By Zairil Khir Johari
Yesterday, a coalition of 14 varsity organisations visited Parliament to submit a memorandum protesting the government’s proposal to abolish living and travelling allowances currently provided to trainee teachers undergoing the Bachelor of Education undergraduate programme (Program Ijazah Sarjana Muda Pendidikan, PISMP) at teacher training institutes (Institut Pendidikan Guru, IPG).
As of now, trainee teachers enrolled in the PISMP programme receive a monthly living allowance of RM430 and a maximum travel allowance of RM500. In fact, RM430 is already a reduced amount, as it used to range from RM500 to RM800 a month depending on location.
In lieu of the allowances, National Higher Education Fund Corporation (Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Negara, PTPTN) facilities will be made available for students at teacher training institutes in order for them to finance their cost of living throughout their four years of study.
Once again, the government appears prepared to sacrifice the future of our country in its attempt to cover its own wrongdoings. Instead of addressing the rampant wastages, corruption and financial scandals that continue to drain the resources of our nation, the government prefers to punish critical sectors such as education.
While education expenditure continues to command the bulk share of the government’s annual budget, its actual spending priorities are highly questionable. Billions of ringgit have been exhausted on white elephant projects such as YTL’s 1BestariNet, while key items such as teacher development has seen its budget continuously slashed, dropping by half from RM1.5 billion in 2015 to RM763 million in 2017. Even the allocation for English enhancement programmes have been reduced by two-thirds.
Unfortunately, while the much-vaunted Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 pays lip service to the need to improve the quality of teachers, the government appears to be doing the exact opposite.
Scrap the proposals
The government should immediately review its flawed proposal and scrap plans to abolish the living and travelling allowances of trainee teachers. If anything, the teaching profession should be further incentivised in order to attract better talents. If the quality of education in our schools is to be improved, then the quality of teachers has to be given the utmost priority.
Furthermore, it is even more outrageous to replace the allowances with PTPTN loans in order for the trainees to support themselves. Not only would this make the option of becoming a teacher less attractive, it would also add to the burdens of fresh graduate teachers who have already sacrificed much in taking up the mantle of their noble profession.
Zairil Khir Johari is Bukit Bendara MP, DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology.
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