Balancing free education
JUNE 13 — When it comes to education, I am of the opinion that no cost is too high. After all, education leads to the birth of innovation and gives rise to a society that is intellectual and enlightened.
That being said, for our minister of Higher Education to continue harping that he “won” and has proven the Selangor state government inept is a far cry from the truth. For one, Selangor did not state at any point that it could not do it. Instead, the people, the parents of students and, in clear fact, members of the minister’s own party have voiced out that his actions were an act of social injustice. And this will cost him dearly.
Tan Sri Khaled Nordin is now reliving the history of Caligula. For those who may not know who this is, Caligula was a Roman emperor who wished to quash rebellion on the British Isles. Upon reaching the coastline, he ordered his army to collect seashells along the beach. According to the delusional emperor, the shells washed ashore were plunder granted to them by the sea.
The higher education minister is seemingly in the same state of dementia.
While Caligula ended up being murdered, and that is not a fate we would wish on anyone I do think it necessary for the prime minister to consider, for the sake of his own salvation, a request for the Tan Sri’s resignation because this issue is not going away.
Education should never be made a political issue. By politicising education, we generate a future generation that is educated on what to think instead of how to think. We see this even now in the political landscape of the nation in what can only be described as Bush league politics. You’re either with us or against us is — by far, the current trend in our sad little nation.
While we have a minister who persists in being delusional, we also have an opposition with a track record of never explaining their methodology. This can be clearly seen with their highly recognised Buku Jingga publication, which details what they intend to do, but never discusses or even mentions how they would do so. Similarly this goes for PAS’s “Negara Berkebajikan” plan, which they are still denying is the direct translation of a “welfare state.”
When both Unisel and KUIS were to be denied funds from the PTPTN federal education loan scheme, there was a plan to liquefy assets worth RM30 million in order to cater for the students’ tuition fees. While this is truly an honourable gesture by the state government, which is run by PKR, the one question never raised by anyone to the person who conceived this plan, Rafizi Ramli, is this:
What exactly is paid for by the “free education plan”?
Tuition fees are a given, of course, but what of the cost of living for the students?
Will there be a provident fund set aside for students by the government? If so, would it be state or federal government?
Do you wish to offset this cost to the parents?
In the European nations, a monthly stipend is given to students in post-secondary education institutions as part of their welfare plan. Will this be the same method used in the PKR plan?
And how much would such a stipend be? Would it be in tune with the federal minimum wage policy?
Would PKR also amend laws to allow students in their free education plan to work part-time in order to offset their cost of living?
And should students be required to extend or repeat a semester, will the government still pay for it?
As I have said, I do believe in free education but it does raise questions of vital importance that require astute and rock-solid solutions before implementation, lest we want it to stand like a house of cards in a hurricane.
Free education is a just cause. It is one worthy of support and it is built on the belief that everyone should not be denied the chance for a better livelihood. It implies a government that is both charitable and brings back the term K-economy, something that our current prime minister harped on 12 years ago while I was in Kolej Matrikulasi Melaka in Masjid Tanah.
Pity the idea never stuck with him.
That being said, it would be wise if PKR promotes this idea to its coalition first, since the silence of people like Tony Pua and Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, stalwarts in measuring costs and effect. The long-term implementation of a free education plan needs strict financial planning and constant surveillance in order to ensure that the system is not abused for anyone’s benefit.
That being said, I do hope the government does realise that Caligula was the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist