I am grateful for the public feedback relating to education, and at the outset, I would like to state that I strongly believe that education is critical to the social and economic development of Malaysia.
Education is one of the six NKRAs under the Government Transformation Programme, and one of the 12 National Key Economic Areas under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).
It is also heartening to see Malaysians proactively providing their feedback as this means that they are interested and involved in the future of this country.
I believe that we are all on the same page and we all share a common goal of wanting quality education for our children at all levels, from pre-school, primary, secondary and as with every issue which involves a wide variety of people, there are different angles and different viewpoints.
Mastering English is definitely important. At PEMANDU, at this stage of our involvement, our focus is on addressing issues to raise the overall quality of education so that a pipeline of skilled human resource is available to take the country towards high-income status.
English is an international and commercial language, and stronger mastery of the language will indeed help.
However, there are some countries such as South Korea, Japan, Germany and France, which achieved high-income status by using their national language as a medium of instruction, and my reference to these countries is not meant to dismiss the importance of English.
When I was asked my opinion at a recent public event, using these countries as a point of reference, I said that the policy to revert to Bahasa Malaysia should not prevent us from achieving high-income status.
In the context of education, I believe the crux of the matter is the quality of education. We must also address the many fundamental issues that are, today, huge roadblocks to the delivery of quality education.
For example, the Education NKRA is focusing on increasing basic education for all by increasing the number of quality pre-schools built by both government agencies and private operators. The Literacy and Numeracy programme aims to improve current literacy and numeracy rates to 100 per cent for all Primary Three children in 2012.
We have also increased principals' and school teachers' accountability by ranking all public schools according to a composite score based on both academic and holistic assessments, as well as offering financial incentives to the staff in top-performing and greatly improved schools.
Schools in the lowest ranks will be given support via the School Improvement Programme, which gives principals a self-assessment tool as well as support lines of teachers and trainers who make targeted visits to these schools.
For top-ranked schools, we offer the possibility of becoming a High Performing School, which allows the school more financial and curriculum autonomies. Under this initiative, excellent schools will be given a grant of RM700,000 as well as increased autonomies in choosing new subjects. We plan to have at least 100 High Performing Schools by 2012, and have already announced 20 for this year.
Improving teacher quality in the education system is a top priority for PEMANDU. Under the ETP, we aim to increase the number of teachers trained by private teacher training institutes. We hope to improve quality of teachers by introducing competition between the private and public sectors in the field of teacher training.
Teach for Malaysia (TFM) is also another initiative that aims to attract top young Malaysians to serve in under-performing public schools, which aims to raise the value proposition for the teaching career. A non-governmental organization (NGO) will be placing these talented young Malaysians into public schools by January 2012.
These initiatives are only some of the initiatives within the education system that will address the issue of quality of teachers and schools that has been a valid concern of parents and the public.
Most of the initiatives under the ETP will create competition within the public education sector, where the Ministry of Education has been the sole provider for many years.
PEMANDU is dedicated to ensuring quality education is provided for all our children, especially since education is the bedrock of any high-income nation. To that end, we would be happy to engage in constructive dialogues with interested parties to achieve our common goal.
I thank you for the diverse opinions, and I look forward to constructive dialogue.
Idris Jala is a minister in the Prime Minister's Department - article from Malaysia Chronicle