• Public Education Reform

    Dear fellow Malaysians, voters, and residents of P102 Serdang,

    I believe that a common language is indispensable for peace, harmony and nation-building. How can we understand each other, let alone develop our country, if we cannot communicate? Therefore, I believe that the education system must enable all children in Malaysia to speak and write effectively in our national language, Bahasa Malaysia.

    I believe that the national school education system must be strengthened so that it can once again be the default choice for parents. The syllabus and environment must be revamped to reflect Malaysia’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural identity, and Pupil’s Own Language such as Mandarin, Tamil, Iban and Kadazan must be effectively taught within regular school hours. The national education system must be accessible and affordable to all Malaysians regardless of background.

    At the same time, I also believe that parents must have the freedom to choose the type of school which their children attend. I do not believe in a ‘one size fits all’ education system. There must be room for alternative schools such as schools which teach mainly in English or other languages; which blend religious values with academic achievements; or which offer unique teaching or learning methods for special students. I believe that all schools which receive government funding must be open to all students regardless of race, religion and social background.

    Our current education system is highly centralized which has caused our schools to be unnecessarily inflexible and rigid. I believe that decentralizing our education system by giving more power to the states and local authorities and the schools themselves, including school administrators and teachers would result in a system that is more accountable, that takes into account state and local education needs and that allows for more creative teaching methods and approaches to be implemented.

    I believe the ultimate purpose of education is to develop productive, civic-minded Malaysian citizens. In this respect, I believe that scholarships must be based on ability and need.  We must also recognise that not everyone is suited for the traditional academic stream, but everyone has different skills and interests. We must restore the dignity of skills-based professions. Vocational training must not be associated with poor wages and bad job conditions. In high-wage Germany, about half of all high-school students go on to train in a trade. We must redirect good educators and enlist the private sector to reform technical and vocational education. Schools should also be allowed to offer specialized programs in the arts, music, sports and other niche areas.

    How can these educational objectives be achieved? Firstly, by using our vast education budget much more effectively. The Education Ministry receives the largest share of the federal budget – RM38.7b or 15.5% of the 2013 budget. Cutting down on wastage and leakages will free up funds to improve infrastructure, compensate teachers better and develop good students. The stature of teachers need to be elevated so that high-calibre Malaysians will consider it as a rewarding and difference-making career with fair compensation and attractive career development pathways. Responsibilities need to be decentralized such as the funding of schools and syllabus-setting should be delegated to the state or even the local levels.

    We can only reform the education system by having the necessary political will and courage to undertake bold and far reaching reforms.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Election Strategist, Democratic Action Party
    Parliamentary Candidate for P102 Serdang
    Thursday, 18 April 2013

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