Thursday, September 26

An Explanation of TBBK (Kenaikan Pangkat Time-Based Berdasarkan Kecemerlangan)

If you haven't heard about this by now & you're a tenured teacher in Malaysia, you'll want to pay attention. This is from what I've understood from my reading & discussion with senior teachers in Sarawak. I may be wrong & I will update this post whenever I get new information.

The previous promotion system.
About a month ago, a new circular was released regarding changes to the Time-Based KUP promotions of teachers. It details Kecemerlangan requirements for Time-Based promotions or Time-Based Berdasarkan Kecemerlangan (TBBK). The grass is looking a lot less greener now.

This applies ONLY to applications of GD41 to DG44 & DG44 to DG48. Teachers whose Lantikan happened in Jan 2005 & later will go through TBBK. Those who were appointed in 2004 have probably received their KUP free of charge (without TBBK) by now. You lucky baskets. Those who were appointed before that were under the previous remuneration system of 10 years for a KUP promotion.

This is probably done in line with Shift 4 (Transform teaching into the profession of choice) of the Malaysian Education Blueprint (Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia: PPPM); from which I quote:
"They (teachers) will have access to exciting career development opportunities across several distinct pathways, with progression based on competency and performance, not tenure."

Interesting, right? This TBBK is supposed to only allow promotions based on merit.
Does it? Read on to find out.

Requirements of Promotion as Specified in TBBK:

  1. Tempoh Perkhidmatan = 8 full years
  2. Pengistiharan Harta = Done
  3. Tindakan Tatatertib = None
  4. Pinjaman Tegar = None
  5. LNPT = Average of 80 for the past 3 years
  6. Borang Khas Cemerlangan (BKC) = Completed with supporting documents attached
  7. School-appointed Panel to review BKC = Pass with an average of 80
  8. Final Score = 60% LNPT + 40% BKC = At least 80

BKCs & School-Appointed Panels Explained

Teachers who want to apply for Time-Based promotion will now have to fill a BKC & attach all relevant supporting documents. (Here are the BKCs.)

A specially selected panel (of 3 to 5 school-appointed Penilai) will grade your contributions according to the BKC. The panel members will vary according to the Principal. They may include the PK1, PK HEM, PK KK or GK. Your final grade for the review is the average grade given to you by the panel members.
You must get at least 80 marks on average to qualify for TBBK. You can appeal if you don’t get enough.

Even after that, you will need to achieve at least 80 in your final score. I.e. 60% from LNPT (average from the past 3 years) + 40% from BKC review.
If you got 80 in your LNPT & 80 in your BKC review, you will get 80 for your TBBK.

Implication #1: More Paperwork

Will we promote the best paper museum curators or the best classroom teachers?
Right away, I can tell that this will mean more paperwork for teachers as they will have to document EVERYTHING they've done in the 3 evaluated years; and this likely by THEMSELVES. Teachers will most definitely do this because they will want to be promoted!
  • Lesson Plans (Buku Rancangan Pengajaran)
  • Activity Reports
  • Student Performance
  • Co-curricular Achievements
  • Penglibatan Luar: Courses / Panels / Examiner / Invigilator
  • Awards & Certificates
  • Class Attendance & Activity Attendance Log (You cant say you trained for competitions without black & white proof now, can you?)
What if a teacher does not get promoted in the first application? He will have to keep producing 'attractive' documents year after year! Thus, distracting him from his core function, inducing frustration & increasing his administrative burden.

Shift 4 (Transform teaching into the profession of choice) of the Malaysian Education Blueprint (PPPM) promises:
"Focus teachers on their core function of teaching from 2013. Teachers will enjoy a reduced administrative burdenso that they can focus the majority of their time on their core function of teaching."

I am a hard worker. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed but I am a workhorse. I prefer to spend my time doing stuff that really makes a real difference. For all the things that I do, I hardly prepare any documentation. I'm too busy doing stuff that I don't have time to write about it officially in BM & then getting it signed by the KJ. TBBK puts me at a big disadvantage compared to those who do very little but are able to come up with 'attractive' documents with 'attractive' terms.

Implication #2: Slower Promotions

I hope I don't end up like this.
I believe 2013 is the last year for GC applications. After this, excellent teachers will only be able to apply for promotion after 8 years. Previously, the GC scheme allows excellent teachers to apply for promotion after only 5 years of service.

Even after waiting 8 years, a promotion is not guaranteed. Even when the school panel gives you the green light, you might fall victim to a quota for your desired rank. In effect, promotions might take even longer & imagine year after year of applying & producing new paperwork.

