Transform teaching into profession of choice

Dr Nabilah Ali | .

Becoming a medical specialist is no mean feat : a total of seven years spent studying abroad and another ten years of gruelling internship once back in the homeland. At the same time, slot in at least four years of  zealous studying within that ten years period to achieve specialization in a particular medical field.

Once a specialist, work for another couple of years and if you manage to get onto the bandwagon, you can then enroll in another three years of subspecialty training while still working and serving the population. Oh, and did I mention that you have to work in a few different places and uproot your family several times in the process?

This is a journey a doctor has to make. A lot has been said about improving the working conditions of doctors and increasing incentives to stop government specialists from leaving for greener pastures.

Surprisingly though, I do not want to talk about doctors today. I wish instead, to talk about this breed of unsung heroes and heroines instead : teachers.

I come from a family of teachers; my late mother a dedicated historian and a Malay language secondary school teacher. I owe her a lot for having provided me with a good early foundation of loving to read and write. She succumbed to breast cancer when I was ten years old.

My father taught Malay literature in one of the local universities way long after his stipulated retirement age. His English is way much better than mine, and I probably inherit some if not much of his literary genes. My sister is a very dedicated Malay language teacher at a  secondary school, and so is her husband.

My immediate neighbour is a teacher and so is the neighbour directly opposite. There are scores of teachers in my street and I have come across many inspiring teachers throughout my life and career. And do you know what?

They are a breed of selfless individuals, sacrificing time, effort and money, in fact their own money on a lot of occasions to ensure that our children become worthy individuals and leaders of tomorrow.

They wade through the bureaucracies of the Malaysian education system and brace themselves against the onslaught of new education policies brought on by the whims and fancies of each new politician that arrives at the doorstep of the Education Ministry. Each time a new minister helms the Ministry, there will be an avalanche of new policies; wait, what was the last one?

Dual-language programme (DLP) in schools which appears to me as the PPSMI reincarnated. These lion hearted teachers will now have to face the barrage of questions from worried parents after having just fended off those questions on the contentious school-based assessment (SBA) system. More and more of my affluent friends and acquaintances have started sending their children to international schools because of their losing faith in the Malaysian education system.

What about the rest of us less fortunate ones? We have to plod on and try and survive in this ever increasingly versatile Malaysian education system. Do not get me wrong, I still believe in this system, albeit a few worries here and there.

I support change for the betterment of our children.

Change is good, better though if there is less politicking and more transparency in the implementation of policies and awarding of tenders and projects under the Ministry. Remember the fiasco of the RM140 million East Coast computer lab scandal?

Change is to be welcomed, even embraced warmly if it means better incentives and perks for the teachers.

Under the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013 - 2025, the plight of teachers has been addressed.

Teaching is to be transformed into the profession of choice, a prestigious elite profession that will only recruit from the top 30% of graduates. Their career pathways will be enhanced, with emphasis on continuous professional development similar to doctors.

Needless to say, the intention is good but it is the implementation which is always lacking. Time and again, selective discrimination for example due to political affiliations, and bureaucracy at all levels cause teachers to suffer at the expense of others.

In time, I sincerely hope that the Malaysian teaching profession will achieve that level of prestige accorded to teachers in countries such as Luxembourg, Switzerland and Germany which boast the top three highest teacher salaries in the world.

These countries have long recognized that good educators are the building blocks of a good education system and ultimately a thriving nation. Lucrative salaries are offered to retain the best talent in the industry and ultimately, teaching is considered one of the more coveted careers in this part of the world.

Fancy a job with a starting salary of approximately RM22,0000 which can escalate up to RM34,000 for the most experienced? This is what teachers in Luxembourg are being paid.

Maybe one day when PAS and its version of a technocrat government comes into play and we still own our nation's fortunes, which is currently being squandered away by those in power, may this dream then finally be realised.

Until then, I salute all my former and current teachers from all walks of life, race, religion and denominations. May Allah bless us all.

The writer is a concerned mother and medical doctor. She is also an IPRO (Persatuan Graduan UK dan Eire) member and remains istiqamah with PAS

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