Bring back school ranking system, says Idris
GEORGE TOWN: A nationwide school ranking system based on grades ought to be revived as a remedy to push for better overall academic performance, a former minister said today.
Idris Jala said the approach is two-pronged – one to detect teachers who are performing poorly and helping them to improve their teaching methods; and the other, motivation for students to do better.
The former minister in the prime minister’s department said when the system was put in place, there was a big shift in academic performance, with the “worst performers” jumping up to higher bands, while the average ones did better.
“We have had a 75% reduction in worst-performing schools such as band six and seven (the lowest rung), while there was a 47% jump in the top tier band one and two.
“It was a silent revolution. By publishing these rankings publicly, we were putting their feet close to the fire – teachers, principals and students,” he said in a G25 talk titled “Reflections On The Malaysia Education Blueprint”.
In the mid-2010s, a rank system was introduced for all schools, with band one and band two being the higher-performing schools, and bands five, six and seven being the lower-performing schools.
Idris said without granular data on how schools were performing through data analytics, one was going “blind”. He said key data from top schools could be used for other schools so results can be obtained.
However, he lamented the doing away of public exams such as the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR). He said without public exams, schools were given a free hand to assess themselves to be the best.
“I am going to bet with anybody, a few years down the road, this is going to be a big-time misadventure. We need exams that are robust,” he said.
On the topic of English, Idris said some years back, all 70,000 English teachers were made to sit for the Cambridge Placement Test, but 70% of them did not pass at a satisfactory level.
He said the action plan was to have these teachers undergo remedial classes to improve their English.
Idris also dismissed the notion that the poor curriculum used in our schools was the reason the country’s education system fared badly.
He said it boiled down to students and teachers, with the latter’s teaching method playing an important role. He cited the example of SK Ulu Lubai in Limbang, Sarawak, which had often come out tops academically despite being in an interior region.
Idris said the teachers were from the same pool of 400,000-odd teachers in the country, trained in the same teaching institute, but they outperformed schools in the city.
He said a school in Kelantan had sent 20 of its worst-performing students there and two months later they returned to their hometown and became among the brightest students in school.
“That is why I say that we need to emulate the same teaching methods from these success-story schools. We don’t need to look at Finland or Norway,” he said.
Teach For Malaysia trustee Chen Li-Kai said that while one could learn from the best schools through how they fared in public exams, the focus should be on schools that have made a leap.
“It is not about learning from the best schools, but from the most improved schools,” he said.
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