Malaysia is planning to build a university for teacher training within the next three years and is upgrading all teacher training courses to diploma level from next month.
Education minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that discussions between the government and the education ministry on the details were well under way.
The aim was to upgrade the teaching profession, helping teachers to improve their professionalism as Malaysia moves towards becoming a regional centre for education, he said.
The new three-year teacher's diploma (Diploma Perguruan Malaysia) replaces the two-and-a-half year Basic Teaching Certificate. The initial emphasis will be on producing teachers specialising in English, science and mathematics.
The first group of teaching diploma holders, graduating in 1999, will receive a starting salary of M$900 (Pounds 209) per month, compared with the current M$592 per month certificate holders receive.
The minimum entry requirements for the diploma will be the same as for the certificate. Applicants will need at least five credits in the school leaving examination and must be under 30 years old, which many teachers believe is very harsh and smacks of ageism.
There are currently around 40,000 trainee teachers in 31 teacher training colleges across the country undergoing the certificate programme. A batch of 10,200 trainees will be selected for the first diploma programme this July. Sixty per cent of these will have to major in mathematics and science, and the remainder in arts subjects.
The diploma curriculum emphasises five aspects of Malaysian education: upgrading the ability of teachers in their specialist subjects; command of knowledge and teaching methods; inculcating values towards moulding a disciplined, religious, caring and competitive society; producing trainees who are able to address issues on education by being more creative and critical; strengthening positive teacher:student relationships.
The government says it hopes the new diploma will attract more and better applicants to the teaching profession.
"Teaching is no longer a first choice career, and this attitude has affected the development of the country," said Najib recently. By 1998, all Malaysia's 31 teacher training colleges will be offering diploma courses only.