BY: WONG CHEN
Pakatan Harapan’s (PAKATAN) struggle in the issue of free education continues with reforms in higher education and employment industry.
Almost 77 percent of Malaysian employees have Sijil Peperiksaan Malaysia (SPM) and below. That is due to the lack of opportunity for them to continue with tertiary level education which among others is due to financial factor.
The impact is that, the majority of them have to spend their time and energy working in low productivity sector, where their incomes do not commensurate the increasing cost of living.
At the same time, the local graduates are also challenged with the current economic situation whereby 273,000 graduates are currently unemployed.
Worse than that, they need money to repay their education loans, among them is the National Higher Education Funding Corporation (PTPTN).
Free education is already implemented in some Nordic countries such as Denmark and Finland. The basis of free education is that it can eliminate the vicious cycle of poverty, through opportunities provided to the youths from low-income group, to place themselves in high-income careers compared to their families.
Free education is the best investment for the government to produce highly-skilled and innovative workforce, ultimately giving higher returns to the government in the form of income tax.
Unfortunately, the Barisan Nasional Government (BN) do not understand this concept, in fact they are more willing to cut the budget for Higher Education Ministry while allowing various non-beneficial programmes to continue acquiring funds.
The latest working paper that I have prepared show that based on the number of students and the current cost of education, the government merely need an additional RM1.77 billion a year to provide free education.
Meanwhile, based on the Auditor-General’s Report and National Oversight & Whistleblowers’s (NOW) data, the Higher Education Ministry has an estimated leakage of RM1.92 billion a year.
By eliminating all leakages, I believe Pakatan Harapan Government can provide free education for public university’s students.
My study also recommends that the Federal Government should change the RM2 billion a year PTPTN for public universities into scholarships.
With a repayment rate of 14 percent which is too low, reforming PTPTN is important to reduce the burden on youths and ultimately creating Malaysia as a model of a caring state.
With this study, it becomes clearer that a Free Education policy can be adopted when PAKATAN gets the mandate to govern the country in the future.
Besides introducing this policy, PAKATAN is also committed to study university autonomy status, the relevance of University and University College Act (AUKU) and graduates’ marketability.
These important issues are ignored by BN who is increasingly inclined towards corruption, bribery and bad governance.
I hope citizens will be smarter in choosing the best party to govern the country during the GE14.
The importance of reform in education policy is the focus in determining the country’s long-term direction.
The proposal that I have prepared together with my colleagues on eliminating leakages and turning PTPTN for local universities into scholarships can be accessed on the following website: http://www.wongchen.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Free-public-higher-education-Look-ma-no-fees.pdf
* Wong Chen is Kelana Jaya Member of Parliament (KEADILAN)
BY: WONG CHEN