SCHOOLS have always been regarded as bastions of knowledge with teachers considered as content experts and transmitters of knowledge.
But with globalisation and technological advances that have resulted in trends such as digitisation and the dawning of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0), successful learning can no longer be about knowledge acquisition from one source alone.
With knowledge available from numerous sources due to technology, teaching is now shifting towards equipping students with skills that will enable them to filter knowledge as well as apply it in an appropriate manner and create new knowledge that will be useful.
Taylor’s University School of Education head Dr Logendra Ponniah said: “The metric of success for learning does not stand still. It shifts in tandem with changes in demands and challenges that time brings. Teachers, and by extension teachers and the curriculum and other related policies that impact on teaching, has little choice but to respond to this changing metric if they are to prepare successful learners for any era. For example, successful learning in the 21st century is no longer about knowledge acquisition alone.”
He added: “The sort of teaching common in yesteryears — teaching that is one dimensional, emphasising knowledge only and uni-directional, one-way transmission of knowledge from teacher to students, clearly is no longer tenable in the 21st century. At the bare minimum, teaching in the current era has to be multi-dimensional and multi-directional if it is to stand any chance of making the grade.”
As the world and nation embrace IR 4.0, teachers and teaching will be coming irrelevant and relevant at the same time.
“Teachers who see themselves as content transmitters will no longer be relevant in future. Teachers in Malaysia tend to see their role as preparing students for formal examinations. This is based on the understanding that learning is about the ability to recall facts and figures in an unauthentic setting.
“The pedagogy of the future will be centred on competency, not knowledge. We need teachers who can prepare students who can learn, unlearn and relearn to be in tandem with the evolving economical topology. We need teachers who see themselves as someone who teaches, not transmit content.”
Professor Dr Aida Suraya Md. Yunus of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s (UPM) Faculty of Educational Studies commented that the mindset of children, their thinking and ways of doing things are different from yesteryears.
“They are the alpha generation in a technology-driven era. They like challenges and they want to be challenged. Teachers have to adopt pedagogies that are more student-centred. Parents have great expectations of schools. They expect smaller class size, well-trained teachers and better facilities.
“Private schools, international schools and Islamic-based private schools are getting very popular, and parents are willing to pay high fees.
“We need to improve government schools to meet the needs of stakeholders,” she said.
She added that the role of teachers today is to facilitate learning and they need to become creators and inventors of innovative pedagogies to be able to do this instead of just conducting “business as usual” teaching.
“They need to keep abreast of technology and current developments in their areas of expertise, adopt lifelong learning to upgrade knowledge and adapt to changes that the country and students are facing.
“We need to prepare our future teachers with future-proof talents so that they have the right skills and attributes that will survive the ever changing future.”
CATERING TO CHANGE
Cognisant of trends, the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Preschool to Post-Secondary Education) has placed teachers as the most effective lever to transform primary and secondary education and deliver improved outcomes for students.
Within the framework, the curriculum too has been revised to embed and develop 21st century skills such as critical and creative thinking, as well as encourage holistic, well-rounded personal growth.
Institute of Teacher Education, Ilmu Khas campus director Dr Mohd Suhaimi Mohamed Ali said teachers are now expected to impart not only knowledge in specific school subjects but also soft and thinking skills that cut across the curriculum.
“Teachers have the responsibility to prepare students with future skills needed for future jobs. In schools today, the challenge for teachers lies not only as knowledge providers but also as facilitators. So, teachers need to model the necessary skills and integrate information and communication technology in class.
“They are also expected to design classroom activities to incorporate collaboration and problem-solving activities, and make group work and task-based activities a norm,” he added.
Institute of Teacher Education, International Languages Campus director Dr Nagalingam Karuppiah believes that effective teachers are those who can employ elements of critical thinking in class. They know how to draw opinions and ideas from students, and in the process get them to be creative.
“Teachers should be able to manage their students by implementing the psychological component in class. We want teachers to understand students’ emotions so therefore they themselves must have a high level of emotional intelligence. Teachers should have the cognitive flexibility to be able to negotiate and make judgements on what to do in each classroom because every classroom is different.
“The concept of challenging the cognitive ability of students is also important — creating cognitive dissonance so that students will make an effort to learn.
“We want teachers who want to make students producers of knowledge where they can put forward new ideas,” he said.
THE TECH ELEMENT
As schoolchildren nowadays are generally technology-savvy, teachers must accept and adapt to this change, said Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Mohammad Shatar Sabran.
“Teaching in the conventional way may result in students feeling bored and hence impacting their educational achievements. Teachers in the IR4.0 and Education 4.0 era must enhance their teaching skills by creating a unique environment in class, employ creative teaching methods and display leadership qualities,” he said.