Will teaching be the profession of choice? Is this an exciting career development opportunity? I believe excellent teachers might look elsewhere just like they are doing now. I.e. business, tuition, lecturing or international schools.

Implication #3: A 5 Year Honeymoon

Work hard 3 years, relax 5 years! Woo hoo!!
You are only evaluated for the last 3 years. 8 years - 3 years = 5 years of FREEDOM!!! Then, work hard in the last 3 years. Especially hard in the final year. Need I say more?

Implication #4: Brown Noser Cemerlang

This is how organisations should work.
Now that the evaluations are school-based, I fear that the TBBK might go the way of APC. I.e. rewarded to cronies or Brown Noser Cemerlangs. In some schools, some people get awarded APC because of their good relationship with the administrators & those who are really productive or performing get overlooked. I fear that this will happen to TBBK as well.

The worst part is, at times performing teachers are not on good terms with their administrators. Thus, their promotions are deliberately sabotaged by the administrators who are also their evaluators.

Conclusion: Screening Of Promotions Are Welcome But...

After reading this post, I believe some people will criticise me for insubordination, being unsupportive or spoilt. Actually, I do welcome screening of time-based promotions because I have seen plenty of undeserving teachers get promoted. In a system with accountable administrators, TBBK will work. It will ensure that only the most deserving teachers get promoted.

However, we, humans, will always find loopholes to manipulate even the most perfect systems. I have highlighted my concerns above. Believe me, they will come to be as an effect of the implementation of TBBK. The decision-makers in the ministry will have to consider whether they can live with the cons. Because even with TBBK, I'm not sure if undeserving teachers will actually work harder for the students. Well, at least, they will be forced to curate a paper museum or create the illusion of helping the students.

My dream is to be able to teach without worrying about all these promotions. Often times, those teaching the worst classes will not be able to perform well enough to merit a promotion. Whereas those in the better classes might not even have to lift a finger to collect accolades which lead to promotions. I want to be the former. Even when the system rewards the latter.

Wednesday, September 25

The Summit: The First Teach For Malaysia Conference

Right now, I have some time to write a little bit & update this blog which has been left pretty much dormant since things started to heat up for me a month ago. I'll write about all the exciting stuff I'm involved in in due time. Starting with this one. =)

Teach For Malaysia fellows & staff. See if you can spot me! (Photo: TFM)
On the 24 of August, I was invited to give a keynote speech & conduct a workshop for the first Teach For Malaysia conference in KL, The Summit.

It was a big honour for me because I am just a young teacher in the jungle. I never expected such a prominent NGO to come calling. I'm not an expert in anything. Not a trainer of any sort. Not even a Master’s degree holder.

I felt slightly intimidated with the task of giving a speech (which is essentially telling people what to do) but the officers at TFM had such faith in me. I was encouraged & decided to give it my best shot.

The Teach For Malaysia Foundation office
Before the conference, I was able to spend some time at the TFM office in the UEM tower at KL Sentral. Security is pretty tight in the building with magnetic doors everywhere but once I got inside, I could see the efforts at creating an environment for collaboration in the organisation. The walls were covered in whiteboards where people scribbled their thoughts & ideas. Lots of mobile whiteboards on wheels too. Some of them had "do not erase" stickers on them.

I met the staff & treated them to some goodies from the East side. From the onset, they made me feel at home & part of the TFM family. I could really feel their can-do attitude & I enjoyed working with these talented people. During my time there, my spoken English improved dramatically & I absorbed all the positive energy bouncing off the walls.

The 2-day conference was held at the Sunway International School. A new, beautiful & well-equipped international school.

On the first day, I did a workshop where I shared what I did at my school to "Conquer Negative Associations to English". Basically, I shared the things I did during my 2nd & 3rd year as a teacher. I have uploaded the powerpoint slides & they are free to download from scribd. Have a look & see if you can do the same at your school. It'll probably be something that you've been doing already.

The Summit. (Photo: TFM)
You can see the hall where I delivered my speech & the classroom where I conducted my workshop.
On the second day, I delivered my keynote speech. It's just little old me talking about what I think about our education system, what teachers should be like &, at the end, challenge the TFM fellows. I was really nervous & I'm not sure if I made sense or if I confused them even more! Lol. All in all, I had a gut-wrenching blast & it was an achievement unlocked.

Here's a short video from TFM offering glimpses of the conference. You get to hear my squeaky voice say a really cheesy line somewhere too.

One thing that really hit me about this conference was that the TFM staff got everyone to sit in groups once every day to discuss what they've heard & reflect on how they will apply it. This is missing in many conferences.
I believe it adds to the value to the conference as it increases the likelihood that people will leave with something or do something differently after the conference. If I were to sponsor anyone to a conference, I'd make sure someone does this with them.

