Friday, 25 June 2010

The Failure of Education in Malaysia

Went I talk to most people in Malaysia, their number one priority has always been educating their children.

The proliferation of private education in Malaysia especially post secondary school education is indicative of the utter failure of the state in provisioning tertiary education to young Malaysians. They thrive in the absence of competition and to fulfil a need of aspirant parents and their young.

The basic responsibility of a modern state would be to provide basic infrastructure (roads, access to water and electricity (not for free of course)) and education yet it's strange that no one has clocked that the growth of private tertiary education in Malaysia is a vilification of the state of state-sponsored tertiary education.

Compare the number of private institutions and universities with those of the state. Private tertiary institutions exist because :-

(i) The state has not provisioned (built universities, colleges and expanded the number of lecturers/teachers) or accommodate the increase in the population (this is not difficult to do since the govt has all the statistics to expect this outcome, it simply has not bothered to provide for an expanding population).

(ii) There is a lack of choice of what one is able to study and private institutions cater for the increasing desire for different occupations and aspirations.

Post secondary-school education for most people is costly affair. It can cost a few thousand ringgit in fees alone per year (private university fees are around 4,000 to 7,000 per semester). Living cost would mean another few thousand. This leaves out a large proportion of the population out of tertiary education. Only those earning a substantial income can afford to educate their children. (I am talking about those millions of Malaysians who can't even afford to buy a car, all those who ride in motorcycles etc) .

Education hopefully leads to employment (another issue really since it has been said that local graduates are not favoured by multi-nationals, an issue that is going for some years but no steps have taken to rectify). Without a route out of poverty for their kids, families below a certain level of income (and that is the majority of the population) in Malaysia will stay in a cycle of poverty and this is unfortunately already the case.

And now of course the phasing out of the PSD scholarships. Frankly the tertiary level education in Malaysia is not up to par. Just look at the university rankings in Asia .

How many of our political leaders are educated overseas? and as far as I know all of them send their children overseas to be educated. Isn't this a damming indictment of our education system when for example all our ministers of education have sent their children overseas to be educated ( I believe this to be accurate). And yet these same ministers say that PSD scholarships should be phased out?? What hypocrisy!

No one seems to be looking at the problem, that the quality and quantity of the state provisioned tertiary institutions needs to be drastically increased as the only affordable avenue for many Malaysians to educate their children beyond secondary school level.

Every year you hear of so many people not being given places for courses of their choice even though they make the grades. This has been going on for the last 25 years at least. Why then has the number of places offered not keep pace with the demand for them? After 5 years you should be able to figure out that you need more places. After 25 years, well, a lot of people whose responsibility it is should be sacked, but of course there is no accountability for such things. No minister has ever been sacked in Malaysia.

So as I look around me, I am glad that there are so many choices for young Malaysians in terms of courses and options but my heart weighs heavily that the cost of these is still out of reach of many Malaysian families and that the state has seemingly subcontracted out its duty to provide tertiary level education for its citizens with the attendant high cost.

I am not a fan of the state but this is one of the basic duties of the modern nation state.

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