Tuesday, February 9, 2010


by Joe Chelliah

The minds at the Ministry of Education are busy at instituting changes and experimenting yet again in our education system. This time it is about identifying and labeling high performing schools. While in itself the idea may not be without its merits I would like to observe that our general approach to education would become even more elitist than it is already is.

Anyone familiar with basic educational principles would agree that education should, first and foremost, be student/child-centered. The student is the centre of the whole scheme of things as is outlined in our national educational philosophy too.

While not wanting to go into details or polemics I merely want to observe that in the USA and in most other advanced countries schools exist with no particular labels. Elitism in the context of education is the practice of concentrating attention on or allocating funding to the best students / schools who rank highest in a particular field. Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge did not become elitist institutions by simply having branded and trumpeted themselves as top performing schools but rather by the outstanding performance of their graduated students in later lives.

To my mind it is more important to standardize facilities and create less disparity among the national schools. This should be a greater concern for our educational planners. More level “playing fields” (pun intended) with the major thrust in improving the overall quality of education in the country and with the sole intention of producing a better educated society should be our prime concern in line with Vision 2020. The thrust should be towards having truly quality teachers, teacher education, educational planning, curricula, research, administration and so on.

A nation’s greatest asset is its intellectual resource cultivated through the process of education. So, let each and every Malaysian child have access to quality education period. Impossible? Perhaps not, but we will never know unless we strive towards such goals. Mere labeling or re-labeling of schools may not be the ultimate answer.