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Why does MOE insist that local textbooks are not CEFR-aligned when CEFR handbooks were published in 2016

When I questioned the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) decision to replace local English Language textbooks with “imported” ones at four times the cost and without an open tender, Deputy Minister of Education Dato’ P Kamalanathan issued a written reply in Parliament explaining that it was due to the fact that there were no CEFR-compliant (Common European Framework of Reference for Language) textbooks available locally.

According to Kamalanathan, the new textbooks were specially chosen by “English language experts” appointed by an “evaluation panel”.[1] Another deputy minister, Senator Datuk Chong Sin Woon, has echoed the same answer by insisting that the “imported” textbooks are now used because local ones are not CEFR-aligned.[2]

In my responses, I have disputed this line of argument by suggesting that it is incorrect to say that there is no availability of local textbooks that are aligned with CEFR standards when an open competitive tender has not been called to determine this.

In any case, even if only foreign textbooks are compliant, why was not a tender called to select the best and most cost-efficient ones? Instead, millions have been spent on textbooks that contain references to cultural contexts that are alien to our students.

MOE found local textbooks compliant in 2016

I would like to call into question the assertion made by the two deputy ministers. Why is it now claimed that local textbooks do not align with CEFR when MOE themselves believed otherwise one year ago?

When the new year 1 and form 1 English textbooks were chosen for 2017, MOE had also published two teaching handbooks to be used alongside them. These handbooks provide very clear guidelines for teachers to plan and conduct lessons utilising the local textbooks in conformance with CEFR standards.

In fact, it is explicitly stated in the foreword to the two books by Paridin Jais, director of MOE’s textbook division, that:

By the end of December 2016, the English textbooks for year 1 and form 1 (for usage in 2017) would have been distributed to schools throughout Malaysia. In order to ensure that the teaching and learning of English language using the textbooks provided are geared towards alignment to the CEFR, the Textbook Division has taken the initiative to publish a handbook to assist teachers in the classroom.

In other words, MOE themselves clearly felt that the new editions of the local textbooks for 2017 were not only good enough but also compliant with CEFR standards. Why else would they have published handbooks to assist teachers in utilising the books?

However, if that is the case, then why did MOE perform a U-turn halfway through the year and replace the local textbooks with the expensive “imported” ones? Worse, no guidelines or even DSKPs (Dokumen Standard Kurikulum dan Pentaksiran) have been provided as reference guides for teachers to plan their lessons and set exam questions.

Furthermore, why throw away the RM7.1 million already spent for the new editions of the English textbooks for year 1 and form 1? And why waste all the effort to produce the handbooks if the textbooks were not suitably aligned to CEFR standards? MOE has much to explain.

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology



NB: This press statement was released on 20 December 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.

Teachers and students will be hampered by the introduction of new “imported” textbooks

Ever since I highlighted the controversial replacement of local KSSR and KSSM English Language textbooks for year 1 and form 1 students with new “imported” textbooks, many groups and individuals have spoken out against the move.

Academics, education activists, former teachers and teaching groups have taken umbrage at the ill-advised decision for various reasons. Some have criticised the lack of local content and references made to foreign cultural contexts in the textbooks.[1] Others have questioned the high cost involved and pointed out that there are many local talents who can produce textbooks of similar quality.[2] Meanwhile, some are vexed at the apparent lack of vetting by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in approving the textbooks.

And then there are those who have questioned the suitability of the textbooks and the capacity of local teachers to fully utilise them.[3] This is perhaps the most pertinent question to ask.

Accessibility to digital materials

One major problem that will be faced by teachers and students with the “imported” textbooks is accessibility to audio and video materials. In both the Super Minds and Pulse 2 textbooks for year 1 and form 1 students respectively, almost every page contains references to digital material. Unfortunately, the textbooks provided to Malaysian students do not come with CDs or any other means to access the audio and visual material.

For the Pulse 2 textbook, only two CDs have been distributed to each school to be used by teachers in the classroom. In other words, it is only during class that the textbooks would be useful. Students and parents who wish to study or do exercises at home would not be able to access the digital content. This effectively means that the textbooks are of little use other than during lessons in the classroom.

This is in contrast to the local KSSM form 1 English Language textbook by Pelangi, a local publisher. For this book, all audio and video materials can be accessed by scanning the QR code on the cover via an application that can be downloaded online. This makes the textbook’s digital material available to students and parents who wish to practice or study at home.

The lack of accessibility to digital material for the “imported” Pulse 2 textbook is most disappointing given the fact that they cost RM38 a copy compared to RM7.50 for the KSSM textbook by Pelangi. For those who wish to purchase the CDs in order to access the digital material, the teacher’s edition can be bought at the exorbitant price of RM199 a copy.[4]

How will teachers prepare lesson plans?

Another problem that will be faced by teachers is the lack of guidance in using the new “imported” textbooks. In normal circumstances, MOE provides a teaching curriculum called Dokumen Standard Kurikulum dan Pentaksiran or DSKP, which serves as a reference guide for teachers to plan their lessons and set exam questions.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be DSKPs available for the new textbooks. A check on the MOE website reveals there is no DSKP for the teaching of English Language for form 1 and form 2, which are the cohorts that will be using the Pulse 2 textbooks beginning next year.[5]

However, the DSKP for all other subjects, including language subjects such as Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Cina, Bahasa Tamil, Bahasa Iban, Bahasa Kadazandusun, Bahasa Semai, Bahasa Perancis, Bahasa Jerman, Bahasa Jepun and Bahasa Arab are available.

