JANUARY 24 — At the recent Majlis Amanat Tahun 2019, it was encouraging to see the minister of education showing a forward direction towards education in the new government. Providing greater autonomy for the public universities and less administrative load for teachers in the public school system, and thereby enabling teachers to focus more on teaching and learning, was part of Amanat 2019.However, it is very disappointing to note that the role of private higher education, private school education and TVET was not mentioned at all.
The private education sector has been supplementing and complementing the government in providing education for more than 80 years, since 1936. Based on current data, more than 51 per cent of post-secondary education is provided by private higher education institutions, saving the government billions of ringgit in expenditure in education. In addition, private education contributes to the economy of the country in the range of RM50 billion, of which close to RM17 billion is derived from enrollment revenue of international students. And not forgetting that all our graduates are gainfully employed and sought after by industry
However, the private education sector is becoming a sunset industry as many institutions are facing massive losses due to reduced student enrollment with some in the process of closure.
How has this come about? Past statistics showed that close to 25 per cent percent of school leavers each year do not enroll in any form of education or training. A majority of them belong to the B40 group (the group where annual household income is below RM40,000). Presently the percentage has increased from 25 per cent to more than 40 per cent. This is due to the requirement of a pass in Sejarah at SPM level. This has prevented and penalised students who have passed in other subjects including mathematics and science but failed in Sejarah. This has made a large number of SPM students ineligible to enroll for further post-secondary programmes like Pre University (Foundation, Matriculation, A-Level) as well as diploma programmes, and critically affected the enrollment of SPM school leavers in private educational institutions.
When the global focus is on science and technology and Industry 4.0, we are depriving our school leavers of the opportunity to continue on to post-secondary education and training and losing much needed talent in the workforce. NAPEI proposes that the requirement of a pass in Sejarah be reviewed. If not addressed, we believe this will also cause socioeconomic problems among the youth in the country.
In addition to the above, retarding policies and regulations set by overzealous bureaucrats related to administration and operations have further caused barriers to the progress of private education.
The enrollment of international students has dropped by about 32 per cent in 2018 due to policies and regulations that deter international students from choosing Malaysia as a study destination. Countries like Japan and Canada, which are already study destinations of choice by students, have made changes to their immigration policies and regulations in order to attract more international students. One of the more effective policies for Malaysia to attract more international students is to allow up to 20 hours a week of part time employment while studying. Another factor causing a decrease in recruitment of international students is the revocation of KDN’s licence to recruit international students. And in many cases, the KDN licences were revoked for reasons beyond the control of the institutions.
We will not be able to reach the target of 200,000 international students by 2020 and 250,000 students by 2025 if we are not serious in reviewing the existing policies and regulations.
With reference to Amanat 2019, the public education system will enjoy greater autonomy under the new proposal, but the private education sector is given less autonomy through retarding policies and over regulation of the Ministry, thus making it difficult for it to grow further. The private education industry wishes to work closely with the Ministry of Education to continue providing quality education. NAPEI suggests an impact analysis be done before any policy or regulation is rolled out, as per MPC guidelines. We are looking for more engagement with the Ministry of Education in further enhancing the human capital development of the country and to be an integral part of the new agenda outlined in Amanat 2019.
We hope related agencies and ministries like EPU, Miti and the Ministry of Finance too could be engaged to look at the bigger picture in terms of economic development of the nation and contribution to the GDP by the revenue derived from the international student market.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.