan.

Rasa resah melihat kegagalan pendidikan negara melahirkan generasi yang mempunyai sahsiah yang seimbang seperti yang dinyatakankan dalam Falsafah Pendidikan Negara jelas menuntut agar sistem yang sedia wujud disemak semula secara total.

Bermakna bermula dari aspek konsep kesepaduan ilmu sehingga aspek sistem kurikulum, kokurikulum, buku teks, skima peperiksaan, sistem pelatihan guru, pentadbiran dan kepimpinan sekolah dan universiti, skima perlantikan dan saraan guru, prasarana dan kemudahan, pensijilan dan pengiktirafan, sistem pengajaran dan pembelajaran.

Teras berpendapat tidak ada gunanya reformasi pendidikan diumumkan jika yang ingin dilakukan hanyalah perubahan bersifat superfisial dan kosmetik semata-mata.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Reforming Education: Fixing Kampong Schools

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com

Third of Six Parts: Extending the School Day and Year

In the first essay I suggested enhancing the English fluency of kampong students through increasing the number of hours devoted to the subject and the number of subjects taught in that language, introducing English immersion classes, and even bringing back the colonial-era English schools. The second essay dealt with recruiting teachers, as with those retired ones trained under the old all-English system, native English-speaking spouses of Malaysians and expatriates, and recruiting from abroad. This essay focuses on kampong schools.

Finland demonstrates the crucial importance of having professional, well-trained teachers. That is only one part of the solution. Provide these teachers with superior school facilities, as those Finns are doing, and only then can we expect miracles from our students. Today we provide kampong pupils with neither, and we expect miracles from them. When they do not deliver, as you would expect, they would be blamed and left to shoulder the presumed deficiencies of our race and culture.

What a terrible burden we impose upon our fragile young!

The first and immediate issue is the deplorable physical conditions of kampong schools. Many are unsafe, from roofs collapsing to unhygienic canteens. At first glace this is purely an engineering and public health issue respectively. Meaning, get competent engineers and builders to design and build structurally safe schools, and have public health inspectors to check regularly on the canteens.

Like everything else in Malaysia however, the corrosive effect of political corruption intrudes everywhere, even and especially on school contracts. The roof contractors and canteen operators are at the end of a very long line, after the economic parasites that are the corrupt politicians have had their fill. Then we wonder at why our school children are burnt to death from unsafe hostels. There is no money left for a sprinkler system or fire alarm.

It is a complex and systemic problem, and school contracts are only a small and not even the most lucrative part. So do not expect remedies any time soon, certainly not from the government as these corrupt politicians are it.

Fortunately in Malaysia the various professional bodies still retain some semblance of autonomy. One solution would be for them to hold those professionals accountable. When roofs collapse for example, the engineers and architects responsible should be hauled before their respective professional boards to be disciplined. Revoke a few professional licenses and that would send a clear and effective message. It would not stop political corruption but at least that would keep our professionals honest and, well, professional. The Watergate scandal of the Nixon era saw a number of lawyers disbarred, with salutary effect on the others.

A more direct and practical solution would be to stop entirely the building of schools and focus instead on having classrooms, specifically factory-built modular units. Put a few of these together, and with additional units for administration, teachers’ lounge, and multipurpose use, and you have a school. The only local tender left would be to prepare the site to put these units, grade the school field, and pave the driveway. The monetary value of such tenders would be so small as not to interest the local political warlords.

With portable generators these units could be air-conditioned and equipped with satellite dishes. Then those children would no longer be disadvantaged, at least with respect to digital connectivity.

Put these modular units under shady trees and you lessen considerably the cooling bill. With cool classrooms you could extend the school day and year. Those students would rather remain in class rather than be out in the heat of the day. I would use the afternoon for fine arts as with music lessons, “prep” time, and sports so that when these students leave for home it would be only to play with their friends, and to sleep. All their school work, and more, had been done at school.

I would lengthen the school year from the current 180 to 210-220 days, to match the Japanese. This is one area to “Look East.” I would also provide lunches and mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks to ensure that the pupils would get adequate nutrition. Besides, it would hard to educate a hungry kid.

