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Monday December 24, 2007

MCA’s helping hand for school leavers


It has been described as the ‘missing link’ in the party’s education programme beginning with training kindergarten teachers, KTAR for college students, Utar for tertiary studies and the Lifelong Learning campaign for adults. Now, the plan is complete with the skills development programme for school leavers. 

You see them at shopping malls working as shop assistants or as salesmen. Often, they can only speak Mandarin or Cantonese.  

These teenagers are also a familiar sight at night markets, peddling imitation DVDs or mobile phone accessories. Some are even runners for loan sharks and bookies.  

It’s hard to believe that more Chinese students are dropping out than before, with the figure totalling over 100,000 annually.  

Well done: Ong presenting the scroll to Annaliza Joseph Raju who obtained a Diploma in Hair Styling from Cameron Universal Hair Academy at the recent Kojadi Skills Development Foundation graduation ceremony.
Because of their entrepreneurial skills and willingness to be self-employed, the problems are often overlooked when compared with other ethnic groups.  

But the MCA is worried. The party has described this as a “silent epidemic” within the community with Chinese students between the ages of 15 and 17 opting out of secondary schools to take up non-skilled jobs.  

An average of 122,000 Chinese students reportedly drop out annually due to poor academic performance, loss of interest in studies and broken homes.  

The other races record an annual dropout rate of 10.3% but the Chinese drop out problem has been regarded as alarming.  

MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting is determined to help school leavers with weak results turn their lives around by helping them pick up skills that will build their confidence and make them financially independent.  

Last week, the first batch of 650 graduates of the MCA-run Kojadi Skills Development Foundation received their diplomas from Ong.  

These youngsters received training on skills ranging from repairing cars, cooking and plumbing to hair styling and beauty care, skills which are in demand.  

A few gave their testimonies on stage to the gathering of parents and fellow graduates. This was also their first ever public speaking experience.  

Although the graduates were predominantly Chinese, there were also those from other communities.  

Many have already found employment and knowing the importance of English, most said learning the language would be their next step.  

Acquiring working skills is the essence of the MCA’s School Leavers Programme, which is a brainchild of Ong who fondly described it as the “missing link” in the party’s education programme.  

He has given personal attention to the programme by highlighting its importance to party members and the media.  

Even before the launch of this latest programme, the MCA education plan has already been quite comprehensive. 

The MCA’s education programme begins with Early Childhood Education (CECE) where it has trained pre-school teachers for the last 20 years.  

Diplomas from the CECE are recognised by kindergartens and the programme provides an option to school leavers who cannot afford to go to college or university.  

The Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman, which started in 1969, now has branch campuses in Penang, Perak, Pahang, Johor and Sabah with the main campus in Kuala Lumpur.  

KTAR has since then produced over 140,000 of graduates who are highly sought after by employers.  

It has an annual student enrolment of 26,000 taking over 100 courses. 

The Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar), which started in 2002 with 411 students taking eight degree courses, now boasts of the scenic Perak campus in Kampar.  

To date, UTAR has produced more than 8,000 graduates. 

Then, there is the MCA Lifelong Learning Campaign, again mooted by Ong, which promotes the concept of education as a lifelong process.  

This campaign stresses on the philosophy that “one is never too late to learn” with emphasis on learning opportunities for all ages.  

However, the “missing link” has always been a programme for school leavers and now, that gap has been filled in the party’s comprehensive education plan.  

Ong said the number of students from Chinese primary schools who dropped out before completing their secondary education was about 25% and called it a “worrying trend.”  

He said most of these dropouts could not cope with formal education, were from not-well-to-do families and weak in Bahasa Malaysia and English.  

For many parents, the MCA programme is a “life saver” as acquiring these new skills has allowed their children a chance to be properly employed or to even begin their own businesses.  

The MCA is collaborating with many local operators to establish smart partnerships to train more skills-based human resources.  

Kojadi, it is understood, also plans to help train workers for the oil and gas industry as workers are in demand in this sector. The courses in the pipeline include training welders, fitters, inspectors and safety officers.  

Our young deserve our help and support – that is part of building lives for Malaysians regardless of their race. 

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