Friday, November 14, 2014

Building schools for all Malaysians?

by Azly Rahman

I am hoping that either the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat will take up the idea of this new brand of schooling to propel to country into a new era of educational reform as we approach 2015.

The initiative should be started by the Selangor government run by Pakatan to showcase what the BN regime has not been able to do in meeting the schooling and human capital needs of the 21st century, as well as for national unity. I have been writing about this model for years and have even proposed to educational leaders from both governmental camps. I call this initiative Akademie Renaissance (AR) Schools and would like to see it come to fruition in my lifetime.

This initiative will propel the state of Selangor into a major phase of educational reform, partnering in its effort to showcase the nation and other countries a model of a truly global school that harmonises technology, culture, and total human development from the level of kindergarten to graduate school.

It will have its mission in preparing children to become global citizens and experts in the fields of study they will choose as a career, through a systematic process of schooling of the highest standards, from kindergarten to high/secondary schools.

The educational objective is to create ‘academies’ that will become ‘feeder schools of choice’ (specialised) to prepare students for entry into top Asian, American, British, and other world universities of high standing in which English is the medium of instruction. The initial project will be the building of secondary/high schools.

They will be modeled after the most innovative of educational philosophies whose vision is to create thinkers, innovators, and life-long learners who will be successful at all phases of learning and will contribute to the betterment of society and to Malaysia in general.

They will be based on a curriculum that is distinct from the governmental school, focusing on English Language as a lingua franca as the medium of instruction so that the students will be prepared for entry into the world’s top ranking colleges/universities whose language if instruction is English. A high level of proficiency in this language is therefore necessary as skills mastery.

Faculty members will consist of those from diverse local and international backgrounds, skilled in the art and science of teaching and committed to the principles of highest academic excellence and global education, and student emotional and cultural growth.

They will be the premier college preparation schools which will give admission priority to the best and the brightest of children of the poor of all races in Malaysia. The aim is to provide the best quality education to children who come from families who are in the worst economic conditions and to give them all the opportunity they will need to be successful enough to give back to their families and community.

A criteria is also to give priority admission to those whose parents have never had a college/university education and to orphans of all ethnic background.

Alleviation of poverty regardless of race

The vision of this new genre of schools is to have a population that reflects the true composition of multi-ethnic Malaysia who will further demonstrate that they will still continue to succeed against all odds and be leaders with a conscience clear enough to contribute to one of Independent Malaysia’s two noble goals of development - the alleviation of poverty regardless of race.

The schools will not only be internationally-linked as ‘university-college-lab-schools of global-experiential learning’ in which the curriculum is based on cutting edge 21st century informational-society driven paradigm of learning and teaching and expected outcomes, but also will be architecturally innovative; one that will harmonise not only the elements of living much needed in the 21st century but also be culturally-intellectually responsive.

In other words, these schools in all states in Malaysia will have a unique design that will harmonise tradition and modernity.

These experimental schools will also be an educational facility for community education and entrepreneurial activities linking local production of cottage-industrial artifacts to the global market, utilising advanced digital, cybernetic, and virtual communication technologies for students to help the local community to participate in the global business.

In the area of community education, it will also house specialised galleries showcasing historical artifacts of from local-historical materials collected and curated by students, with the help of faculty.

They will essentially be ‘research-driven college prep schools’ in which at every level of learning, students will be employing primarily scientific thinking as a means to acquire and produce knowledge and to further create artifacts useful both for the advancement of theoretical knowledge as well as those practically useful for society.

In essence, Akademie Renaissance (AR) will be 21st century schools showcasing best practices in global education and will have the state as a first campus.

I hope there will be an interest in experimenting with this radical-humanistic change. I hope it will come from the Selangor government if it wishes to show commitment to meaningful reform.
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