Speech by Parliament Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang in Dewan Rakyat on the estimates for the Ministry of Education on November 19, 1982
Every year, there is bad news for Malaysian students who aspire for higher education opportunities. Last month, it was announced that Australian education opportunities. Last month, it was announced that overseas students beginning next year. The quota system which so far limits entry into the medical courses in the Australian universities will be extended to cover other courses.
With a very restrictive policy governing entry into the five local universities, the unrelenting diminution of higher education places overseas at ever higher and exorbitant costs is making higher education one of the most frustrating and exasperating experiences both for the students and their parents.
Although the Prime Minister announced last December that the government was looking into the need for the establishment of a sixth university, from answers which DAP MPs had extracted from the Education Minister and his Deputy Ministers in the current meeting of Parliament, it is very plain that the Ministry of Education is very half-hearted in its approach to the question of establishing a sixth university. There is no sense of urgency or even sense of importance. Information we could glean from the Education Ministry as to what progress had been made about the proposal to establish a sixth university is minimal, indicating that minimal work had been done.
The Deputy Education Minister, Dr. Tan Tiong Hiong, was unable to answer a supplementary question as to who are the officials responsible for the study into the need for a sixth university, apart from saying that there is a general planning committee looking into these matters headed by the Education Minister himself.
There are at present some 40,000 Malaysian students abroad, and at the average student expenditure of $1,000 a month, or $12,000 a year, this means a colossal loss of foreign exchange of some $500 million a year! If the 40,000 Malaysian students could be educated locally, and the $500 million for higher education spent in our country, then this sum of money is more than enough to meet the operating expenditures of another five universities.
Thus, for next year, the operating Expenditures for the five local Universities are as follows:
|Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia||$72.6 million|
|Universiti Malaya||$81.8 million|
|Universiti Sains Malaysia||$48.5 million|
|Universiti Teknologi Malaysia||$30 million|
|Universiti Pertanian Malaysia||$60 million|
The development expenditures for the give universities for next year total some $221 million.
Thus, with the $500 million which the 40,000 Malaysian students are spending abroad each year, they could finance the operation of another five universities.
I therefore call on the Government to seriously consider the establishment, not merely of a sixth university, but the establishment of another five universities as the foreign exchange saved from the 40,000 Malaysian students abroad could easily support the operating expenses of another five universities.
I am aware that the capital costs of founding a university is a sizable one, but this will be a worthwhile investment, as investment in human capital is the most productive form of investment.
Last December too, the Education Minister, Datuk Dr. Sulaiman Daud, announced that his Ministry was reviewing the Universities and University Colleges Act.
I had myself welcomed such a review but about a year has passed without any indication that there would be amendments to repeal provisions in the Act with restrict freedom of activities of the student and university staff, or to restore the autonomy of universities from their present status as government departments.
The Universities should be a place for character building, rather than merely for the learning of trades or the transmission of knowledge, a place for the stimulation of the critical and thinking faculties instead of accumulation of data and information.
I call on the Education Minister not to delay any further and to introduce amendments to the Act to remove the restrictions placed on students and university staff, and to restore the autonomy of universities and abandonment of the present status of universities as government departments.
At a time when there is a lot of talk about ‘Looking East’ and emulating Japan’s economic success, it is important that we know what we should adopt and what we should discard.
In this connection, it is worth of our attention that a new study conducted by the New York Stock Exchange to find out why productivity had been growing so much slowly in the United States than in Japan had found the fundamental answer in the Japanese education system.
This study found that the high quality of Japanese primary and secondary education is the single most important factor in Japan’s extraordinary productivity – more than quality circles, techniques of management or the partnership between business and government.
International surveys show that, in both mathematics and science, the average scores of Japanese youngsters are higher than those of any other country – much higher than in the United States. And in Japan the degree of variability around the average is one of the smallest, showing that educational achievement there is a widespread.
Japanese students show greater consistency than Americans in completing their schooling. Approximately 95 per cent of Japanese teenagers graduate from high school compared with 74 per cent in the United States.
Our primary and secondary schools must aim at high quality education comparable to the best in the world. A 10-month survey from June 1979 to 1980 covering 287 pre-selected primary schools and 16,806 pupils in all three medium of National, Chinese and Tamil, show that only 48.3 per cent of those in Chinese schools have sufficient arithmetic skills while only 37 per cent in national schools and 30.6 per cent in Tamil schools can do arithmetic.
It is unlikely that with the 3M curriculum for primary schools, with the major problems of big class size and inadequate teaching staff to achieve the desirable teacher-ratio unresolved, Malaysia could attain high quality in primary and secondary schools, especially in mathematics and science.
I do not have figures as to what percentage of Malaysian students graduate from full secondary education, and I do not know whether the government has the latest figures, but it is clearly well below that of Japan and even the United States.
The Ministry of Education must therefore aim at raising the quality of the primary and secondary schools to enable Malaysia to keep abreast with world progress in science and technology.
Recently, the Education Ministry issued a ruling banning advertisement from school magazines.
It will be a step backwards in promoting the creative qualities of our children if this ruling leads to the closure of school magazines in our schools. As one who had been intimately involved in the production not only of school magazines, but also of class magazines, during my school-days, I can speak from experience that such activities are very useful and important in nurturing creative talents and leadership qualities. I would go so far as to suggest that the Education Ministry should issue a ruling that every school must produce a school magazine each year, so that the students have an opportunity to express themselves and to take part in creative activities, and that if schools are not allowed to ask for advertisements to finance the school magazines, then the Education Ministry should devise a system whereby funds for the school magazine project is found.
The $500 million Universiti Technology Malaysia (UTM) project at Scudai, Johore, had been plagued with a series of problems, leading to its being behind schedule and probably not being able to be completed in time.
The Minister concerned should explain to the House the reason for the delay in the construction of the Scudai campus for the UTM, which is to accommodate 6,000 students. Last year, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, announced that the UTM project in Scudai would be carried out mainly by bumiputra students majoring in building and construction. The contractors, Kobena-Sambu, dismissed some 200 local workers last month, leading to further bad blood at the building site. There are complaints that local skilled workers are being paid less than Korean workers doing the same job as well as complaints that local trained workers are being paid the same as untrained local workers.
I hope the Minister could clear the air with regard to the stalling in the construction of the UTM campus in Scudai.