Tuesday 23 Apr 2024
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This article first appeared in Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on March 6, 2023 - March 12, 2023

We applaud the government’s commitment to the education sector by allocating RM55.2 billion to the Ministry of Education (MoE) in its recent Budget 2023, mainly to maintain and improve the infrastructure at all schools, build new schools in areas that are in need and increase provisions for students’ welfare.

We also look forward to knowing more about the plans for our dear teachers. Unquestionably, the drivers and gatekeepers of our children’s education are the teachers. Currently, the investment for the teachers’ professional development is reported to be around RM30 per year per teacher. This is indeed alarming as the standard of teaching has been rapidly raised, especially in the post-pandemic era. So, the support for their advancement has to move just as quickly.

As announced by Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek previously, there are seven measures that emphasise teachers’ welfare. We are particularly interested in learning more about the plan to strengthen the autonomy of teachers in the planning and implementation of teaching and learning (PdP) and classroom-based assessment (PBD). PBD is a form of continuous assessment that takes place during PdP sessions to gather information on the students’ progress, abilities and achievements. It is viewed as an alternative to traditional assessments that focus primarily on public exams.

The National Education Philosophy (NEP) supports the concept of PBD as a means of promoting holistic student outcomes. By allowing teachers greater autonomy in the planning and implementation of PdP and PBD, schools can better support the needs of their students and promote a more effective and equitable education system.

A recently published report by the Malaysian Collective Impact Initiative (MCII) found that more than 70% of teachers (out of about 240 respondents) generally agreed that PBD is a better means of developing their students’ potential, talents and abilities than the standardised public examinations. Unfortunately, only 25% experienced satisfaction in implementing it. This huge gap poses a lot of questions, mainly: what are the causes behind the low satisfaction and do our teachers have the capacity as well as the capability to implement PBD? How serious is this issue?

MCII is an education-based non-governmental organisation that acts as a connector and enabler for schools to improve student outcomes using the Collective Impact Model. In the “MCII Report: Survey and Education Roundtable Findings on Classroom-based Assessment/Pentaksiran Bilik Darjah (PBD)”, MCII analysed both qualitative and quantitative data collected through a survey for teachers and a roundtable involving different stakeholders in the education ecosystem. This is to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the input, process and outcome of PBD implementation in schools.

Looking at the challenges identified in the report, it was found that there were similar themes reported by the different stakeholders, which include conducive classroom environment, syllabus, allocation of time, data quality assurance and assessment method. Among the main challenges were the large classes that made it absolutely challenging for teachers to implement PBD, especially if the teachers were in charge of multiple classes and subjects.

An overloaded syllabus could limit the amount of time available for teachers to conduct assessments, initiate intervention and provide individualised feedback. Low student attendance and poor attitude towards PBD could also influence the tracking, accuracy and authenticity of the PBD data, affecting its quality. Furthermore, the teachers’ own lack of comprehension or familiarity with PBD descriptors and coordination of PBD scores can make it difficult to draw reliable conclusions from the data.

The heavy reliance on PBD workbooks for assessment suggested that teachers may feel limited in their ability to design assessments independently or that they may lack sufficient assessment literacy to incorporate a variety of assessment methods. The stakeholders involved in this report recognised that for PBD implementation to be truly effective, changes need to involve different layers, especially at the systemic level.

It was concluded that the viability of PBD could not be separated from the well-being of teachers in terms of professional development and mental health support. In addition, the overall findings suggested that factors affecting PBD implementation were inextricably intertwined with school autonomy and leadership. The different stakeholders also acknowledged that for PBD to be holistic and in-depth, the parents’ active involvement in their children’s learning and understanding of the assessments’ benefits are essential.

Taking all insights into consideration, MCII has listed down actionable recommendations to enable education stakeholders to make informed decisions, better design interventions and initiate collaborations with regards to PBD implementation in schools. The main effort should be put into providing continuous professional development training for teachers of all levels and embedding coaching and mental health support elements into these programmes.

It is also worth noting that for student outcomes to thrive under PBD, we need to further cultivate strategic collaborations with parents, the community and the private sector, as already being promoted in Shift 9 of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013–2025. It is critical to address both capacity and capability issues to bridge the gap in PBD implementation and maximise the outcomes.

With this Budget 2023 announcement, we are optimistic that the MoE will have more comprehensive planning for a better education and we are ready to work together for a Malaysia Madani.

Alia Wahidin is project director at the Malaysian Collective Impact Initiative, an education-based non-governmental organisation that acts as a connector and enabler for schools to improve student outcomes using the Collective Impact Model, focusing on literacy and encouraging an exciting learning environment

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