Educational reform appears to be all the rage these days, and Malaysia serves as no exception. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak recently launched a preliminary report for a new “Education Blueprint,” which outlines 11 shifts to be carried out within the next 13 years.
The blueprint unfolds in three “waves.” The first will concentrate on championing the teaching profession, ensuring equal access to quality education, and improving ICT skills and bilingualism. The second wave will focus on monitoring and building progress, while the third wave will attempt to have schools run more independently.
However, many educationists are concerned that the new plan will only be a repeat of past reform missteps and a use of tax payer dollars. Back in 2003, almost RM five billion was spent on the Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) project, which was only to be abandoned by the administration by 2009.
Unfortunately, the country has a track record of high education spending without results. In 2011, 3.8% of GDP or 16% of public spending went to education, an amount even greater than the developed country average spending of 3.4% of GDP and 8.7% of government expenditure. Despite the investment, Malaysian students currently rank in the bottom 30%, according to international assessments. This calls attention to the fact that more money doesn’t necessarily equal a better education.
Perhaps some of the issue now has to do with the fact that Razak is a politician and is not as well-versed in education dialogues. Why is he relying on foreign experts to aid in the blueprint’s formation instead of drawing upon local teachers, parents, and organizations that have a clearer understanding of the current educational issues and what needs to be done in order to move the country forward? This move seems to reflect a lack of trust in community leaders and, ironically, the local education system.
Creative Commons Love: Asian Development Bank on Flickr