Next to nutrition is health. You cannot educate a child who is unhealthy, and you cannot keep a child healthy who is uneducated. During my primary school days in the early 1950s, there was a dental clinic at my school and we had regular checkups. Indian and African school children are today regularly de-wormed. That is one intervention that contributes most to their improved school performance and reduced absenteeism.

Worm infestation was endemic during my youth as kampong kids were essentially kaki ayam (barefooted) at home and in school. Today with a better economy, they wear shoes. However, now with frequent floods, worm infestation may again be a major factor. We need solid data for if indeed this is a major problem, it can be readily and cheaply remedied.

I would enrich the curriculum with music lessons and singing classes. That would boost the pupils’ confidence and spill over to their academic performance. This has been demonstrated in rural Venezuela with its highly effective El Sistema program, and has been successfully replicated in inner-city schools of New York. Singing is also the best way to learn another language. I learned English through singing Baa Baa Black Sheep, as well as taking part in debates, speeches and class plays. Those activities would not and could not be readily tested at the end of the year, but they contribute immensely to learning.

Kampong schools are also small; we should exploit that advantage and not let it be a liability or be an excuse for not doing anything. For one, the teachers would get to know the students and their families well. Learning and other problems could be spotted earlier and effective interventions instituted sooner. Rest assured that there would be no bullying or other anti-social behaviors as they would be spotted much earlier before they could get out of hand. America’s Small School Movement championed by Deborah Meier is premised precisely on these proven advantages.

There are definite challenges to small schools however, especially when they are scattered in rural areas. Again here we can learn much from America, especially with the experiences of Midwestern rural states. Consider the availability of teachers especially in such areas as music and special education. One solution is “clustering” where a group of four or five nearby schools would share a teacher.

Another would be the virtual classroom where you could have one room specially wired so students could be connected digitally to a teacher elsewhere. Technology can greatly alleviate many of the problems associated with the isolation of rural schools.

Malaysia has a definite advantage in that even though our rural schools are scattered, they are not as widely spread out as in America; thus travel or transportation would not pose a major problem. Malaysia also does not have America’s problem of declining enrollment in its rural schools. In fact it is increasing, which makes solving these problems even more pressing.

For those who think that my proposals as unduly expensive, consider the price for not providing our kampong children with superior education. That will effectively trap them in perpetual poverty, with dire consequences not only for them but also for the rest of Malaysia. A large component to the Bumiputra/non-Bumiputra gaps in educational achievement, as reflected in the recently released SPM results, is the consequence of this urban/rural divide.

In responding to these and other myriad problems, Minister of Education Muhyddin could not venture beyond the banalities. I wish he and his officers would tackle head on the specific issues raised here. You do not need to convene yet another expensive commission or blue ribbon committee. God knows, we already have plenty of those already. The problems are obvious; so too are the remedies. With some political resolve and concentration of effort, plus a wee bit of intelligence and imagination, you would go a long way in ameliorating these problems.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Inilah Keutamaan Menjaga Lidah

REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, Oleh: Dr HM Harry Mulya Zein

“Tiada satu ucapan pun yang diucapkannya melainkan ada di dekatnya malaikat pengawas yang selalu hadir.” (QS Qaaf [50]: 18)

Lidah tidak bertulang. Petatah itu menggambarkan bagaimana lidah bisa membawa si pemiliknya menuju pintu surga atau menuju pintu neraka. Bahaya yang ditimbulkan oleh lidah sangat besar, dan petaka yang bermula darinya juga luar biasa. Abu Bakar Ash-Shiddiq RA. Pernah memegang lidahnya sambil menangis dan berkata, “Inilah yang mendatangkan berbagai bencana padaku.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

Learning from Finland

FINLAND entered into the mainstream discourse on education after their strong showing in the PISA survey. Conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the survey compares 15-year-olds internationally in reading, mathematics and science, and Finland has consistently ranked highly in all three areas since 2000. Finnish students’ performance only dipped in 2009, as students from Shanghai, China bagged the top spot.

Since then, scores of educators and policy-makers worldwide (including Malaysia) have flocked to the country to see what they were getting right.

In his book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?, the Finnish Education Ministry’s Center for International Mobility director Pasi Sahlberg writes that the Finnish educational level before the 1960s was “close to that of Malaysia and Peru”.

