QUESTION TIME | Instead of worrying about the colour of students’ shoes and a cashless system in schools, Education Minister Maszlee Malik needs to focus on improving education, the most vital ingredient to upgrade skills, increase incomes, raise living standards and dispel ignorance.
Maszlee’s task has been made much easier because there is already a comprehensive education blueprint which can be followed, and there is a mechanism for monitoring it. The new government, soon after it came into power, undertook to follow the blueprint.
In 2007, in a McKinsey and Company study on ways to improve a school system, after it investigated 25 of the world’s school systems, including ten of the top performers, I found the most succinct executive summary on education that I have seen anywhere. Here is the key point:
“The experiences of these top school systems suggest that three things matter most: 1) getting the right people to become teachers, 2) developing them into effective instructors and, 3) ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child.”
This is quite intuitive, but as the executive summary pointed out, changing what happens in the hearts and minds of children is no simple task. Some do it successfully, while others do not - and money alone is not the sole determinant of what works.
McKinsey suggested that the top school systems “demonstrate that the best practices for these three things work irrespective of the culture in which they are applied. They demonstrate that substantial improvement in outcomes is possible in a short period...