Alright, fellas, here’s a two-week order of Movement Control Order (MCO) with a giant serving of darurat. Enjoy your meal!
But of course, we’re all familiar with this meal, minus the whole darurat thing. In the epic year that was 2020, free time was in abundance and we’d been indulging random hobbies to fill them up, like cooking, gaming, reading, and the best of all, napping. It looks like we’re gonna have to do that again, but this time around, we found a new hobby for you: writing a textbook.
Recently, we came across something that raised a few brows among the team…
Yes, you read that right. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) is actually holding a competition for the public to write…textbooks. You know, the ones that we usually don’t read in school, in favor of cheat sheets.
And we found some weird things about it…
1. DBP doesn’t seem to know what the reward is
Every competition comes with a reward – that’s why they’re competitions.
For instance, in a recent novel competition held by the publisher Buku Fixi – we were supposed to participate but got a little busy writing articles for y’all – the winner would supposedly win all the money the publisher has received in admission fees, which was RM50 each. Imagine that there are 20 contestants and each of them paid RM50, the winner would then receive RM1,000 in total.
However, for DBP’s competition, we literally have no clue what their reward is in return for a victorious textbook. Like do they get cash? A free teaching certificate? Or do they get to write textbooks with DBP for the rest of their lives? No one knows because DBP didn’t mention any reward in their Facebook post or FAQ.
In fact, it sounds like they don’t really know what the reward will be themselves, if we’re going from the screenshot below. .
So, what it basically says in the screenshot is that DBP will decide the reward, as in it hasn’t even decided yet. We’ve tried to get in touch with DBP for some clarification, but at the time of writing, they haven’t gotten back to us yet
But hold up, it gets weirder…
2. You have to pay RM50 to participate
You don’t even have to look that closely at the poster to find out that the admission fee into the competition is RM50. Now, it’s not that uncommon for competitions, but this time around, the RM50 is apparently for you to purchase a set of documents.
We don’t know about you, but RM50 for a set of documents is quite pricey. Even when you buy documents about certain companies from the Companies Commission Malaysia (SSM), most of them are only priced at RM40.60 – and these are information about companies!
However, when we looked through the FAQs, we found that the documents are actually:
- Writing guidelines
- Standard Curriculum and Assessment Document (DKSP)
- Book specifications
This is actually pretty standard, because we also talked to two experienced textbook writers in Malaysia, Lee Chin Choy and Moy Wah Goon, and they stated that they have to follow the guidelines set by the Education Ministry to write a textbook.
So yeah, the RM50 isn’t just a simple admission fee. If you do choose to enter the competition and pay the fee, you’ll be getting a set of what are necessarily guidelines to write the textbook, which we’d assume can make your job easier.
3. You don’t need to be a teacher to participate
Any job would require experience – y’all must have seen your fair share of low-paying jobs that require five years of experience – and that includes writing textbooks. Both Lee and Moy has had a few years of teaching experience before they were tapped to write textbooks.
That’s right. There was no such thing as a textbook writing competition back in the day, and both Lee and Moy were contacted by the Education Ministry to write textbooks in their respective fields.
“The publisher approached me, and I started by writing three chapters chosen by the publisher within a time frame. After that, I would be asked to continue writing if approved.” – Moy, in an interview with Cilisos
As for DBP’s textbook writing competition, you can’t exactly just write a textbook if you want to. A contestant must have certain qualifications in the subject they’re writing on, such as a diploma or a degree. It doesn’t seem like a contestant has to be a teacher to write the textbook, as long as you have some writing experience. That kinda makes sense, because if you already have the necessary knowledge and qualifications, it doesn’t really matter whether you are a teacher.
Though according to Moy and Lee, having a certificate isn’t enough for you to write a textbook. In addition to having the teaching experience as well, they would also have to consult other established publications and experts to make sure that they have all the details correct in the textbook.
“I would look into other reference books, both local and foreign, as points of references.” – Lee, in an interview with Cilisos
This is probably why we never see a textbook with just a single author. All in all, for DBP’s competition, you only need to be qualified in the field to participate, but it’s perhaps wiser if you have some teaching experience as well.
4. You only get three months to finish the textbook
Based on what we can learn from the FAQ, if you choose to participate, you only get three months to complete the project. Say what now? That’s barely enough time for an author to finish a novel!
It would be nice if DBP can clarify this for us, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the three-month deadline is just for the first draft. Moy and Lee couldn’t give us exact timeframes on how long it would take to complete a draft, because every writer writes at their own pace.
However, to actually get the textbook published is a different story, because it could take up to two years! See, after you’ve submitted your draft, it’ll have to go for an evaluation process with the publisher’s panel and a panel set up by the Education Ministry. From editing to printing, it can easily take up to two years.
“I would say about one and a half years to approve the book, and another six months to print and distribute it.” – Moy
That sounds fair, really. After all, these are textbooks that will be used to teach our future generations, so extreme care should be taken to ensure that all the details are correct.
Can everyone write textbooks now?
Parents send their children to school every day to learn, and other than the array of reference books available in bookstores nowadays, children’s main source of education are the textbooks used in schools. As a result, DBP’s decision to make it a competition wasn’t really well-received, especially on Twitter.
According to DBP, the competition is for them to recruit a group of people with the skills to write textbooks, so that they can write textbooks from 2022 onwards. However, even Moy and Lee don’t think that it’s a good idea.
“Civilians can contribute ideas, but actually writing the textbooks should be done by people who have experience teaching the subject.” – Lee
According to them, someone without teaching experience wouldn’t be able to produce textbooks good enough for the students. In fact, it may be difficult for them to even write one.
But what about you? What do you think about a competition for you to write textbooks and potentially get hired to write more?