DAP applauds Abdullah’s proposal to make computer literacy a core subject for primary and secondary schools and supports specific amendment of the  Education Act 1996 in September Parliament to bring it into force early next year

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Tuesday): DAP applauds the call by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his keynote address at the two-day Malaysian e-Government 2002 Conference yesterday for computer studies to be taught in schools as a core subject to give the younger generation a head start in embracing new technology.

DAP is in full agreement with Abdullah  that IT education must begin at an early age and that information technology  should no longer be considered an elective subject in our school curriculum but should be introduced as an essential subject.

To ensure that the government is serious in wanting to lay  the foundations for a competent information technology society in Malaysia for  future generations, DAP calls on Abdullah to provide personal leadership in government and Cabinet to ensure that the 1996 Education Act is amended in the September Parliament to make computer literacy core subjects for primary and secondary schools so that it could be brought into force early next year.

There is no time to lose as Malaysia has already lost some 30 Internet years to create a solid foundation for a competent digital society.

One of my greatest regrets in my years in Parliament is that the DAP proposal to amend the 1995 Education Bill to classify computer literacy as core subjects for primary and secondary school curriculum so that Malaysia will be in the forefront of information and communications technology was defeated in the Second Reading committee stage in December 1995, as there was no support from any  Barisan Nasional MP or the Education Minister at the time, Datuk Najib Tun Razak.

I think Najib owes an apology to the nation for lacking the foresight and the vision to accept and support the DAP amendment to the Education Bill 1995, which I had formally moved during the Committee Stage, or we would not have lost some 30 Internet years to build a solid foundation for a competent IT society – as a human year is equated to about five Internet years.

Abdullah said his proposal to make IT as a compulsory subject was his personal one and not a policy as it has not been discussed at Cabinet level.  Abdullah should adopt the translation of his proposal into immediate policy and  action as his personal mission.

This omission has highlighted the grave inadequacies of the 10-year Education Development Blueprint (2001-2010) announced by the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad last October.

Although Musa had said that  he was seeking a national  consensus among the Malaysian public and the educationists on the 10-year Education Development Blueprint, there had been  minimal public debate or discussion of the draft blueprint, with no mechanism whatsoever to get public feedback or achieve a national consensus – and the 10-year Education  Development Blueprint was never tabled or debated in Parliament in the past 10 months!

This is why the  DAP Central Executive Committee has taken a policy decision to draft  a 10-year Education Master Plan (2003-2013) for a world-class education system for Malaysia  to face the challenges of globalisation, liberalization and information and communications technology.  

DAP calls on all  political leaders, whether in government or opposition, to lead and guide the nation to address the critical educational issues like raising the Malaysian enrolment in higher education (as a proportion of the number of people at the ages most relevant to higher education), ensuring world-class quality for our higher education system and the emphasis to produce a critical mass of scientific and technical manpower to power Malaysia into a hi-tech future rather than focusing on irrelevant though highly popular political issues like quotas.

In the era of globalisation and ICT,  where human capital is paramount in determining the prosperity and future of societies and nations, Malaysia’s place in the international economy will be decided not by the  competition between bumiputras and non-bumiputras but by Malaysia’s ability to compete with the rest the world and this is why education and in particular higher education must not  be seen as a zero sum game as to which race wins but a win-win game for all Malaysians regardless of race and the nation to win together.  

The DAP has formed a committee to draft a 10-year Education Master Plan (2003-2013) for a world-class education system for Malaysia and this committee  will hold its first meeting next Monday to decide on its work and time-frame.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman