Govt-owned international schools are against the law, says prof

UKM professor Teo Kok Seong says government schools must use Bahasa Melayu as the medium. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: While parents have welcomed a Sarawak initiative to build five state-owned international schools for Sarawak children, an educationist has cautioned that the proposal goes against the provisions of the Education Act.

Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said recently that the state government would set up the international secondary schools to produce students with a good command of the English language.

The Parent Action Group for Education (Page) and the Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) welcomed the move, saying it would enable students to compete on a global scale.

However, professor Teo Kok Seong of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said that education came under the purview of the federal government and allowing state-owned international schools would go against the Education Act, which requires all government schools to use Bahasa Melayu as a medium of instruction.

“In a way (the Sarawak proposal) is not right, there must be uniformity as far as government entities are concerned,” he said.

He said the Sarawak state government should instead import British teachers, for a more efficient way of improving the command of English throughout the state.

“You don’t have to go to the extent of building international schools for the purpose of improving the command of English, you can do it through the English language subject itself. That is better than building five international schools,” he said.

Page secretary Tunku Munawirah Putra said Putrajaya’s Dual Language Programme (DLP) and Highly Immersive Programme (HIP), designed to uphold the Malay language and strengthen students’ command of English had been plagued with roadblocks and opposition from many parties even from within the education ministry.

Magpie chairman Mak Chee Kin said Malaysia’s leaders lacked the will to revise the national education system, despite many knowing that it was for the betterment of all.

“Our policy is that if some can’t cope, such as with science and maths in English, then the rest of the country must follow suit (to accommodate them). By right, it should be the other way round,” Mak said.

Munawirah said English-medium schools were necessary to produce English-language teachers of the future. “Our English language teachers’ proficiency was better when they were products of the English-medium schools of yesteryear,” she said.

Commenting on whether West Malaysia should follow in Sarawak’s footsteps, Munawirah said the IGCSE (international general certificate of secondary education) syllabus was being offered at several Mara science junior colleges (MRSM).

Abang Johari Openg said two international schools would be built in Kuching, and one each in Sibu, Bintulu and Miri. Pupils from B40 families would be fully subsidised, students from M40 families would receive a partial subsidy, while those from well-to-do families must pay the fees in full.