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Decentralize Education to Improve Standards–Dr. Jeffrey

Kota Kinabalu:     “The Prime Minister missed the whole point on improving education and forgot the most important stakeholder, cooperation of the federal government. The World Bank report emphasizes this fact when it stated that the centrally-controlled federal education system contributed to the poor performances of schoolchildren in Malaysia” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief, responding to the posting by the PM in his facebook thatMalaysia is capable of providing the best education system for all with the cooperation of parents, educators and students themselves as well as the recently released World Bank Report on education in Malaysia.

Earlier, it was reported that Malaysia had performed poorly in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) where Malaysia was ranked No. 52 out of the 65 countries polled, worse than many third world countries.

The PISA tests were based onMathematics, Science and reading.  If PISA had included History, Malaysia would have come out last in the rankings given the distorted history of Malaya, cover-up on the formation of Malaysia and the purported independence of Malaya and Malaysia and lop-sided biasness in its History curriculum.

The failure of the Malaysian education system and policies is evident everywhere.  Everyone knows and speaks of the failings except the political leaders and their blind followers and extremists who fail to see through the primary and main objective of education from the young.   

Education is a life-long process and should not be used as a political tool, which is what the Umno/BN government is doing.

The failed system and policies require whole-scale and wholesome changes, even drastic if it is required. The holistic education system referred to by the PM must incorporate such changes and not just entail cooperation of the stakeholders without the participation and cooperation of the federal government.

Malaysia is a diverse nation made up of multi-ethnic groupings with different religions and cultural backgrounds.   In terms of educational pursuit, the local circumstances vary from State to State and from community to community.

As highlighted by the World Bank Report, the over-emphasis and centralized control of education causes bottlenecks and many a times unsuitability due to differences in local circumstances resulting in decline in education standards.   What is good and suitable for Penang may not be necessarily so for Johor or the Borneo States and what is good for Pahang may not be necessarily so for Selangor or Kelantan?   The mother tongues for the Peninsular are not necessarily the mother tongues for Sabah and Sarawak while Iban language in Sarawak and Kadazandusun or Bajau/Suluk language in Sabah may not be suitable to be implemented in the Peninsula.

Similarly, the education and manpower needs of the local community in Penang, an industrial hub, may be different from that in Kelantan or Terengganu which are agriculture and oil-producing Statesrespectively.  It is further and more different in Sabah and Sarawak.

The centralization of control in Putrajaya has created problems for schools, teachers and students alike whether they are in Selangor, Johor or in Sabah.  This is more so in the Borneo States and should be left to be administered by the respective States on their own rather than operate under remote control from Putrajaya.  Federal funding could be channelled to the respective State governments.

Further de-centralization will give more leeway to the districts and schools.   This overall de-centralization beside a change in education policies will help improve education standards.

Education is the future of the nation and its citizens and should not be politicized or manipulated as a political tool.   Neither should it be hijacked by any ethnic group for whatever reasons.

A change of education policies must create a new Nation Education Masterplan.  The Masterplan should be formulated after listening to the views of all stakeholders with the prime objective of quality education for all Malaysians alike.   Policies should not be made to cater to the calls of ethnic groups and learning another language does not make any Malaysian less patriotic.

De-centralizing the Education portfolio will enable the State governments, both in the Peninsular and in Sabah and Sarawak, to better manage, plan and execute the National Education Masterplan.  

Vernacular education was agreed upon by Malaya and Malaysia’s founding fathers.   This being the case, vernacular education including religious schools and mission schools should be fully funded by the federal government.   This is more so in Sabah where non-Chinese students make up more than one-third of the enrolment in Chinese schools including schools without any Chinese students.   

A child should not be faulted or punished because he or she does not attend national-type school.Recognizing Chinese education qualifications should no longer be avoided.   After all, Chinese education has proven results with many Chinese-educated Malaysians going on to be global and towering Malaysians including many inventions to their credit.   A good example is the world renown and widely used pen-drive invented by a Chinese-educated Malaysian but denied higher education opportunity in Malaysia.

The time has come for the PM to walk the talk now that he has said that education is a matter close to his heart and that a holistic education system is needed.   

A truly holistic approach must necessarily encompass a new Masterplan with new policies and with administration to be de-centralized to the respective State governments and even to districts and the schools.   There is no better time than now since it has been proven the failures of the past system and the falling standards which can be arrested and overturned by the new approach.

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