Malaysia

RM270 million paid to train teachers in English is absurd, says DAP

BY LEE SHI-IAN
October 21, 2013

A DAP leader has questioned the Education Ministry's payment of RM270 million to consultants in the training of local English-language teachers.

Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari said the ministry should explain why the three external consultants were paid the sum to hire 360 mentors to train local English-language teachers for three to four hours a month.

Zairil, who is DAP's assistant national publicity secretary, questioned why such an exorbitant sum was paid to the British Council, Brighton Education Group and SMR HR Group, between 2011 and 2013.

The three, he said, were paid a total RM268.5 million, or an average of RM89.5 million annually.

Zairil said in a statement that as part of the agreement, the three firms would provide 360 English-speaking mentors throughout the three-year period to train 7,500 Malaysian teachers from 1,800 schools nationwide.

"The Education Ministry's reply in parliament was that the three consultancy firms have their respective training responsibilities divided geographically.

"The British Council provides mentors to train teachers in Labuan, Sabah and Sarawak, Brighton Education Group (Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Malacca, Johor and Negri Sembilan) while the SMR HR Group (Penang, Perlis, Perak, Kedah and Selangor).

"In other words, the Education Ministry has spent close to RM270 million to hire 360 English mentors, which works out to an average of RM250,000 annually for each mentor. On a monthly basis, the Ministry is spending RM21,000 for a mentor," said Zairil.

Zairil said it was "absurd" to spend such an amount to provide what he described as "three-year paid working holiday to 360 native-English speaking mentors".

"How can the Education Ministry justify such an expenditure?" Zairil asked, adding that RM270 million for 7,500 teachers was equivalent to RM36,000 per teacher over three years.

He said the Wawasan Open University offers a Bachelor of Arts in English studies for RM24,000, two-thirds of the cost of the mentoring programme provided by the three consultancy firms.

"A six-month diploma course in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) would cost only RM4,500 at a local private college. There is absolutely no justification for the Education Ministry to hire overpaid consultants," said Zairil.

Zairil also pointed out that each local teacher was trained for about three to four hours a month, and questioned how a language can be mastered with such a short training.

"What is the efficacy of this mentoring programme? How can anyone possibly master a language, or any subject for that matter, with only three to four hours of training a month," asked Zairil.

Zairil also reminded that the Education Ministry had already come under close scrutiny for paying RM20 million to McKinsey & Co for consultancy services in drafting the National Education Blueprint 2013-2015. - October 21, 2013.