As for primary schools, only the DSKP for year 1 English Language seems to be available while the DSKP for year 2 appears to be missing.[6]

No doubt, experienced teachers will be able to formulate lesson plans without the assistance of DSKPs. However, the majority would require some guidance, particularly when the “imported” textbooks not only contain many references to foreign cultural elements that may be alien to the teachers as well as students, but also stresses on different pedagogical aspects compared to the local KSSR and KSSM curriculum.

Clearly, the sudden decision to switch from local to “imported” textbooks was not carefully planned. Notwithstanding the opaque manner in which these textbooks were procured –without an open tender and at a very high cost, the lack of preparation by MOE will also mean that teachers will be hampered in their attempts to teach their students using these new textbooks.

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology

[1] See and




[5] See and

[6] See and

NB: This press statement was released on 11 December 2017.

How will English proficiency be improved by using the same textbook over two years?

Over the last two weeks, I have brought to attention the sudden replacement of local KSSR and KSSM English Language textbooks with new “imported” ones that will be used for all year 1 and form 1 students in the country. These textbooks were procured at four times the price of local textbooks and without an open tender exercise, which has been admitted to by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

This sudden decision was conveyed to schools via two circulars by the Ministry of Education (MOE) dated 16 August and 12 September, which instructed that Super Minds will be used for year 1 and 2 students while Pulse 2 will be used for form 1 and 2. The books will be divided into half, with year 1 students being taught units 1-4 while year 2 students will learn units 5-9. For form 1 students, they will be taught units 1-5 while form 2 students will be taught units 6-9.

This hare-brained scheme makes no sense at all. These textbooks are designed to be taught in one academic year but will now be spread over two years for Malaysian students. MOE must explain the rationale for doing so, because it is not clear how our students are going to improve their English proficiency by learning only four or five units a year.

A few days ago, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon was reported to have said that the number of English classes would be increased next year when the new “imported” textbooks are used. In other words, despite having longer hours for English lessons, our students will be taught only half a textbook in one year. Does MOE’s right hand know what their left hand is doing?

Furthermore, what will happen when these students enter year 3 and form 3? Will they continue using the new foreign curriculum? What about the new cohorts of year 1 and form 1 students beginning 2019? Will they continue with the current policy of learning only half the module or will they be taught the whole textbooks? If MOE decides to make the new cohorts learn the whole textbooks instead, won’t the original guinea pigs in 2018 be left behind compared to their younger peers?

Lastly, MOE should also explain whether they have purchased the same textbooks twice over, for year 2 and form 2 students as well as year 1 and form 1. If this is the case, then the total expenditure would be about RM66 million for four cohorts in total, all conducted without open tender. While local publishers have to tender for each cohort of students, why were these “imported” books approved for use over two years without any tender process?

It is vital that MOE immediately announce what their long-term plan is for our students with respect to the use of these new “imported” textbooks. The more uncertainty there is, the more confused our teachers and students will be and this will only cause more harm than good to our nation’s future.

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology

NB: This press statement was released on 6 December 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.

MOE’s reply raises more questions than answers about “imported” English textbooks

During the recently ended Budget 2018 debate in Parliament, I questioned the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) decision to replace local KSSR and KSSM English Language textbooks with new “imported” ones at four times the price and without conducting an open tender.

In particular, I asked about the suitability of the Super Minds and Pulse 2 textbooks, used for year 1 and form 1 respectively, seeing as their contents are based entirely on European and Western contexts with foreign cultural references and instructions that require unavailable content.

I also pressed MOE to justify the high cost of purchasing the “imported” books at the price of RM38.80 for Super Minds and RM38 for Pulse 2, when local textbooks cost less than RM10 each. Furthermore, the books were printed locally and not exactly “imported” despite its costly price tag.

Based on my calculations, MOE spent RM33 million to supply all year 1 and form 1 students with the new “imported” books, even though RM7.1 million was already spent earlier this year to procure the local KSSR and KSSM textbooks for year 1 and form 1. In other words, RM40 million has already been spent on textbooks for just two cohorts this year.

In response to my questions, Deputy Minister of Education Dato’ P Kamalanathan issued a written reply that stated that the decision to supply Super Minds and Pulse 2 to year 1 and form 1 students was taken after an evaluation process by “English language experts” who were appointed by an “evaluation panel”.

The deputy minister went on to suggest that although the textbooks contain foreign elements, they are nevertheless suitable for our students because they comply with the appropriate CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Language) level.

In addition, Kamalanathan also admitted that no open tender was conducted for these “imported” textbooks, unlike the usual procedure for local textbooks. This is because CEFR-aligned books are difficult to source locally and hence had to be specially selected. In the case of Super Minds and Pulse 2, they were proposed by a “consultant”.

Unfortunately, the ministry’s official response raises more questions than answers. Firstly, who are these “English language experts” that approved the foreign textbooks? Also, who makes up the “evaluation panel” that selected these experts?

