Bandar Seri Begawan - The Minister of Education, Pehin Orang Maya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar bin Hj Apong has called for serious attention to be paid to students' performance in three main subjects - Malay Language, English Language and Mathematics.
For this, a task force was last year established to evaluate issues connected with the performance results of students at both the primary and secondary level.
In his speech during the 'Special Mention' Awards Appreciation Ceremony held in conjunction with Teacher's Day 2012 at the Tutong Sixth Form Centre, the minister noted that with the objective of developing the potential of every student, one of the key aspects that require a great deal of attention is the position of students who lack capabilities in learning.
During the transitional period in the implementation of the SPN21 education system, students who are unable to fully cope with the new educational policies should not be overlooked. This group, the minister said, might not have been given the necessary attention they deserve in terms of learning.
The average success rate in the PSR Exams over the last five years is 85 per cent, meaning that more than 10 per cent of these students had failed.
Noting that it is a challenge to identify the root of the problem, the minister said, "While we acknowledge every student has his own potential, it is our responsibility to give a great deal of attention to the group that lacks capabilities in learning."
For Year 7 and Year 8 students, we have to evaluate how suitable the programme or secondary curriculum is to them.
"What are the intervention steps that can help students before they follow the Applied Programme in Year 9?" he asked.
For the 10 per cent of students who failed the PSR exams, the Ministry of Education is currently exploring a route aligned for this group. This is done to prepare them with the appropriate curriculum and provide them the opportunity to acquire relevant skills for their future.
"We are currently reviewing good practices from other countries in the effort to provide better learning opportunities for these students," he explained.
At the same time, as a provisional step, the Ministry of Education has implemented the Basic Skills Strengthening Programme (PEKA), an intensive six-month programme that hopes to enhance the literacy and numeracy skills of students who pass only one or two subjects at the PSR Level.
Aligned with the implementation of SPN21, and on the agreement from the Heads of Department Leadership Programme (HELP), we have unearthed steps to provide full attention to the five main initiatives thought to help change the landscape of education. The selection of the five initiatives is a summary based on a number of HELP workshops which began in October 2010.
The five programmes selected are: Model Schools, Autonomy and Accountability, Community Partnership, Capacity Building and Culture Change - in short MACCC. Each of the programmes is led by a senior officer in the level of director-general, deputy permanent secretary and permanent secretary.
In regards to this, the ministry launched Model Schools effective May 2012, Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar said, adding that they are standard schools in the country and that the students are not pre-selected.
"We have chosen the schools to help us attain information, and to closely assist the schools concerned in creating an understanding on the factors that can help increase teaching and learning performance," the minister added.
In this context, the school's leadership has been given autonomy in curriculum, and partly through stages in school management.
"We need to see how the MACCC can achieve integration in a model school. Other than autonomy, schools must take initiative to influence community partnership, mainly in the community close to the school environment, including the private sector.
"We encourage the support and community participation in increasing various aspects of education at schools," the minister said.
Leadership at schools is encouraged so as to succeed and develop training of teachers and staff through capacity-building programmes. This includes sharing good practices from schools as well as institutions and relevant agencies.
All these initiatives are connected with change, the minister said, adding that it becomes a challenge for all to change and to adapt with change.
This, he added, requires mutual understanding. Therefore, change of mindset is required, as well as change of thinking, approaches and the like, which is crucial for all members of the school to follow, adapting to 'culture change'.
"It has become our hope that if what has been carried out at an exemplary school or model school has done well and is assuring, we will influence several schools until we have covered all schools in the country to implement good practices in the effort to succeed and enhance performance," the minister said.
The past five years (2007 to 2011) has also seen a trend in which an average of eight per cent of students are incapable of scoring one credit in the GCE '0' Level Exams. The minister thereby hoped that the Applied Programme, which was implemented this year, will help overcome such challenges.
At the same time, if the school authorities have already been made aware of students' performance in this category, it is only fair these students are advised to sit for subjects offered by another examination board, such as Edexcel.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin