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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

What's WRONG with the Education System in Malaysia? - From a Student's Perspective

What is WRONG with the education system in Malaysia?

by Yew [Writing Contest 2014 ★ Winner ★]

What is an education? According to Oxford dictionary, an education is the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction. Based on this statement, it sounds like the engagement is either by learning and teaching an instruction given by teachers. Would it be good enough for the students? How can this approach help the students to handle difficult situation in the future? The learning process in the classroom is never enough for the students anymore. It takes more than academia to survive in such a stressful working environment. In Malaysia, the education system is indeed facing problems in producing competent graduates to face this gruesome and depressing challenging working world. What are the possible problems that caused such a bad system? What can be done to create a better education system?

Education System in Malaysia
What's WRONG with the Education System in Malaysia? / PicCredit

Students Are Too Exam-oriented

The problem of education system in Malaysia is that the students are too exam-oriented. Due to societal pressure, the result is the sole indicator of determining your performance in the school. For many innocent students in Malaysia, education means scoring the test papers, acquiring more knowledge for the exam, and of course, aiming for higher number of As! There is a misconception that higher number of As indicates the person is smarter. For example, parents and relatives like to compare their own children with the number of As in result slip or how much salary they can make per month. Why are they making us so stressful? I had heard numerous comparisons throughout my schooling year (even now). My aunt did that by comparing my cousin and me in SPM. With an extra A in my cousin’s result slip, she is assumed to be better. It is not because I am jealous or what (maybe I am?), this should not be the way to gauge the students’ ability. This is because the quality of As would be affected. I still remembered that she is still struggling with Chemistry questions during her foundation year. So, is this the right way to compare? Would you compare a student with a very strong foundation in Physics gets mediocre result in other subjects, while another student who is just barely good at every subject gets straight As? Would you expect Albert Einstein to be good in every subject while his expertise is Physics? I believe his research ability would have suffered if he did that. This is the problem with the parents. They do not utilize the talents of the children. The children might be good in drawing, handcrafting, or sports. Instead, they put too much emphasis to create Jack-of-all-trades students in term of academic examination. When students are too exam-oriented, they are unable to utilize their talents by being productive in their fields. Because after all, they just want more As in exam slips.

Students Lack Leadership Skills

Another problem I see within most students in Malaysia is they lack of leadership element. It may sound cliché, but it is crucial to possess this ‘a must’ element in every student. This element cannot be acquired through class unless the leadership role is taken by the student. This is why the roles of class monitor, secretary and treasurer exist even in primary school. However, how many students are able to take these roles? Not so many. Based on my experience, most of the student leaders you see in your school or networking events are comprised a very small number. Perhaps, they may be 1 out of 100 students? What I find it funny is that the student leaders in the various events are actually the same group of people! These high motivated enthusiastic groups go for every kind of event to get exposure. This is why the representatives from Ministry of Education always think that most students are like the leaders, engaging most of the time. In fact, they are engaging the same students most of the time. Take for another example, today you might see a student ambassador from AIESEC in a GRADUAN career fair. After that, I can bet my 1 cent that you would most probably see him in other career fair/networking event/startup event/random event etc…. This is a good sign, but what about the rest? We are now talking out of the average students, not the top 5 %. Most of them would shun away from this kind of event, stay at home/hostel most of the time. The lazy type (eg. my friends) would most probably demotivate you by giving excuses like ‘Why do you go for so many kind of events?’, ‘Stay at home chillax first! Not easy to get holiday on weekends-leh!’, ’I didn’t meet my family for nearly whole semester…. I miss them so I have to go back!’, ‘After graduated you still can go-mah!’ and the list goes on. What happened after that? They feel scared when lecturers point them to answer question. Especially those forum and networking events where there will be a Q & A at the end of the session, not only the students, even the working adults would tilt their heads down. This shows they are shy and not taking initiative to take up a leadership role in asking questions. Who knows the answers from the questions would be an inspiring quote in the future? That is how the legacy was born by the leaders.

Uninspiring Teachers

Anyway, I have found a random quote from the internet.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ― William Arthur Ward
Speaking about teachers, teachers are noble and respectable. However, back to the quote, did teachers ever inspire most of the students nowadays? Yeah, maybe a handful. Most of them, are like the result of education system in Malaysia, teach according to the syllabus. They lack of empathy to care more about the students. The good ones would be focused, while the bad ones would be sidelined. Some would say ‘Why getting yourself into troubles when your pay is the same before and after?’ After all, teachers are now only known for rushing the exam syllabus. Where is the personal connection between the students and the teachers? Why can it never be like the relationship between the mentors and disciples? Let me ask you some questions:

  1. When was the last time you had given a wishing card to them on Teachers’ Day?
  2. Or for worse case, when was the last time you had visited your teachers after your graduation?

