Tuesday , 21 October 2014

Pre-school education in Malaysia a mess

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With no proper syllabus, qualified teachers or support services, pre-school education in Malaysia is in a mess.

Although there is a set of guidelines under the Education Ministry, it is hardly adhered to.

While the government wants educators to teach children to read, write and count before primary school, the ministry’s objectives seem to differ.

Instead of having components which should be mandatory in the learning process, the guidelines seem to emphasise health and improving self-esteem.

Investigations by theSun have revealed:

- Different minimum entry points or qualifications for teachers;
- No fixed syllabus or lesson plans;
- Varying methodologies of instructing students;
- “Teachers” left to invent and create own teaching methods; and
- Emphasis laid on increasing enrollment rate

The difficulty in supervising or streamlining a fixed system or syllabus is made acute as there are four different pre-school systems. Government pre-schools come under the purview of three different agencies.

The Education Ministry operates the pre-schools (‘pra-sekolah’); the Rural and Regional Development Ministry administers the Community Development Department (Kemas); and the National Unity Department operates ‘Perpaduan’ pre-schools at Rukun Tetangga areas.

The Education Ministry also oversees all private pre-schools.

The situation is aggravated by lack of trained teachers. Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin noted that only 3% of pre-school teachers have formal qualifications.

Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said: “Others only have on-the-job training or took pre-school education courses not recognised by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency.”

“By right, the teachers should have at least a diploma in early childhood education,” he stressed.

The National Union of Teaching Profession president Hashim Adnan lamented that those employed by Kemas are mainly untrained contract workers. And when the district education department approves a Kemas kindergarten, it only checks on safety measures at the premises rather than the teachers’ qualifications.

Pre-schools, whether government or private, use the National Pre-School Curriculum 2010 (KPSK) as teaching guidelines. But there are no hard and fast rules on how the teaching should be done.

The draft of the KPSK was assisted by the Malaysia Kindergarten Association (PTM) which also conducts pre-school teaching programmes.

PTM chairman Jawathi Perera said the word “teacher” is a misnomer as those employed at pre-schools are facilitators of games, activities and learning.

Teachers can employ their own means to teach “so long as they cover from the first page to the last page” of the KPSK, she said.

“So long as all the components are there (in the teaching), they can teach it any way they want,” she said, explaining that the KPSK was designed in an “eclectic and thematic method” different from traditional techniques in schools.

In fact, it is not compulsory to produce children who are able to read, write and count, she stressed. There are no strict rules as the children need to progress at their own rate, she said.

Some 95% of children under KPSK are able to achieve the objectives while the remaining stall because they are slow developers, she said. Those unable to cope with the system will still have to continue learning at primary school.

The teachers, she stressed, are meant to “expose and prepare” the children to primary school world, The Sun reported.

“The teacher should be very creative, innovative, (and) must see where the child is lacking, (and) what it is she can do for the child.”

By and large, teachers are left to their own initiatives. However, they are forced to operate under an overall system that has no uniform focus and remains inconsistent, varied and discrepant.

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