Following dramatic changes around the 1970s and onwards, the Finns’ approach to reform may surprise Malaysians —there are no standardised tests, at least until students get to the upper-secondary level, teacher training programmes are among the most selective in the country, and a masters’ degree is required to enter the profession.

Teachers are trained to assess students and provide individualised grading for each child. Incompetent teachers are dealt with by the principal, and there is a strong teachers’ union.

Additionally, there are virtually no private schools, and all pupils receive free school meals, healthcare access, psychological counseling, and individualised student guidance.

Critics rightly point out that the lessons of Finland are not readily applicable here, citing the country’s mostly homogenous population of about 5.4 million as an example.

But the country’s immigrants have doubled in the past decade, to no ill-effect to Finland’s PISA scores.

Read here about the comment on our education standard. Education for free, read here

Thestar, 1 April 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Iktiraf felda

Sejak semalam, beberapa berita berkaitan Felda saya baca dan tonton melalui tv. Walaupun bertugas di Brunei, isu-isu berkaitan felda masih saya ikuti. Berita tentang karnival Iktiraf, yang sedang berlangsung di KL menarik perhatian saya. Ketika berehat di hujung minggu, saya tonton TV 1 yang buat liputan program Iktiraf. Disebabkan saya dibesarkan di Felda (sejak 1960), maka rancangan ini menarik hati saya. Program ketengahkan kejayaan Felda kini. Tapi liputan utama adalah aktiviti sosial yang meliputi main kompang, pertandingan sukan, hiburan popular, pameran dan sebagainya. Kata ketua Seranta Felda semasa temu bual dengan TV 1 pada siaran pagi Ahad, ada 20000 orang Felda serta karnival tersebut. Hebat. Ramai sungguh orang Felda datang KL. Dia kata Felda semakin maju melalui transformasi kerajaan. Bila ditanya isu FGVB, senaraian itu dia kata sangat baik. Kalau tak buat sekarang, Felda akan rugi. Lebih banyak kebaikan yang akan diperoleh peneroka. PM Najib nak umum durian runtuh Mei ini untuk peneroka.

Memang banyak sumbangan Felda. Tak dapat nak sangkal. Dari segi pembangunan insan, ramai profesional yang telah dilahirkan. Jurutera, doktor, peguam, pensyarah dan ramai lagi telah berjaya dilahirkan menerusi Felda. Saya sempat cari maklumat melalui Google seorang kawan yang sama bersekolah rendah dan menengah dulu. Dah lama tak dengar cerita dia. Google kata sekarang dia adalah Managing Director syarikat caringali minyak terkenal di rantau ini. Dulu (70an) dia sama sama kayuh basikal ke sekolah menengah sejauh 10 batu dari felda. Masa itu jalan tanah merah lagi. Dia seorang yang cerdik dan akhirnya berjaya dalam kerjaya. Ramai lagi kawan-kawan yang sama sedarjah yang berjaya. Ada yang bertugas pegawai tinggi tentera, pensyarah, usahawan berjaya, guru dan sebaginya. Walau bagimanapun, saya tak lupa juga ramai juga kawan-kawan tak berjaya dalam hidup mereka. Disebabkan banyak masalah sosial yang wujud. Yang paling jelas masalah penagihan dadah. Ramai yang terlibat ketika itu hingga sukar untuk dibenteras dan dipulihkan.

Itulah cerita Felda kini. Umurnya semakin tua, begitu juga penerokanya. Generasi seterusnya juga setua pengalaman yang diperoleh di Felda. Semua itu tak boleh nak dipadamkan dalam hikayat hidup saya yang membesar dan menapak sehingga sekarang ini. Pahit manisnya tidak dapat dihapuskan dalam ingatan walaupun sekarang tidak lagi tinggal menetap di Felda.

Kini, Banyak isu hangat Felda yang diketengahkan. Isu politik terutamanya. Felda disajikan dengan polemik terhangat kini iaitu isu penyenaraian FGVH. Kerajaan yang nak senaraikan ada hujahnya, manakala yang menentang pula ada hujahnya pula. Semua itu adalah survival Felda yang telah diktiraf. Boleh baca berita berkaitan di sini, sini, sini dan sini juga.

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