Top-tier, dedicated educators needed: Senator urges Education Ministry to reassess selection criteria for trainee teachers

File photo of a teacher during class at SK Parun Suan.

KUCHING, March 20: The Ministry of Education (MOE) has been urged to reassess the criteria for selecting trainee teachers by focussing on admitting only those who demonstrate dedication towards children and education as the country needs top-tier educators to produce world-class students.

Senator Rita Sarimah Patrick Insol emphasised this imperative in light of Malaysia’s stark decline in Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) scores across all three assessed literacy domains—mathematics, science, and reading—in 2022.

Malaysia’s rank plummeted to 47, trailing behind nations like Vietnam and Brunei. While MOE attributed part of this decline to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Rita pointed out that there are other countries that managed to improve their performance despite facing similar challenges.

“If our education system claims to be of world-class standard, why haven’t we succeeded in producing world-class students?

“As such, I want to request that the ministry conduct a comprehensive analysis with an open mind. Identify the weaknesses and rectify them,” she said when debating the Royal Address in Dewan Negara today.

Drawing a comparison with Singapore, which secured the top spot among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in Pisa 2022, Rita highlighted Singapore’s rigorous selection process for trainee teachers where only the top 30 per cent of applicants are chosen, based on their demonstrated interest in education and children.

“Applicants undergo stringent skills tests and a four-month pre-training period as contract teachers to assess their suitability for formal teacher training programmes or Post-Graduate Diploma in Education.

“Pre-training programmes are crucial in evaluating prospective teachers. We want world-class teachers to produce world-class students, so let’s follow the example of world-class countries in this matter,” she urged.

Reflecting on her own education in rural Sarawak during the 1960s and early 1970s, Rita emphasised that every student upon completing Primary Six could not only read, write and count but “speaking lagi” (speak English).

“Why could the school produce students who mastered the basics of reading, writing and counting? The answer lies in the dedicated, diligent, and genuinely passionate teachers who taught there,” she said.

Rita shared the example of teacher Jaul Bunyau, headmaster of SK Ulu Lubai in Limbang, who transformed the school into a high-performing institution through innovative pedagogical methods and strong parental engagement.

“Under his leadership, the school received numerous accolades, including international recognition for its achievements,” she added.

Rita emphasised that high-quality social and economic capital is crucial for developing a country and enhancing its competitiveness on the world stage and this outcome is the result of high-quality education. — DayakDaily