Proper planning to avoid compromising education – Khoo Ying Hooi

Source: The Malaysian Insider

BY KHOO YING HOOI

I have always felt strongly about education, not just because it is an incredible force in many ways, but also because it is the basic building block of every society.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Ask around and no one would refute the importance of education. What is essential is the commitment by the government to ensure that the public’s access to education is not in any way being deprived.

The recent slash to the number of scholarships offered by the Public Services Department (JPA) created uproar.

A statement from Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Wee Ka Siong reads as follows:

“We wish to appeal for understanding and patience from those affected that this decision is a compromise the government must make, given the difficult economic challenges brought on by external factors.

“We need to place priority on the middle- and low-income groups by introducing measures to stimulate domestic consumption and to ease the burden of the public.”

Some people are defending the government’s move by pointing fingers at the students for not being grateful, their argument is that students should not expect to study overseas, considering that the degree in local universities is also of high quality.

They missed the key point by debating local versus overseas degree in this education budget slash issue. Rather, what is happening now is the question of missed priorities and the lack of proper planning.

An online plea by Kelvin Low, a student affected by the scholarship slash, caught my attention.

As he explained in length in his plea, his A-Level results came out on January 13, 2016 and he received an unconditional offer letter to study medicine on January 14, 2016.

However, on that very same day, the link to register on the JPA website was removed and inaccessible with no prior warning. Subsequently, within the next few days, it was announced that the whole JPA scholarship was put on hold.

Imagine yourself in Kelvin’s situation – you thought you did everything right, but suddenly, what you had planned did not work out simply because there was a lack of proper planning in information dissemination. It’s a situation that could have been avoided if proper information and warning was sent out to the public.

Last year, during the tabling of Budget 2016, public universities’ funding was also slashed, with some by as high as over 20%. Similarly, the Education Ministry had its budget cut by RM2.4 billion.

In the recent Budget 2016 revision, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the government remains committed to the education and future of Malaysians.

But with these inappropriate budget cuts related to education policies, I cannot help but question the government’s commitment to education.

What has happened today is an unfortunate incident of financial mismanagement and lack of inconsistency in policy-making. It could have been avoided, if education is prioritised and policy coherence in education is put in place.

The bottom line is, education should not be compromised. – February 1, 2016.


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