MALAYSIA will achieve full primary school enrolment within the next few years.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said it was possible despite the challenges his ministry faced in reaching out to some indigenous communities.
“We face a problem reaching out to those who live in very remote parts of Malaysia (like the areas in Sarawak and Sabah that are nearer to Indonesia),” he told reporters after launching the Education 2030 Symposium here on Tuesday.
The symposium focused on the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4), which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Some of the students from these communities have to travel a few days to reach the nearest school.
Although the ministry had provided hostels and boarding schools, Mahdzir said that the children needed adequate supervision, especially when they enrolled in schools at the age of seven.
He also said that based on the 2015 annual report of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, primary school enrolment stood at 98%, while upper secondary school enrolment was at 85%. This situation could be due to students finding jobs to support their families.
He said students dropping out was especially prevalent among those in the lower income bracket.
In this regard, Mahdzir said the game changer for secondary schools may be TVET (technical and vocational education and training). “We can do this (increase enrolment rates) by adding more vocational courses,” he said, adding that this could help retain students who prefer the TVET path.
Another reason for lower enrolment numbers in secondary schools, could be the preference of some parents to send their children to international schools or even to other countries after Form Three.
Education deputy director-general (Education Developments) Datuk Seri Khairil Awang agreed saying the low enrolment was not an accessibility issue, but due to the many alternatives available.
Earlier in his speech, Mahdzir said Malaysia was committed to implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets identified by the United Nations in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
SDG4 focuses on increased and expanded access to education, equity and inclusion, quality and learning outcomes, and also encompasses early childhood education right up to tertiary education, as well as the promotion of lifelong learning.
Mahdzir said “education for all”, included all ethnic groups, indigenous communities and also refugees.