Pitfalls of free education


(The Star) – “Only students with excellent results will have a chance to further their studies.

Fewer students will be able to enter universities if the Government offers free education.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said this was because there would be less funds to spare for a larger group of students.

“Only students with excellent results will have a chance to further their studies.

Way to go: Mohamed Khaled (right), accompanied by i-Serve Technology Sdn Bhd chairman Tan Sri Dr Aseh Che Mat (second from left), inspecting an i-Serve kiosk after its launch at Universiti Malaya yesterday. Looking on are KTB executive director Tengku Hasmadi Tengku Hashim (left) and i-Serve Technology Sdn Bhd managing director Allan Goh (seen between Mohamed Khaled and Aseh).

“Even if free education is provided, how are students going to pay for their living expenses without study loans?” he said after launching the Universiti Malaya Research Management and Innovation Complex yesterday.

Mohamed Khaled said the country could not achieve development if the Government only invested in education without focusing on the other sectors.

Citing Morocco as an example, Mohamed Khaled said the country provided free higher education to students but lagged in economic development. “Investment in students alone does not result in strengthening the economy if other sectors are not developed.”

According to him, only 27,000 students were enrolled in universities each year before the National Higher Education Fund Corpo­ration (PTPTN) was set up. “Only students who could afford to further their studies entered universities.

“Parents had to sacrifice a lot to pay for their children’s education. With PTPTN, the burden is shifted to the students,” added Mohamed Khaled.

He said it was not possible to introduce an interest-free study loan as the 1% interest rate currently charged was part of PTPTN’s administration fees.

Asked to comment on the five-point framework on free education proposed by PKR, Mohamed Khaled said the proposal on living cost allowances and interest-free loans was nothing new.

“Why do they want to re-invent the wheel? It is just going to be the same as PTPTN.”

On PKR’s proposal to set up specific technical universities to boost education opportunities, Mohamed Khaled noted that it was not cheap.

Khaled also launched the iServe service at Universiti Malaya yesterday.

The service will allow students to buy bus tickets home for the holidays at i-Serve kiosks on campus instead of having to rush to bus stations.

Khaled expected students, mainly from suburban and rural campuses, to benefit from the move.

“I hope bus companies will work with student bodies so that the kiosks can be operated by the student bodies.

“This way, students can learn the art of trade and contribute to development of student businesses in their universities,” he said.

The iServe kiosks also provide other services, including mobile prepaid reloads, AirAsia ticket sales and utility bill payments.