Sarawak’s international schools must use national syllabus, says academic

An academic says Sarawak’s proposed international schools will go against the Education Act if they use an international syllabus. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: An academic has argued that Sarawak’s proposed state-owned international secondary schools will go against the Education Act if they do not use the national curriculum.

Teo Kok Seong of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia told FMT this was because they would be managed by a statutory body.

He was voicing his disagreement with Sarawak Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Michael Manyin, who has said the schools were not government schools since their operator would be Sanjung Services Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Yayasan Sarawak.

Five international secondary schools have been proposed – two in Kuching and one each in Sibu, Bintulu and Miri – using Cambridge’s International General Certificate of Secondary Education curriculum.

Teo Kok Seong.

Teo described Sanjung Services as “a statutory body under the government” and said any school owned by it would therefore be government schools.

“Government schools are understood as operated and funded by the government, either state or federal,” he said.

He said adopting an international curriculum would go against Section 18 of the Education Act, which makes it mandatory for government schools to use the national curriculum.

Referring to Paragraph 15 of the 18-Point Agreement for Sarawak, which states the existing educational system of North Borneo should be maintained after 1963 and for this reason should be under state control, he said it did not encompass international schools because they were private entities.

“The key here is ‘existing’. This means prior to 1963, whatever schools in the state, even English-medium schools, could continue as they were. But an international curriculum or syllabus was never part of the existing system.

“If the state government were to propose English-medium schools that use a national syllabus, there would be no issue. But it is proposing an international syllabus,” he said.

Commenting on Manyin’s claim that the state had received a letter of support from the education ministry, Teo said this could be different from a permit to build the schools.

He said that if the education ministry had really given the green light for the state-owned schools to be set up, the grounds of the permit should be clarified.

“There are permits given to operate even kindergartens, what more institutions using a foreign curriculum? If it is true, then the education ministry has not only erred, but is setting a bad precedence,” he said