Secondly, did these experts even vet through the contents properly? If they did, does that mean that they approve of not only the totally foreign references contained in the books, but even the exercise questions that require basic knowledge of Spanish?

Finally, the excuse that CEFR-aligned books are difficult to procure and hence had to be specially selected is nothing but a shameless attempt to justify the absence of an open tender process. The truth is that an open tender can easily be conducted. In fact, all publishers both foreign and local can be invited to participate in such an exercise. Even if CEFR alignment is a requirement, I am certain that there are many other textbook publishers out there who can meet the criteria.

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology

NB: This press statement was released on 3 December 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.

Adakah tindakan membuli Persatuan Bahasa Cina Universiti Malaya sebahagian daripada kempen ketakutan ke atas mahasiswa?

Saya ingin merujuk kepada tindakan pihak pentadbiran Universiti Malaya yang bertindak menggantung pendaftaran Persatuan Bahasa Cina Universiti Malaya (CLS) berkuatkuasa dari September 2017 hingga Februari 2018. Penggantungan persatuan ini bukan sahaja menjejaskan aktiviti mereka sepanjang tempoh penggantungan selama satu penggal, malah lebih panjang jika mengambil kira aktiviti yang tidak dapat mereka sertai kerana kegagalan mendaftarkan diri sepanjang tempoh penggantungan.

Paling utama, tindakan menggantung persatuan di universiti kerana mengeluarkan notis program dalam satu bahasa sahaja adalah keterlaluan dan tidak munasabah memandangkan kesalahan yang dilakukan adalah sekadar kesilapan yang bersifat teknikal. Apakah tindakan amaran, surat tunjuk sebab dan denda tidak memadai?

Hal ini sangat menggusarkan berdasarkan trend semasa yang menunjukkan kecenderungan pihak pengurusan universiti mengambil langkah keras dalam mengawal mahasiswa. Terbaru, Universiti Malaya, melalui unit integriti telah mengeluarkan notis larangan mengeluarkan sebarang kenyataan mengkritik dasar kerajaan. Larangan ini juga meliputi ulasan mengenai universiti.

Tindakan keras serta larangan sebegini seolah-olah dilakukan untuk menyampaikan mesej bahawa pihak pentadbiran universiti tidak akan tergesa-gesa untuk mengambil sebarang langkah drastik terhadap sesiapa sahaja atas apa-apa alasan. Kali ini CLS telah dijadikan tauladan. Selepas ini, siapa pula akan dimangsakan? Adakah tindakan ini sebahagian daripada kempen untuk membuli mahasiswa agar dapat memerintah melalui ketakutan (rule by fear)?

Pastinya, jika pihak pentadbiran universiti terus bersikap membuli dan menekan, lebih ramai mahasiswa akan memilih untuk bergiat aktif dalam kumpulan yang tidak berdaftar, baik di luar mahupun di dalam universiti.

Pihak pentadbiran universiti harus sedar bahawa tindakan sebegini tidak akan membantu untuk memupuk budaya mahasiswa yang berfikiran kritikal dan analitikal. Tujuan pengajian tinggi bukan sahaja untuk mempersiapkan mahasiswa dengan kemahiran teknikal bidang pekerjaan, malahan yang lebih penting adalah kemampuan mereka untuk menghubungkan disiplin ilmu yang mereka kuasai dengan dunia realiti semasa. Hal ini penting sekiranya kita mahukan modal insan yang holistik dan mampu menyumbang kepada kehidupan sosial, ekonomi, dan politik masyarakat negara kita.

Sebagai institusi pengajian tinggi terulung di negara ini, Universiti Malaya seharusnya menjadi suri tauladan kepada universiti lain dalam menguruskan mahasiswa mereka. Mahasiswa harus dilayan secara matang, dihormati sebagai orang dewasa dan bukannya dibuli seolah-olah mereka ini anak-anak sekolah asrama. Maka, saya berharap Universiti Malaya akan mempertimbangkan semula tindakan ini demi kecemerlangan akademik dan sahsiah mahasiswa kita secara keseluruhannya.

Zairil Khir Johari
Ahli Parlimen Bukit Bendera
Penolong Setiausaha Publisiti Kebangsaan DAP
Jurucakap Parlimen DAP untuk Pendidikan, Sains dan Teknologi

NB: This statement was released on 2 December 2017 in Kuala Lumpur. 

Why replace local textbooks with textbooks designed for Spanish students?

Last week, I highlighted the sudden decision of the Ministry of Education (MOE) to replace local KSSR and KSSM English Language textbooks for standard 1 and form 1 with new “imported” books, namely Super Minds for standard 1 and Pulse 2 for form 1. This purchase, which was not conducted via open tender, is estimated to cost MOE RM33 million, on top of RM7.1 million already spent earlier this year to purchase the local textbooks.

Foreign and unrelatable content

Besides the questionable procurement process, I also raised concerns about the suitability of the content in the foreign books, as all their references are related to European and Western culture with zero local content. While this in itself is not a problem, unfortunately there are specific examples of exercises that require students to have an understanding of the foreign references, such as describing an Amish teenager’s visit to London (Pulse 2, page 75) or volunteering themselves at Dartmoor National Park (page 48). One instruction in the book even requires students to watch a programme on Channel 4, which is a UK TV station that is unavailable in Malaysia.

