By Medecci Lineil
I refer to the article Autonomy: Adenan should build state run private schools written by Joseph Tawie on Oct 28.
Actually I like the idea of having control over our own education system. But from the economic point of view, the money idea proposed by Chong Chieng Jen and the whole idea of state autonomy in education are mistaken.
Let me demonstrate my points.
One, spending more money will not solve the problem. Take for example, the cost of housing is rising and many potential house buyers still can’t afford to buy a house despite government subsidies.
Are we sure that Chong’s proposal will not cause the same problem as we are now facing with housing?
If we support his proposal, does that mean we are also making education for students beyond the reach of their parents?
If this is the case, what is so autonomy about it?
Two, we should give more autonomy to parents instead of state autonomy in education.
If Chief Minister Adenan Satem and Chong want the state government to control our local education, then it also means they prefer the government to make blanket decisions for many different families about how their children are schooled. Making such decisions are inherently political.
If both of them later argue that there is no political agenda behind their autonomy plan, then that is not a problem.
But how on earth can we demand state autonomy and improve our local education if both sides are not willing to put political differences aside? What more the effort to depoliticise our education?
Can they resolve this first? Far from it, I guess.
Three, if one really wishes to see our local education works, one should advocate private education. Not Chong’s version of private schools but schools that are run by communities, businesses, churches, industries, foundations and so on.
Let me just state one education principle here. Have we ever wondered why preschools like Smart Reader Kids, Krista and Qdees can survive, even expanding without government funding? Why is it that this principle cannot be applied to primary, secondary schools and universities?
Each preschool has different pricing and teaching methods and yet many parents still send their children there, why? Because only with a completely privatised education can different parents with different preferences choose the kind of schooling they believe is best for their children. Parents want teachers to respond and be accountable to them, not respond to some ministries and politicians!
Parents know what’s best for their children. Give them choices. Parents like choices, you know.
Of course, this question will arise – what about students in rural areas?
Well, I would argue that more competition among private schools would make such schooling available to students in rural areas and less affluent neighborhoods. The setup of the Spring Mall and Emart Batu Kawah in their respective locations reflect the people’s choices of neighborhoods they live in.
Because that’s where the potential market is.
In Sibu for example, if Hii Sui Chung can run his private school Citizen Middle School (Gong Ming High School) despite financial difficulties and without government funding for five decades, why can’t others? He has provided Chinese education for the farming community for decades. His teachers are paid a monthly salary of RM1,000 to RM2,000 while monthly fees per student range from RM40 to RM60! Are private school fees expensive? Not necessarily.
His story was published in The Star newspaper last Sunday.
Four, speaking of teachers we are blessed with thousands of unemployed Sarawakian education graduates. Why should we feel sorry when so many of our young Sarawakians want to become teachers? We should feel blessed.
If the graduates seriously want to teach, why not encourage them? If private schools are able to employ them because they do not mind the low salaries, wouldn’t that make private education more affordable for the majority of Sarawakians?
So which autonomy do we really want now? Let the parents speak! And the politicians, please listen!