Summary of the speech
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice-Chairman and MP for Kepong
during the debate on the Supplementary Supply Bill in Parliament
We urge the Malaysian Education Ministry to appoint people with experience in the private sector to be members of its supervisory bodies such as the Pre-school Unit and the Private Education Department. We need effective and reasonable monitoring of private kindergartens and universities
Today, the Government asks us to approve RM3.7742 billion that have been used to implement various projects. It has used RM3.4 billion for projects to build pre-school classes, primary and secondary schools. It has spent RM100 million to erect over 1,000 kindergarten classes.
Developed countries have 4-year-olds in kindergartens. Many Malaysian children do not attend kindergartens. Hence, building more pre-school classes is correct. But, this year's national budget allocates RM37.75 million to maintain 1,131 pre-school classes for about 28,275 pupils who have no chance to go to public or private kindergartens. The development expenditure is RM30 million, the total allocation being RM67.75 million. How is it that the supplementary expenditure is RM100 million, nearly double the budget allocation?
Two days ago, the National Curriculum Development Centre says that all kindergartens have to abide by the 1996 Education Act. They must follow the national curriculum for pre-schools. For English, Mandarin or English medium kindergartens, at least two hours a week are for learning Bahasa Malaysia. For the Malay kindergartens, there should be suitable arrangements for English.
There are tens of thousands of private and public kindergartens in the country. Has the Pre-school Unit in the ministry capacity to deal with them? Has it enough staff members? We believe that it has not, let alone people with experience in pre-school classes. The Pre-school Unit should improve its monitoring mechanism, including the appointment of those who have had experience with the private sector, so that it can be effective and fair in the supervision of all kindergartens.
Similarly, the National Accreditation Board, NAB, and other supervisory bodies should have experts who are conversant with private colleges and universities. This is because government officers have a special way of looking at things, making them good at being civil servants. On the other hand, they may look at private colleges and universities with tinted glasses.
Owing to various factors, the Malaysian Government has lumped together the motley group of private institutes of higher learning, IHLs. They vary from secretarial colleges to good universities. If a private IHL has a good course, twining with a foreign university, the NAB should not interfere with it. If NAB does not understand the details of the course, it should try to find out. NAB should also look at things from the viewpoint of the private sector. This is a step to make Malaysia a centre of excellence for education.
Besides categorizing the over 600 private IHLs, the Government must update its capacity to ensure quality of education. In this region, Malaysia is relatively early in setting up private IHLs. Some are over 20 years. The history in Singapore is not as long, perhaps not more than five years. Yet, Singapore seizes the opportunity.
A small number of Malaysian private IHLs are bent on tarnishing our image. For example, Kolej Yayasan Mara is said to have signed a contract with Nanjing University, China, bringing Chinese students to Malaysia. Alas, when there was a change in the management, the college did not honour the agreement. This damages Malaysian image. Likewise, a few colleges cry up wine and sell vinegar. What a cheek.
Last year, the Government spent RM7.3 billion to stimulate the economy, building 100 schools. Hitherto, we don't know how many schools it has erected. Apart from asking for the approval of RM100 million to create kindergartens, the Supplementary Supply Bill contains RM855 milion and RM828.5 million for primary and secondary schools respectively.
We have to look out for planning, stimulation package, tender and implementation to make sure that we are getting value for money.