Time to pay attention to alternative education.

From the Borneo Post.

THE Malaysian education system has been known for yo-yoing policies over the years. Take for instance the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t implementation of teaching science and mathematics in English. This was just one of the major flip-flops of the local education system.

What’s more, our education system also generally promotes passive learning and spoon-feeding from textbooks instead of active learning where students are encouraged to think critically and figure things out for themselves.

Very few students are lucky enough to have teachers who went beyond the stale curriculum and brought life into the teaching-learning environment.

Eye was one of the lucky few, having come from a mission school, way back when, where teachers were  ‘real teachers’ who taught, not because they needed a job, but because they believed in moulding young minds and building character.

Anyway, after years of being the subject of criticism and ridicule, the Malaysian education is finally undergoing a revamp.

The 13-year National Education Blueprint (2013-2025) was recently launched by the Prime Minister and outlined 11 shifts to transform the national education system to be on par with developed nations, including South Korea.

The blueprint focuses on building six key student attributes — knowledge, thinking skills, leadership, bilingual proficiency, ethics and national identity.

Among the 11 shifts, the Eye was intrigued by Shift 6, which states, “empower state and district Education Departments and schools to customise solutions based on need — they can tailor their approach for different schools”.

Intrigued because the Eye recently read about an alternative schooling system in South Korea, which is customised to meet the needs of students who do not fit in the normal education system.

The Eye hopes that Shift 6 is intended to address the issue of children who also have problems keeping up with a ‘normal’ curriculum.

South Korea has a model schooling system that Malaysia also hopes to be on par with. Their schools are known to churn out highly motivated students who earn places in the world’s top universities.

On the other hand, South Korea also offers an alternative schooling system where students are not graded on their academic performance, rather on their level of participation in the activities which are customised to fit the different needs of the students.

Here, aside from learning the usual school subjects, they play games that are not conventionally played in schools. And they are allowed to fall asleep in class.

An excerpt from the article on alternative schooling in South Korea written by Lucy Williamson reads “a group of girls are playing something called Love Roulette in a corner. Three boys are suspending tiny plastic monkeys from sticks, four people are fast asleep, one is combing her hair and several are occupied with their mobile phones”.

In other classrooms, students in a band play their favourite hit songs and sing lyrics off their mobile phones, while others learn to fix cars and motorcycles.

While it may sound more like a madhouse than school, alternative schools have proven to be successful in giving students a second chance at learning skills that they will eventually be able to utilise to make a living.

So how different is this from our vocational schools you ask? After all, our vocational schools also teach life skills to students who are not academically inclined.

The key difference is that in alternative schools like those in South Korea, the teachers teach at the students’ pace, and not at the pace required to finish up a curriculum within the academic year.

And everyone graduates. There are no dropouts or failures. Their principals and teachers emphasise that participation is the key. Not perfection.

What makes schools of this kind even more interesting is students who were deemed delinquents in the normal schooling environment have found a second chance, acceptance and have learned to interact and socialise normally in these alternative environments, without being stereotyped as they would be in traditional schools where discipline and being a high achiever academically defines a student.

We have to recognise that not everyone is academically inclined, nor can everyone conform to the conventional education system.

If Shift 6 is anything to go by, the Eye hopes that the Ministry of Education will recognise the needs of the students of certain schools and tailor their solutions to providing alternative means to those who cannot keep up academically or conform to the conventional education system.

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