Cabinet tomorrow should seriously consider a second Royal Commission for an education revolution in Malaysia to achieve world-class status as provider of quality education for primary, secondary, tertiary, mother-tongue and ICT education
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Tuesday): The Cabinet tomorrow should seriously consider whether the time has come for a second Royal Commission for an education revolution in Malaysia to achieve world-class status as provider of quality education for primary, secondary, tertiary, mother-tongue and ICT education to face the challenges of globalization in the modern world.
Two weeks ago, at a dialogue with the National Economic Action Council (NEAC), the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi posed the question: “Is the younger generation passing through our national education system adequately equipped to thrive in an increasingly global and competitive environment?”
As answer, Abdullah said Malaysia needed “nothing less than an education revolution to ensure that our aspirations to instill a new performance culture in the public and private sectors are not crippled by our inability to nurture a new kind of human capital that is equal to the tasks and challenges ahead.”
Malaysians who had hoped that Abdullah’s NEAC statement would be followed by the necessary policy measures to pave the way for an “education revolution” were disappointed, especially by the Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad’s statement the next day that Abdullah had not really meant any “education revolution” as it was “more of a reminder to the Education Ministry to continue its present efforts to improve the education system”.
Musa even tried to explain away Abdullah’s call for an “education revolution” by claiming that the national education system had been in the throes of an “education revolution” not only in the past four years after the 1999 general election, but for the past decade, when the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was Education Minister from 1995-1999.
Musa had done Abdullah a great disservice in trying to render the Prime Minister’s call for an “education revolution” meaningless by claiming that the country was already in the thick of an “education revolution” – which nobody is aware apart from the Education Minister himself!
I had glad that in the past fortnight, other voices had spoken out who clearly do not agree with Musa’s dismissal of Abdullah’s call for an “education revolution” as a mere “reminder” to the Education Ministry to “continue its present efforts to improve the education system”.
The New Straits Times, for instance, in its “Saturday Forum” on 17th January 2004 carried as its major item the article entitled “Time for a second education revolution”, by IKIM fellow Shaikh Mohd Saifuddeen, supporting Abdullah’s call for a second education revolution (after the first “education revolution” under Tun Abdul Razak) to “overhaul and revolutionise the education system”.
In the New Sunday Times two days ago, the Vice Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia Prof Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, referred to Abdullah’s call for an “education revolution” in the context of a process which has still to be undertaken rather than a process which is underway as contended by Musa – although Dzulkifli was writing in support of more “apolitical appointments” into the Cabinet.
Abdullah should clarify after the Cabinet meeting tomorrow what he meant when he spoke about the need for an “education revolution” at the NEAC dialogue a fortnight ago.
The Cabinet should seriously consider setting up a second Royal Commission on quality education for primary, secondary, tertiary, mother-tongue and ICT to make it the top national objective to face the 21st century challenges of globalization – as Malaysia is facing the crisis of quality of education at all levels in the country.
Malaysia has failed to establish itself as an international centre of educational excellence with universities and tertiary institutions recognized globally for their academic attainments - a provider of quality education not only for Malaysians but for international students to further their education in the country.
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.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman