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With a new government installed after the 14th General Election, it is natural to expect massive overhauls and changes from bottom up. The Education Ministry, led by Dr. Maszlee Malik, is one of the most-scrutinised portfolios that will undergo substantial changes, starting from schools.

Here are some of the policy changes that are set to take place from 2019 onwards:

1. No more exams for Standard One to Standard Three students

Yes, you heard us right. The little ones will be spared from exam stress this year, much to the relief of parents. The decision to abolish mid-year and final exams was purportedly to allow schools to focus more on teaching and help pupils discover the joy of learning. Parents who are fretting about the method schools will use for monitoring their children’s progress in place of exams should not worry. This is because the exams will be replaced with objective assessments in 2019. Education director-general Datuk Dr. Amin Senin said continuous assessments will take place as part of teaching and learning through Classroom-Based Assessment (PBD).

2. No more class streaming

Primary schools will no longer be segregating students based on their academic performance.  This is a big change as streaming has been practised for a long time, and this will mean pupils with mixed abilities will be put in the same class. Proponents say this will allow children of different abilities to help each other. Opponents say this will be tougher on lower-ability children, and is a challenge for teachers, who will have to vary their teaching methods in class and may not be able to focus on progressing the higher-ability children to the best of their potential.

3. No more LINUS programme

Beginning this academic year, there will be no more Literacy and Numeracy Screening programme (LINUS). The LINUS programme was first introduced in 2009 under the Education National Key Results Area (NKRA) to tackle the problem of primary school pupils who are weak in reading, arithmetic and writing skills (3Rs).

Education Ministry Director-General Datuk Dr. Amin Senin has said in place of LINUS, schools will now determine their own ways to tackle learning difficulties faced by their students.

4. Black shoes

The Education Ministry is implementing a gradual transition from the traditional white school shoes to the black version beginning 2019. What that means for parents who send their children to national schools is they can opt to buy black shoes for them or remain loyal to the white version. Well, at least until 2021, when the ministry is expected to fully enforce the policy.

5. Civics subject back in schools

If you remember, Civics was one of the subjects used to be taught in schools but it was removed from the school syllabus in November 2014. However, Dr. Maszlee reportedly said that the Civics and Citizenship Education (CCE) will be reintroduced in all primary and secondary schools in the middle of 2019 as a compulsory subject. He had also said that anti-graft related education will also be introduced through the CCE subject.

6. Lighter school bags

A study by the Education Ministry found that 28 percent of a school bag’s weight consists of textbooks, while the remaining 72 percent consists of stationery, uniforms and food, among others. Following the study, the Education Ministry had issued guidelines last year to help pupils lighten their school bags. The guidelines include rearranging the timetable so that there are between three and four subjects a day and setting up lockers in schools for books storage purposes. Teachers are also instructed to tell students clearly about the books they need to bring each day, as well as to reduce the number of exercise books for each subject.

7. Stateless or no documents? No problem!

Beginning this year, all stateless and undocumented children will be able to go to school just like any other school going children. There will be a move to simplify the registration process for children without citizenship into government schools. Parents with these children only need to provide relevant documents such as the child’s birth certificate, adoption papers or court orders.

 

Are you a parent with government school-going children? What are your thoughts on these new policies? Share your thoughts by writing to [email protected]

The euphoria felt by many Malaysians post-elections is transforming into a spirit of rebuilding the nation. Here are some issues that parents, including me, want the Pakatan Harapan government to take action on.

Caring for the Next Generation

Urgently, the new government needs to reform laws and policies to better protect children living in Malaysia. The marriage of an 11-year-old girl to a 41-year-old man  have mobilised outraged Malaysians to demand for the minimum age for marriage to be 18 for both Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia. The issue of poverty, the real costs of child marriages and crucially, awareness on sex and sexuality also needs to be looked at on a macro level, away from the on-going religious debate.

Guidelines Credit with Permission: Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, 2018

Following the tragic death of five-month-old Adam Rayqal Mohd Sufi under the care of his babysitter, makchic readers have highlighted the need for tighter certification and regulation of childcare centers in Malaysia. In comments to makchic, parents said they want staff who are screened, trained (and routinely retrained) and certified. Makchic reader Satvinder Kaur said there is a need for these childcare centers to have flexible hours. This would better serve parents who hold shift jobs, such as those working in restaurants and hospitals.

