Musa should immediately make public the new national education blueprint 2001-2010 for quality education for all levels of schooling which had been approved by Cabinet on June 20 without any public consultation whatsoever to subject it to public scrutiny and debate

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): The Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, his deputy ministers and parliamentary secretary had always been very quick and prompt to respond to all sorts of allegations about the so-called “underground undergraduate militant movement” in the universities but  they have all kept a very low profile and strange silence on  the damaging finding that Malaysia ranked a lowly seventh place  out of 12 nations in the latest Asian survey on the quality of the national education systems in the continent.

Malaysia should be among  the top three nations with the best quality education system, as we boast of our  Twin Towers and other world’s “biggest, longest and tallest”  achievements  in the Guinness Book of Records apart from our Multimedia Super Corridor ambition to catapult the nation into the ranks of the IT super-powers, but the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) survey of foreign business executives working in the region on the best education system in Asia and the highest quality labour force did not rate Malaysia highly.

Japan, Singapore and South Korea topped the rankings in Asia. China and India were not high on the list, but because of their huge population they have a large pool of highly-skilled labour army in niche industries and had the potential to be formidable competitors in the future.

In a scale of zero to 10 with zero being the best grade possible, South Korea emerged top with an average rating of 3.09, trailed closely by Singapore with 3.19. In the third place was Japan with a grade of 3.50, while Taiwan came in fourth with 3.96. India was fifth with a grade of 4.24, followed by China with 4.27. Malaysia was seventh with 4.41, followed by  Hong Kong with 4.72,  Philippines with  5.47,  Thailand with 5.96, Vietnam with 6.21, and Indonesia at 12th place was bottom with a score of 6.56.

It is a national tragedy, and symptomatic of the acute crisis of the education system in Malaysia, that the Education Minister and his lieutenants take the unverified allegations of the so-called “underground undergraduate militant movement” more seriously than the PERC finding of the lowly ranking of the quality of Malaysia’s education system in Asia, although it is the latter which would have far reaching implications for the country’s competitiveness and its attractiveness as centre for foreign direct investment.

On 20th June, the Cabinet approved the new national education blueprint “for the first decade of the new millennium, designed to provide quality education for all levels of the country’s schooling system”.

However, apart from the  perfunctory announcement by Musa at the end of June about the Cabinet’s approval, Malaysians are completely in the dark about the new national education blueprint 2001-2010 to attain quality for  all levels of Malaysia’s education system.

In fact, Malaysians had been totally unaware of  the government plan to formulate a national education quality  blueprint 2001-2010, who were the people responsible for drawing up this blueprint, when work started and ended, resulting in no public input whatsoever in the important process to draft a new blueprint for a quality national education system.

This must be the  most extraordinary national blueprint ever embarked upon by the  government  in the nation’s 44-year history, as the country was not only unaware of its existence but  two-and-a-half months after the Cabinet approval, the whole country still knows nothing about it, let alone its details.   Even Parliament, which met last month, was not told anything of this new exciting national education blueprint for quality education at all levels of schooling in the first decade of the new millennium!

Musa Mohamad should take the latest PERC survey seriously, and regard the low ranking of the Malaysian education system in Asia as a national disgrace and  personal affront. He should mobilise and challenge  the Education Ministry to work out an immediate response and strategy to place Malaysia in the top three quality national education systems in Asia.

For a start, Musa should immediately make public the new national education blueprint 2001-2010 for quality education for all levels of schooling which had been approved by Cabinet on June 20 without any public consultation whatsoever to subject it  to public scrutiny and debate.

If Malaysia is not to further lag behind other Asian countries, whether in our national competitiveness or the quality of our education system, the Cabinet  meeting tomorrow should send out a clear signal that the government is fully aware of the acute educational crisis facing the country hampering national efforts to meet the twin challenges of  globalisation and information and communications technology;   that  in the new knowledge economy, human capital is more important than physical capital and that the quality of knowledge generated within our  higher education institutions is  becoming increasingly critical to our national competitiveness.

*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman