Please don’t use education issue as your political mileage

I refer to the news report in the The local daily – dated 14 Dec 2007 – " Additional Fees is not a Must" and the PM budget speech 2008 text which is available on the Ministry of Finance as well as Bank Negara website.

Based on the budget speech, I quote the PM said (from BNM website)

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The news that there will be no school fees in Malaysia was further strengthen by the Education Minister as part of his campaign strategy to head Unesco . I quote Bernama report on Nov 1st, 2007 " Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said today that he was proud to mention that education in Malaysia is free when he spoke at Unesco's 34th general conference in Paris recently. "

Surprisingly, the Education Ministry released an official circular SPI 13/2007 dated 30 October 2007 where several key points is worth to be highlighted. Among others

  • The word "Yuran" has been dropped and is replaced with the word "bayaran tambahan" (Refers to Item 6 of the SPI) (I quote – " All parents will be required to make payments and not fees for all additional services and facility provided"

  • Item 10 of the SPI says that the school head can apply to imposed this charges by requesting to the Education Department and to submit their application by 30 September every year.

  • Item 11 of the SPI says that the Education Department has the rights to approve or to change the package that the school head has decided if they feels that the package requested by the school head is not appropriate to the school environment

  • Under Item 16 (16.1,16.2 and 16.3), the parents consent must be obtain via the PIBG committee in choosing the package

Let us study SPI 4/1998 which has not been rescinded despite the presence of SPI 13/2007. If we were to sit down and make comparison on the "charges' the school has been imposing under SPI 4/1998 and make comparison to the new SPI 13/2007 (for the primary school) , we can conclude the following:

  • Only the special Fees has been removed i.e. RM 4.50 for primary school and RM 9.00 for secondary schools

  • They have introduce new package charges under Co Curricular activities which is between RM2.00 to RM 5.00. It is quite obvious that most school will adopt the middle package which is RM 3.00

  • They also increase the "charges of Kertas Ujian Dalaman" from RM 5.00 to between RM 6 to RM8. Again I believe most schools will go for the middle package which is RM8.00

  • School sports day which was not charge previously is now being charge between RM6- RM10 which again I believe most schools will charge RM8.00

  • MSSM Fees is now increased from RM 0.50 to RM 2.00

  • The other charges remain the same

What can we conclude about the " Free Education announce by the PM and proudly mention at the UN by the Education Minister recently based on the facts that is available us? The following is my analysis

  • The free school fees is merely an election gimmick. The government and the Minister of Education is now making things more complicated by saying the the "Additional payment is not compulsory as reported today" despite the government circular SPI 13/2007 saying otherwise. Dato Hisham, the circular clearly states that it is compulsory and it is not an option for the school. The compulsion nature of the order is further strengthen by item 6, 10,11 and 16 of the SPI

  • In actual fact the removal of the special school fees of RM 4.50 as indicated by the SPI 13/2007 was in fact replace with other charges. Not only it was being replaced but they have smartly replaced the word fees with the word " additional charges".

  • The new charges is actually RM 6.00 to RM 21.00 extra than what was charge by the government before the so called abolishment of the word school fees.

  • What was actually dissolved by the government is not the actual fees but the word fees which is replaced with "bayaran tambahan"

  • The role of PIBG is actually is a rubber stamping body whose voice and functions are being curtailed . What is the point of getting the PIBG approval if the education department has the right to change what was agreed at the school level (Item 11 of the SPI 13/2007) . In the first place if the MOE via its circular has decided on the rates and the packages, why is there a need for the PIBG to get involved. It is merely a tactic to show that parents are involved the decision making. I beg to differ, the PIBG was made into a rubber stamp and its role is to endorse what the MOE has decided.

Dato Hisham, your statement and the the circular issued  has far reaching implications. It is making life difficult for school heads to explain to parents. Rather than making a long winded and confusing statement, I proposed the following

  • The government must issue another circular and trough the media and states the following

    • Rescind circular 13/2007 and 4/1998 and issue a clearer circular which gives facts on charges, the amount, methodology of collection, status of payment – compulsory or otherwise

    • The PM made a mistake in its budget speech

    • The word yuran has been replaced by "Additional Payments" is in fact are school fees

    • This additional payments is compulsory and must be paid by parents. They have option either to pay in full or in installment

    • The PIBG should not be made to be  involved in this matter

    • The PIBG via its AGM can imposed necessary contributions for the PIBG and not the school as decided by members

    • Hishammuddin must go back to UNESCO and announce that he made a mistake and education is not free in Malaysia

Please don't use education issue as your political mileage. It is quite obvious that government (Ministry of Finance) cannot give adequate financial support to cover the loss of income as a result of the PM budget announcement. Malaysian generally can afford to pay additional school fees but the way to increase it must be done in a straight forward manner. Don't say one thing at Parliament and at UNESCO and do something else on ground. It gives a very poor reflection of the government in the face of transparency and honesty. I urge the PM and Education Minister – " Do the right thing"

Regards and best wishes,

Dr Mohamed Rafick Khan bin Abdul Rahman

MD, MMed(OM), MBA(IT), Dip Ae Med, CTM, AME (17)

Bukit Antarabangsa, Ampang, Selangor