Making Sense of CPD Policy: The Quest for Transformation of Teacher Professionalism in Malaysia

By Faizulizami Osmin

Amis Viva

Faizulizami Osmin recently completed her PhD (above a picture captured right after the Viva). We celebrate her success and give a flavour of some of the excellent doctoral research carried out by CIRE members. We share the abstract for her dissertation.

This research investigates how teachers in Malaysia are experiencing recent changes in the direction of their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) which have shaped their sense of professionalism. The new CPD policy known as the Pelan Pembangunan Professionalisme Berterusan (PPPB), has been developed by the Ministry of Education but is profoundly influenced by the results of international student assessments. It is intended as an instrument to develop a teaching workforce that would turn Malaysia into a top performing nation in international assessments, such as (and particularly) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Teachers, however, must understand the choices and decisions made by the Government and to accept, adapt or ignore the possibilities created for their professional development. The research in this study is guided by a review of international literature on educational change, the influences of globalisation on policy trends and practices as well as teacher professionalism.

The research adopted interpretivism as an epistemological stance and has two strands. The PPPB policy was investigated through review and interviews with policymakers involved in writing the policy. Teachers’ perspectives on the policy were collected through focus groups and individual face-to-face interviews. By exploring teachers’ perspectives on policy rhetoric, the Spectrum of CPD Model developed by Kennedy (2014) is employed to analyse and evaluate the policy. Indeed, this is especially useful in determining the level of synchronisation between the directions set in the policy and the policy’s intended outcomes. The findings suggested that teachers question and challenge the nature of the policy and its implementation which have adversely affected their mindset and attitude, in turn, impacting their involvement and commitment towards implementing the present system-wide reform.

When the PPPB Model of CPD is positioned within the global context of teacher professionalism, it is argued that the dominant conception of professionalism reflects rather, a managerial perspective and adopts a standards-based approach. In other words, professionalism relates to the needs of an individual teacher to meet and maintain prescribed government standards. Further, it was found that a collaborative concept of professionalism within the policy is limited, indicating that teachers continue to remain a compliant workforce. Although professionalism is being cast into the direction that the Government considers to be the best fit, in the current teaching profession, teachers are deploying and working towards different concepts of professionalism. Therefore, this transformation strategy, for teacher professionalism, could be much better understood as the Government’s attempt to change not only the public’s perception of teachers and teaching but also how teachers themselves view their own professional roles and practice.

Nevertheless, some teachers may have struggled in the process of changing their existing controlled-compliant professionalism (which requires them to comply with the Government’s change agenda) into more collaborative-activist professionalism that adopts collaborative work cultures. In this vein, professionalism emerging from the managerial and democratic discourses is not static or two-dimensional but instead, evolves and changes according to the teachers’ working conditions thereby allowing the teachers to embrace several discourses of professionalism simultaneously. In brief, this study represents the relationship between CPD and professionalism and the range of conflicting models that co-exist when a system is in a state of change. It highlights the unevenness of change and the contradictory views of CPD-professionalism that it can generate.

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