Upon closer inspection of Pulse 2 textbook for form 1 students, it would appear that this publication by Macmillan is actually designed for Spanish students. For example, on page 8, exercise 5 asks students what the Spanish word for “poster” is. The answer is “cartel”.

A second question asks students: “How do you say ‘lápiz’ in English?” The answer is “pencil”, but how would any Malaysian student answer any of these questions unless they have exposure to Spanish?

It is clear that this textbook was designed for students in Spain. In fact, the local Malaysian publisher, Kumpulan Desa Fikir, had inadvertently forgotten to replace the caption “Printed and bound in Spain by Edelvives” on the last page of the book, which is clearly erroneous when the books were actually printed locally by BHS Book Printing in Cheras.

What is the problem with local textbooks?

In contrast, the local KSSM textbook was clearly designed for Malaysian students, highlighting local heritage such as the Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary (English Form 1, page 131). The KSSM textbook also balances local content with foreign literary elements such as The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck, Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, as well as haiku and acrostic poems.

If the reason why the KSSM textbooks were replaced is due to its non-compliance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR) that MOE has now adopted as the baseline curriculum, then why was an open tender not conducted for textbooks that qualify? I am sure even local publishers are able to update their content to meet requirements. Instead, the “imported” textbooks were purchased without any transparency.

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology

Pulse 2 page 8Pulse 2 back page

NB: This press statement was released on 29 November 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.

Why was the purchase of expensive “imported” English textbooks not done through open tender like other local textbooks?

While efforts to improve English proficiency among our students and teachers must be supported, it does not mean that the Ministry of Education (MOE) can do whatever it likes and worse, risk the future of our children through irresponsible experimenting and ill-advised policy decisions.

Earlier this week in Parliament, I exposed MOE’s incredulous decision to use new “imported” English Language textbooks to replace existing KSSR and KSSM textbooks for year 1 and form 1 students.

Not only are the new Super Minds (standard 1) and Pulse 2 (form 1) textbooks much more expensive, estimating to cost RM33 million to supply all year 1 and form 1 students in the country, the replacement of the existing curriculum came not long after new English language textbooks for year 1 and form 1 were approved and purchased.

As part of routine textbook updating exercises, new KSSR (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah) and KSSM (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Menengah) textbooks had been approved through a tender process, with the winning publishers being Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka for the year 1 textbook at the cost of RM9.20 a copy and Pelangi for the form 1 textbook at RM7.50 a copy. This amounts to about RM7.1 million based on current student enrolment figures, which is a stark difference compared to the “imported” textbooks.

This also begs another question – why decide to use new “imported” books barely less than a year after local books had been approved and purchased?

I have also pointed out how the content of the books are completely Western in context with no local content whatsoever. Some of the articles and exercises in the books contain foreign cultural references that are very difficult for our local teachers and students to relate to. Besides the example that I raised concerning an article on an Amish teenager’s visit to Britain, another exercise in the Pulse 2 textbook talks about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (page 24). Not only is the subject a strange one for Malaysians, I am not sure many would be able to even pronounce Edinburgh correctly.

Meanwhile, another exercise advises students to volunteer themselves over the weekend by helping out at Chester Zoo or planting flowers at Dartmoor National Park (page 48). I don’t think one weekend is enough if our students really do attempt to engage in these activities, what with the long travel time required. Is it quite unbelievable that MOE can approve such content.

On top of that, almost every page in the textbooks contain instructions and references to audio content which has been removed from the local versions. In other words, MOE has purchased these textbooks without their accompanying digital content, even though these books cost four times more than their local counterparts.

Finally, while the local textbooks are subject to competitive open tenders, the purchase of the “imported” textbooks through local publishers Pan Asia Publications for Super Minds and Desa Fikir for Pulse 2 were seemingly done by direct negotiation.

Therefore, MOE owes the Malaysian public an explanation as to why they decided to replace the local textbooks with “imported” ones at such short notice and without a proper tender procedure.

Below is a table that illustrates the differences between the local and “imported” textbooks:

  Local Textbooks “Imported” Textbooks
Cost RM7.1 million RM33 million
Content Local cultural context with digital content. Totally foreign cultural context with digital content removed and references made to unavailable material.
Procurement Open competitive tender Direct negotiation

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology

Pulse 2 p24 Pulse 2 p48

NB: This press statement was released on 25 November 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.

The sudden and extremely questionable introduction of “imported” English Language textbooks

As part of overall efforts to improve the quality of teaching and learning of English in our education system, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that current English Language textbooks will be replaced with a curriculum aligned with the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR). According to the ministry, because locally published textbooks do not adhere to the CEFR framework, imported books will be used instead.

Expensive “imported” textbooks

According to two circulars issued by MOE on 16 August and 12 September this year, year 1 and 2 students will use the Super Minds textbook published by Cambridge University Press, while form 1 and 2 students will use Pulse 2 by Macmillan. These books will be used as the main textbooks while the existing KSSR (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah) and KSSM (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Menengah) textbooks will no longer be distributed to students and instead may be used as reference or supplementary material.

Unfortunately, the sudden policy decision by MOE has raised much consternation and concern, especially with regards to its rushed implementation. Firstly, the new “imported” textbooks are far more expensive than existing ones, costing RM38.80 a copy for Super Minds and RM38 a copy for Pulse 2. Based on current enrolment figures of 450 thousand students in year 1 and 400 thousand students in form 1,[1] the total cost to provide textbooks for each child in those two cohorts would amount to RM33 million. In contrast, locally published textbooks currently used cost less than RM10 a copy.

The prohibitive cost of these books is also questionable as these supposedly “imported” books are not actually imported but printed locally and supplied through local publishers Pan Asia Publications for Super Minds and Desa Fikir for Pulse 2. Are these books then purposely labelled as “imported” in order to justify the high price paid for them?

Completely foreign context and instructions

Worse, these textbooks were wholly copied word for word from the original versions, and as such carries a very strong British context with zero local content. For example, page 75 of unit 7 in the form 1 textbook Pulse 2 (see attached image) features an article about Andrew, an Amish teenager from Mississippi, USA who is going on a visit with other Amish teenagers to London. During his stay, Andrew will be visiting a sports club, attend a music festival and try some traditional British sports.

The article ends with an instruction: “Watch Channel 4 on Friday at 8pm to see how Andrew gets on!” After that, among the exercise questions asked include: “Do you think Andrew will enjoy his trip to Britain? Why (not)?”

Notwithstanding the fact that such content, which describes the visit of an Amish teenager to Britain, is incredibly foreign and meaningless in our Malaysian context, how are our students supposed to refer to the TV programme in question when Channel 4, a British TV station, is not available here in Malaysia. At the same time, how are our students expected to respond to the question of whether Andrew will enjoy his trip to Britain when almost all our students cannot even imagine what Britain looks like? Obviously, the use of such content makes no sense and has not been thought through.

In order to facilitate the learning of any subject, it always helps when local cultural references are used. In this case, the extensive use of foreign cultural references will only confuse students and teachers. In the end, the learning and teaching of English will be even more difficult.

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology

Pulse 2 coverPulse 2 p75

[1] Ministry of Education, Quick Facts: Malaysia Educational Statistics 2016.

NB: This press statement was released on 23 November 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.

Ucapan Perbahasan RUU Perbekalan 2018 di peringkat jawatankuasa Kementerian Pendidikan

Penggunaan buku teks “impot”

Tuan pengerusi,

Sebagai sebahagian daripada usaha untuk meningkatkan mutu pengajaran dan pembelajaran bahasa Inggeris dalam kurikulum sekolah, Kementerian Pendidikan telah mengumumkan akan menggantikan buku teks mata pelajaran Bahasa Inggeris sedia ada dengan kurikulum yang selaras dengan Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR). Oleh kerana buku-buku teks terbitan tempatan dikatakan tidak dapat memenuhi tahap CEFR yang diperlukan, maka buku impot akan digunakan.

Sehubungan dengan itu, Kementerian telah mengeluarkan dua pekeliling bertarikh 16 Ogos dan 12 September yang mengarahkan agar buku teks Super Minds terbitan Cambridge University Press akan digunakan bagi tahun 1 dan 2 manakala Pulse 2 terbitan Macmillan akan digunakan untuk tingkatan 1 dan 2. Buku-buku tersebut akan dijadikan buku teks utama bagi menggantikan buku teks KSSR (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah) dan KSSM (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Menengah) sedia ada yang tidak lagi akan diedarkan kepada murid dan sebaliknya boleh digunakan sebagai buku rujukan atau bahan sampingan semata-mata.

Walaupun dasar untuk meningkatkan penguasaan bahasa Inggeris adalah satu usaha murni yang harus disokong, namun terdapat pelbagai persoalan yang timbul ekoran dasar yang nampaknya digubal dengan begitu terburu-buru.

Pertamanya, apakah kewajaran menukar kurikulum dengan tiba-tiba, apatah lagi dengan membabitkan kos yang begitu tinggi. Buku Super Minds telah dibeli dengan kos RM38.80 senaskhah manakala Pulse 2 berharga RM38 senaskhah. Jika berdasarkan perangkaan enrolmen 450 ribu murid bagi tahun 1 dan 400 ribu murid bagi tingkatan 1, jumlah kos pembelian senaskhah buku teks bagi setiap murid adalah dalam lingkungan RM33 juta.

Tidakkah RM33 juta merupakan satu kos yang begitu besar, khususnya apabila ia membabitkan buku teks untuk satu mata pelajaran bagi dua kohort sahaja? Adakah jumlah ini termasuk dalam anggaran perbelanjaan tahun ini atau adakah ianya merupakan perbelanjaan tambahan?

Kos yang begitu tinggi ini juga tidak masuk akal, kerana buku-buku yang kononnya “diimpot” ini sebenarnya tidak diimpot tetapi dicetak secara tempatan dan dibekal melalui penerbit Pan Asia Publications bagi buku Super Minds dan Desa Fikir bagi Pulse 2. Isi kandungan buku-buku tersebut pula tidak dipinda dan disalin secara keseluruhan. Pada masa yang sama, pengisian digital seperti cakera padat yang terkandung dalam buku-buku asal telah dikeluarkan oleh penerbit tempatan. Justeru, adakah harga hampir RM40 senaskhah itu munasabah?

