Malaysiakini Letter

PTPTN - why is no one blaming the money-making private institutions?

S Arutchelvan
Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | In the last one week, the whole debate on the PTPTN loans only focuses on two issues. One blames the Pakatan Harapan government in trying to impose the travel ban which Harapan had previously said it will do away with while the second blames students who are not paying back the loans.

But some serious questions are being omitted from this debate and that is who makes the most profit out of the PTPTN? Why is it that before 1997, students in Malaysia did not have this problem?

The answer is simple. This is part of Malaysia's move towards the neo-liberal education system and to facilitate this, the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act was established in 1996 which provided the legal and regulatory framework for the privatisation of higher education in Malaysia.

Education became liberalised and foreign colleges mushroomed as education became just another commodity to make money. Therefore, many students enrolled and they needed to be funded. So PTPTN was the answer.

There are three issues here:

1. Why is that private university education costs three times higher than public universities?

2. Who own these private colleges and universities?

3. Who ends up paying?

Just last month, we saw students from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia protesting after their fees were increased from RM945 to RM5,000; an increase of 529 percent. The difference between private and public higher education costs is too high to be true. Private colleges/universities charge between RM50,000 to RM270,000 for a degree while public universities charge only RM5,000 to RM10,000 for the same programme.

The government, on the other hand, has slowly stopped expanding public education while allowing for the mushrooming of private higher education. This will only result in education costs going up because private institutions' main motivation is profit and not education.

Most of these private colleges are owned by cronies to the ruling parties, royalty as well as GLCs. Now, these people are mostly close associates of the government. They charge high fees. They make the students borrow from PTPTN and they make their money. 

In those days, the GLCs used to give scholarships but nowadays they do not as most have ventured into private education where they charge like any other private institution. Some of the GLCs into the education business are Petronas, Tenaga Nasional and Telekom Malaysia.

At the end of the day, the government needs to either force students to pay or bailout PTPTN borrowers using public funds.

Therefore, now looking back on the PTPTN – whose purpose does it serve? It has made the education standards lower by bringing down the passing grade to accommodate more students. It has gone into getting students data and have coerced them into getting loans. 

Many schemes have been established to facilitate this. This is the business of education. And we end up arguing and fighting as if paying back loans is a moral and sacred duty when millions are siphoned off by huge corporations in the name of education.

The writer is a PSM Central Committee member.

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

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