RM1.2m will be used to upgrade tumbledown school buildings and infrastructure, especially in Sabah and Sarawak
by AFIQ HANIF / pic TMR
THE Education Ministry received one of the largest allotments at the recently tabled Budget 2023 (which will be retabled by the new government following the 15th General Election), a hefty RM55.6 billion compared to RM52.6 billion the previous year.
With this, Malaysians are expecting a change in the distribution of allocation for the education sector while teachers, students, parents and others in the sector look forward to some financial relief during these difficult times.
However, many are questioning, how is this allocation distributed? According to Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, RM1.2 billion will be used to upgrade tumble-down school buildings and infrastructure, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.
He also noted that RM777 million would be allocated for the Supplementary Food Plan to guarantee that students receive nutritional meals daily.
For Parent-Teacher Association (PIBG) member Teh Fahariah Mokhtar Azam, she would like to see a huge chunk of the money go to improving teachers’ soft skills, as well as get them more involved in policy-making, apart from the obvious upkeep of infrastructures.
She said ensuring education transformation requires the government to adopt new policies for strengthened accreditation schemes and modernise pre-service teacher education curriculum to include supervised field teach- ing, induction and mentoring.
“Teachers will also need to have better opportunities for personalised continuous professional development on targeted tutoring, digital and other 21st century skills,” she said.
She believed that teacher engagement through social dialogue in policy development and an effective and efficient compensatory system can help enhance the profession and enable teachers to better serve their role in transforming education.
“I believe teachers should get other soft skills that encourage new learning processes,” she added.
Teh Fahariah said, emphasising the importance of ensuring that teachers are equipped with the soft skills they need in the 21st century would ensure that they are well motivated, eventually influence and encourage the next generation to also go into the teaching profession one day.
“This will lead to ensuring an e-learning strategy, as well as having school leaders who have a mindset for change, among others,” she said.
Presently, she added, there appears to be not just lack of teachers, but also specially trained ones for the various types of challenges faced by the students.
She described teachers as a scarcity, stating that there are never enough educators, be it in elementary or secondary school.
“This has caused a disruption in our children’s education, and I am urging the administration to raise their pay and reduce their workload,” she added.
Apart from that, Teh Fahariah said the question that begs to be asked is whether our children are receiving the full value of the seemingly bountiful budget.
“We would like to see that the items provided and listed for schools will be beneficial to the students so they may begin the academic year with confidence and their parents can enjoy some savings, too,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.
She added that some schools do not even have toilets designed for wheelchairs, let alone easy access to classrooms.
“I have seen huge amounts of budget allocated every year, but our school conditions still look like they are stuck in the 1970s,” she told TMR.
Repairs and maintenance for schools with old buildings, she claimed, are expensive and never enough.
“It would be even worse if a school caught fire, like the Ampang Boys School in Kuala Lumpur, forcing the PIBG to seek private sponsorship or donations constantly,” she said.
She went on to say that extensive research and development is required to enhance or improve the curriculum in line with current trends.
“Not to mention that, it should allocate funds to make high-speed WiFi available in all schools, as the current speed provided is only 3Mbps.”
Teh Fahariah also suggested that the government use the budget to create a hybrid education system to ensure that children’s education is not interrupted in the event of emergencies like pandemics or floods.
Teacher Muhammad Muhaimin Hasnuden also agreed that with the allocation, teachers should be sent for training to better embrace hybrid learning and improve their teaching skills and quality, while syllabuses must be constantly improved and updated with in-depth feedback from all parties.
“This is to avoid syllabuses getting out of control. We must also ensure the students’ 3R (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetics) abilities are being put to their full potential,” he explained He suggested that the ministry review and possibly reduce the difficulty of the primary curriculum accordingly.
“They can get feedback from parents and teachers on primary and secondary school curricula, on whether they are too much for our children to bear.
“It is not just about doing the right thing; it is about doing things correctly,” Muhammad Muhaimin explained.
On the other hand, he said only 2% of the allocation for education, which is RM1.2 billion, is for the upkeep of public schools and institutions.
“The allocation for the education ministry in the general budget continues to increase yearly, which demonstrates the government’s priority in the sector.
“However, having a lot of money, but spending it wisely is another. According to previous reports, repairs and school maintenance were not done properly,” he said.
He noted that the learning environment depends entirely on the comfort and safety of the classroom.
“If adults cannot work in a hot and stuffy environment, then neither can children in classrooms. Being a hot and humid country, we should already know how to control and maintain our indoor environment accordingly,” he said, adding that the conditions of other classroom equipment such as tables, chairs and whiteboards also play a role in setting the students’ mood.
Meanwhile, as a parent, Samuel Tan wants his children to have the best learning environment, therefore, the majority of the budget should be used for school maintenance, which is critical in terms of learning environments that reflect the current changes.
“Maintenance is also important from a safety standpoint,” said the concerned father.
He noted that, aside from monetary considerations, education could look into improving the learning environment by adding new tools and equipment, as well as using the budget to provide new training and skills for teachers.
- This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition