During the launch of the MEB Annual Report 2018, two fora were held to deliberate on pressing topics surrounding education. The topic of the first forum was ‘Enrolment to Excellence – How Do We Translate Showing Up to School to Doing Well In School’. According to the United Nations, enrolment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91%, but figures for literacy and numeracy are still low. As such, the UN’s focus on Education (as the 4th Sustainable Development Goal) are expressed in their targets, from expanding access to supplying qualified teachers.

Similarly, in the Malaysian context, enrolment is a major challenge, reflected in the transition rates to upper secondary of some communities including the Orang Asli community and the Special Education Needs community. Malaysia’s commitment to addressing this is reflected through the system aspirations of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB), which include both Access and Quality. 1st Transformative Shift in the MEB speaks of enhancing access of education pathways and benchmarking the quality of our education to international standards.

This forum explored how these aspirations look like in practice, from current efforts, the role of data and technology, as well as how to address the burgeoning scepticism in society.


PADU: We want to begin by establishing some context. What are the ongoing efforts undertaken by MOE to address enrolment in education?

Datin Haryati: Whether it’s through the Pelan Induk Pembangunan Pendidikan (PIPP) or the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB) – each one of the Ministry’s blueprints address these focuses. From 2013 to 2018, enrolment has increased at preschool (9%), primary (4%), and secondary (1-2%) levels. In the same period, enrolment to inclusive education programmes have also grown almost four-fold from 9.6% to 40.88%.

At the same time, we have been targeting students at risk of dropping out. After screening 4.7 million students we found out that about 940 (0.02%) primary students and 35,000 (0.75%) secondary students are at high-risk of dropping out. There are so many dimensions to them being at risk – be it the distance from their homes to schools, household income, or the status of their parents.

As such, we have rolled out programmes and projects like the Garis Panduan Mengurus Murid Berisiko Cicir di Sekolah (GPMBC) which serves as a reference for the school administration to identify and assist students at risk of dropping out at an early stage. MOE also developed an accompanying module (Modul Serlahkan Keunggulan Diri, SUDI) consisting of intervention activities. Program Sifar Murid Cicir (PSMC) was started in several states to tackle dropout issues in 2018 by collaborating with multiple stakeholders through a special task force. Its success has caused the programme to expand to all states beginning April 2018. Furthermore, MOE is establishing smart partnerships between state governments and private sectors to aid low-income families with educating their children. From a policy standpoint, the Zero Reject Policy ensures that all undocumented children or those with special needs are not turned away from school.

One of the exciting plans for the future is that the Ministry has begun drafting an amendment to the Education Act 1996, whereby compulsory education will be extended from six years to eleven years.


PADU: That sounds quite comprehensive. What about the ongoing efforts taken to tackle excellence and quality in education?

Datin Haryati: One of the recent moves was to introduce Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) in curricular and co-curricular activities to encourage students to think, communicate and make wise decisions, as well as introducing 21st Century Learning (PAK21) which encompasses the five elements of communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and values and ethics throughout our pedagogy, curriculum, and assessments.

Besides that, we have also been stimulating students’ interest in STEM through an enhanced curriculum and new learning approaches, sharpening teachers’ skills and abilities to teach and facilitate STEM subjects and activities, and building public and student awareness and understanding of STEM through the #STEM4ALL campaign.

We’ve also given extensive focus on expanding TVET access through the single quality assurance scheme and expanded our partnerships with the industry. Not forgetting the Orang Asli children, we are strengthening their access through programmes like the Program Mari ke Sekolah.

For each one of our interventions, MOE has taken on a multi-pronged strategy, looking into students, teachers, infrastructure, curricula, and the leadership.


PADU: These are great efforts, and as we move into the future, Alina, how can technology and data be used to encourage enrolment and excellence?

Alina: I just want to build on what Datin Haryati was saying about our current efforts. Honestly, I have been very impressed by the progress of the curriculum; not many are aware that our primary students are coding with microcontrollers, that our secondary students are coding websites…there are subjects like Asas Sains Komputer and Reka Bentuk Teknologi now that help to change our students from passive users into active users, to make new technology. But what can this technology do?

AI brings many different technologies that help teachers personalize their pedagogy and assessments. For example, with AI, you could have personalised questions for students drawn from a question bank, which will help teachers assess a student’s strengths instead of just their weaknesses. But like all kinds of education, it needs to be done right – we need to equip our teachers to teach effectively with technology in schools.

In my experience, especially with B40 classes, technology pushes the students to learn. When they see auto doors in a shopping mall, they ask – how does that work? So we learn about sensors, electronics, etc. Technology inspires students to go to school as long as it caters to their needs.


