Throughout the world, education’s curriculum is generally developed centred to technical competency (e.g. numeracy skills) and non-technical competency (e.g. personal skills) – notwithstanding the level of education (e.g. primary, secondary, and tertiary education). In Malaysia, it was stated clearly within our National Curriculum Principle (by the Ministry of Education Malaysia, MOE) and also Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF) 2nd Edition (by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency, MQA). Among the essence of National Curriculum Principle is “… curriculum and co-curriculum which encompasses all knowledge, skill, norm, value, cultural element and belief”. Whereby, quite a similar statement by the MQF on educational learning outcomes which comprises traits regarding “… knowledge and understanding, cognitive skills, functional work skills, personal and entrepreneurial skills, ethics and professionalism”.
Stemming from the above, developer of the educational curriculum will conceptualise a curriculum that infusing respective traits accordingly to their selected course. Nevertheless, the tasks are not straightforward, where several pertinent phases must be duly taken care of. Implicitly, the generic development of curriculum has three major steps: before, during, and after.
Firstly, prior to the development, the critical thought of the course’s goals, planning for curriculum development, and evaluation of a course’s ecosystem is deemed paramount. Multiple needs and requirements as collective information will eventually shape the provisions and boundaries of certain course’s curriculum. Here, stakeholders within the entire ecosystem have to play their part. This including the academia, industry, and society as well. Data gathered through numerous methods such as survey, interview, and observation was analysed and finally transcended as input for subsequent curriculum development.
Secondly, during the curriculum development itself, most of the tasks were revolving within the academia which leads by the developer. Tasks such as the selection of learning experience, course contents, assessments, and others were designed in this phase. More often than not, accreditation bodies were also involved at the end of this phase to guide and propose any specific betterment towards respective course’s curriculum. Here, Outcome-Based Education (OBE) method is one of the tools to help developers. Mind you, the tasks are quite tedious and requires meticulousness.
Thirdly is the final phase – when the completed curriculum is offered to the student. This phase is much longer in time. Typically, academia is focusing on the curriculum’s periodic performances and evaluations. The main reason is to rectify and making appropriate betterment to any concerned areas. Usually, findings and comments on student’s achievement will be gathered and analysed, before orderly rectification being made. Most probably, the involvement of appropriate accreditation’s agencies (e.g. MQA) is present in this phase to ensure cohesiveness and quality of educational courses.
Well, from all phases, development of curriculum requires holistic efforts from all stakeholders to ensure the course’s sustainability. Or else, the entire curriculum will be collapsed, and the attainment level of each technical or non-technical competencies will be worse. Unfortunately, there were cases that related stakeholders surrounding the education ecosystem were more often than not overlooked to recognise and appreciate their responsibilities towards education’s curriculum. This was generally apparent especially when the curriculum is currently being offered and running.
The above conundrum is very much visualised with regard to non-technical competencies. As the name implies, non-technical competencies require a longer learning curve by the students. Generally, classroom-based education is inadequate to provide those competencies since it had to be nurtured, practised, and learnt continuously. Additionally, it greatly depends on the environment that surrounds those particular students – beyond the classroom. Thus, in order to set a perspective for subsequent discussion, two pertinent stakeholders namely the industry and society will be briefly deliberated accordingly.
For instance, during the first phase of curriculum development, industry and society urged students to have good ethics and communication skills. Hence, the curriculum developer has to address those needs and its integration in the subsequent phase. They have to think of any means that able to inculcate those traits to students, be it embedded within or outside of a certain course. Then, the ensuing third phase will evaluate students’ ethics and communication level, where feedbacks from both industry and society will be collected along the way.
What usually went wrong here is, stakeholders within the ecosystem did not play their role holistically. In fact, they were intrinsically involved throughout all phases, and they were part of the nurturing and improvement processes. Particularly in the final stage, it is not just feedbacks from them that are valued, but their actual conducts of ethics and communication were desperately treasured. Along the lengthy period of the third phase, educators alone will not be able to bring much improvement. Bad attitude and behaviour within society and misconducts inside the industry are among the last things to be presented to the students. Meanwhile, inappropriate communication either in the forms of written or spoken, through printed or social media is also part and parcel for the failure of students’ non-technical competency.
An example in education, students were taught to be trustworthy, but in the real world, cases of breach of trust were abundant. Another smaller example – communication-related, rampant use of the unsuitable short form of texts were evidenced, and regrettably it is swiftly creeping inside some official letters! All in all, these negative examples by the industry and society will not help in setting the right establishment of education curriculum, let alone prospering our nation. Although there were numerous suggestion and recommendation by individuals and organisations on these unprecedented issues, betterment is seemed too far-fetched – not at least we started to recognise and appreciate our responsibilities.
Therefore, to answer the title of this letter – YES! All of us are part of our nation’s education curriculum, and there is no catch-22 applies here. As the saying goes, one finger pointing at others, at least three fingers facing back to us. Hopefully, in the coming reformation of our education system and provisions as highlighted by our new government, all stakeholders will wholeheartedly play their part.
Dr. Hairuddin Mohammad
Pusat Pengajian Diploma, UTHM