Sunday, May 24, 2009

Improve quality of education

Hello!
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It's been a while since i updated my blog so here I am. I've not thought of any interesting content over the last few days so i'll be blogging about a topic i discussed with a friend of mine through lunch. It's about the quality of education in Malaysia which is horrendous, provokes social segregation, racially provocative, cultivates a narrow mindset, discourages expressions and personal opinions, profiled, confusing and doomed to fail.
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You will pick up all the points as i bring you through my true experience of education right from primary school. Pls mind my language as sometimes, the truth can be painful. But here's the ultimate truth
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The point of writing this blog is really just a voice to criticize the quality of education in Malaysia. For the good of the country, the educational stucture must be relooked into, revamped and made competitive to world standards. And it is very critical that it be looked into as education is key in shaping a progressive society and culture, and this is crucial in a developing country like Malaysia.
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Anyway, here goes....
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I was enrolled into a missionary school when i was 7 for 3 reasons i believe, although i've never clarified with my parents.

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First, the school was a 10 minutes walk from my parents office so everyday after school, I would walk with a bunch of friends to the office so our parents could avoid the massive after-school traffic. The 'bunch of friends' are sons and daughters of my parents collegues and we were made to be friends with each other through parties, beach BBQs and many other social activities our parents orgazine, so we could look out for each other in school.

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Secondly, its a Catholic missionary school so we would pray every morning before the school served us biscuits and milo for breakfast. Im a born Catholic so my parents probably wanted me to practise the religion or at least grow up in such an environment.

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Thirdly, it was one of the 2 missionary schools in town (the other one an anglican missionary school) that produces the more academically qualified students who will mostly graduate in a foreign university and have a relatively higher status than the majority.
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Now I will talk about the educational system i experienced when i was in 'primary' school (term for education given to minors who are between the ages of 7 - 12) to as much as i can recall. In grade 1, because my mum knew the school principal, i was enrolled into 1A. There were many subsequent classes - 1B, 1C.... until 1F or something.
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In grade 1, the classes were sort of profiled but not totally. Every class had a mixture of Chinese and "Iban/Malays" or what we call the "lakia". These were the 'bumiputeras' (mainlanders) whom our Chinese parents term the secondary race and they were always used as examples of the "what not to dos" like not flushing the toilet after use, or not showering at least twice a day, or digging your nose in public, or even having bad hair and skin.. and all the bad habits. You do it, your parents will call you "lakia" (And just to be fair to the "lakia"s, they called us Chinese the 'Cina Babi', or just 'Cina')
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But, you will see that 1A will have a high ratio of Chinese over the lakias and 1F will probably have 100% lakias. This is pretty much all i can remember from 7 - 9 as I clearly recalled that most of my 'friends' (sons and daughters of my parents colleagues) were in my same class.
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When i was 10, that was when i was in grade 4A, the classes became totally profiled. 4A will cater for the brighest students in the school, while 4F will host the not as bright. By this year, my class had almost 85% Chinese, 10% Malays and 5% Ibans and Indians. Im not implying that the 85% race were smarter but its a genuine statistic and I grew up with it.
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In grade 4, i have a memory of an incident when a 'teacher' pinched me in the abs and eventually punched me i lost my breath for almost 1 solid minute, my face turned pale. I was punished for having an opinion to his lecture. He did it to a few of my other 'friends' and because we look out for each other, all of us will eventually get the pincher and puncher. It was a warning that in his lectures, we were to shut up, listen and take notes - not a fucking noise. Let alone an opinion.
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In grade 6, i became a prefect. I was then very rebellious, mischevious and did not create a very good reputation for myself but i was still made a prefect because my elder brother and mum had an influence on the decision (same case when i eventually became prefect in Form 5). Anyway, besides having to wear a tie and being given an opportunity to stand at the very back during assemblies - so we boys could stare at whichever hottie and their asses - i dont recall much.
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In 'secondary' school (term for education to teens between the ages of 13 - 17), things became more interesting.
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In form 1 (secondary school year 1), the classes were again academically profiled. 1A will host all the students who scores all A's in their major examination in primary school (UPSR) or at least almost all A's. 1F will host students with the worst results.
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Entering secondary school was also pretty fun for us because the school had more sports facilities - like a baseball pitch, football field, basketball court, volleyball court and so on. And sorry for stereotyping again but the basketball court + volleyball courts will always be populated by the Chinese while the lakia's play football on the field and get all muddy and stuff.
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Form 3 was when we sit for a major examination called the PMR and this is also a very significant year for most of my schoolmates as they started to explore and found their first girlfriends and boyfriends. Speaking about this, i remembered a Chinese friend of mine, who was a prefect. He fell in love with a Malay girl who was very sweet and intelligent. He was warned by the school that doing so would set a bad example to the other students so he was given an ultimatum to drop the girlfriend or drop the post. Well at that age, most definitely, he went for the girl.
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In Form 3 was also when our Malay history teacher instilled racial elements into her lectures. She once told the class (which had a good mixture for Christians, Muslims and Buddhists) that "only Christianity and Islam are true religions. Buddhism is statue idolization"
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Form 3 - Form 5 was the most memorable years of all as there were many first experiences. We also got very mischevious with the 'teachers'. The better ones will earn our respect from the second he/she steps into the class while the average ones will either survive because they're hot or face the mischief from us.
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One of our teachers, i clearly remember, was called Mr Ivan. He was in his 60's so due to the generation gap, we could hardly relate to him. He got it from us. At one event, we grinded chalk in our drawers until they turn to powder. We gather all the powder in between an A4 paper and roll it up until it looks like a cylinder. We will hold an end to our mouth and blow the chalk on his ass after he walks by our desks - he loves walking around the class. Every class, we wanted to give him like 6 dosages of powder on his ass. Well it only took 1 attempt before he found out - we were punished to stand on the table for 2 hours and chew paper.
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Another teacher, a lady also in her 60's, was referred to as Ultraman. It took me quite a few months, after calling her that, before i got curious why she was called "Ultraman". And the reason was that she had a mole on her neck and they say that if you move the mole up to her forehead, she will look like Ultraman. LOL. That was quite creative but the point is, weak teachers will suffer and we students can come up with all sorts of reasons.
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Anyway back to academics, we sat for our biggest most major examination in Form 5 and that was called the 'SPM'. An exam where couples break-up and bad boys turn good just to strike a really good result in this exam - because it pretty much determines your future.
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If you're Chinese and you get a Grade 2, you might not end up with such a bright future unless your parents are businessmen. If your Malay or lakia, its alright - you'll prolly get a scholarship to the UK if you get a Grade 2.
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The most crucial subject to score in SPM, is Bahasa Malaysia. Because you get to pick the 6 best scores for the 9 subjects you sit for and Bahasa Malaysia is the only compulsory subject you must take into account. I fucking hated Bahasa Malaysia and the reason its made compulsory disgusted me. After form 5, you do not even speak the language, let alone helping you in your career. The only time you use it is when you direct a taxi driver in KL, but even my Burmese and Nepalese friends pick up how to direct taxi drivers after a couple of months so no big deal.
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And Bahasa Malaysia will also confuse you. I swear i was fucking good in Chemistry in secondary school i even tuitioned my other friends for a cost - so thats how good i was. One holiday i travelled to KK with my parents and we stayed with the cousins who went to International school. One cousin asked me what subject i was really good in and i told her Chemistry. She then put a little test on me by asking me what was the scientific symbol for Sodium Chloride. I told her she was joking because i can memorize the whole table of substances and non of it is Sodium Chrolide. Well, i eventually found out that my school tought me the Bahasa Malaysia version of the substance's name - which was Natrium Klorida or some shit like that. When i went into Uni, where all the terms were in English, i struggled the hell out of matching the English and BM terms together..... its like re-learning Chemistry. So you know what i mean by confusing you?
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The other subject i hated was History, or Sejarah because there were hundreds of names to memorize and you memorize them because you need to pass the exam. And all these were fucking long names that sounds similiar to each other. Sultan Azaludin Mahmud Shah, Sultan Mahmum Allaludin Shan, Sultan Mahmud 3... and hundreds of such names, each representating something.
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But well, i still passed the history papre with flying colours because my mum sent me to this very reputable teacher who closer to the exam gave me 8 tip questions for History. The exam later had 4 questions, which were all identified in the 8 tip questions. He was confident enough to tell me that i could drop everything and just study the 8 questions he provided. I trusted him and it didnt go wrong.
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And talk about tuitions, i went to tuition for Physics, Biology, Add Maths, English, Bahasa Malaysia, History, Art and Chemistry. Yes, all the fucking subjects. I had minimum 1 tuition class everyday, of the 7 days of the week. Half the week, i go for 2-3 tuition classes.
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And this is very typical of 'A' students because it was very competitive in class and there was alot of pressure amongst all the students. We had to make sure the lowest scoring paper is still better than the best scoring paper in the 'B' class.
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The 'F' students on the other hand come to school stoned on weed and carry a big pillow in their bags. It's a good sign that they come to school. Some of the girls get pregnant, alot of the boys get into social problems like gambling, drugs and joining the triads. But i don't blame them. They are positioned by the school to be failures. The teachers dont teach these classes... they walk in and say "masa sendiri" which means this is your own time. They are the least prioritized by the school in any aspect and they come to school everyday thinking they're stupid. They live in such a confined mindset of - I will fail.
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Anyway, i was fortunate enough to be in the 'A' class from the start of kindy to the end of secondary school but all the knowledge i gained was all the stuff that were written in the textbooks - knew nothing beyond textbooks. We also became very passive students - students who shut up and listen and take notes. And not allowed to have an opinion.
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I did not realize until i studied in Melbourne, where i went through culture shock for the first few months of school... maybe the whole of the first year. I was the Asian who does not have a single opinion to any subjects they discussed in class, the Asian who even with an opinion, did not know how to express it. It was a disgusting feeling but i got over it and adapted and became as expressive. I later graduated, came out to the industry and became who I am today.
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The point is, what about those who were not as priviledged along the way?
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The students who were profiled by the school to fail in their lives.
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The students who were spoon-fed and do not have the initiative to live their own lives.
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The students who were asked to shut up in class and never had a chance to express themselves and thus not go very far in their jobs.
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3 comments:

PinkPaperPlane said...

Hey thank you for your opinion. For what it's worth, I feel exactly the same way. I've expressed the same thoughts before to ex-schoolmates, etc. but they brush it off and say it's not that bad, and some had even got angry at me for 'destroying their memories of school'. I hated my school years. Every day.

tc boi said...

its the same everywhere. i agree mostly with what u said. but i dun think u need tuition to survive. n unless a chinese becomes the education minister/prime minister, there's fat chance our education system will change.

they did try to instill some thinking skills, forcing us to do KBKK question in BM, Sejarah, Sastera and literature. but its still useless coz they got skema jawapan, so if ur answer make sense but not included, they might not give you marks in the end.

thats my time la. i dunno how is it now, as u noe, they try to modify things every year.

des said...

Hey pinkpaperplane: Im still keeping many fond memories of my school days though. And i do not doubt that you have yours too.

But it was more in the sentiment of friendships / bondings that were created. And of course many priceless experiences.

And I never really realized how bad the system was until i got out of it and saw the bigger picture.

Anyway about your friends, no offense but they come across as very narrow minded

Hey tc boi: umm... i see things from a different perspective. It doesnt really hafta be a Chinese education minister / PM. We just need somebody whos a bit more forward thinking, irregardless of him being a Malay, Chinese, Indian or dan lain lain