Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quality Versus Quantity in Malaysian Education

The management of education since the Merdeka days seems to have been done at the expense of quality though it is less elitist now and available to every Malaysian kid. In Science we learn that volume decreases as pressure increases through Boyle’s Law. It is almost always the same when we talk about quality and quantity in most things unless it is consciously managed and planned. A mother can cook a splendid dish for her family of five but she may not be able to do the same for a crowd of five hundred unless she uses the same ingredients proportionately and uses cooking utensils that are much larger and employs other necessary skills and techniques that are required for larger scale food preparations.

In a similar vein, education in Malaysia has become a victim of this quality versus quantity axiom as shown in above figure. It is undeniable and commendable that the government has spent considerably large proportions of the GNP on education and resultantly, the number of schools and also the number institutions of higher learning have grown very impressively since the Merdeka years. These gains can easily be translated into statistics and proved but, sad to say, the quality of education has not kept abreast with this growth. Much public opinion has been expressed in this matter.

In my school days in the 1950’s, one was much respected if a student could score just one distinction in the examinations. Of course today, we see quite a few students, no doubt through sheer diligence, walking away with distinctions beyond the dozen counts in public examinations. I do not believe that this is a true indicator of the improvement in quality as much as I would like to believe so.

Quality is an elusive element to assess in education as it is not an element that is as easily tangible as quantity. I hope that the new Honorable Minister of Education will concentrate more in this area by improving the quality of education at all levels from kindergartens to universities. To do this well, he may want to consult and listen to prominent educators such as Professor Emeritus Tan Sri’ Khoo Kay Kim and like minded educators and educationists while they are still around. Here I would like to quote the education icon Tan Sri Dr. Murad Mohammad Nor (1974 -1985) who was once The Director General of Education in Malaysia who said :

Aspek yang paling mustahak dalam soal mengimplementasikan mana-mana satu rancangan adalah pihak guru. Jika pihak guru tidak dapat menyampaikan nya dengan baik, maka rancangan itu tidak akan berguna walaupun rancangan itu begitu baik sekali pun.”

The quality of teachers and the teacher education process itself is one area that the Honorable Minister of Education may want to start with so that we can do a turnabout in the quality of education in Malaysia too.