Tambahan lagi, mengapakah pembelian buku-buku ini tidak dibuat secara tender terbuka sepertimana buku-buku teks lain? Jika keselarian dengan CEFR merupakan syarat, saya pasti banyak lagi buku-buku terbitan asing mahupun tempatan juga dapat memenuhi syarat tersebut. Sebaliknya, Kementerian seolah-olah tergesa-gesa untuk membelanjakan wang yang begitu banyak tanpa kajian yang lebih mendalam.

Yang lebih menghairankan, penggantian buku-buku teks ini telah dilakukan walaupun Kementerian sendiri baru sahaja meluluskan pembelian buku-buku baru berdasarkan kurikulum KSSR dan KSSM pada awal tahun ini. Buku-buku terbitan tempatan ini jauh lebih murah – hanya RM9.20 bagi buku teks tahun 1 (terbitan Dewan Bahasan dan Pustaka) dan RM7.50 bagi buku teks tingkatan 1 (terbitan Pelangi). Kedua-dua buku ini telah dipilih setelah melalui proses tender terbuka. Berdasarkan enrolmen murid yang sama, jumlah kosnya adalah lebih kurang RM7.1 juta – satu perbezaan yang ketara berbanding buku teks Super Minds dan Pulse 2. Namun dengan penggantian buku yang berlaku ini, apakah yang akan berlaku kepada buku-buku teks tempatan ini sekarang? Bukankah ini satu pembaziran yang amat besar?

Satu lagi isu yang timbul –Kementerian mengarahkan untuk membahagikan buku-buku teks baru agar setengah diajar pada tahun 1 (unit 1-4) dan tingkatan 1 (unit 1-5) dan setengah lagi pada tahun 2 (unit 5-9) dan tingkatan 2 (unit 6-9). Saya tidak faham rasional di sebalik pembahagian yang dilakukan ini. Buku-buku ini direka untuk pembelajaran sepanjang setahun, tetapi Kementerian bercadang untuk mengajarnya sepanjang tempoh dua tahun. Bagaimanakah murid akan meningkatkan penguasaan bahasa Inggeris dengan mempelajari hanya empat atau lima unit setahun?

Apakah akan terjadi kepada murid-murid ini apabila mereka memasuki tahun 3 dan tingkatan 3? Jika Kementerian bercadang untuk meneruskan kurikulum baru ini bagi setiap kohort tahun 1 dan tingkatan 1 yang baru, adakah mereka juga akan belajar setengah modul atau sepenuhnya? Sekiranya kohort baru akan menggunakan modul penuh, bukankah murid-murid yang hanya belajar setengah modul setahun akan ketinggalan berbanding kohort-kohort baru?

Akhir sekali, buku-buku teks baru ini menggunakan pengisian berdasarkan konteks United Kingdom tanpa ada pengisian tempatan langsung. Sebagai contoh, pada mukasurat 75 unit 7 buku teks Pulse 2, artikel mengisahkan mengenai seorang remaja bernama Andrew daripada masyarakat Amish di Amerika Syarikat yang ingin melawat kota London. Dalam lawatannya, Andrew akan menghadiri festival musik dan bermain beberapa sukan tradisi British. Artikel itu berakhir dengan arahan: “Watch Channel 4 on Friday at 8pm to see how Andrew gets on!” Kemudian, antara soalan kerja yang ditanya adalah: “Do you think Andrew will enjoy his trip to Britain? Why (not)?”

Konteks dan pengisian dalam artikel ini, iaitu lawatan seorang remaja Amish ke Britain, sungguh asing dan tidak bermakna bagi murid-murid kita. Lebih teruk lagi, bagaimanakah murid hendak merujuk kepada rancangan di Channel 4, iaitu sebuah saluran TV British yang tidak terdapat di Malaysia, malah dalam Astro. Pada masa yang sama, bagaimanakah murid ingin menjawab soalan sama ada Andrew akan menikmati percutiannya ke Britain apabila hampir kesemua murid kita sudah tentu tidak boleh membayangkan Britain itu sendiri.

Tanpa adanya rujukan kepada konteks dan kebudayaan tempatan, serta penggunaan kebudayaan asing semata-mata, sudah tentu sukar untuk menarik minat murid-murid kita. Malah, saya percaya ia akan menimbulkan kekeliruan dan menyukarkan pengajaran dan pembelajaran bahasa Inggeris di sekolah-sekolah kita. Saya pohon agar dasar ini dipertimbangkan semula dan difikirkan secara masak-masak sebelum dilaksanakan.

Campur tangan politik

Tuan pengerusi,

Kerajaan melalui Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia 2013-2025 telah menggariskan kepentingan memartabatkan profesion perguruan dan menganjak ke arah kepimpinan distributif. Pelan ini mengakui keperluan untuk meningkatkan autonomi kepada para pengetua dan guru besar dalam mengukuhkan lagi pentadbiran sekolah. Pemusatan kuasa yang keterlaluan pula diakui sebagai antara punca kelemahan birokrasi pentadbiran sekolah. Malangnya, bukan sahaja disentralisasi yang dicanangkan tersebut tidak berlaku, nampaknya cengkaman kuasa Persekutuan semakin kuat sementara sektor pendidikan semakin diremehkan dengan campur tangan politik.

