International schools not against Education Act, says Sarawak minister

Minister Michael Manyin says the intention is to improve the standard of English in Sarawak.

KUCHING: Sarawak Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Michael Manyin today said the proposed state-owned international secondary schools are not government schools under the definition of the Education Act 1996.

He said the schools, also known as Yayasan Sarawak International Secondary Schools, would be owned by Sanjung Services Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Yayasan Sarawak.

“The company will operate and maintain the schools. Hence, the Sarawak government did not go against the law,” he told a press conference here.

He said the company had obtained a letter of support from the education ministry before the groundbreaking ceremony last week.

Manyin was responding to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia professor Teo Kok Seong, who claimed 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 Malaysia as the medium of instruction.

“Our intention to have such international schools is to improve the command of English among our children and to ensure potential students from low-income families are not denied the opportunity to realise their full potential,” said Manyin.

He said they would not only help reduce the gap between rural and urban communities but also create a more inclusive and equitable society.

On Teo’s suggestion that the Sarawak government should instead import British teachers to have a more efficient way of improving the command of English in the state, Manyin said this was a costly option.

“It is better to invest that money in improving the competency of our own teachers and students,” he said.

Sarawak is planning to have five state-owned international schools – two in Kuching and one each in Sibu, Miri and Bintulu.

The first school, coming up at 12th Mile, Jalan Kuching-Serian, is expected to be operational by 2023.