PETALING JAYA: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has always had a visionary approach to education, says Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh.
“This is very much needed to revolutionise education in our schools.
“I recall a meeting with him in the early 1990s to get his support, as Prime Minister, to make Malaysia a hub for international students.
“His response, after a short discussion, was swift: ‘To me, a foreign student in Malaysia is a tourist 365 days a year, I welcome it’.”
Former Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon said when Dr Mahathir decided to take up the Education Minister’s portfolio, it made the ministry special as to be given attention by the premier himself.
“I am certain he will address the declining standard of our education, as measured by the country’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) score,” he said.
Ghauth hoped Dr Mahathir would address budget cuts in universities, especially in R&D.
“I hope universities are given full autonomy and only capable vice-chancellors or presidents are selected so that they can make the institutions more financially independent and self-sustaining,” he said.
Taylor’s University deputy vice-chancellor and chief academic officer Prof Dr Pradeep Nair urged Dr Mahathir to bring back the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) policy.
“It will not undermine the importance of Bahasa Malaysia but will make our youth more proficient in these languages and hence, globally competitive,” he said.
Pradeep hoped Dr Mahathir would institute policies that would bring back the glory days of national schools by making them the first choice of parents of all races.
Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said she expected Dr Mahathir to bring back his brainchild, the PPSMI policy.
However, she suggested that he made improvements to the Dual Language Programme (DLP) first.
“We need to improve DLP so that PPSMI can be reintroduced,” she said.
DLP is a programme for students to study Mathematics and Science in either Bahasa Malaysia or English.
Hannah Yeoh, a mother of two and newly-elected Segambut MP, said: “Bahasa Malaysia and English to be options for parents to choose from in urban areas.
“As for the rural areas, many students struggle with the use of English. The Education Ministry should consider overhauling the syllabus so students’ English levels in rural areas can be improved.”
Former Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Wan Mohd Zahid Mohd Noordin said Dr Mahathir was the right man for the portfolio.
“When he held the post previously, he introduced many changes, which improved the system.
“With his return, I am sure the ministry and schools will benefit,” he said.
Former National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said the appointment was in the best interests of the nation.
“Dr Mahathir was the architect of a number of education proposals as minister in the 1970s and was always interested in the union’s work. We look forward to reforms taking place,” he said.
A veteran teacher in Petaling Jaya, who wished to be known only as Sumi, said Dr Mahathir knew his stuff. “He could bring back the PPSMI policy,” she said, welcoming the merger of the ministries.
Another teacher, Anne, said she expected Dr Mahathir to go for a revamp of the education system.