In many schools across the country, teachers are no longer teaching – and there’s precious little that students and parents can do about it.
My son is set to undergo a major rite of passage for fifth formers – the anxiety-inducing SPM, of course – and he’s going all out. From regular school lessons to supplementary tutoring (the punishing daily regimen of most Malaysian kids), my son is cramming as much studying as he can into his day. Each moment he spends in the presence of his educators is precious, and he must milk his lessons for all they’re worth. I place great trust in his school teachers, in particular, to guide him in the right direction.
So it was a great shock to discover that my trust had been greatly misplaced.
As part of my daily routine, I send my son to school every morning – but I was recently called back to my hometown. So for one day, my son had to make his own way to school – a tedious commute involving taking a Grab taxi at 6.30am, and to return home, an LRT ride and two bus rides.
When I arrived home later the same day, I found him grumpy and irritable – but it wasn’t from the commute. With a great sigh, he explained that he had wasted his time going to school that day, as he had only learned one subject. Bemused, I pressed him for details.
“My Pendidikan Sivik teacher came in to collect our worksheets, but never stayed to teach,” he began. “Then it was time for Pendidikan Agama, but being pregnant, my Ustazah ‘could not teach’ (she just sat there). And then it was supposed to be BM, but my BM teacher was busy with Minggu Bahasa, so she skipped the class entirely. For Modern Mathematics, the teacher came in and collected our books and pretty much lepak-ed in the class.
“As for Physics, the teacher asked us to ‘buat kerja sendiri’. And then finally, for Chemistry, we were taught our lessons for an hour,” he finished glumly.
“Bangang punya sekolah!” I responded, extremely irritated.
I had no cause to doubt my son, but I was perplexed as to why, with SPM examinations just around the corner, the teachers were slacking so brazenly.
I immediately took to Facebook to express my frustration – and to my surprise, many of my friends revealed that their children are, or had been, in the same boat.
“This is nothing new la, Fa,” said Latha. “I went through the same situation with both my kids. Once exams are over, there is almost no classroom learning until the next exam. My boys used to say, ‘Can just go for tuition and take exams in school’.”
Elsha Ong, a mother of three, wrote: “It seems to be occurring in my kids’ school too. I wonder if this happens in private and international schools….”
Hardy Singh remarked: “It happened in my sons’ school too. Teachers weren’t teaching because they ‘had to go for courses’!”
Kamala Vasudevan had this to share: “I remember when my youngest was in secondary school. Same problem, so I asked the principal why so many teachers were absent from school. He referred me to the teachers’ roster, and it showed that teachers had been seconded to the Education Department. For some reason, the teachers were filling in for the Department staff when it came to carrying out extra duties.
“So you know what the teacher advised me? To teach my girl at home, and only send her to school to ‘socialise’. And I did exactly that. My girl went twice a week to school and had tutoring daily at home,” she added.
What nonsense is this? Why are government schools forsaking our kids?
As if truant and idling teachers weren’t bad enough, I discovered that the previous week, while my son’s non-Muslim classmates were allowed to attend their Chemistry, Add Maths and Physics classes (though I have no idea if the teachers showed up and actually taught), my boy and other Muslim students were made to attend a talk exclusively on how to do well in SPM Pendidikan Islam.
All this follows another incident I related a couple of months ago, when my son had asked permission from his Ustazah to skip a ceramah agama to attend his Biology class since it was his turn to do a class presentation. The Ustazah told him that “Biology won’t secure a place for him in Heaven.”
Sigh. I had a mind to go to my son’s school and raise hell, demanding that the situation be rectified. But in the back of my mind, I knew it would be futile – and I wondered whether I should simply accept the fact that our education system is a shambles and to take matters into my own hands, as my Facebook friends had done. (This is what it has come to, dear readers).
As I continued reading the responses on Facebook, my son said: “I’m thinking of not going to school tomorrow, Ma. I only have Agama, BM, PE and English. Ustazah is still pregnant, the BM teacher is still busy with Minggu Bahasa, I don’t want to do PE in this heatwave, and as for English, well, my teacher has been sick the whole week.”
“Can I just stay in and sleep?” he asked.
“Sounds good to me,” I said.