This semester, our cohort went out to 5 different schools around Auckland for our school visits. I would to share my thought about my observation and perception towards one of the schools that I visited. But, of course, whatever that is being observed or analysed cannot be generalised into all aspects of NZ and Malaysian education system. The fact of the learning process that occurs in this two different cultures and societies is beyond reach. My critiques and analysis might only indicate the very small area of the truth reality of education.

On the 18th September 08, I went for my 4th school visit. This time it was Newmarket Primary. It was the best primary school in the district managed by the best principle, as they said. . It was quite a small school compared to other schools that we have visited previously. Located at the centre of Newmarket, it was an urban school.

Knowing that we’ll be visiting primary schools sounded like a waste of time. But, having my experience in a NZ primary school totally changed my perception. NP was awesome. Though, it was just a small school, they had so many resources and the school was very students-friendly. They had playgrounds for the kids to play during playtime, classrooms that are well-organised and decorated with students’ arts/works. I was so impressed at their classrooms. There is nothing to be compared with Malaysian classrooms.

I went to three classes of different year levels. Most of their classes are of composite classes. That is to mean, the composite classes consist of students from different age group. For example, a class with 7 and 8 y.o, 8 and 9, and etc. This was caused by continuous enrolment of students throughout the year. However, I found the idea very brilliant as it allows the students of two age groups widen their horizons. I was so impressed with the answer that I received from an 8 years old girl from the first class that I visited as a respond to my question. I asked her, “What are you supposed to do right now?” He answered me in a very professional and intelligent way, “Oh, actually, we are supposed to do the reading activities. There are 3 activities and right now we have to complete the first task. The girl sitting with the teacher in front was being tested on her reading skill.” I was so impressed with the descriptive answer that I received.

My encounters of their thinking ability made me wonder about our education system. If I were to ask a Malaysian student of the same age group as the previous boy, would I be able to receive almost the same level of respond? Will their behaviours and responds portray such a thinking society? Others might oppose my opinions, but this was exactly what I saw and what I had analysed through my observations. Being in a Year 2 NZ classroom would not be the same as being in a Year 2 Malaysian classroom. I am not suggesting that we should blame the kids for not thinking critically or creatively or mastering the higher level thinking skills, here. They are totally innocent. I am about to question the efficiency and compatibility of our education system with the modern community that demands higher levels of thinking and consistently thinking.

Thinking without being able to express your thoughts is another useless point that I want to emphasise here. From my observations, I came out with a conclusion that what made Malaysian students and NZ students differ the most is the fact that NZ students generally are outspoken. Malaysian students on the other hand, found it very difficult to voice out opinions, ideas, critiques, or disagreements. Thus, that might be one of the reasons why Malaysian students do not see the importance of thinking out of the box.
“Nah, I don’t have to think about the answer to that question. The teacher already has her answer. Or at least, someone else might just answer it. Or even better, the teacher will answer the question herself. There is no point giving out my opinion if I am sure that my answer would not be accepted. I’ll just embarrass myself.”

This is a normal perception of a Malaysian student when the teacher posts a question. I know because I was one of those students. “Been there, done that.” Unlike the above situation, students in NP were very friendly and expressive. They voiced out what they feel and think. They asked when they were curious. They showed maturity in their answers. I really like the idea of allocating “play time” in their school schedule. Kids need to play to learn. They need hands-on activities to learn and develop their skills. They learn as much from their peers as from teachers. It is the socio-learning theory introduced by Vygotsky. They even provided with games in their classes. At first, I had some doubt as whether those games and toys are of help or hindrance to the learning process of the class. But, after being in their classes, I realised that the students are responsible of their own actions and they know when to play, what to play, and when to stop. They agree to the rules that they can only play if they finished their works early. They understand that they are only allowed to play games that suit the theme of their learning that day.