Baru-baru ini, seorang guru besar sekolah Tamil di Butterworth, iaitu SJK (T) Mak Mandin, telah menerima arahan pindah secara mengejut. Arahan ini diterima ekoran lawatan oleh Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang dan beberapa pemimpin kanan kerajaan negeri Pulu Pinang ke sekolah tersebut untuk menyerahkan peruntukan kewangan sebanyak RM110 ribu bagi mendanai pembangunan infrastruktur sekolah.

Ini sebenarnya merupakan sebahagian daripada program tahunan kerajaan negeri Pulau Pinang. Setiap tahun, RM1.75 juta diperuntukkan untuk 28 sekolah Tamil di Pulau Pinang, manakala tambahan RM200,000 diberi untuk pembangunan kelas pra-sekolah. Bantuan tahunan ini diberi kepada semua sekolah separa bantuan seperti sekolah Tamil, Cina, mubaligh dan agama rakyat. Di samping itu, kerajaan negeri Pulau Pinang juga memperuntukkan tanah kepada sekolah-sekolah tertentu, termasuk bagi pembangunan sebuah sekolah menengah Tamil namun malangnya tawaran ini tidak disahut oleh Kementerian Pendidikan.

Pun begitu, lawatan yang dibuat oleh Ketua Menteri yang juga merupakan Ahli Parlimen setempat ke SJK (T) Mak Mandin itu dibuat atas jemputan lembaga amanah (board of trustees) sekolah dan bukannya guru besar, Puan Tamilchelvi. Malah beliau tidak hadir pun semasa program tersebut.

Namun sejurus selepas peristiwa itu, Puan Tamilchelvi telah disoal siasat oleh Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri (JPN). Beliau diminta untuk menjelaskan mengapa Ketua Menteri dijemput ke sekolah dan sama ada beliau tahu mengenai lawatan tersebut. Beliau juga dituduh tidak mengambil langkah untuk memastikan pintu sekolah dikunci. Selepas soal siasat dilakukan, arahan pemindahan terus dikeluarkan.

Anehnya, ini merupakan pemindahan kedua baginya dalam tempoh setahun. Sebelum ini, beliau dipindahkan dari SJK (T) Bukit Mertajam, secara kebetulan juga selepas lawatan pemimpin kerajaan negeri, iaitu Timbalan Ketua Menteri II Pulau Pinang yang hadir atas jemputan PIBG.

Nampaknya Puan Tamilchelvi seolah-olah dimangsakan sekali lagi. Walaupun pemindahannya kali ini dijelaskan oleh Timbalan Menteri Pendidikan, iaitu Ahli dari Hulu Selangor, sebagai sebahagian daripada rutin yang dilaksanakan secara berkala, namun jawapan itu tidak memuaskan kerana beliau baru sahaja berpindah dari sekolah lain. Adakah ia satu kelaziman bagi seorang guru atau guru besar untuk dipindahkan dua kali dalam masa setahun? Adakah ia wajar untuk seorang guru atau guru besar untuk berkhidmat di tiga sekolah berlainan dalam masa yang begitu singkat?

Peristiwa ini amat mendukacitakan. Seorang guru besar menjadi mangsa mainan politik dan tidak berdaya untuk melawan campur tangan politik yang jelas menjejaskan bukan sahaja kerjaya beliau tetapi juga murid-murid di sekolah-sekolah terbabit dengan ketidakstabilan kepimpinan yang dialami. Tindakan yang diambil terhadap Puan Tamilchelvi adalah terlalu kejam dan tidak sepatutnya berlaku.

Pun begitu, peristiwa ini tidaklah begitu mengejutkan kerana campur tangan politik dalam sistem pendidikan kerap berlaku. Saya merujuk pertikaian yang tercetus pada bulan Ogos yang lalu apabila Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang dihalang daripada melawat SJK (C) Kampung Sungai Lembu di Bukit Mertajam.

Pada waktu itu, Ketua Menteri ingin melawat sekolah tersebut bagi meninjau keadaan berikutan kes kilang haram di kawasan tersebut. Pada masa yang sama, beliau juga ingin memberi sumbangan dana kepada sekolah. Malangnya, beliau tidak dibenarkan masuk dan permohonan yang dibuat kepada JPN selepas itu juga ditolak tanpa sebab yang munasabah.

Larangan melawat sekolah terhadap pemimpin-pemimpin pembangkang, meskipun anggota kerajaan negeri, merupakan sesuatu yang sudah lama diamalkan. Halangan yang sama turut wujud di Selangor juga. Namun di Pulau Pinang dan Selangor, tidak pula ada masalah apabila pemimpin-pemimpin Barisan Nasional (BN) memasuki mana-mana sekolah.