Makchic readers also called for the government to holistically look at its policies to support families. Firstly, through increasing maternity and paternity leave and ensuring that the jobs are still available upon return. The government should also provide tax breaks for employers to provide crèches. It should also enact policies to ensure that employers subsidise their employees’ childcare. Reader Joanne Ko goes further. She calls for the close monitoring of employers to ensure they fulfil statutory obligations in supporting employees with families.

How we treat the marginalised in our everyday lives

The new government has done well in recognising housework as ‘work’ in their move to provide for housewives through the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF). However, the government should broaden its recognition of others who perform care work. Daughters, aunts and female cousins will benefit from tax breaks and/or subsidies and EPF.

M, a single mother of two, had to pull her two sons out of school to fulfill her filial duties. She would have benefited from some state support. Additionally, there should be mandatory EPF contribution by employers for the thousands of mostly foreign domestic workers performing this undervalued care work.

As a nation of migrants, we also need to start treating migrants with dignity. The current outsourcing system is rife for forced labour and human trafficking, with the powerless migrant workers vulnerable during immigration raids.  The government needs to also keep to its election promise to ratify the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol by the government towards upholding the rights of refugees and asylum seekers living in Malaysia.

A message from a public awareness campaign in 2012. How far have we gone? Image credit: www.thestar.com.my

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members” – Mahatma Gandhi

Children With Special Needs

Another group of people that the government needs to pay additional attention to are those with special needs. Azian Mohd Hanafiah, a mother of two autistic sons is understandably concerned for her sons’ future. She calls for policies to improve the education and services for children with special needs, so they can be employable. She also demands for legislation to ensure that corporations employ people with special needs. The government should also provide additional tax breaks and allowable leave allocation for caregivers of children with special needs. Lastly, they should look into establishing an endowment fund together with these parents.

As a parent with a disabled child, I echo the call for the government to regulate this area. Just as the Malaysian Medical Council ensures the professionalism of doctors in the interest of protecting the public, there needs to be accreditation and regulation in the developing helping professions. We need to regulate fields such as psychology, speech therapy, occupational therapy and clinical psychology to prevent malpractice and negligence. The government also needs to urgently relook their conflicting role as a public healthcare provider, regulator and private healthcare investor. The Malaysian public that depends on the public healthcare system needs an increase in the current quality of care.

 “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” ― Audre Lorde

Education and Critical Thinking for Our Children

Teachers at SK Felda Pasoh 2 in Seremban held a mock election. This was an effort to expose the children to how democracy works.  Image credit: malaysiandigest.com

Our newly appointment Education Minister Dr Mazlee Malik is on the right track with his vision of nurturing children as critical thinkers. Most parents I spoke to agree that the public schools should also be a place to form the identity of a Malaysian, which includes understanding how democracy works.

The conversations on democracy, freedom and marginalisation need to flourish. Our historical GE14 has shown that critical thinking combined with action is crucial. The government needs to go further in repealing repressive laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the National Security Council’s Act.

Accountable Leadership

There were probably many conversations within families during the election about what makes a good leader. As a parent, I look to the government to demonstrate accountable leadership. The government is keeping its promise to repeal the Universities and Colleges Act and the repeal of the Anti-Fake News Bill. However, they have not fulfilled their pledge to ensure that at least 30 percent of policy makers are women at all levels of government. This is important because more women in decision making position has been proven to improve the efficiency of local governments and of corporations.

We are at the beginning of a long journey. With the energy fueled by a taste of democracy, together, we are going to get there.


Editor’s Notes: 

In light of the recent tragic and disturbing news in Malaysia involving children and women, makchic will be writing a letter to our new Women, Family & Community Development Minister with our hopes and wishes for this New Malaysia of ours.

We’d like to ask Malaysian mums: What would you say or wish for? How do you think women and children could be better protected and supported in our country? What do you think needs prioritising?

Write to us or message us, we would love to add your comments or suggestions.