opinion : Erna Mahyuni

Leaving education to the experts

Erna Mahyuni

MARCH 7 ― Ah, that madness is on us again. The fever called the general election. As usual we're hearing honeyed promises from all quarters but one thing I wish we could do is separate politics from education.

It's hard, yes, as the education ministry is seen as an important portfolio and stepping stone to the upper echelons of leadership.

Problem is, it makes great political currency but does nothing at all for the kids.

Recently a Form 1 English textbook showed that Malaysian English teaching standards have not improved much, continuing to set the bar so low the kids need only step across.

It's not just English, to be honest. There have long been accusations of passing marks and standards being dropped just to maintain high pass rates and hiding dropping rates of competency in various subjects across the board.

We can't fix things that we don't know are broken. It's the equivalent of giving a broken-down car a paint job and pretending it can run.

Various reasons are given as to why our education standards are dropping but my personal theory is really just to remove all political interference from education.

The education ministry is one of the ministries that regularly gets a large allocation and yet there is still little to show for it. More and more parents are willing to spend more to get their children into private and international schools or brave the Causeway to place their children in Singapore.

Not to mention the annual battle to enrol your child in a Chinese vernacular school, seen as the best quality of education public schools can offer.

It's madness really when children, no matter what background they are from, should have the right to a decent education.

How unjust it is for poorer children to be denied the opportunities given to those with more money just from sheer luck. No child asks to be poor and truly no parent wants to be poor in the first place.

It's time we let the experts decide on what truly matters for our kids. If we need to stop relying so much on KPIs and numbers, because all it creates is the need to show false progress.

Our kids deserve better than to be treated as pawns in the political race and it's seriously time to consider an overhaul. The future is only going to get more competitive and we need to prepare the children, who literally are the future as Whitney Houston sang, for that future.

It's the least we can do. After all, what we've given them so far is a country where salaries haven't kept up with inflation, development is still limited to central locations and the income divide has only worsened. It's not too late to start doing it for the kids.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.