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Education played a pivotal role in Malaysia especially politically, economically and socially ever since the independence of Malaya in 1957 and the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Before the independence of Malaysia, the literacy of people were low which proved to be disastrous as foreign countries such as the Portuguese and British took advantage of these people who were generally illiterate. However, according to the stateuniversity.com in an unquoted source, ever since the independence of Malaysia, the country has achieved unsurmountable feats of excellence in the field of education with a literacy rate of 93% by the end of the 20th century, which was easily the highest in the world. Since then, several educational policies were being drafted, debated, passed, and altered to meet the educational needs of the people of Malaysia from time to time as well as creating a national identity through the education system.
Consolidation Period - Razak Report 1956 and Education Ordinance 1957
The Razak Report was written by the Education Minister, Tunku Abdul Razak in the year 1956. Its goal was to restructure the education system in Malaya. The commencement of a Malayan-orientated curriculum results in the eventual objective of making Bahasa Malaysia as the main medium of instruction. On the other hand, other schools used English, Mandarin and Tamil as the medium of instruction. Students who passed the High School Entry Exam could proceed further. The syllabus is the same for all types of primary and secondary schools. Both the Malay Language and English language are required to be taught in all schools. The Razak Report has been essential to submit proposals for the establishment of a united nation through the education policies that cater to the plural community in Malaya.
Aminuddin Baki Report
Then, the Aminuddin Baki Report was introduced in 1960's with the purpose of reorganizing the weaknesses of the Razak Report and the Rahman Talib Report and the Education Act 1996. In regards to the Razak report, many students failed academically and failed to be selected for secondary school. These students were forced to leave the school which became a social problem because it was hard to get employed at such a young age. Aminuddin Baki knew the unemployment may cause a lot of social problems. He suggested that the school age of every child to increase from 12 to 15 years old.
Besides that, Aminuddin Baki also suggested Upper secondary education be divided into two streams which are academic education and vocational education. In order to cater the amount of pupil to school, Aminuddin Baki has proposed the establishment of secondary school education for who failed their academically in primary schools to continue studies in vocational courses for 3 years. Since 1962, students must pass the National Language which is Bahasa Malaysia in order to get the Certificate of Primary Education.
Transition of Policies for Primary Schools and Secondary Schools
Weaknesses of the Old Curriculum for Primary Schools and Secondary Schools
"Kurikulum Lama Sekolah Rendah" (KLSR) and "Kurikulum Lama Sekolah Menengah" (KLSM) was executed during late 1980s. Among the weaknesses were the recurring syllabus contents of the subjects. In addition, the contents were dull and boring whereas the teachers needed to hurry to finish the entire syllabus just in time for the examinations. Moreover, there were limited references for both teachers and students alike.
Integrated Primary Schools and Secondary Schools Curriculum
After that, the Kurikulum Baru Sekolah Rendah (KBSR) and Kurikulum Baru Sekolah Menengah (KBSM), then later renamed Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Rendah and Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah in1993 as aligned with the National Education Philosophy, was then established in 1982 to improve on the weaknesses of the KLSR and KLSM. One of the main purposes of establishment KBSR and KBSM is to place more emphasis on the student's mastery and appreciation towards the Malay language as their national language. The program also gave emphasis to the 3R's which are reading, writing and arithmetics. Moreover, KBSR and KBSM was divided into 3 areas, which are communication skills, humanities, environment and individual development. Students could also improve their communication skills through the usage of the various languages including Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.
In addition, Islamic studies and Moral studies include issues pertaining to humanities and its environment. Humanities and its Environment are divided into 2 components that are: "spirituality, virtuous values and attitudes", and "humanity components in correlation to the environment". The last area is individual development and creativity which includes music, art and physical education. It is clearly shown since KLSR and KLSM that the goal of the KBSR and KBSM is to ensure students are developed in the various aspects of intellectuality, spirituality, emotionality, talents, morality, physical values and societal values.
Standard Primary Schools and Secondary Schools Curriculum
Moreover, according to the online newspaper, Utusan Malaysia Online (2010), Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah (KSSR) and Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Menengah (KSSM) will eventually replace the KBSR and KBSM and implemented in 2011, starting from Year 1 primary school students. The textbooks would be replaced by the new modules. KSSR divided the subjects into 3 modules, which are Basic Principle Modules, Basic Thematic Modules and Basic Elective Modules with the purpose of creating holistic and innovative individuals. This provides a well-rounded platform for learning thus reducing overemphasis on academics. According to Dr. Julaihi, the new curriculum is based on six key areas - communication, spiritual attitude and values, humanitarianism, literacy in science and technology, physical and personal development which were essential in producing well-rounded individuals.
Medium of Instruction related Policies
Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English "Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik Dalam Bahasa Inggeris", (PPSMI)
In order to improve and increase the usage of the English language among students in either primary or secondary schools in Malaysia, PPSMI was introduced in 2003 by the forth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir. According to this government policy, the Science and Mathematics subjects would be taught in English medium. This policy was implemented to accommodate the growing internationalization of Malaysia in which most graduates at that time were mostly Malay language-based. The government's decision to place more emphases on the English language was so that this could propel Malaysian students further to be well suited to the needs of the economy.
"To uphold Malay language & to strengthen the English language", "Memartabatkan Bahasa Malaysia & Memperkukuhkan Bahasa Inggeris", (MBMMBI)
As PPSMI is still being used, this policy is not yet being introduced to the education system but it will soon be implemented in 2012 to allow the Ministry of Education enough time to strategise and provide a soft landing implementation of the policy. As stated in the microsite for the Ministry of Education (2010), parallel with the 1Malaysia's objective of strengthening racial unity, the introduction of the MBMMBI was to fortify racial unity within the nation with the usage of the national language which is Malay language, as sanctified in accordance with Article 152 of the Federation Constitution, in which states that the Malay language was the main language as the medium of instruction. As the international language of communication and knowledge which is essential for the the nation to compete "glocally", another objective of the MBMMBI was to reinforce the usage of English as a compulsory subject. The rationale for the call of abolishing PPSMI by replacing it with MBMMBI was because it was found that in the past when BM was the main instruction of education, students were able to achieve better results irrelevant of whether the students were in a rural or urban area. Also, it was found based in a paper commissioned for UNESCO (2010) showed that students were able to pick-up information and learn faster when the medium of instruction was in their mother-tongue.
Ultimately, it was evident that the government and the Ministry of Education has worked closely from time to time to improve the educational system of Malaysia to further support our nations economy and well-being and creating a fortified identity for the citizens of Malaysia. In accordance with that, Malaysia can slowly but surely achieve Tun Dr. Mathir's Vision 2020, which includes taking Malaysia's plural society and globalization into consideration as well as achieving the Vision 2020 of becoming a holistic society with high moral standards and individual levels of achievements.