Those days where teachers inspire were gone. Students are never appreciative with what the inspiring teachers have done for them. They take everything for granted. Most would complain about the teachers on they did not come to the class and finish the syllabus. Again, syllabus!? I believe that every student should have an equal opportunity. It is the dedication of the teachers who can make a difference. Frankly speaking, I had a hard time tutoring a student with bad results. It really tested my patience to really get him understood. He did well after that (Thank God!) Besides, teachers are also responsible for some kind of programs in school, for example development programs (such as extra-curricular activities). These programs are usually deemed as wasting time by the students. Same goes to my second point, unless they are forced, only the 1 % highly motivated student leaders would volunteer to join these programs. Because students are only taught that results are everything. The result slip is the only pathway to go through your next level of education. Truth to be told, they would only realize the result slip is just an entrance to any level of education, in secondary and tertiary education. After that, everything would start from 0. Why don’t I tell you everything would start from 0 after you land your first employment? Imagine your 15 – 16 years of education becomes negligible after your first job. Reality is hitting us hard, isn’t it? Therefore, inspiring teachers can really mold the leaders that we can see at the top of corporate leaders.

Students Not Good in English

Have you ever heard of teacher-centered learning? It is where the teachers would talk and the students would listen. This kind of approach has made students who can read and write well, but could not communicate with people around them. This problem usually happens to the people learning second language (eg. English). The education system usually taught students to read and write first before they start to talk. This approach is actually very bad. Have you ever wondered why you can speak your native language (Malay, Tamil, or Mandarin) so well? This is because you use the language in most conversation. In my experience, I could not read or write most Chinese words, but I could converse well with my Chinese friends. Many people find it weird because I can listen/speak but I couldn’t read/write. Yes, these components are actually different from each other. It must be improved part by part in order to improve your overall proficiency. However, the approach of teaching students to read and write English before they get to speak is way wrong. Before you get to speak, you must listen to how others speak. Before you write a passage, you must read how others write. Perhaps, I would suggest the government to start listening and oral tests in primary school as part of the curriculum. Anyway, English is a lingua franca, but many students are still reluctant to learn it. ‘I am not good in English’ is a merely excuse. I find it funny because it has become an opening for many conversations. For me, there is no good English, there is only understandable English. Even if you throw bombastic words to me in a conversation, while I don’t understand it, I would not think your English is good. So this is how KISS rule applies (Google it!). Take your time by using common phrases in English. Master them and I am sure you would be talking like a native speaker in the future. For your information, I am taking German now. If I were to compare English and German, I would say that German is much harder than English.

  • Their verbs are weird (the word haben ‘have’ in German is different conjugation for every pronoun such as habe, hast, hat, haben)
  • The articles of ‘the’ have different forms (das, die, der)
  • Even plurals are not as straightforward (can you imagine the plural of Buch ‘book’ is Bücher ‘books’).

Although it seems hard for me, Germans are so used these. It is the same as our native languages. We are so used to it, yet the foreigners are having tough time learning it. Do not wait for education system to teach you how to speak English. It would never work! Take the initiative and learn English on your own! Do not forget that ‘where there’s a will, there’s WILL ALWAYS BE a way.’

Education Reform

In a crunchy nutshell, education system in Malaysia certainly doesn’t prepare the students to face the corporate life. The budget allocated for education sector is increasing annually, with the highest last year at RM 54.6 billion (Woah, how many Ferraris can I buy?). Somehow, was it utilized effectively? It is not a matter of allocation anymore, the biggest role here is the execution. Teachers must be able to inspire the students to think out of the box. The students must not be left out for leadership role. They must be given the freedom to utilize their real talents to contribute to the society. Number of As shall not be the sole comparison to the quality of the students. Scoring 2928 of As throughout your life is equivalent to an IQ of 200! By changing the mindset of the young in the early stage, they would know their purpose to work on what they want to contribute in the future. If the country is to take about education excellence, it has to start with reformation in education first.

Yew, 22, a third year engineering student in a local public university. He is a clumsy and funny person. His friends always call him a joker. He always thinks his English is so-so because he doesn’t understand why ang-moh says it is good. Therefore, he realizes simple and understandable English are the key points! No bombastic or deep element is used in his writing. Nevertheless, he has an entrepreneurial mindset; hopes someday he can create something that can benefit the mankind. You can find him at yewtips.com, but he seldom updates his blog. Maybe next time… maybe…
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  1. thank for that information this can help me to improve my writting and the information will help me when MUET speaking thank a lot

  2. Yew, Thank you for your out of the box thinking about the situation in our country. Our young generation should have a way of thinking that can drive our country to be a better place for students in the future.

  3. Sorry for this late in comment. I just wanted to add that teachers are not clerks. Most of us are already burned out due to the heavy workload and paperwork imposed on us. We may work 7 to 1 but by god do we like tearing our hairs out. School coaches have basically become dictators in telling what needs to be done. Results are more important rather than the root of the problems. Depression, brain aneurysm, heart attacks and depressions are common illnesses among teachers. We want to teach. We need to teach. We will teach but by God imagination is dead because there is so little time to prepare. What is important is that our files are in good conditions. Yeah that's right. Pushing files are important than teaching. Sorry for my rant. Just my two cents.

  4. Yup.it is true...going backwards..


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