Friday, June 3, 2011


My Sports Day Gymnastic Display in a Kampong School in Johol - 1960

( By Joe Chelliah)
The need to have a wider base in education of what is considered “core” subjects in recent times is understandable. There are simply many subjects for children to learn or be exposed to from the primary level itself today. As such the role of the key players, classroom teachers in this case, cannot be overlooked.

In trying to match the demands of the “new” trends, teacher education in Malaysia has also seen efforts to upgrade basic teaching qualifications to at least the diploma level. Many non-graduates have been made graduates through an intensive program created for this purpose by the Ministry of Education. Today there are already many teachers with at least a bachelor or even a masters degree and earning a suitable salary through such efforts by the government.

While teacher education institutions under the Ministry of Education and also the higher institutions of learning (IPTs) have undoubtedly “played ball” and kept up with these emerging trends it cannot be denied, putting it mildly without exageration, that there has been a greater degree of neglect in the extra-curricular areas in all schools. Many teachers of today cannot multi-task by being good classroom teachers as well as being good extracurricular models. It is not uncommon these days to see a fully clad teacher standing in a shade and conducting a physical education class by letting loose his/her students in a field with a football. The loads of paperwork and meetings that confront teachers these days too do not help either.

In the 1950’s through the 1970’s teachers were trained to be also good at extracurricular activities. For example, a teacher who was essentially a Math or Science teacher was at equal ease at coaching athletics or mentoring a Literary and Debating Society.. It was partly because the student teacher was already good at certain areas at his/her own school itself in the “old days”, so to speak.

Specialist teachers' courses from to Physical Education and Library Science to Educational Tehnology and Music were ofered at the Specialist Teacher Training Institute (STTI)right from the early 1960’s itself. These “specialists” then became attached to schools and were more “on the ground” teachers for their respective areas be it Music, Art, Library Science or Physical Education. Many from this pool of STTI "specialists" went on to become leading figures in their respective disciplines at the “new” universities and IPTs that started mushrooming all over Malaysia.

Here, I wish to quote Tan Sri Dr. Murad Mohammad Nor, our Director –General of Education (1974 -1985) who expressed his thoughts on teacher quality in this way:

“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.”

I believe that the time has come for some more serious planning from our national education planners without political interference, if I may say so. Let the professionals do their work. Train more specialist teachers albeit with only a certificate or a diploma to become specialist teachers for more varied extracurricular activities from athletics to the fine arts. Children whose talent may lie elsewhere will then have enough suitably trained specialist teachers to lead and inspire them in a wider variety of extracurricular activities.

The focus on academics can remain but not at the expense or total neglect of other forms of equally important facets of education. Society cannot just put all the blame squarely on the shoulders of teachers who might not be able cope as well as specialists with extracurricular activities too. Our children need a better balance between academics and non-academics these days.

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