Wednesday, 12 September 2012

IDEAS: New education plan lacks crucial reports, transparency

September 12, 2012
Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks during the launch of the education masterplan in Kuala Lumpur September 11, 2012.—Picture by Saw Siow Feng
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 ― Putrajaya was being opaque about the new National Education Blueprint by launching it yesterday without releasing four document needed to gauge its integrity, said the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS).
 While lauding the blueprint as a brilliant step forward and containing important data, IDEAS chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan said he was disappointed by the lack of transparency.

“The government did not release four reports which are crucial to determine the blueprint’s credibility,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

The four papers he referred to were reports from the World Bank, UNESCO, a panel chaired by former Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Vice Chancellor Tan Sri Dzulkiflee Abdul Razzaq, and another by the blueprint’s Advisory Panel chaired by Tan Sri Wan Zahid Wan Noordin.

“Altogether, the [reports’] costs are millions. Why are taxpayers not allowed to see the reports that we have paid for?

“Otherwise, how can we know that the blueprint has included the ideas gathered by these entities, and not completely made up by the blueprint authors?” he added.

The think-tank’s chief said that Putrajaya should also publish all memorandums and submissions received from various entities.

“These, too, should be made public so that we can judge whether or not the government has listened,” he added.

For comparison, Wan Saiful said the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms had published all submissions.

“Without releasing these four reports, it is difficult to ascertain the credibility of the claim that the government’s published blueprint is really based on the consultation with experts and the public,” he added.

Wan Saiful added that it will similarly be tough for the Ministry of Education (MOE) to act on the blueprint as it involved multiple ministries.

“A big part of it is about transforming the ministry, and then there’s the training of teachers involving the Ministry of Higher Education, training technical and vocational workers involving the Ministry of Human Resource and also special needs, which involves the Welfare Department,” he said.

Wan Saiful said the prime minister, who vowed full government support for the plan and said the stakes are too high for it to fail, should “think it over” and make the blueprint a national agenda.

“If not, the blueprint will be in the hands of the Education Ministry’s director-general who will be constantly thinking what he can and cannot do,” he added.

The Najib administration has outlined a plan to make Malaysia a developed, high-income nation by 2020, but many observers said education remains a key weakness in Malaysia.

The recent World Competitiveness Index released by the influential World Economic Forum identified an inadequately-educated workforce and poor work ethics among workers as two of the top five biggest problems facing businesses in Malaysia, alongside inefficient government bureaucracy, corruption and restrictive labour regulations.

The new master plan is an attempt by the Najib administration to reform Malaysia’s education to be on par with those in developed countries by 2025 by giving local authorities more autonomy, recruiting more qualified trainee teachers and an emphasis on thinking skills.

The prime minister also stressed at the launch of the blueprint that nobody has a monopoly on knowledge and the era of “government knows best” was over.

“I invite all Malaysians to give their input on the plan,” he said.

The education master plan report is available for free from the Ministry of Education website.

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