Malaysiakini Letter

Education minister and his deputy need to prioritise important issues

Aaron Denison  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | It has been more than 100 days since Malaysia voted for a new government for the first time in 61 years in the historic May 9 general election.

Malaysians had high hopes in the new government and believed that it would bring change in critical areas of the country but it has been rather disappointing especially in the education sector.

Education Minister Maszlee Malik, who was thought to be someone who could bring change as an academician, has definitely not delivered.

First, there was the issue of heavy school bags, which did have constructive solutions or outcome besides an adorable info-graphic that even a kindergarten kid could come up with.

Second was the issue of changing the colour of school shoes from white to black with effect from the 2019 school session.

Did the minister and the team sit down to think about this decision?

Personally for me is that, the white shoes worn by both primary and secondary school students builds discipline and promotes responsibility as it allows them to be accountable if their shoes get dirty.

For example, if a student doesn’t want to wash their shoes every weekend hence they have to be make sure to keep in clean during the schooling days or wash them when they are dirty because it is their responsibility as a student to do so.

As a primary school student, I had fun washing my shoes on a Saturday and listening to my mum reminding to chalk the shoes on a Sunday night. These are all pleasant memories that might not be felt by students anymore. We can’t keep pampering our kids anymore.

At the higher education level, the minister decided to freeze the MyBrain scholarship programme without notice on when it will be resumed. This is because many that I know including myself are looking to further our studies and financially it is tough hence these scholarship are the only way out for those who would like to pursue their studies locally.

Besides that, many student activists till today are awaiting for a meeting with the minister pertaining the The Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA).

Activists, youth groups and former students have been working hard to repeal the act for decades and the minister came up with a statement saying that it may take five years to repeal the act, once again without any constructive arguments or points.

Furthermore, the minister went up a notch when he was elected (or he elected himself) as the President of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

This is a direct breach of promise as there was not supposed to have any sort of political inference in higher education institutions.

Maszlee may be a credible candidate for the position but he is no longer an academician but a politician now.

In a bid to keep to his promise, Maszlee should step down as the IIUM president with immediate effect and elect someone non-political aide to be the president.

A lot of work needs to be done in the education sector and the minister should not just focus on petty issues such as heavy school bags or the colour of school shoes.

There are many more problems facing schools, students as well as teachers that need to be looked at immediately.

For the higher education level, the minister should be focused on meeting up with student groups over issues and revive scholarship opportunities for those planning to pursue their studies locally at a higher level.

More importantly also the Education minister and his deputy Teo Nie Ching need to work hand in hand to resolve issues because at the moment, it seems that both of them are working towards different directions without complementing each other or discussing their priorities.

The writer is a research assistant and PhD candidate at Universiti Malaya.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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