Is the RM200 million primary school tuition voucher scheme a temporary remedial measure until the education system delivers quality education to all – or is the Malaysian government pioneering an unique “parallel” education system with tuition vouchers becoming an annual billion-ringgit scheme for public primary, secondary and tertiary education system?
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Friday): On the basis of equity, nobody can object to the RM200 million tuition voucher scheme announced by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Tuesday for 500,000 Year Four, Five and Six primary school pupils from poor families to obtain extra lessons in Mathematics, Science, English and Bahasa Malaysia.
However, educationists and thinking Malaysians are entitlted to ask, and to expect answer, as to whether the initial RM200 million primary school tuition voucher scheme is a temporary remedial measure until the education system delivers quality education to all – or is the Malaysian government pioneering an unique “parallel” education system with tuition vouchers becoming an annual billion-ringgit scheme for the entire public primary, secondary and tertiary education system, including MBAs and doctorate qualifications?
This is why the Chairman of the Sukaham Education Working Group Prof Dr. Chiam Heng Keng was cautious in her welcome of the tuition voucher scheme to help poor students, stressing that it would be better to help students by identifying their problems and giving remedial classes during school hours. (Star 1.1.04)
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Social Linguistic and International Communication professor Saran Kaur Gill and Universiti Malaya’s Professor Emeritus of Malaysian History Datuk Dr. Khoo Kay Kim spoke for many when the former said that more teachers should be motivated to provide the best education in school to prevent them from going to extra tutorial classes while the latter pointed out that in the past the need for tuition classes did not arise and instead of the tuition scheme, the money should be channeled to training teachers on the right way of teaching. (NST 31.12.03)
The RM200 million tuition voucher scheme for Std. Four, Five and Six primary school pupils is undoubtedly an admission of the failure of the national education system to provide quality education for all, and bears the mark of an ad hoc solution instead of dealing with its root and systemic faults – just like trying to “cure the head for headache, and heal the foot for foot pain”.
The need for the RM200 million tuition voucher scheme for 500,000 Primary Four, Five and Six pupils – with some schools probably involving more than 50 per cent of the pupils in a class - must be seen as a major failure of the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, who came into politics and the Education Ministry from academia four years ago purportedly to ensure that the national education system could provide quality education for all, regardless of urban or rural areas, whether, primary, secondary or tertiary.
Before the government makes a decision on the RM200 million tuition voucher system to help 500,000 Primary Four, Five and Six pupils, many studies, reports and papers would have been prepared and considered. Musa should make public all these studies, reports and papers so that Malaysians can take a full part in a national debate about the tuition voucher scheme, in particular on whether it should be a temporary remedial measure, and if so, for how many years, or whether it should be institutionalized into a “parallel” government education system, mushrooming into an annual billion-ringgit scheme to provide tuition vouchers for the entire education system from Primary One to the tertiary level.
Musa should also make public all papers and reports on how to ensure that the RM200 million tuition voucher scheme would not be abused or misused, or again fail to meet its objective. How, for instance, can the RM200 million tuition voucher scheme succeed when the tens of billions of ringgit spent by the Education Ministry in each five-year development plan cannot deliver quality education for all?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman