Malaysian education: No more spoon-feeding and memorising, teach them how to think.

Mary Maguire runs an English school in Ulu Selangor. Soon after GE-14, some concerned Malaysians formed a group, to share and discuss ideas, to revamp the Malaysian Education System. Mary was among the first to respond to the call.

Here are her suggestions. 

1. I am totally opposed to vernacular schools. If you want to develop a national identity, rather than a racial one, then there should be one school for all.

2. Given China’s global standing, students would be best equipped to succeed if they were fluent in English and Mandarin. I would make both languages ( as well as BM) compulsory and start teaching them at primary level.

3. I am an English teacher and am always shocked by student’s inability to think and form opinions. No more spoon feeding and memorizing, teach them how to think and discover information on their own.

4. Reduce class sizes down to 30 max and have a single school session per day, say from 8/9am until 2/3pm

5. Give less homework and fewer tests.
Finland is achieving great results and doesn’t have testing or homework…maybe we should look into this.

6. Provide student’s with lockers so they don’t have to carry heavy bags around all day.

7. Totally revamp teacher training and focus more on developing thinking, questioning and motivation. Lots of other successful models to consider when redesigning the system.

8. Pay teacher’s more and give them adequate, time space and resources to do their job.

9. Allow teachers to choose the schools they want to teach in rather than being allocated a place of work. Teachers would have to apply for the schools they wanted and go through an interview process in order to get the job. Introducing a bit of competitiveness amongst teachers will keep them on their toes and being able to work in their school of choice, will make them happier and more motivated.

10. Totally rethink religious teaching. Perhaps, if there’s a single school day that finishes at 2/3pm, religious classes could be optional and be held as separate afternoon classes. 

11. Probably the most important is to convince the government to spend more on Education! We need more schools, better equipped schools, more teachers…

12. Abolish corporal punishment.

13. Make schools accessible to the disabled and provision for special needs children with conditions like autism.

(The views expressed are those of the contributor)


Mary Maguire: Although I studied education in the UK many years ago, I only started teaching after I moved to Malaysia and became interested in English as a foreign language.

I now run my own English language school in the small town of Kuala Kubu Bharu in Ulu Selangor.

Rebuilding Malaysia


  • Jimmy Arokia says:

    Yes, as well convert the vernacular schools into national schools as these vernacular schools are the reaction against the compulsory use of Bahasa Malaysia as a medium of instruction. These schools lead to nowhere but gained popularity as a reaction against the BN use of language as a political tool in 1971. That year, you had many bright and brilliant pupils seemingly able to gain 8A1s and failing BM and thus failed SPM or MCE. This unfortunately was the policy of Dr. M. These people do not realise that they have destroyed at least two to three generations of Malaysian youth who unfortunately did not master either BM or English. The wealthy sent their children to International schools and hence their proliferation.

  • BT Lim says:

    We sent our older children to a national primary school just walking distance from home. But, though we’re English educated, we eventually sent the younger child to a Chinese school which was less convenient.

    Reason – the teaching standard was deteriorating and religious practises were progressively incorporated.

    There’s no necessity to go against vernacular schools. If the Education ministry can provide schools with the right subject emphasis (religion-free as well), I believe vernacular schools and private schools will automatically see a drop in enrolment.

  • chng Kooi Seng says:

    You need a completely new set of teachers and students. The present cohort of teachers were brought up in the old way. Rote learning(often learning the wrong facts!)got them to where they are. They have NOT learned how to teach students how to think. Even if you send thousands for re training, they will settle down into their old ways. The biggest obstacle is the mind set. After decades of dumbing down from all directions, these teachers will not learn anything new quickly. Their reaction I predict will be “malas law”.It will take decades to unravel the problem. Don’t forget, in the background are the old politicians stoking fire. It will take at least 8 years to even make a dent. Of course it is all in the mind(I told you it’s mind set). If the majority really take it to heart that this is urgent then it can be done. Me? I’m pessimistic.

  • Jimmy Arokia says:

    Yes, the medium of instruction should revert back to English with compulsory languages in primary school being Hindi, BM and Mandarin. These languages are to be taught up to Standard Six and then optional for one to be continued to end of secondary school. No streamlining into Arts and Science at the Form Four level but instead all must learn the arts and sciences throughout their secondary school days.

  • GP Chua says:

    We allocated millions for SMRT School. What are our KPI achieved?
    We got to have problems based approach to learning. Learn 1st then understand the “theory” through peer n guided learning
    Since 2015 Lean Startup Methodology has rocks into small villages to apply science n common sense to communities…
    Results… every who has done the Human Centric Design Thinking has gone on to do more to enrich lives
    From play we learned

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