While The Choice has been somewhat critical of Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin bin Yassin, there can be no serious doubt of his commitment to his portfolio as Minister of Education. That is a very good thing, because as we approach GE 13, one of the critical issues before the Rakyat will be our education policy.
With fully 8 per cent of National Service trainees unable to read or write, the future of our nation economically and culturally is at stake.
To that end, the Linus program introduced by Muhyiddin is an important first step toward ensuring national unity and literacy in Bahasa Malaysia. The immediate goal is to bring literacy at the end of three years of primary school to 100 per cent. The long-term goal is arguably the most important any policy-maker can have: Constantly improving the education of our children both as citizens and as sources of human capital for the future.
A mix of teaching and repeated testing will not only help to bring children in danger of falling off the track in their studies, but will also aggregate data for the panel in charge of reviewing the educational system, so that the panel and educators can identify school, regional, and racial disparities in education outcomes.
Study after study of pre-teen and adolescent learning show that there are three critical T’s: Targeting Teaching, and Testing. One must identify and target the populations and students with subpar outcomes; tailor instruction levels, methods, and media to those populations and students to teach them the deficient skills; and test their understanding and fluency early and often. The three T’s must be constantly, regularly repeated with set criteria to gauge progress, identify any new, vulnerable groups, and to identify which teaching methods are working and which are not.
It is heartening to see the Government taking this matter seriously instead of resting on its laurels. Our national unity is forged out of a shared experience — taught in the same language, raised with the same educational standards, and tested on the same criteria. While the Government has not yet demonstrated a track record with Linus by which to gauge its success or failure, and we are only at the start of a programme of rigourous application of internal and external testing of the system itself, this is a positive step.
Pakatan Rakyat has announced that it will be releasing its policies and goals for 2012 and beyond at its general assembly this month. DAP has made educational progress one of its critical goals. Let us hope they are able to produce policy at least as good as the Government has shown to date.