(Kuala Lumpur, Thursday): On
13th October 2001, the Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad
unveiled the 10-year Education Development Blueprint (2001-2010)
which has been described as “revolutionary”, proposing sweeping changes to the 45-year Malaysian education
system, such as:
Two days after announcing that he expected the
10-year Education Development Blueprint to be implemented by 2005, he declared
that the proposed P-12 system may
be implemented as early as 2003, without giving any explanation as to why he had
accelerated the time-frame for the implementation of the just-announced
Education Development Blueprint by two years within two days!
When unveiling the Education Development
Blueprint, Musa said the final “green light” for the education masterplan
would depend on the consensus among the Malaysian public and the educationists.
But the 10-year Education Development Blueprint
was only a “seven-day wonder”, virtually disappearing from public consciousness after a week
of media attention and nothing has been heard about it in the past seven months
with no mechanism put in place to
get public feedback or to achieve a national consensus on the
“revolutionary” changes proposed in the 10-year education masterplan.
DAP MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, has just
confirmed that the 10-year Education Development Blueprint was never tabled in
Parliament and there had been no debate on its “revolutionary” proposals to
the 45-year education system.
Malaysian parents and students are
understandably wary of the recent history of
numerous experiments and “playing around” with the
education system whenever there is a
new Education Minister, using the school children as guinea pigs for
ill-thought-out and poorly-planned
changes, many of which had to be abandoned in ignominy.
After the 1999 general election, the Prime
Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad took the unprecedented step to appoint
a non-politician as Education Minister to depoliticise education and to give it
more professional leadership.
However, in the 30 months that Musa had been
Education Minister, there have been even more politics in education and
less professionalism, as illustrated by the long list of educational
crisis and scandals which had
erupted in this period, whether last year over the 500 SPM top-scorers denied
places in universities; the 7,168
unfilled university places for bumiputra science students which were suddenly
and mysteriously filled with an excess of bumiputra students after a nation-wide
uproar; campus “subversion”,
“jihad” and the series of unresolved campus fires resulting in university
lecturers and students requiring to execute the “Aku Janji” pledge; the
controversies over the restoration of Damansara Chinese primary school and Vision schools; racial
segregation in schools; chronic school indiscipline, etc – or this year’s
incomplete calender of
educational crisis and scandals, such as the 44,000 unemployed and
unemployable graduates, most of whom Malays and other bumiputras; the continued
decline in the standard of English and most recently, the unfair
and unprofessional meritocracy system for
university admissions by STPM and matriculation students.
Malaysians do not want a 10-year Education
Development Blueprint so that it
could be said that Musa Mohamad had left a most indelible mark in the history of
education in the country, but because it can offer improvements to ensure that
the Malaysian education system can deliver its
two most important objectives: firstly, to build a world class education
system to enable Malaysia face the
challenges of globalisation and information and communications technology and
secondly, to create a united Malaysian nation.
In justifying the P-12 school system proposed
under the Education Development Blueprint, Musa said that the present system of
13 years is no longer practised in other countries, quoting Singapore which has
a 3+3+4+2 system, i.e. three years of lower primary followed by three years of
upper primary, four years of secondary and two years of matriculation.
Musa said there had been suggestions that
Malaysia adopt the Singapore system. What is astounding is that the Malaysian policy-makers and
planners in the Ministry of Education and government
appear to have recently discovered that Singapore has a 12-year school system
– when in fact, Singapore had been having such a system for the past five
Recently, Musa chalked up a “distinction” as
Education Minister when Parliament
passed the Bill to make primary
education compulsory. Musa said
compulsory education is not a new concept but one that has been implemented
successfully in countries like
France, Germany, Britain and Singapore.
would disagree with making primary education compulsory especially as it
is not a major problem in Malaysia
with only about three per cent of schoolgoing children in the country who do not
attend primary school.
There are however
critical educational areas where Malaysia lag behind other developed
countries which should be the top priority
of a progressive Education Minister – and one such area is the low rate of
school leavers, aged 17 to 22, who are able to enter higher education
institutes. With only 22% of
such school-leavers currently in
tertiary institutions, Malaysia is far behind developed countries such as the
United States (90%), Britain (60%) and Australia (60%).
Such comparison is even more pathetic at the
degree level, as only 5% of Malaysians aged 18 to 21 years enter degree level
education, compared to 41% in the US and 39% in the UK.
For higher degrees, the disparity is wider.
As almost 50% of post-SPM students at present
cannot secure places in higher education institutes, it is definitely a greater
national priority to ensure that by 2010, 50% of the school-leavers can have
opportunities of tertiary education than to introduce compulsory primary
education by next year involving 3% of schoolgoing children who do not attend
primary school. But Musa is not yet prepared to adopt the target of achieving 50% of
school-leavers in tertiary education by 2010!
Many educational reforms to ensure that Malaysia
build a world class education system have not been given the serious attention
they deserve because of the lack of political will, as education is
strewn with political land mines.
For this reason, DAP calls for a high-powered
all-party committee to reach a national consensus on the 10-year Education
Development Blueprint (2001-2010) to build a world-class education system and
promote national unity and to come out with a report within a year.
In the era of globalisation and ICT,
where human capital is paramount in determining the prosperity and future
of societies and nations, Malaysia’s place in the international economy will
be decided not by the competition
between bumiputras and non-bumiputra but by Malaysia’s ability to compete with
the rest the world and this is why education and in particular higher education
must not be seen as a zero sum game
as to which race wins but a win-win game for all Malaysians regardless of race
and the nation to win together.