Wednesday, December 7

Game changer to education system

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AS the Sarawak state election draws near, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem has once again brought great news to the Chinese community in Sarawak.

He announced at mid-week that graduates with Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) can now apply to join  the State Civil Service. UEC holders can also apply for any Sarawak scholarships or loans.

This act of goodwill is a continuance of his promise fulfilled last September to recognise UEC.

The Unified Examination Certificate is recognised by many universities around the world. Until Adenan came on the scene, it had been facing difficulties getting recognised in the State, let alone the whole country.

The obstacles UEC had to surmount had nothing to do with academic standards. Rather, they were intertwined with the nature of the politics we have in Malaysia. As such, the State government’s decision to recognise UEC is an unequivocal reaffirmation of the status of all UEC students as well as Chinese education in Sarawak. The move has also put pressure on the federal government which has, so far, refused to recognise the Certificate.

The decision to recognise UEC is seen by some as a strategy to win over the support of the Chinese community in Sarawak to ensure a big mandate for Adenan in his first electoral battle as Chief Minister. However, the yet to be resolved impasse between the feuding pro-BN Chinese parties may prove to be a stumbling block. Will the leaders concerned take the same path that led to their disastrous showing in the 2011 election?

Tomfoolery will not benefit the belligerents, especially when they are supposed to be pulling in the same direction. Hopefully, they have the gumption to realise that without working together, their forays into the imminent election could turn out to be fool’s errands.

Besides the election factor, there is also speculation that Adenan’s move is a power game between the state and federal governments. After all, matters related to education are under the federal government and by acknowledging UEC, technically, it’s asking the federal government for autonomy over education.

In fact, the move can even stretch to other areas for autonomy and potentially bring about a firm devolution of State rights across the waters. Moreover, it might also strongly elicit a federal response to the rising local consciousness and benefit Sarawak.

In any case, despite the series of events to recognise UEC and its independent examination – whether it be a political move to appease the Chinese community or just a “late spring” to Chinese education – the Chinese education system in Malaysia still faces various limitations and challenges.

Presently, Chinese education in Malaysia is beset with difficulties in terms of re-provisioning, uneven funding, shortage of teachers and many other issues. Despite all the pleasing announcements, nothing much has changed.

In this context, nevertheless, it’s heartening to note that by giving due recognition to UEC, Adenan has started the ball rolling towards a plausible game changer whereby the constitutional rights for the various communities to promote and preserve education in their mother tongues are not only said to be equally safeguarded and guaranteed but, more importantly, also seen to be so it should rightly be.

In fact, Adenan has done what no other state or federal BN leaders before him had even dreamt of broaching. And in this quest, he is being realistic.