2020-09-15 18:38:06  2343312

The forgotten teachers

Opinion

Sin Chew Daily

A group of qualified teachers wrote to Sin Chew Daily highlighting their ordeal of completing the holiday teacher training program but were told to infinitely wait for an interview by Education Service Commission Malaysia. To be officially recruited, they have to be interviewed by the commission. 

We believe this group of qualified teachers are not asking to be recruited but exercise their fundamental right. If they are not recruited after being interviewed, then they can move on.

This issue has existed for a long time. From Barisan Nasional to Pakatan Harapan, then Perikatan Nasional, the government has changed but the problem remains.

Chinese primary school teachers face this issue, so do the religious units of national primary schools.

Chinese primary schools face shortage of teachers but qualified teachers are not being interviewed to be recruited. What have actually transpired here? 

The education ministry has said Chinese primary schools are short of 1,125 teachers this year. We are of the view that the figure does not reflect all the issues as the sizes of Chinese primary schools vary.

Of the 1,298 Chinese primary schools in the country, 135 are big-size schools with enrollments of more than 1,050. There are 598 Chinese primary schools, or 46% of total, with enrollments less than 150. The need of such schools may be the 'blind spot' of the ministry's statistics division.

Small-size schools are without economies of scale. Merger is one of the options in business. But in the education sector, having sufficient number of teachers is necessary to maintain a school's normal operation. A common standard of student-teacher ratio to assign teachers would see 'excess of teachers' and 'shortage of teachers' exist at the same time.

Fine-tuning the number of teachers in Chinese primary schools would be an immediate task for the education ministry. It should institutionalize the student-teacher ratio according to the size of a school, and then plan based on the student intake in the next few years and the number of teachers going to be retired as the yardstick to recruit trainee teachers.

We believe the ministry understands this principle but whether it will implement it is another matter.

Chinese population has registered a dramatic drop in recent years. From 650,572 pupils enrolled at Chinese primary schools in 2008, the number has now dropped to 511,950 in 2020. A 20% decline in 12 years and the trend is not going to reverse anytime soon.

While the number of Chinese primary school pupils is down by 120,000, what about the number of Chinese primary school teachers? We should be looking at this issue from the point of national interests first.

Take Taiwan for example, from a total of 305,000 births in 2000, the number is down to 177,000 last year. Primary schools are forced to merge due to declining numbers of pupils while teachers are in oversupply. Less than one percent of teachers graduating from universities are primary school teachers. Universities face an acute shortage of students and have to either merge or shut down.

The ministry of education should make early preparation in anticipation of such a scenario. 

There are some unseen truths in this scenario of Chinese primary schools facing acute shortage of teachers while qualified teachers are not recruited.

Firstly, the lack of communication between the ministry and the education service commission that these qualified teachers are 'forgotten'.

Secondly, there are issues with recruitment as some qualified teachers specializing in economy have waited for four years to get an interview. Is recruitment for such teachers still ongoing?

Thirdly, does the ministry communicate with the education service commission on streamlining the process of interview right after graduation? Then the teachers are ready to be assigned. They can sit for the interview again next year if they do not pass the interview or move on to other jobs without wasting time.

Fourthly, as the number of civil servants has reached 1.7 million, is recruitment of teachers frozen too to reduce the government's financial burden?

In this internet era, issues such as 'lack of teachers in Chinese primary schools' and 'qualified teachers are not recruited' should be rectified in an efficient manner.

It is also time to review the system that once someone has joined the training program, he or she should be fit to teach right away.

Being a teacher and a civil servant does not mean one has secured an iron rice bowl now.


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