COMMENT BY YB PROF DR P.RAMASAMY, DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER II, PENANG
NEAC must get out of the ossified conventional thinking on education
The revival of the defunct national education advisory council (NEAC) is something important. Whether it can bring about positive changes to the moribund educational system remains to be seen.
I am not sure about the earlier performance of the NEAC, it was probably was a mere window dressing, a place for those who retired from the public and private sectors.
There is no record to say that it had a meaningful impact on educational policies with the objective of reform and change.
To be fair, the NEAC as merely an advisory council, cannot be expected to perform miracles given its mandate and limited executive role.
Even though the NEAC is headed by a retired government official, former director general of education, the composition of the council seems to be desired for.
The members might be qualified but the public is not sure about their educational credentials and why they were chosen. I hope they are not retired having passed their prime with no meaningful insight in the theoretical and empirical dimensions of the educational system in the country.
I am not sure whether the minister of education has elucidated the public on the credentials of the council members, why they were picked and what were their special qualities.
Advisory councils or not, public acceptance leading to legitimacy is crucial. Of the ten members of the NEAC, only two non-Malays have been selected. Again, I am not sure as to their credentials.
I am sure there is a good reason for the selection and appointment of the NEAC members.
Maybe the consideration was based on merit or perhaps some other criteria. I hope there was no serious deliberate omission in neglecting the representation of the non-Malay community.
I am just wondering whether these two non-Malay representatives can justifiably represent and speak on the national educational system with a particular emphasis on vernacular education.
The vernacular system of education has two components, the Mandarin (Chinese) school and the Tamil school systems.
I hope that the NEAC doesn’t ignore the role of the vernacular system of education in the country especially in the light of high enrollment.
It is important to have representatives to speak on the future of the vernacular system of education that coexists with the national system.
Unless of course, the minister thinks that the vernacular system of education merits no attention at least for the time being.
I agree that the NEAC might not be in position to examine and evaluate every aspect of national education in the country.
Its advisory role might be its own limitations.
I don’t think that the NEAC even before it is properly constituted need to plunge into the subject of reducing the excessive workload of the teachers.
This is an administrative matter that can be sorted out by the officials of the ministry and the schools. The NEAC must take a broad and comprehensive approach in its advisory role.
It should ascertain whether our schools system are moving in the right direction reflective of global demand. The interest in science and mathematics is declining in schools among students.
Is this because of the way science and mathematics are taught or due to some other causes? The recent Covid-19 pandemic brought to our attention that learning need not be confined to conventional classrooms, online or virtual learning has come to prominence calling into question our conventional of dissemination of knowledge.
This transformation has called into question the physical infrastructural requirements of schools and the need for more teachers.
These are some examples that the NEAC members could ponder on in undertaking their advisory role. There are many other areas in the educational realm that needs the attention of the government of the day.
The question is whether the NEAC is prepared to probe areas that are beyond the realm of ossified conventional thinking.