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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rank schools with care

THE Education Ministry has named 20 schools as “top performance” schools based on a ranking done on all primary and secondary schools nationwide. Next year another 30 will be similarly honoured, and the following year, another 50. And so, by 2012, we would have 100 “top performance” schools in the country.

Many questions come to the fore: will the schools thus selected stay as such henceforth or for the duration of at least two years? This has to be so in order to give meaning to the projection that there will be 100 such schools in two years’ time.

If these “top performance” schools are to re-enter the ranking process after two years, don’t they have an unfair advantage, if not already so, over other schools?

Let’s not forget that these schools have each been awarded RM1mil in development grant to further spruce up their existing infrastructure and facilities. Moreover, the ministry has to justify the amount allocated and there has to be an audit and accountability for the amount spent. Both the schools and the ministry must come out “good, effective and efficient” in the reassessment.

How will all this then affect the re-ranking of these schools? Wouldn’t we then be just seeing the same 100 plus schools being selected over and over again? How do you inspire schools at the very bottom of the ranking? How can they aspire to ever reach the top?

We have 9,844 primary and secondary schools in the country. Assuming that on the average, some 10 schools may share a rank, we will still have 984 ranks. What this means is that the “first” school is ranked No.1 and the “last” school No 984. It certainly stretches one’s imagination to perceive the wide range of the rankings! What about the differences that purportedly exist between the rankings?

Also, the ministry has painstakingly explained the various quality “standards” used in the assessments.

Granted that these “standards” are valid, how efficiently can the ministry officials actually administer the assessment on all schools year in and year out nationwide henceforth?

Or, are the schools simply asked to “grade” themselves in each quality “standard” and their “grades” verified by District Education officials?

Maybe the ministry is thorough with schools in the first 20 or so. But, certainly the same cannot be done for all the others. These assessments are simply too time consuming on a large scale. How reliable then are the results for all other ranks?

Do schools, parents, teachers and students really care or bother about the ranks after, say the first 20? Isn’t it then futile and even meaningless to rank from A-Z, from first to last?

This brings us to the argument that in all competitions, a fair and level playing field is essential. The least the Ministry could have done is to first methodically categorise schools before seeking out the “top performance” schools in each category based on some set and achievable targets according to the category of schools.

The fact that there is hardly any real excitement or celebration from schools other than the so-called “top 20” bears testimony to the fact that schools generally are not particularly receptive of and agreeable to the one-size-fits-all ranking process to determine top performers.

Our schools are human institutions. Please do not rank them like you rank material products coming out of factories or manufacturing plants.

LIONG KAM CHONG,

Seremban.

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