kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

PERSPECTIVE: Avoid political traps in the pursuit of ‘free education’

The premise of a welfare state no longer holds water in respect of ‘free education’

ideological  debates

  Education must not be made to suffer from any ideological debates that distract it from bringing the greatest benefit to the Malaysian population.


SOME 500,000 Year One  pupils  will benefit from “free” education  with the start of the new year.

The recently announced “free education policy”, which covers some 5.3 million students in  primary and secondary government schools, is  a first in  the education history of Malaysia.

 This initiative is part of the 2012 budget revealed in the Dewan Rakyat last October with the aim of ensuring that all Malaysian students  will have access to quality and affordable education.

Given that basic schooling is one of the major aspects of the Millennium Development Goals,  targeted to be achieved by 2015, the “free education policy” is  timely   to ensure  equity.

 Prior to this, students  were required to  fork out RM24.50 and RM33.50 respectively which included payment for co-curriculum activities, internal test papers, Malaysian Schools Sports Council fees and insurance premium.

Another worthy exercise is to revert to the original purpose of  residential schools, which is to make quality education available to the poor in the effort to promote socio-economic equity.

The issue is not about schools per se, but more of narrowing the socio-economic gap that seems to be  an obstacle to underprivileged pupils  even as we approach the 55th anniversary of our independence.

If we cannot use education to level  the playing field for the  generations to come,  it would be more difficult to do so by  other means.

At the same time, it has been noted that parents from a more  affluent background are collectively  able to turn around a school.   Schools  attended by those from higher income families tend to do better.
The initiatives must not be confused with the political notion  of creating  a “welfare” state.

While it is true that the term  implies that “the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens” based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life, education is only one of the many services involved.

 Education  — one of the most important public good, apart from health — must not be made to suffer from  ideological  debates that distract it from bringing the greatest benefit to the Malaysian population in shaping up a more egalitarian and peaceful future.

 Nordic countries such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland are often cited as successful examples of modern welfare states where education is  free in schools and universities.   

The general working model is where there is a direct transfer of funds from the state to the services provided (i.e. education, healthcare) as well as directly to individuals. There is little resemblance of private-for-profit education as such.

 More interestingly, the Nordic model of education seems to  fare much better comparatively across the board.

 For example, Toril Johansson  of the Ministry of Education and Research of Norway  has been cited as saying that the principle of free education is  provided for in Norwegian law, and it is   the responsibility of the country’s politicians  to make sure that education remains free of charge.

  Internationalisation is recognised as important, but “with a complete budget of 20 billion krone (RM10.6 billion), we count on the sector to be able to handle the students in a good way, also without the extra income a tuition fee might provide”.

  This, however, may not be the case for much longer despite Norway being a welfare state.

  Bjørn Stensaker, researcher for the Norwegian Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education,  seems to suggest that there are now strong forces indicating that tuition fees will be introduced sooner or later, beginning at the tertiary level.   

 The trend in the rest of Europe is towards charging fees or further hiking them, especially as  a wave of conservative governments rule over the continent.

 In Sweden and Denmark, fees are imposed on international non-European students.

 And this is just the beginning as many fear.  In other words, the premise of  a welfare state no longer  holds water when it comes to  “free education”.

 We must be aware of such potential political traps if we are serious in trying to make “free education”  the main driver  of the dream of  an equitable Malaysia of the future.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

Source: The New Straits Times Learning Curve 08 January 2012
Tags: education

  • Perlukah Menyuruh Mereka Meletak Jawatan?

    Maka dengan ini ‘sila letak jawatan’ merupakan catatan di media. Kegagalan para Menteri (termasuk Menteri Kanan) , ahli Parlimen yang…

  • Keserasian Pasukan Negara?

    Pasukan Harimau Malaya kini sedang bersiap sedia untuk kelayakan Piala Dunia 2022/Piala Asia 2023 yang baki pusingan keduanya akan disambung di…

  • Keserasian dalam pasukan bola, politik

    Pasukan Hari Malaya kini sedang bersiap sedia ke Kelayakan Piala Dunia 2022/Piala Asia 2023 yang baki pusingan keduanya akan disambung di Dubai,…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.