Friday, December 6, 2013

Deputy Education Minister herself desperately needs an education


OUTSPOKEN: Normal Malaysians have to put up with bog-standard schools but the children of ministers, senior Umno-Baru politicians, well-to-do people and cronies go to elite and international schools. In extreme cases, very young children are sent to live in England or Australia, with their nannies, so that they can attend school.
Some children in an elite school in Damansara allege that during exams the ministers’ children are told to initial their papers, despite a ruling that all answer papers are to be free of identification marks. Others allege that one minister’s child would occasionally have an outrider to accompany his car, to impress his schoolmates. The Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (JAWI) would have a field day if they were to visit a prom, held at a five-star hotel, where there is always more breast on display than at Ayamas.
Mary Yap, the Deputy Education Minister, told parliament that students who paid for their tertiary education would value it more than the people who received it for free.
She said, “Receiving free tertiary education would foster an attitude of lack of appreciation for education...When students pay for their own education… or when parents pay for their children, they tend to be more involved in the well-being and education of their children.”
Many Malaysians criticised Yap, who made the remarks when she was asked about the measures undertaken to reduce the outstanding debt of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN).
Some parents and students are furious and claim that Yap is a cheap opportunist who is playing politics to pander to her bosses. They fear that her input to the education policies will do untold damage to successive generations and harm the development of the country.
Anxious parents cite countries which offer free tertiary education, like Brazil and many European countries. These nations reap the benefits when graduates repay their gratitude to society by contributing to the economy and nation building.
The following issues have caused most angst.
First. The Education Ministry is saddled with its own ineptitude at recovering the PTPTN loans. Parents cite the lack of a proper mechanism to collect the money owed by the students. If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, the attitude of the people who are supposed to recover the money is most lackadaisical.
A Malay friend alleges that two decades after graduating, she read in the papers about a drive to recover the student loans and made enquires about repayment, so that she would not be fined or punished. To her surprise she was told that she need not repay her debt. She alleges that she was not the only student who was not obliged to repay the student loan.
Second. Education in Malaysia is mostly run as a business and is done primarily to make a profit. Many students allege that they are receiving a low quality education. Some colleges are good, but the majority are abysmal.
Many colleges are alleged fronts for the children of rich people to pretend they are being educated. Some places have poor quality lecturers with a haphazard lecture structure. Fees keep rising, with little to show for the expenditure.
One student of a well-known college in Kuala Lumpur alleges that polarisation is endemic, that team work is non-existent, and the different races make no attempt to interact. Where there is a preponderance of foreign students, the local students are fearful of drug and sex rackets which allegedly thrive on campus. Students are afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals, and many parents are at their wits’ end.
Third. When teachers lower the pass mark, required by Malay students, to enable more Malays to pass, it is both demeaning and insulting. Consequently, the non-Malays treat Malays as objects of derision and this does not contribute towards nation building.
It is time the government began to practise meritocracy, to cultivate a keen competitive spirit. No particular race is incompetent or lazy. Each person should be given an equal opportunity to thrive and be stimulated by the challenges of education.
Fourth. Yap said that free education would not be appreciated and was tacitly implying that people only appreciate the true value of things they pay for themselves.
If this is the case, the largess of the taxpayer bestowed upon the self-styled “First Lady of Malaysia” (FLOM), to fund her jet-set lifestyle and her massive entourage of sponging freeloaders, must be stopped. The ministerial spouses and their hangers-on must be made to pay for their own flights, meals, hotels and extra baggage allowances.
Many families have taken second mortgages, pawned the family jewels and sold off ancestral land to fund their children’s education because they want to free their children from poverty.
If free education is denied to Malaysians, then the unnecessary expenses of FLOM and the Umno-putras must cease. Malaysians are not ungrateful. Yap should tell Datuk Seri Najib Razak to stop giving away money and sacks of rice just before an election. She should tell him that freebies are never appreciated!
Mariam Mokhtar is "a Malaysian who dares to speak the truth."

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