Also, after mixing with the fellows & listening to their stories, I cannot help but feel impressed at the work they have done. They were all sent to the worst schools in Malaysia for 2 years & made accountable to achieving progress. Some of these schools, I don't think I'd want to even work in for 2 weeks. (Mainly because the students themselves are hostile or aggressive.) Many of them have achieved victories & made a real difference in the lives of their students. Which makes me wonder if I'd be able to do the same if I were in their shoes. I guess I'll never know until I actually get to doing it.

Who knows? I really love a good challenge & thinking about this really gets my heart racing. If I were to do something like this, I'd do it in Sarawak, my ibu pertiwiku. And, I'd do it from within the system & lead others in the system who wish to do the same. Many great teachers within the system have already gone before me. They, together with the TFM fellows, shall be my inspiration.

View all the pictures here on my FB page & TFM's page.
p/s: I will share more pictures once I get them (with permission) from TFM. =)

Wednesday, September 11

The Moment You Realise the Importance of Electricity

It is not fun to be in the dark in the middle of the jungle.
Most of you in the city have probably never experienced an extended period without electricity. Even then, the store is just a short drive away for flash-lights & candles.

I work in the middle of the jungle. I stay in the quarters at school. We do not have power cables providing us with a steady supply of electricity. We have 24 hours electricity from ageing diesel generators which can break down at any moment & they do break down every once in a while. Notice I said ONCE IN A WHILE; not once in a blue moon. The generator does break down every few months.

When the electricity goes, everything goes. The water pump cannot run. No water to the pipes means walking to the river nearby for bathing & washing. A full pail of water to be carried all the way up to my flat in case of 'emergencies'.
And cooking. Oh gosh. No power for the fridge. No water in the pipes. Cooking will be a wonderfully pleasurable chore. There's nothing on TFC which can prepare me for such moments.

Imagine the heat. Teaching uncomfortable students in ridiculous western formal wear (sweating in said attire is one thing... washing is WORSE!!!). Marking & paper-pushing in a stuffy staffroom.

Imagine the darkness at night. I have nobody to hold... =(
Imagine how bored one can get without electronics / Internet.
Imagine an extended period of all of the above for about a week like my colleagues & students experienced last year.

Today, we had a generator scare as we always have every time there is an unscheduled outage. The generators are old & could break down at any time. The worst part is every time they break down, they get closer & closer to the eventuality of going beyond repair.
When that happens, all hell will break loose. The hungry ghost festival is just over but you haven't seen nothing yet. No offering can appease teachers starved of electricity. Lol.

Fortunately, the staff worked at it & managed to fix it before sunset. And to think I spent the entire afternoon wishing my diarrhoea would return so I could escape a worse fate.

There is a road going by on a hill behind the school. There is wired electricity to a longhouse 1 hour away. Hopefully, some time soon... We'll get wired electricity at SMK Katibas.
But I'm not holding my breath. I've got flashlights & candles ready as well as 101 excuses to bail if things get unbearable.

Tuesday, September 3

I Know A "Pill Pandai" Pusher

I had a really good laugh when a friend tagged me in a link to an article by The Star about the so-called 'Get Smart' Pills. If you didn't know, some school headmasters & teachers have been forcing their pupils to buy these pills. They claim that these pills have a concentration of herbs which make pupils more obedient & hard-working. These pills were apparently also endorsed by the Malaysian Federation of the Council of Headmasters. If that is the case, the credibility of this organisation is in question. Especially since lab tests have found that the pills were 95% sugar & less than 2% herbs. Shockingly, these herbal candies have been in distribution since 2010. It might have had a placebo effect on the pupils.

Anyway, I laughed about the article because it reminded me of a particular 'Pill Pandai' pusher at my school. No, it was not a teacher. It was actually one of my Form 2 students. Let me call him AB. A primary schoolmate of his divulged the story. When AB was in Year 6, he would go around the hostel asking the other pupils, "Siapa nak pandai? Kamu nak jadi pandai tak? Makan pill ini. Kamu akan jadi pandai." And business was booming until the wardens discovered the scam & shut it down. They found out that he was actually selling Vitamin C tablets as "Pill Pandai" for RM1 per tablet. Genius.

The irony was he was really short, he didn't have the most charming face, and he was really weak academically. We never expected this kid to have the potential to be a major swindler slash successful businessman. It's amazing what people can come up with & what people will believe. (Reminds me of how Apple swindled the world.) I guess we should never underestimate our students. Who knows, he might be paying my salary in the future.

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