Budget 2015 deceives the rakyat
Budget 2015, announced by Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, on superficial reading seems very people-friendly. However, a closer look reveals that it did not address any of the pressing problems and long-standing issues. The Budget did not address our social, economic and structural problems that are afflicting and weakening national cohesion and strength. The declining quality of education, increasing crime rates, increasing corruption and growing intolerance and extremism are some of the concerns of Malaysians.
In the 2015 Budget, as usual, the Education Ministry received the largest slice – 23.4% or 52.36 billion. But Malaysian universities have again and again failed to get into the top 200 in the Times higher education global ranking, whereas other Asean universities are making progress and newer universities are ranked within the top 200. It is public knowledge that 70% of our English teachers failed to make the grade in the Cambridge Placement test. No mention of any redress in the Budget.
The teaching of Mathematics and Science in English was introduced in 2003 but terminated in 2012, and this after the Ministry had spent RM3.2 billion. Large sections of society want the programme to continue but the Ministry has taken little heed of their request.
Bad report card
In the programme for international student assessment (PISA), the 2012 results revealed that Malaysian students, combined, scored below average or ranked 52 out of the 65 countries! In contrast, Vietnam, a poorer country with a lower budget allocation for education, ranked 17 out of 65! The World Bank has pointed out that Malaysia continues to decline in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) benchmark, yet there was a time when the country performed well. Despite the drastic drop in quality, Education and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin insists that Malaysia has one of the best education systems in the world.
After 57 years of independence, the 21 public universities’ intake of students is still very much racially-biased; the matriculation examination is used for predominantly one race and the public STPM examinations, for others. Malaysian universities and centres of higher learning are riddled with racism, nepotism, cronyism and double standards, due to political interference. Even with the high allocation of funds, the Ministry of Education is not able to eliminate the leakage of public examination papers like SPM and UPSR.
The frequent flip-flops in the implementation of programmes like School-based Assessment (SBA), and the recent withdrawal of the decision to disallow the use of forecast results for admission into private educational institutions show the Ministry’s level of preparedness, research and consultation. The 2014 Auditor-General’s Report has revealed severe mishandling of RM2.051 billion in the hiring of security contractors for schools between 2010 and 2012. Such revelations do not surprise Malaysians any more. One common reason for the brain drain in Malaysia is the low quality and standard of education.
Despite the highest allocation, we have heard many times that graduates are sent for retraining to become employable. But the number of tertiary institutions, universities and colleges is constantly increasing. Are we going after certificates and grades without any emphasis on quality and competency? Are we paying attention to rhetoric and not substance? The Education Ministry is more bent on pursuing its political agenda than on the quality of education. Our education system needs immediate and drastic transformation and overhaul. Will the Education Ministry take note, buck up and learn?