PETALING JAYA: Opposition politicians have criticised a proposal to set up an “elite” tabika (kindergarten) as they believe it may cause greater divide in the community.
Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail urged the government to reject the proposal, adding that Malaysia should be moving towards the democratisation of early childhood education which can provide equality to quality education.
"According to the World Health Organization (WHO), early childhood education or ECD (early child development) is very important because it is a critical basis in one’s development and success," said Wan Azizah in a statement on Thursday (Oct 1).
The former Women, Family and Community Development Minister said that according to the WHO, strategic insights in early childhood education need to emphasise the quality of a constructive environment.
She added that this includes the approach to life and education involving parents, guardians, families and the community.
Wan Azizah also said that the WHO is of the view that the government and civil society should work with families to provide all children with equal access to quality and constructive environment.
"The elite Tabika proposed by Kemas is contrary to this aspiration in early childhood education," she added.
Wan Azizah said the democratisation aspirations of early childhood education have been pioneered before with plans to incorporate early childhood education institutions through the establishment of a special committee.
"This plan was informed to the Dewan Rakyat in November 2018. Cabinet has approved the formation of this special committee which will play a role to jointly regulate the establishment and operation of early educational institutions for children in Malaysia," she said.
Berita Harian reported that the Community Development Department (Kemas) had revealed plans to set up an elite Tabika, with its proposal currently being reviewed by the Rural Development Ministry before being brought to the Cabinet meeting for further evaluation.
If approved by the Cabinet, the Tabika Bill will be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat for approval.
Meanwhile, Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh said in a separate statement that the Federal Government should be striving to improve the quality of early childhood education and care instead of widening the gap among children.
"The name of the 'elite' kindergarten itself is discrimination. The proposal of this elite kindergarten is ad hoc, hasty and not a comprehensive solution for early childhood education and care," she said.
Yeoh believed that if the new leadership under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry does not play a key role in discussing such an important matter, it will create a larger gap among rural children.
Hannah said during the Pakatan Harapan administration, Putrajaya had planned to create a special agency to regulate all early childhood education institutions, which is now administered by different ministries.
"Nurseries or childcare centres are under the Department of Social Welfare (JKM) and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, while Taman Didikan Kanak-Kanak (kindergartens) are under the Education Ministry.
"Kindergartens are under the Ministry of Rural Development, while the Ministry of Unity has a nursery (unity childcare park)," she said, adding that there are state governments that have their own pre-school institutions.
Yeoh also said it was proposed that the institutions would be under the purview of the Education Ministry, with the aim to facilitate the transition of the students to primary school when they turn seven.
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