I read the article about Muhyiddin Yassin, Malaysia's Education Minister expressing his "shock" in reaction to Malaysian students making poor international ranking in comparison to our developing neighbours.  Muhyiddin lamented on how even though the government has pumped in 21% of the federal budget to fuel the education system, spending more than countries like America, yet Malaysian students see a decline in their performance ranks.

This is in no way meant to be political, merely reflective. Whichever party comes to power would have to ponder and ask hard questions to heave the education system out of the rut it is in.

I am sincerely glad that he is asking these tough "Why?" questions.  And I am sincerely glad that he is "shocked" because denying that there was a problem got us into this situation, to begin with.

The main reason I am writing is just to highlight ONE aspect of the problem that dawned on me the other day.  I came across Bloom's Taxonomy in class last week.  Basically, Bloom's Taxonomy was created by an educational psychologist named Benjamin Bloom specifying all the different levels of intellectual behaviour we exhibit in learning from its most basic to its most complex.  I had learned about Bloom's Taxonomy before in my undergrad days, but this time, looking at the stages with a reflective mind contemplating education and special education in Malaysia, this triangle stopped me dead in my tracks.

Here's what it looks like.  Look at it in comparison to our educational requirements. See if you are as horrified and appalled as I am.

Do you see what I see?

How far up the pyramid do you think the education system takes our children?  Think about the emphasis in schools.  What do teachers and parents push their children to be able to do?  Do well in tests.  What are test answers based on?  Model answers that you can memorise from any Sasbadi or Longman book.  Students can pretty much have an excellent memory, memorise model answers and be able to score straight A's in PMR and SPM.  But look at the pyramid, which layer would they have reached if this were to happen and they were a straight A scorer? My opinion? 1.5.  They would have attained information and be able to recall it, and probably show some understanding of the information by being able to summarise it.  1.5 out of 6 layers of learning.  Appalled? Yes.  Shocked? Not so much, because this system has been in place for decades.

"Malaysia also ranked 39 out of 44 countries under Pisa's first assessment on creative problem-solving"  How can students problem solve if the main focus is to align their answers with model answers? Our A-loving students are terrified to deviate from the model answers, to discuss, to explore, to view things from a different perspective.  I'm sure we have all heard horror stories about students who were marked wrong because their answer was not worded exactly like the answer sheet.

Admittedly, I have been out of the government school system for about 14 years and have been teaching in private settings ever since so I am not too informed with what is going on within the public schools.  However, I do know that PMR and SPM are still in existence, and I know that it is a priority for many families to have their children achieve straight A's because their future depends on it.  Yet the question still remains, how much would they have gained educationally even if they attained 11A's?

My intent is not to suggest for the abolishment of PMR or SPM, nor is it to condemn teachers.  I know that the teachers are only functioning within the system created for them.  I am sure that there are teachers who challenge students to discuss, to question, to critique; these are teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty.  However let us be realistic, how many teachers are trained and equipped to guide their students up to this steep pyramid?  How many teachers themselves have had instructors who modeled and mentored these practices to them so they have a clear path on which to trod upon?

It saddens me to see this because if this is the quality of general education in Malaysia, special education will not stand a chance to thrive.

I hope that something in what you read challenges you as parents and teachers to see that the evidence of learning can be reflected in so many different forms (not just in worksheets and test papers), and to reflect on how we can guide our children beyond just regurgitating and memorising facts, but to see meaning and purpose, to engage in what they are learning so that they can build upon it.  My challenge to the education ministry - put the money where it matters (investing into teachers would be a great place to start) and keep asking those "why" and "how" questions quickly because the rakyat are weary and we want to know "when".

The article has been linked below:

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/muhyiddin-shocked-by-local-students-poor-scores-in-global-tests