Malaysia: Take Education Reform seriously

For Malaysia’s sake, the Najib Administration must fix the education system as a matter of top priority. If the Minister of Education who is also the Deputy Prime Minister cannot do it except to think that our education is still world-class, he should hand over his education portfolio to someone else with the political will, vision and passion for reforming the way we develop our human capital in the race to meet the challenges of a digitized and globalized world. We are laggards in this race.

We must not turn a blind eye to the OECD education report. Certainly, we need to worry about out ranking. And The Star should not be polite with our Ministry of Education by suggesting that we should… “not get hung up on these rankings.” Why shouldn't we as taxpayers not care? We must be concerned because other developing countries are entering the race to educate their young people and we must never think that we are doing well.

Cambodia and Rwanda, nations which experienced genocide, are working hard to rebuild their education system so that they can integrate with the world. Their leaders (Hun Sen and Paul Kagame) realise the need to develop their human capital for sustained economic growth. More importantly, they are taking action with gusto.

Urgent action is, therefore, needed if we are to arrest this decline in our educational standards. As HRH The Sultan of Johor suggested, we should look at Singapore’s single-stream education system, which uses English as the medium of instruction with emphasis on science and mathematics. Learn why the Singaporeans are tops in the OECD ranking. That takes humility and the courage to admit our weaknesses and start taking drastic action to remedy them.

Let us put an end to this leisurely pace of dealing with this serious challenge of educating young Malaysians. Implement the two education blueprints on preschool education and primary and secondary schools, and higher education in earnest, and end the habit of changing our education polices every time when we have a new Minister of Education. Let us also not delude ourselves into thinking that we are world-class . We are not.

We need to catch up in this race to develop our people and boost national competitiveness. In this race, the quality of our human resource is decisive. Education is a good investment and our tax ringgits will be well spent if we do it right by getting politics out for the way.