Malaysian royalty is surprisingly awesome.

This excerpt comes from Wikipedia but references a Bernama article, which doesn’t seem to be working at the moment:

On July 2008, Regent of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah said that getting a string of As is meaningless if students fail to understand, appreciate and practice good values, and describing that excellent results as mere pakaian luaran (external appearance), there would be uneven development of human capital if students failed to inculcate good morals. “This will lead to society and the country to suffer”. He also said that people with good moral values always hold firm to life principles especially in defending truth and justice. Students should be taught not to lie or rely on leaked examination papers just to obtain higher grades. He noted that while positions and posts could give one power, one would be judged by the people. “There are many people who obtained positions and posts but there are not many who die with a good name.”

I wish school administration officers had his common sense!

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Tony Pua (Malaysian edublogger) arrested, jailed

EDIT: Tony has been released and was able to appear in Parliament today.

Tony Pua, founder of one of the first Malaysian education blogs, Education in Malaysia, as well as a Member of Parliament, has been arrested and jailed following his involvement in an anti-ISA peaceful protest.

It’s not immediately clear whether the arrest was purely due to his involvement in the protest, or whether other factors – such as his blog or his involvement with the Opposition parties – also played a part. After major arrests on bloggers mainly for what they wrote, it’s not entirely surprising if they thought his blog was potentially dangerous.

This does not bode well for anyone. After RPK’s release and the ruling of his arrest as “unlawful”, I figured that it was safe to comment on the Government’s education and youth policies, and was about to analyse some laws related to education and young people. But if Tony Pua – who hasn’t even done anything remotely criminal, and indeed is part of the Government now – could get thrown in jail, what hope does a Lain-Lain (racial “other” or minority) permanent resident have?

Good luck Tony; hopefully justice will prevail and you’ll be free soon.

Interesting changes afoot

So it seems that there are quite a number of interesting changes to the Malaysian education system, following the Ministry of Education’s blueprint:

1. A holistic, less exam-oriented primary school curriculum. I like this idea. The early childhood years are highly formative and children should be given the opportunity to explore all facets of life and learning, instead of already being indoctrinated into exams (well, no one should be indoctrinated into anything period). I like the six focus areas – communication, spiritual values, humanitarianism, ICT & science literacy, physical health, and personal development. My only worry is that a certain type of moral value or belief will be pushed through this curriculum (as has happened in the past) – but if this goes well we would definitely have more well-rounded kids who are able to adapt to life’s challenges creatively.

2. Greater focus on vocational and technical education. Vocational education gets a bad rep in Malaysia – it’s usually seen as the pathway for those who failed. However, there is a lot of value in vocational education, and a lot of skills and knowledge required to survive – mathematics, science, logistics, logic, creativity, and so on. To make this successful, we need to increase awareness and respect for vocational education, and transform it from something undesirable to something worthy of exploration – like the apprenticeships system in Australia.

3. School-based examinations instead of central examinations. This could be interesting. On the one hand, this gives greater freedom and flexibility for schools to develop their own curriculum and testing methods, and experiment with alternative teaching styles. Alternative schools systems (like Waldorf and Sudbury Valley) will also be able to thrive as they don’t have to “teach to the test”. However, some schools may not be able to adjust, or end up pushing a very non-productive method of testing. The Ministry is considering looking at more semester-based assessment and reducing exams, which to me is a good idea – instead of putting all the pressure on one week’s worth of work, let people work at a more gradual pace and relax a bit.

4. Allowing schools to administer the International Baccalaureate exams instead of the SPM. Now this is a VERY interesting development. The IB tests, which are internationally recognised, and also of a higher level than SPM (I believe they are closer to STPM), demand a stronger grasp of knowledge but also a greater sense of creativity and critical thought. This is not an exam you can teach to. Schools that administer IB tests need to adjust their teaching styles to allow for fuller, more holistic learning. Hopefully this will become the impetus for schools to stop worrying about grades, and do what they’re there for – education.

The NST also has a report on a pilot project to test career aptitudes of primary school children. The idea is that they will be tested at Years 5 and 6 to see what career paths suits them. I really DON’T like this plan. The kids are 11 and 12 – they haven’t even completely developed their capabilities yet! How can you push them towards a certain future when they’ve hardly lived their lives? As it is, asking young people to decide their entire lives by 18 is too much – people change and new opportunities come up all the time.

Kids are overtested already. There’s no need to make them decide their future now. Give them some time to experiment and get to know what they like.

The Scholar Ship suspends operations

I am very sorry to hear that The Scholar Ship, a floating university that teaches undergraduate- and graduate-level subjects on a worldwide sea voyage, has shut down due to financial difficulties. I had been accepted into the program and would have travelled on it this year if I was allowed to by my university (international students in Australia are only allowed to go on exchange with their university’s partner institutions).

This reminds me of Up with People‘s shutdown in 2000, also following financial difficulties, and its rebirths in 2003 (as WorldSmart) and 2006 (back as Up with People, but with a more WorldSmart-esque structure) thanks largely in part to new leadership and the strong efforts of UWP’s alumni.

I am heartened to see both would-be students and alumni of the Scholar Ship coming together on Facebook and Ning to find solutions for reviving the program. Semester at Sea, another floating university, is also offering spaces to students that were accepted into The Scholar Ship but whose voyages were cancelled.

It disturbs me to hear that a major reason for The Scholar Ship’s financial troubles was the withdrawal of its biggest sponsor (and provider of the vessel) Royal Caribbean International. Apparently this took The Scholar Ship’s crew by surprise, and so far no explanation was given for their change of mind (they’re still promoting the program online). A program as beneficial as The Scholar Ship should not have to die due to the lack of one sponsor. However, this is a situation I’ve seen in quite a number of Australian non-profits, where one funding body makes the difference between staying up or shutting down.

How will The Scholar Ship fare in this turbulent time? With the current worldwide recessions, are other educational programs also at risk?

Malaysia fares well in UNESCO survey

According to UNESCO, Malaysia provides well for its students:

BANGKOK: The Malaysian education system has done well in terms of facilities provided to students and teachers’ salaries, according to a study carried out in 11 countries by Unesco’s Institute for Statistics. Malaysia scored a high percentage in the availability of electricity, blackboards, sufficient seating, library facilities and computers for students and administrators.

The report, released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation yesterday, showed that educational expenditure per primary school pupil was highest in Chile (US$2,120 or RM6,900), followed by Argentina (US$1,605), Malaysia (US$1,552), Brazil (US$1,159) and Uruguay (US$1,063).

In contrast, expenditure per primary school pupil was less than US$700 in India, Paraguay, Peru and the Philippines.

It’s good to know that Malaysian schools provide a lot for their students. However, I would like to know the following to make more sense of this report:

  • How well-maintained are the resources and facilities? Are students given recent and up-to-date resources, or are they still on highly outdated resources (such as computers running Windows 95)?
  • What percentage of that money is that compared to the rest of the National Budget? How does it compare to national living costs?
  • How effectively is that money utilized? Is the money well-spent?
  • Where in Malaysia, besides the completely rural areas, do you get 18 students for one teacher? Our classrooms were commonly filled with 30-40 people.
  • How effectively are the students learning? Do the resources actually contribute to student education? Are the teachers doing well?

EDIT: It seems that the priorities may be a little misplaced. From Nat Tan quoting Malaysiakini (emphasis Nat’s):

The government has spent a total of RM3.2 billion over the past five years to carry out the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English, Deputy Education Minister Razali Ismail told the Dewan Rakyat today.

Out of the amount, the government paid a whopping RM2.21 billion for the purchase of information and computer technology (ICT) equipments.

The rest of the expenditure went to the payment for educational incentives (RM638 million), teachers’ training (RM317 million) and ICT software (RM2.4 million).

WHOA! But what’s the point of all that money on technology if you don’t train teachers to use it? What about language training – apparently some teachers still revert to Bahasa Malaysia! What’s “educational incentives”? Why does hardware need to be that expensive? What about other non-computing learning tools, books, field trips?

Where’s all that money going through and where does it all come from?

EducateDeviate now part of 9rules

9Rules

I’m proud to announce that EducateDeviate has been accepted into the latest round of 9rules, a well-known and well-respected blog network that features content from all areas and aspects of life.

I’m particularly stoked about being in 9rules as it’s highly sought after and it has strong community aspects. I’m interested in meeting up with other 9rules bloggers, particularly education bloggers, and see how we can work together to develop greater content. I’m also interested in getting assistance in developing EducateDeviate further, from just being a blog to being a full-fledged resource centre.

Another homeschooling/alternative education blog, Just Enough, was also accepted into this round of 9rules. I found her through looking at the accepted websites list and it’s great to have more blogs like ours around – they’re hard to find as it is! The Education community on 9rules is rather sparse at the moment, but hopefully myself and Just Enough will be able to fill it out a bit.

Huzzah! Thank you Scriv, Mike, and Tyme!

School uniforms encourage rape, apparently.

From Marina Mahathir’s blog:

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian group condemned the uniform worn by girls at government schools, saying it encouraged rape and pre-marital sex.

“The white blouse is too transparent for girls and it becomes a source of attraction,” National Islamic Students Association of Malaysia vice-president Munirah Bahari said in a statement.

“It becomes a distraction to men, who are drawn to it, whether or not they like looking at it,” she said, calling for a review of uniform policy so that it did not violate Islamic ideals.

ARGH!

Rape is NOT about clothing! It’s not about transparent cloth! It’s about power and taking advantage of vulnerability!

There’s so many things that could be fixed with the education system and all you can think about is a non-issue?!

I don’t believe it’s Islamic to go off on petty things. If you’re seriously concerned about rape, don’t blame the victim, and don’t go pinning it on irrelevant things. Work on things like safety education, respect, and self-care. Get people to realize that rape is wrong.

School uniforms have nothing to do with it, so stop wasting time.