Quality educational reforms are on-going processes. In schools, the average length of curricular development lies between one and five years, but national reforms take place about every 10 years.
As a veteran, retired teacher from a government-subsidised primary school in Kowloon, Hong Kong, and based on my experience in two well-respected international schools in Bangkok, I propose that the Ministry of Education and all schools continuously reform the following areas.
- Administration. Ideally, reforms should be initiated by all the stakeholders, based on specific needs and research findings. After the pilot studies have been completed, all stakeholders must be invited to offer their recommendations before changes are made.
- Teaching staff are important, but they are replaceable school personnel. Their main tasks are to teach, guide and assess learners. They also organise/sponsor co-curricula and extra-curricula activities, as well as work closely with school administrators and parents. Reforms should encourage teaching staff to grow professionally and to support their colleagues. Reforms to improve teachers' skill are critical.
- Students come to school with the same goals of acquiring useful knowledge, productive skills and positive attitudes. Hopefully, with the proper training, they would form good study habits; lead healthy, productive lives; acquire language and computer skills; practise self-discipline; and become caring, global citizens. Reforms should promote these goals whenever possible.
- A good curriculum should be universal and proactive in nature, with research-based instruction methods and content. It must teach critical thinking.
- In school, students engage in school, class, club and after-school activities. Through activities, they learn to reach out to the needy and unfortunate in the society and work as a team. All schools must reform to include these aspects as part of their mission.
- School facilities are usually state of the art at International schools. Such schools often sponsor sports competitions and visual and performing arts activities. School facilities and equipment should support the teaching process and advance the acquisition of all-round knowledge. Government schools should strive to develop or improve school facilities.
- Working conditions are crucial in promoting cooperation and unity. Administrators and teachers burn out fast if their working conditions are unfavourable, for example: an environment with unclear expectations, "dictated" rules, inconsistent practices, unfair treatment, and conditions that are not conducive to a positive learning/teaching environment. New reforms should always target work conditions for improvement.
- Revenue sources are often scrutinised by the Ministry of Education because some schools derive their incomes from and for legitimate and quasi-legitimate sources/purposes. These sources may include: "tea money"; entrance, examination, registration, book, insurance, graduation ceremony, field trip, and school publication fees; school-development bonds and "reservation" fees. Extra income may also come from concessions; extended-day programmes; summer school lessons; fund-raisers; workshops; refreshments sales; uniforms; and school supplies. Reforms are needed to better standardize school financing and revenue streams to ensure propriety, fairness and legality. After all, a school is a commonwealth organisation.
- Support staff fall into two categories. Professional support staff comprises the curriculum and professional development director, the pupil-service director, school counsellors and psychologists, special education specialists. Non-professional support staff include those in the human resources and public relations departments, secretaries and service staff. Reforms should include more support for them.
- A school's culture and atmosphere cannot be overlooked if reforms are to be meaningful. A school's culture covers the mindset of the school community and the school's philosophy, mission statement, policies and traditions. Reforms should always work to make this category as positive as possible for students and parents.