I was in Kuching this morning to attend the 4th Annual Conference on the Trust Schools (Sekolah Amanah). After four years, this is the first time I had the chance to attend such a conference and I came out with some burning questions which I did not have the chance to ask the sstudents, teachers and trustees due to the busy schedules. The morning session immediately after the opening ceremony was a forum ably mediated by the Astro Awani’s kamarul Baharin. The speakers were electic mix of Prof Dzulkifli Razak (Former USM and AlBukhary Uni VC), Richard Curtis (CMS CEO), Prof Ibrahim Bajunid (former IAB’s director), Dyg Fatimah Tom Abang Saufi (fashion desinger) and a head boy from SMS Kuching as well a female student from SMK Seri Setia in Tabuan Jaya. As usual Prof Dzulkifli was in his very philosophical self, invoking the ideas of the term insan, ethics, success, university not being a vocational training centres, and basic meaning of education. Richard Curtis, being a lawyer turned entrepreneur, talked mainly on the sorts of potential employees he is looking for and what education system should provide them with. Ibrahim Ahmad bajunid never failed to mesmerise us with his high clouds and deep deep corpus of knowledge. He was talking about education system with a fixed target but deeper and wider, broader aims – whatever that means. It is really tough to understand this guy. Would I ever be in the same plane as his thinking? I do not think so. Tom was talking about the education that she had in St Mary School, Kuching where there was dancing and costume drama activities that prepared her for life as an appreciator or the arts. What really caught me were the two students. I am not sure whether they were typical of the trust schools product or a select few who have been coached for this forum. They were eloquent, independent, and talkative. At that age and thrusted onto a stage with such a group of commanding figures and 200 over boisterous crowd I would have frozen or even peed in my pants! Even now I had butterflies in my tummy every time I want to ask question or presenting papers in meetings. These two kids were cool calm and collected. I can understand the boy from SMS Kuching. Being a head boy from a boarding school, he naturally had the training, but the girl from Kuala Kubu Baru is astoundingly cool.
But the session left me wondering, what was it the Sekolah Amanah had provided that the normal school could not do. We have been talking about student centred learning for ages now. We have been embedding HOTS since our KBSR and KBSM days. The boy and girl were saying, since the school have been “converted” to amanah school, they had more collaborative and cooperative learning sessions. Teachers are more cool and give them more freedom to ask questions. Teachers do not use chalk and talk that much anymore. They are being facilitators now. Oh wow! after 18 years of preaching this idea in the smart school concept, it only possible now? Remember the mantra “Guide by side rather than sage on the stage” that we preached 18 years ago that teachers thumbed their noses at. And is that only happening in the 30 amanah schools? I was wondering, aren’t these things were supposed to be employed by every teacher in this country by now, amanah or not. We have been preaching these for years. What is stopping non amanah schools from doing these? Or are they being practiced but not highlighted? The boy was saying, before this they did not enjoy learning and sekolah amanah has changed that. I am grateful for that but what is it so dramatic that has been introduced by the amanah schools that changed the teachers to practice what we have asking them to do all these years? Autonomy?, Incentives?, recognition?, facilities?, coaching? mentoring? Do these teachers do not have to worry about finishing the syllabi anymore, Don’t they have to worry about exam results anymore? Don’t they have to worry about JNJK or BPK monitoring team anymore? Don’t they have terrible non teaching work loads anymore? These are some of the excuses that we got from the teachers every time we asked why didn’t they practice collaborative learning or student centred learning. I have to find that out soon.