DAP calls for a national consensus to make Quality Education for
primary, secondary, tertiary, mother-tongue and ICT the top national
objective and the driving force for far-reaching fundamental educational
- DAP forum on "The Second Mahathir Education Review Committee - Future
by Lim Kit Siang
(Kuala Lumpur, Saturday):
Almost every day, Malaysians read of education malpractices and even scams
in the country. Just in today's press we read of the following items:
Eight colleges ordered shut by the Education Ministry's private
education department headed by Datuk Hassan Hashim, the ministry's deputy
director-general (private education) - four private higher educational
institutions, two distance learning centres, one tuition centre and one
Expose by the National Union of the Teaching Profession, Datuk
N. Siva Subramaniam of a scam by private companies to force students to
attend seminars and courses on learning Mathematics and Science in English
to perform well in examinations - supported by the Negri Sembilan State
Education Department which showed that the department did not have
confidence in its own education system.
A component party of Barisan Nasional, People's Progress Party,
violating the laws of the country in organizing ground-breaking ceremony for
a PPP University in Tronoh, Perak which had never been approved by the
Education Ministry and the Education Minister knew nothing about.
These news items must have reminded Malaysians of the arrest of
a supposedly titled con-man who offered Italian university honorary
doctorates, together with a convocation ceremony presided over by the "King
of Italy", to businessmen and even Datuks for at least RM20,000 each -
presenting a disturbing picture of the educational sector in Malaysia having
become a fertile ground for con men, frauds and cheats to swindle the
DAP fully supports the proper control and monitoring of private educational
institutions to ensure that they are centres of excellence and that the
students are not victims of unscrupulous and unprincipled con-men in the
I was quite drawn to the account by Hassan as to the circumstances leading
to the closure of the tuition centre, the first ever to be closed.
Hassan said he stumbled upon Pusat Akademik Ilmiah by chance as he was
looking for a tuition centre located near his home for his children.
He said: "There are so many tuition centres nowadays especially after the
implementation of the new policy requiring Science and Mathematics to be
taught in English, but many are not registered. One even had the gall to
open in front of my house, and when I checked, it had not been registered."
What shocked me was not the closure of the unregistered tuition centre, but
that a top Education Ministry officer (in fact, one of the top ten) should
be looking for a tuition centre for his children, showing that even top
Education Ministry officials do not have confidence in the education system
as capable of imparting quality education.
A hallmark of a primary and secondary school system characterized with
quality education is one where students learned what is required of their
syllabus within the confines of space and time of the school, without having
to seek tuition outside the school and after school hours to learn what they
are supposed to have learnt in school!
The mushrooming of tuition centres - Hassan says there are currently 1,190
registered tuition centres with 122,766 students and 4,271 teachers but
tuition centres not registered are more than the registered ones - is the
most powerful proof of the utter failure of the national school system to
provide quality education. If there is quality education in our schools,
both primary and secondary, there would be no need for students to go to
tuition centres after school hours to learn what they are supposed to have
been taught in school in the first place.
I am not suggesting the immediate closure of all tuition centres as it will
be an educational disaster of the first magnitude. There should however be a
recognition that the mushrooming of tuition centres is a reflection of the
basic failure of the national school system and the need for far-reaching
fundamental education reforms to provide quality education in our school
system which would make the existence of tuition centres for the same school
For this reason, DAP calls for a national consensus from all political
parties and the entire cross-section of the people to make quality education
for primary, secondary, tertiary, mother-tongue and ICT the top national
educational objective and the driving force for far-reaching fundamental
educational reforms in Malaysia.
DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, suggested
just now that Malaysia should aim to have 35 internationally-recognised
This will be a good national goal, but I have two observations. Firstly, it
is impossible to have quality education at the tertiary level unless there
is quality education at the primary and secondary schools, as they lay the
foundation of a generation's educational prowess and greatness. Secondly,
Malaysia does not presently have an university which is internationally
recognised for its academic excellence.
Previously, the country had one, as the University of Malaya in the sixties
was undoubtedly an university of international repute and standing. However,
in the Asiaweek's 2000 ranking of Best Universities in the region,
University of Malaya was ranked a lowly 47th position out of 77
universities, with Universiti Putra Malaysia in 52nd and Universiti Sains
Malaysia in 57th position.
Asiaweek in 2000 also had a separate ranking for "Science and Technology
Schools" where Malaysia's sole mention, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, was
ranked 30th out of 39th universities/institutes, while in the Asiaweek 2000
ranking of the Best MBA Schools in the region, Malaysia's top MBA school,
the Faculty of Business and Accountancy in the University of Malaya was
ranked a lowly 32rd place among the top 50 MBA schools.
In 2001, the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC)
conducted a survey of foreign business executives working in the region on
the best education system in Asia and the highest quality labour force.
Malaysia came out poorly, ranked seventh out of 12 countries when we should
be among the top three, which went to Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
Malaysia's higher education system needs to undergo not just a reform, but a
revolution. We must transform, not just in words but in deed, Malaysia into
an international centre of education excellence with two objectives:
Firstly, to equip the young generation of Malaysians to face
the challenges of globalization, liberalization and information and
communications technology in the 21st century; and
Secondly, to be a magnet for the two million international
students pursuing higher education abroad, nearly half of them from Asia,
which has been described as "only the tip of the iceberg" as the demand for
higher education will grow by leaps and bounds in the next one to two
decades with East Asia's combined GDP set to surpass that of the US and the
European Union around 2020. Malaysia should aim to secure at least five to
ten per cent of these international students to come to our universities,
which should not be too difficult if our universities are of international
repute, with Malaysia's best among the top ten universities in the
Asia-Pacific region, as the cost of living in Malaysia are very much cheaper
and lower than those in the West.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National