PADU: That’s really insightful, Alina. Let’s talk about quality: when you teach technology to underprivileged/B40/undocumented students, do you see any changes?

Alina: I definitely see an interest to learn more. For example, when I was teaching in Penang, a majority of my students actually chose to pursue computer science. They saw the potential of technology. We know our country is in high need of computer and data scientists; this is how we can groom them for the future.


PADU: We would very much like to do that for Malaysia, but we have over 10,000 schools, and a small proportion still struggles to have internet access. How can we reach out to these schools to teach them technology or 21st century skills?

Alina: Now this point is really important for everyone to understand – that no technology, no matter how good, can replace a good teacher who is present in the classroom, who knows their kids. You may not be able to learn the internet, but you can teach the computational skills. Coding is all about logic.

We need to not just rely on things that are not certain like internet connection, but on our own pedagogical and teaching skills.


PADU: That’s great, and indeed – nothing can replace a good teacher. But amidst all our stellar teachers and our efforts to transform the education system, there are still pockets of people who are sceptics. Dato’ Satinah, how do we address this scepticism towards education?

Dato’ Satinah: When we talk about scepticism, we have to first acknowledge that it is very much present, and that it is not new; it is often inherited from many years back – from previous administrations or efforts. But what causes this scepticism? Firstly, there’s doubt – that what we have is not good enough. Then there are our own opinions, where we believe we know what is best.

I would like to give an example of PISA, which is an international benchmark. We cannot compare ourselves to Singapore but what about Vietnam, who are among the top 10? Surely there is something they are doing that we are not. Then there is the curriculum. Don’t begin to mention PPSMI – it is a dangerous word. Flip flop. There is a lot of pressure on both sides.

We have to address the issues that lead to scepticism. Firstly, one of the biggest issues are our policies – our goalposts keep moving, so it is difficult for the Rakyat to understand anything. I am really grateful that Dr Maszlee is not changing the Blueprint so we can still achieve our targets. As a result, many parents are sending their kids to international schools. How do we address this? This can’t be addressed just by policymakers, teachers alone, but together with the community.

Next there is teacher quality. Teachers are not the same as before; teachers today have much greater access to information. But when I spoke to some teachers in the Klang Valley, they were telling me that they just want to teach. But they have been bogged down by so many other things.

I think reports and the media play an important role. I always talk about irresponsible media reporting. There is no sincerity in some of them about reporting things in education. This attitude needs to be curbed. Even for that matter, we constantly read that everything that has been done is not good enough.

All of us must play a constructive role. instead of just criticising, we have to provide some input. Most importantly, our intentions must be correct. It must come from the heart. The job of being a teacher is next to the job of God.


Info on the panellists:

Datin Haryati Mohamed Razali is the Head of the Education Indicator and Analysis Unit, MOE, and has worked for MOE since 2010. Previously, she served as a teacher in Victoria Institution for 10 years. She has almost 20 years of experience in education, from being a practitioner to policy planner. Currently, she is the head of the Education Indicator and Analysis Unit in the Educational Data Sector of EPRD, responding to the statistical needs of various stakeholders to measure the progress towards national and international goals such as UN’s SGD4.

Ms. Alina Amir is one of the co-founders of Arus Education, a social enterprise focusing on tech education and hands-on skills. With Arus, Alina has worked on developing teaching modules for Asas Sains Komputer and Sains Komputer, conducted trainings for IPGM lecturers on Micro:bit, and run numerous trainings on tech content for pre- and in-service teachers. Arus also runs coding and programming classes for B40 communities and free after school classes for students in hopes to provide them with opportunities and skills in the tech industry. Alina was a management consultant before going into teaching where she taught for 4 years in a national school. She has a degree in Actuarial Science from the University of Illinois and a post-graduate diploma in Education from Universiti Utara Malaysia.

Dato’ Satinah Syed Saleh is currently the Council Member for the National Education Advisory Council 2018-2020. In addition, she also holds many other responsibilities – she is a Board Member for Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris; Director for Melewar Learning Resources and Managing Director for Alpha Alsagoff Edu Resources Sdn. Bhd. She is also a member of the Board of Governors for St. John International School KL, the British International School KL, and the Tenby Group of Schools. When she is not busy transforming education, she contributes her ideas and views in education via conferences, seminars, roundtable discussions and forums both locally and internationally. Her experience as a former teacher, lecturer, and senior official at the Ministry of Education, alongside her involvement in the reviewing of the Malaysian Education System leading up to the MEB and her experience as former Education Advisor to Khazanah Nasional for 7 years has contributed significantly to her present-day expertise. Satinah graduated in Sociology & Anthropology from the University of Malaya and received her Diploma in Education, and subsequently earned her Master of Science from Loughborough University, UK.