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

- DAP Education Forum “Education: English, Universities and National Integration” 
by Lim Kit Siang

(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 decades!  

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.  

No Malaysian  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.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman