(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced last Thursday that students in local universities and selected private institutions can apply for study loans from the National Higher Education Fund, which is starting with an initial sum of RM100 million, to assist students pursuing higher education.
Najib said for the time being, the loans will only be granted to those studying in the country’s 11 public institutions of higher learning and three selected private institutions namely University Telekom, University Petronas and University Tenaga Nasional. For private institutions, only bumiputra students can apply.
During the debate in Parliament last week on the Inland Revenue Board Amendment Bill, which allowed the Inland Revenue Board to be the collection agent for the repayment of the National Higher Education Fund loans, I had called on the government to open up the Fund to all Malaysian students who need financial assistance to pursue higher studies, regardless of race.
The limitation of the loans to bumiputra students goes against the principle of the Vision 2020 to create a Bangsa Malaysia and I call on the Cabinet to take a policy decision to set a national example of Malaysianisation by opening up the National Higher Education Fund to all needy Malaysian students, regardless of race. Parliament will give full support to any increase of allocations to the Fund to achieve the two principles in education - democratisation to ensure that higher educational opportunities are not denied because of socio-economic deprivationl and Malaysianisation in keeping with the Vision 2020 objective of wanting to create a Bangsa Malaysia.
Although the Fund is limited to local institutions of higher learning, the government should make an exception for the first few years so as to extend it to Malaysian students in universities and colleges overseas who face hardships as a result of the five-month-long economic crisis, which has resulted in a hefty 56% depreciation of the Malaysian ringgit.