The perennial problem of teacher shortage in Malaysia

Sin Chew Daily

Senior minister (education) Mohd Radzi Md Jidin says given the chronic issue of teacher shortage at Malaysian schools, the education ministry has decided to launch a massive recruitment campaign to hire 18,702 teachers with university qualifications (DG41).

Such mammoth recruitment exercise shows the ministry's resolution and sincerity in addressing this problem. In the meantime, this also shows that the issue has been around for some time, is getting increasingly serious and warrants immediate action.

Teacher shortage is not a novel issue in this country, and has been around and unresolved throughout the long years of BN administrations, through the shortlived PH administration all the way to the PN government we have today.

For so many years the local Chinese associations have been very much concerned about the issue of teacher shortage at many of the country's SJKCs, and have every now and then voiced up to the authorities without fail with the hope the issue will get the government's attention soon.

To be honest, the government is not sitting on this issue doing nothing at all, but because of the fragmented remedies carried out in the past without farsighted comprehensive planning, this problem has been dragged on for so long.

First and foremost, to address this problem, we will have to admit its existence. It is good that the education ministry has now come to terms with the severity of this problem and has adopted the proactive measure although it is still premature now to tell how effective this would be. But, at least the government has taken the first right step!

Prior to this, the authorities have tried to play down the severity of this problem and because of such a passive attitude, they have never been able to effectively resolve the problem.

According to a survey conducted earlier by Jiao Zong, there were a total of 1,197 vacancies for teachers and 30 for principals or vice principals among the 1,171 SJKCs in the country as of January 31 this year. This shows very clearly that these schools are still unable to free themselves of the perennial teacher shortage problem.

We need to reiterate that teacher shortage is a national problem faced by not only SJKCs but also most other schools in the country.

According to the education minister, this problem is particularly serious in four states, with Sarawak being the hardest hit. When even the minister is using the word "serious", we should know how bad the situation actually is.

Now that the problem is laid bare, we've got to start doing something to address it!

There are many factors that have led to this problem, including shortage of trainees at teachers' training colleges and incompatible subjects. In view of this, a one-off recruitment exercise may not effectively resolve this problem once and for all.

As mentioned earlier, the education ministry needs to draw up a farsighted and comprehensive plan to systematically train adequate numbers of qualified teachers to meet the country's new age education needs. Unplanned ad hoc solutions will only drag the issue infinitely at the expense of our children's future.

Teacher shortage is not just a question of the cold numbers but is a crucial factor that will compromise the students' education. It will affect the quality of teaching and this will in turn have negative impact on the students' learning. It is imperative for the education ministry to ensure sufficient supply of qualified teachers at all schools to help them groom the future leaders of this country.

New generation students need to face even bigger challenges and stiffer competition in the age of AI, and they need a good education to help them lay a solid foundation.

The quality of our education needs to be significantly elevated, and to do this, we must put a decisive end to the perennial teacher shortage problem.

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