‘Comprehensive plan needed to improve education system’

Dato Sri Michael Manyin

THE Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research will undertake careful studies on issues, challenges, needs and opportunities to formulate a comprehensive plan to improve the education system in Sarawak.

Its minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin said the state government would continue to work closely with the federal government in education matters even with the setting up of this new ministry.

“Education comes under the federal list and setting up this ministry does not mean the state wants to take over education,” he said in his winding-up speech  yesterday.

The new ministry, he added, was needed to monitor and facilitate the development and contributions of various institutions of higher learning such as Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak, Curtin University, Centre of Technical Excellence (Centex) and others which the state government has invested a substantial amount of money in.

Manyin acknowledged that education plays a central role in any country’s pursuit of economic growth and national development.

“In today’s global economy, a nation’s success depends fundamentally on the knowledge, skills, competencies and innovation of its people,” he said.

Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How interjected at this juncture, saying the ministry must seriously look into the rights of Sarawak in education matters and immediately put in place a concrete plan.

“Even though education comes under the federal list, Federal Constitution Article 152 states clearly that certain scope such as teaching in English and native languages are exclusively Sarawak.

“In addition, the Malaysia Act and the IGC (Inter-Governmental Committee) report also mention Sarawak’s power in education,” he added.

See thus urged Manyin to take note of former Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s plan to pursue full control of education matters to ensure a consistent education policy.

In reply, Manyin said the ministry would prioritise resolving the issue of dilapidated schools across Sarawak, enhance standard of English in schools, nurture and cultivate interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, and pursue research, development and innovation.

On dilapidated schools, he said he would negotiate directly with the federal government and other related agencies to find ways and means to improve the physical conditions of 1,020 schools across Sarawak.

“Seventy per cent of the 1,454 schools in Sarawak are categorised as dilapidated and out of the figure, 415 schools are critically dilapidated.

“If we are to wait for allocation to come in traditional ways, we will not be able to address this problem in 30 to 50 years.

“This (problem) has deprived our children of better facilities and amenities crucial for their performance.”

With a well-equipped and conducive school environment, the children would have fared better and have the opportunities to become professionals or more successful instead of staying back to perform blue collar jobs.

Many children in rural and remote areas were also affected by low enrolment in schools in which they were deprived of access to specialised teachers on top of lacking in facilities and amenities.

“A study must be done on the possibility of setting up a centralised school to accommodate children from low-enrolment schools. Two issues need to be tackled – convince the federal government to set up a body and secondly, convince local politicians and parents to agree to move to the centralised school.”

Other than focusing on improving proficiency and command of English in schools, Manyin also mentioned the urgent need to intensify action to nurture children’s love of STEM subjects early.

“The enrolment of students in science stream for Sarawak schools is only 26 per cent at the moment against the target of 60 per cent.

“The state therefore needs more students taking STEM because the future depends on it or we will have problems getting qualified and highly skilled people to fill the jobs,” he added.

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