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Deborah Henry calls for change in Malaysian education system

The former beauty queen and Fugee School co-founder Deborah Henry has an important Universal Children's Day message

By Andrea Tim | Published: 20 Nov 2017

Improve, Malaysia
Photo: deborahenry/Instagram

Fugee School co-founder Deborah Henry has called our nation's education system "obsolete" and called for a shift towards a syllabus that prepares children for working life.

"In this day and age of internet and technology, every other sector has evolved to incorporate these elements but the education system has not," she told The Malay Mail. "It is archaic and needs restructuring. Schools must decentralise the classroom structure and allow children to learn based on topics of interest. We don't just want graduates but successful and intelligent individuals who will do well in the ever-changing world."

It's not that Malaysia's education system should be thought of as completely stagnant. "In terms of access to education, Malaysia has made progress but it largely comes from the private sector through scholarships and funding," Deborah said.

It also goes beyond providing a fresh learning platform for students, as teachers need to be part of this change. Perhaps Malaysia can learn from Finland's education policies, which allows teachers flexibility in teaching methods and maybe then, lessons would become far more interesting.

"We must consider what we are preparing our children for," Deborah added. "Learning approaches need to change and we must understand that every student learns differently. In order to fully grasp this we must work together to build a society that loves knowledge and education."

Rote memorisation and stressing out about national examinations are not uncommon in Malaysian public schools. Earlier this month, a question in an English paper for SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, the national examination taken by fifth-year secondary school students) caused a debacle as some students had missed the point of the question.

"If you had the opportunity to move to another part of Malaysia, where would you choose to live? Explain your choice," the question read.

Some students had answered with locations in other countries instead of "another part of Malaysia", thereby sparking a debate as to whether they should be penalised heavily for misunderstanding the question. A few parents argued that the national exams caused a lot of stress in the students, which led to them rushing through questions, and that they should not be punished severely when their command of the language is otherwise faultless.

Whatever it is, it's clear that Malaysia's youth need an education system that is less stressful and more focused in honing comprehension and deductive skills to start with.

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