PETALING JAYA: Free education should be provided for those who study science and technology at universities and those who pursue technical and vocational education and training, says an MP.
Bayan Lepas MP Sim Tze Tzin said a starting salary of RM4,000 should be set for those with an education in science, technology and mathematics, while those with technical or vocational training should be offered a minimum wage of RM2,500.
“When I graduated 25 years ago, the salary for an engineer was RM2,000. Now it is RM2,500. This makes no sense, it has been 20 years,” he told FMT.
“Meanwhile TVET (technical and vocational) graduates who pursue STEM are being paid a minimum wage of RM1,500. If this continues, who is going to choose STEM?
“If I’m working hard at studying science, a difficult subject, and I only get paid RM1,500, even p-hailing riders earn more. Why would I bother choosing TVET?”
Sim, who is also PKR’s deputy strategic director, urged the government to not be “stingy” in providing free education for STEM students.
“The government should not be afraid to provide free education because in the future when these students earn a high income, they will pay taxes. The government will get back its returns.
“If our workers are underpaid, the government has to provide cash handouts and subsidies. However, if they get quality jobs, it will automatically solve the problem. They will no longer be part of the B40, but once they complete their studies, they are among the M40,” he said.
Earlier, during the budget debate in the Dewan Rakyat, Sim called on the government to introduce an “express lane” for STEM students to get placements in universities.
“Express lane means that all public universities will offer STEM courses to SPM students, without the need of STPM certification or matriculation. If they obtained good results, they should enter universities, if not, they can enrol in TVET.
“By doing this, we can produce a million STEM and TVET graduates in five years,” he said.
According to data from the education ministry, in 2020, only 47.18% of students choose to pursue STEM subjects, 26.5% choose technical or vocational education, while 20.1% choose to study pure science.
Sim said the government should at least achieve a target of having 60% STEM students by 2030 to ensure that there will be enough skilled labour to achieve sustainable development goals set by the UN.