Malah, berlaku peristiwa baru-baru ini di SK Putrajaya Presint 14(1) di mana bendera parti politik UMNO telah dipamerkan dalam perkarangan sekolah sementara lagu dan slogan UMNO dilaungkan oleh murid-murid semasa acara rasmi sekolah. Ini membuktikan terdapat sikap dwi-standard dan pengaruh politik partisan yang amat ketara dalam sistem persekolahan. Sementara pemimpin pembangkang tidak dibenarkan untuk melawat atau melakukan aktiviti di sekolah-sekolah dalam kawasan mereka atau dalam negeri yang ditadbir mereka, BN pula boleh menjalankan aktiviti politik secara terang-terangan di sekolah.

Seelok-eloknya, politik harus dipisahkan daripada sistem pendidikan kita. Medan persekolahan adalah persada untuk menimba ilmu dan bukan untuk bermain politik. Apa salahnya seorang Ketua Menteri melawat sekolah di atas kapasitinya sebagai wakil rakyat atau pemimpin tempatan? Kerajaan Persekutuan seharusnya menghormati sistem persekutuan negara ini bagi membuktikan kesungguhan untuk melaksanakan transformasi pendidikan dan pentadbiran yang dicanang-canangkan. Tindakan menekan pentadbir sekolah tidak merugikan pemimpin kerajaan negeri tetapi sebaliknya menjejaskan masa depan anak bangsa negara ini.

Sekian, terima kasih.

*Rujukan butiran:

  • 020300 (Bahan Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran)
  • 020600 (Pembangunan Kurikulum)
  • 040300 (Pengurusan Sumber Manusia).

NB: This speech was delivered on 23 November 2017 in Parliament.

Penggunaan “tauliah” sebagai cengkaman kuku besi harus dihentikan

Pada 25 September 2017, Mustafa Akyol, seorang karyawan Turki, telah ditangkap di Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur sejurus sebelum beliau dijadualkan terbang ke Amerika Syarikat dan kemudiannya ditahan polis sehingga keesokan hari. Pada masa yang sama, bukunya yang berjudul Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty serta terjemahannya dalam bahasa Melayu telah diharamkam oleh Kementerian Dalam Negeri di bawah Akta Mesin Cetak dan Penerbitan 1984.

Peristiwa ini amat memalukan apabila menular di media antarabangsa, lantas menjadikan negara kita sebagai bahan jenaka di serata dunia. Masakan tidak, apabila Mustafa terkenal kerana tulisannya yang secara lazim memperjuangkan pemikiran Islam yang sederhana dan toleran. Dengan tindakan yang ironis serta melampau ini, Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (JAWI) secara langsung telah membakul sampahkan agenda wasatiyyah yang diuar-uarkan oleh Perdana Menteri.

Menurut jawapan lisan yang saya terima di Parlimen, Mustafa telah ditangkap atas kesalahan “mengajar tanpa tauliah” di bawah seksyen 11(1) Akta Kesalahan Jenayah Syariah (Wilayah-wilayah Persekutuan) 1997 yang berbunyi:

(1) Mana-mana orang yang mengajar atau mengaku mengajar apa-apa perkara yang berhubungan dengan agama Islam tanpa tauliah yang diberikan di bawah seksyen 96 Akta Pentadbiran adalah melakukan suatu kesalahan dan apabila disabitkan boleh didenda tidak melebihi lima ribu ringgit atau dipenjarakan selama tempoh tidak melebihi tiga tahun atau kedua-duanya.

Isu tauliah ini sangat bermasalah dan mudah disalahgunakan sebagai alat cengkaman ke atas hak kebebasan Muslim apabila hanya mereka yang diberi lesen oleh pihak berkuasa berhak untuk berbicara mengenai agama Islam. Pendekatan ini juga seolah-olah menganggap semua Muslim sebagai orang bodoh yang senang keliru.

Peruntukan dalam undang-undang, yakni “mengajar apa-apa perkara yang berhubungan dengan agama Islam”, adalah terlalu luas dan tidak ditakrifkan secara jelas. Apakah yang dimaksudkan dengan mengajar? Apa-apa perkara yang berhubungan dengan agama Islam pula boleh merangkumi apa sahaja termasuk pensyarah yang mengajar modul kajian Islam di universiti atau bapa yang mengajar rukun Islam kepada anak di rumah. Adakah mereka semua perlu memohon untuk tauliah juga?

Mustafa ditangkap ekoran syarahannya di beberapa forum dan seminar yang berbentuk akademik walaupun sebelum ini tidak pernah ada masalah apabila beliau atau tokoh sarjana lain memberi kuliah awam mengenai topik-topik berkait dengan agama Islam. Namun jika dahulu memberi tazkirah di masjid dianggap mengajar agama, sekarang nampaknya perbincangan akademik turut tidak terlepas. Ini merupakan satu trend yang amat bahaya dan bertujuan untuk mengongkong pemikiran Muslim semata-mata, di samping mencabul hak kebebasan bersuara, kebebasan akademik dan kebebasan asasi lain yang termaktub dalam Bahagian II Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Penggunaan tauliah sebagai alat kuku besi harus dihentikan dan peruntukan undang-undangnya perlu dikaji semula kerana tidak jelas dan terlalu mudah disalahgunakan.

Zairil Khir Johari
Ahli Parlimen Bukit Bendera
Penolong Setiausaha Publisiti Kebangsaan DAP
Jurucakap Parlimen DAP untuk Pendidikan, Sains dan Teknologi

NB: This press statement was released on 21 November 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.