WITH education receiving one-fifth of the Budget allocation every year, it is safe to say that this remains the priority area of development for the Malaysian Government. This amount is reportedly twice that allocated in most countries in the South-East Asian region.
With access to quality education being the main thrust behind social mobility and improved socio-economic status, the Malaysian Government has continued to invest in this field.
Under Budget 2018 tabled in Parliament by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in October, RM61.6bil had been set aside for education, including RM2.2bil for scholarship grants under the Public Service Department, RM90mil for MyBrain Programme for 10,600 people to further their studies at the Masters and Doctorate level, RM400mil in research grants and development in public universities and book vouchers worth RM250 for some 1.2 million students in Form Six and universities.
In fact, since 2009, the Government had given RM44bil worth of scholarships.
Also announced during the Budget was some RM250mil allocation for the “education of the future”, with RM190mil for 2,000 classes to be transformed into Smart Classrooms to increase creative and innovative learning for students.
This is because recent rapid changes in technology such as the rise of artificial intelligence and digitisation are posing increasing challenges to the field of education.
Dubbed the Industrial Revolution 4.0, these sweeping changes are expected to create new jobs while at the same time, eliminating many that are in existence now, disrupting much of the workplace as we know it.
In 2017, Saadia Zahidi, the Head of Education, Gender and Work at the World Economic Forum, had cited predictions that in the future, up to 47% of jobs might be automated.
It is believed that while jobs that require creativity are not likely to be affected, the need for better communication and collaborative skills in our students – and employees – is becoming greater than ever.
It has thus become imperative for all governments, including Malaysia’s, to prepare both their educational system and the people to face this future.
To this end, the Malaysian Government had set out to transform its national education system.
Besides aiming to raise literacy and numeracy skills, increase pre-school and primary school enrolment and reduce the urban-rural gap, the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 was also put into place to transform the country into an advanced high-income economy in line with the agenda and aspirations of the National Transformation 2050 (TN50).
Under the blueprint, computer coding will be implemented within the education system, with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – collectively known as STEM – subjects and mathematical engineering made the focus in schools.
In its manifesto launched on April 7, the Barisan Nasional government has also pledged further measures to equip five million schoolgoing children with digital skills for the Industrial Revolution 4.0 within five years.
It also promised a holistic plan to develop the potential of young children and students, to enhance technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and develop a dynamic university ecosystem that is in line with the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Such an ecosystem in public universities is achieved partly by transforming their infrastructure to achieve smart campus status with the introduction of cashless transactions as well as being connected to a network of Internet with high speed of 100Gbps.
To ensure that Malaysians do not lose out on the globally competitive arena of the future, the Barisan Nasional government has promised new facilities and special allocations for all vernacular schools, which, among others, will improve students’ English by increasing Dual Language Programme (DLP) subjects.
More interestingly, English medium schools will be introduced in Sabah and Sarawak under a pilot project in a move to improve language proficiency.
Incentives have also been planned for capable graduates and retired language teachers to administer online teaching and learning services.
Other measures under the manifesto are for a bigger intake of non-bumiputra students in public universities as well as for Malaysians with overseas examination certificates equivalent to Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM), such as the Unified Examination Certificate Senior Middle (UEC), to be considered for enrolment in higher education institutions, provided they have a credit in Bahasa Malaysia and a pass in History.
However, while the nation prepares itself to tackle future challenges head on, it cannot be denied that there are currently still schoolchildren who continue to study in conditions deprived of basic amenities, particularly in rural areas and among the urban poor, and those disadvantaged by learning disabilities.
For this purpose, students will receive discount cards as one way of reducing transportation, government services and education costs, while a one-off RM1,500 handouts will be given to 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) recipients whose children are enrolled in higher education institutions.
To help with their socio-cultural development, the implementation of the “Anak Angkat” (foster children) programmes will be expanded while dilapidated schools will be upgraded within five years, literacy programmes increased and more boarding school facilities built.
Parents of National Education Savings Scheme (SSPN) account holders will also have their income tax exemption period extended.
To unlock the potential of special needs children, the Integrated Special Education Programme (PPKI) in all schools will be upgraded.
There will also be a RM3mil allocation for parenting workshops to be carried out in 168 locations as well as for RM12mil to be set aside for special education programmes in rural areas to benefit some 615,000 participants.
All these steps, to be taken under the Barisan manifesto, are to ensure that no Malaysian is left behind, even as the country gears up for the next revolution.
Did you find this article insightful?