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Increasing RM500,000 Limit Does Not Improve EducationStandards –Dr. Jeffrey

Kota Kinabalu:    “The DPM cum Education Minister’s move to increase the authorization limit of State Education Directors is welcomed and a right move in the right direction but it does not help to improve declining education standards and too little in the case of Sabah and Sarawak” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief, commenting on the limit increase from RM500,000.00 to RM5.0 million annually.
Although welcomed whole-heartedly, it is hoped that the increase is not window dressing and done to appease the growing discontentment with the Education Ministry’s central control and declining education standards.

However, the decision to increase approval limit does not in any way improve the education and learning standards although it leads to reduction in lead time to improve school facilities and it removes the need to refer to Putrajaya for approval.

This alone emphasizes the fact that education needs to be de-centralized and the States need to be empowered in education.

At the same time, the increased limit does not really help Sabah and Sarawak as it is too little.   This is principally due the fact that schools in Sabah and Sarawak have been neglected for the last 50 years.  

On the other hand, the biased development and spending strategies by the Malayan/Malaysian federal government has seen schools in the Peninsula been upgraded tremendously over the last 50 years and with new schools built all over the Peninsula.   

In Putrajaya and the newer schools in other states, even primary school are better than colleges in Sabah and Sarawak. From the outside, one would think that these primary schools are colleges.   Inside, especially secondary schools, many have state-of-the-art facilities.

The two incidents on school opening day in Sabah clearly reflects the problem of education in Sabah and the need to return education to Sabah control with its own Ministry of Education.   The federal Education Ministry is not suited to manage education in Sabah.

The first incident at SMK Kundasang where 1,000 students were stranded without a school would not have happened if the power to decide to build the school buildings lay with an autonomous Sabah Education Department under the control of the Sabah government.   The new school was to be completed in March 2013 but as at January 2014, construction work had not even started.

On 4th January, the Sabah State Education Director visited SMK Kundasang to have a first hand look himself.   But was he able to do anything or was he powerless to do anything?

Alas, it is not to be as it is under the bureaucracy and remote control of Putrajaya.  So, the problem at SMK Kundasang is not unexpected as it happened when this bureaucracy and remote control is compounded with a neglect and no-priority policy for Sabah by the federal government.

The other incident was at SJK(C) Che Hwain Kolombong, Inanam where the Chinese students only represented 42% of the new intake compared to the 58% bumiputra enrolment.    In addition, 90% of students had their pre-school education in Chinese.  

This schooling scenario with a large non-Chinese student enrolment in a Chinese school in Sabah is typical throughout Sabah.  This is further confirmed in SJK(C) Chung Hwa Likas, where 151 or 51.9% out of the 291 Primary I students were non-Chinese.

However, the federal education policy’s biasness towards Chinese schools in the Peninsula has left Chinese schools in Sabah in a lurch.   Chinese schools in Sabah cannot be equated with the counterparts in the Peninsula.

Yes, the Sabah government performs much better than other State governments with grants of up to RM130,000 for Chinese schools but this is done for political efficacy to draw votes of the Chinese community.   With these grants, the Umno/BN government have exploited it to the hilt politically and used as a boast that the opposition cannot do better.

Education is a government responsibility.  As the opposition is not in government, of course, it cannot do better.    Give the opposition to helm the Sabah government and Chinese education may be fully funded.   Giving grants of more than RM130,000 would be a certainty compared to the Umno/BN government.   When in government, the opposition can certainly do better than Umno/BN now.

While the Umno/BN government boasts of this grant, in reality, it is only a token sum.  Many a parent and teacher in Chinese schools will tell you that a substantial part of their school time is spent thinking of fund-raising due to insufficient government support.   For an enrolment of 1,000 students, the grant works out to only RM130 per student annually.   This is pittance compared to the RM3,831 the federal government spends on each student in national-type primary schools and RM5,093 for each secondary student annually based on the 2012 national education budget of RM54.59 billion.

Both incidents clearly proves that education needs to be re-established under the control of the Sabah government.  At the same time, the Sabah government need to seriously review and re-assess the education policy and administration in Sabah and move towards the re-establishment of Sabah’s own Ministry of Education and a vision towards building towering Sabahans that will drive the growth of Sabah into a developed nation status.

The regress and falling standards of education in Sabah needs to be arrested and addressed and the current export of Sabah youths to the Peninsula and Singapore to do factory jobs need to corrected.

As the DPM cum Education Minister had expounded that the increase of the approval limit is a move towards the de-centralization and empowerment of the State Education Departments, it need to be expedited so that education is returned to the Sabah government as envisaged and provided under Point No. 15 of the 20-Points.   The Honourable DPM is strongly urged to consider this move expeditiously.

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