PETALING JAYA: The incoming government must appoint an education minister who dares to introduce progressive policies that will improve the education system even if they may not be popular, said a parents’ group.
The Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) said one non-populist policy the next minister could introduce was to make it mandatory for students to obtain a “C” (credit) in English for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).
Magpie chairman Mak Chee Kin said the minister should also work to generate greater interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among students as this was a long-standing issue no politician seemed to have addressed.
Mak told FMT the next education minister must be “sincere” about improving the education system.
He said his group had always advocated for politics to be kept apart from education and for educational development to be undertaken in a sustainable manner.
“What we have now is that when a government changes, so does the minister. As such, whatever policy that is developed by the minister may be short-lived.
“Worse still, some good policies may even be discontinued by the new minister just so the minister can be popular,” he said.
He cited the teaching of science and mathematics in English (PPSMI) as an example. The policy was introduced by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2002 but was abolished in 2011 by another government.
Aimed at improving students’ understanding of science and mathematics, the two subjects were taught in English as most scientific study and research materials were in that language.
Pointing out that selected schools, such as the Mara junior science colleges (MRSM), were still offering PPSMI, Mak asked why this policy had been done away elsewhere.
“If it is not good, why is it still being offered at MRSMs?” he asked, and claimed that the decision to discontinue PPSMI in most schools was a political decision rather than for the betterment of students.
Bersatu vice-president Radzi Jidin was the education minister in the previous Cabinet. He had taken over the post from Maszlee Malik after the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government in February 2020.
Among the policies Radzi got rid of when he took over was the free breakfast programme introduced by Maszlee.
Anuar Ahmad, a lecturer with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s education faculty, said the next education minister must ensure Malaysian students remain on par with their regional counterparts.
He said Malaysia could soon be left behind, pointing out that Indonesia was introducing a flexible curriculum system where students could choose some of their subjects.
Anuar also said the new minister should consider giving teachers greater autonomy in planning their lessons while being “student-friendly” and in touch with the issues faced by students, particularly those from poor and marginalised communities.