‘Focus on empowering IPTS’

KOTA KINABALU: More focus should be given to empowering the private higher education sector, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Masidi who is also minister in-charge of education in Sabah, said the government in its efforts to make the country an education hub should not only emphasise developing the public education sector but equally develop the private higher learning institutes.

“Public and private education should not be viewed as a separate individual sector but must be developed as one. We cannot divorce the two as they should go side by side to achieve the target to become an education hub.

“As such, I think it is time for a new approach where the government provides equal assistance to the private education system,” he said when officiating at the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing between Universiti Tenaga Nasional (Uniten) and Sidma College (Sabah and Sarawak), here yesterday.

Masidi said although the number of private higher learning institutes (IPTS) in the country is far greater than public institutions (IPTA), government’s focus was still very much tilted towards IPTA.

One of the ways to help strengthen the private higher education institutions, he suggested, was to let them handle all the foundation tertiary courses currently provided at public institutions.

He explained that one of major concerns in developing the education sector in the country is the growing costs of providing the infrastructure required and with many IPTS currently under-utilised, the government could save a lot by outsourcing some of the courses offered at IPTA.

“Perhaps, instead of the government spending more money opening new buildings, to put up new colleges, it is more practical to divert this responsibility to IPTS to conduct the course under close supervision of the government.

“Many IPTS are underutilised, they already have the facilities and staff but do not have enough students,” he said.

He added that while this eliminates the need for building new public institutes or colleges to meet the rising demand, it also helps existing IPTS stay afloat and grow.

He noted there are currently about 400 IPTS with only about three million students in the country, including those studying in IPTA.

“This is not just in Sabah, it’s a very tough competition to get students across the country and unless you get the right number of students, it’s not commercially viable.

“The government has the financial capacity to handle even small number of students but it is a huge financial constraint for IPTS. So I think it is time for the government to come forward to assist the IPTS,” he said.

Asked about the higher cost of studying in private institutions, he said both parties could sit together to come up with a mechanism to ensure that all courses offered remain affordable to all, even if they are offered by private colleges.

“This is where government assistance comes in, this is where the government can become the sponsors, after all they are already sponsoring students in the colleges they are in now,” he said.

On the MoU earlier, Masidi expressed hope that Uniten would not stop with SIDMA in collaborating with local IPTS to provide off-campus courses to students in Sabah. — Bernama

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