UPSI has introduced the concept of teachers as facilitators and requires lecturers to create a networking approach in their teaching to give future teachers the opportunity to share and debate on ideas, and exchange knowledge.
“With the emergence of technology, lecturers are urged to explore the smart approach by using online platforms such as Microsoft Teams, digital hub for teachers and students, Google classroom and cloud-based applications.
“In addition, social science subjects can be taught outside the classroom,” he said.
UPM’s Faculty of Educational Studies, meanwhile, tries to provide learning experiences that will equip teachers with skills in applying the latest technology through the Putra Future Classroom (PFC) and, by next year, the Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Science.
“As a teacher training faculty, PFC serves as an avenue for demonstrating 21st century teaching to future teachers. We attempt to break the taboo that technology is a foreign pedagogy and not meant for everyone. We firmly believe that the teacher’s role cannot be replaced by technology.
“So, PFC is not just about technology. Our focus is on testing technology and determining the best pedagogy for technologically enhanced classrooms. Technology is regarded as a catalyst for taking teaching to the next level,” said Aida Suraya.
Those who know how to apply technology are able to redesign teaching to optimise learning. “However, there are those who simply use technology to digitise traditional learning practices. We need to move away from this.”
The Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Science will be provided equipment for the development of UPM’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes as well as provide in-service training for teachers. “It will also be a training ground for graduates who are not able to secure jobs but aspire to be entrepreneurs in areas related to agricultural science.
“With the challenge of a reduced budget, universities need support from the industry to share the burden of providing the ultimate learning experiences for students. The industry can help by providing equipment and offering educational attachments. In advanced countries, the burden of training the future workforce is borne by both the university and the industry.”
To fulfil the roles that are required of school teachers, those wanting to enter Institutes of Teacher Education to pursue the teaching profession must score at least 5As in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia as well as fulfilling the requirement for their majors. They must also score at least a credit in the History and Bahasa Malaysia papers.
They have to undergo physical and aptitude tests before being called for interviews. “This means only candidates who are physically and emotionally fit to become a teacher will be shortlisted. Having teacher identity, being open to current and new knowledge are some of the criteria. Applicants for specialised programmes such as music education have to sit a practical test if they do not have music certificates,” said Mohd Suhaimi.
After undergoing a foundation programme for a year, teacher trainees at Institutes of Teacher Education pursue a four-year degree course in teaching.
“Apart from being taught the content on the subjects that they will teach in primary schools, they have to attend courses on education, co-curriculum activities and management, educational technology as well as electives of their choice such as photography. They have to work on a research project, complete two cycles of practicum and three cycles of school-based experience,” he added.
A year after the graduates are posted to schools, feedback from school administrators is sought. Mohd Suhaimi and Nagalingam said reviews for their respective institutes have been good.
“Based on the reviews, our graduates are performing very well — they are creative and tech-savvy while being reflective practitioners. They are able to perform onsite research based on data they collect as well as make observations to make classroom decisions. For example, if schoolchildren in their class cannot do effective writing, they observe and collect data and are able to come up with solutions to the problem. These new breed of teachers are different due to their training,” said Nagalingam.
At UPSI as well as UPM, applicants who apply for education programmes must have undergone programmes such as matriculation, foundation and Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia. Those who qualify academic-wise will then take the MEDSI personality test where interviewers will look for applicants with good interpersonal skills, high integrity and passion to be a teacher. There will also be a physical test.
“Beginning from the September 2017 intake, UPSI has introduced the Beyond Academic Initiative to encourage students to go beyond academic qualifications. It is a platform to venture into entrepreneurship; attend training on skills; and the ability to speak more than three languages. The targeted batch to graduate with this set of criteria is September 2020, by the latest,” said Mohammad Shatar.
Aida Suraya added that up to two years ago, the intake at UPM for education programmes was based on the projection for future teachers by the Ministry of Education (MoE). Supply needs to meet demand.
“In recent years, MoE decided that the current students and graduates are enough to fill up the available posts. However, we do realise that we can market our graduates to private schools, international schools, colleges, institutes and even schools abroad. Thus, we are now taking in students but we need to prepare them for the open market. This is a big challenge for us.”
At Taylor’s University, apart from the Bachelor of Education programme for students who have finished secondary school and is passionate about teaching and the Minor in Education slated for those who may want to consider teaching as a complementary career, there are programmes at the postgraduate level.
Logendra said: “At the postgraduate level, we cater for two groups. We cater for those who are looking to be formally certified as a teacher. There are many prospective students who are considering switching careers and are already teaching without any formal qualification.
“We also offer a master’s and a postgraduate programme for students who are interested in pursuing an advanced degree via research.”