My Days in Sungai Petani

I am currently at Sultan Abdul Halim Airport in Kedah, sipping a cup of hot coffee while waiting for my flight back to Johor Bahru via Subang. I booked the tickets just a few weeks ago after receiving confirmation from the organiser regarding the dates and location of the workshop, which is very close to the election.

Therefore, based on their workshop schedule, I booked the flights that are convenient for me. I have been attending a workshop in Sungai Petani since last Tuesday, and interestingly, Sungai Petani is nearer to Bayan Lepas Airport in Penang. I do not blame myself, as I tried to align my travel time with the tentative workshop schedule. The workshop is organised by the Ministry of Education Malaysia and focuses on projecting the placement of primary and secondary school teachers in Malaysia until 2030. I am representing UTM, and the workshop is also attended by representatives from public universities that offer undergraduate education programs in the country.

I would like to share my experiences in Sungai Petani and the great news I obtained from the workshop. Since the organiser adjusted the workshop schedule on the first day due to some participants from Sabah and Sarawak not having arrived yet, I took the opportunity to explore the town.

With the local people being in the midst of the election campaign, it seemed that all the Grab drivers were discussing politics. I joined in where appropriate, occasionally steering the conversation towards other topics. This was my first experience in Sungai Petani; previously, I had been to Gurun (my brother-in-law’s hometown), Alor Setar (I still remember the view of the city from the tower), and visited Langkawi a couple of times (the most recent trip was last December with the kids).

I just realised that Sungai Petani is the biggest city in Kedah, followed by Alor Setar, which I had always thought was the number one. Please correct me if I am mistaken, as I obtained this information from Wikipedia. I had the chance to visit Amanjaya and Central Square Mall, try local Nasi Kandar, and play tourist in the city centre. The locals often refer to Sungai Petani as “SP.” While it lacks tall buildings like Alor Setar, it has numerous factories, and the urban area is quite extensive. This explains why Grab riders and drivers can thrive here, as mentioned by one of the Grab drivers. Enough about my time in Sungai Petani; my main purpose for being here is to attend an important workshop that can benefit our students at the faculty.

During the workshop, I held deep respect for every staff of the Ministry of Education involved in this workshop, as they provided us with insightful information regarding the future placement of teachers in schools. I am pleased to share that there will be sufficient placements for them in the coming years. I felt relieved upon hearing this positive news, although I won’t disclose the specific figures about shortages and supply.

The ministry has implemented a system that I find to be excellent in providing accurate data about the number of teachers retiring by choice, mandatory retirement, teachers leaving the system, new school development, and various other variables that influence projections. I am delighted to hear that this system will be used in collaboration with faculties and schools of education in public universities in the near future. This is crucial, as it will guide universities in determining the number of students to enroll based on the available options and faculty capacity. However, the ministry also mentioned that there have been cases of newly placed teachers in schools complaining about not being assigned to their preferred state or not teaching the subjects they studied at university. All in all, I can say that this workshop has been fruitful.

To the students at the School of Education UTM, I encourage you to seize this opportunity to study diligently and intelligently. Equip yourselves with soft skills and relevant competencies that teachers should possess, and cultivate the spirit of an educator within you in preparation for becoming teachers for the young generation. I believe this role is increasingly challenging day by day.

Until we meet again, Sungai Petani.


10th August 2023