The plan was to write on some political development but an Utusan Malaysia report today caught this blogger's attention.
Utusan reported an appeal by a BN Backbencher on Government's decision to cut allocation to Institut Kemahiran Mara (IKM) up to 200% and Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) up to 60%.
IKM's budget will be slashed from RM403 million a year to RM143 million a year. Whilst MRSM's budget be slashed from RM200 million a year to RM143 million a year. Read here for the full report.
This report will have it's own political ramification. The discussion on the reduced allocation for MARA will evolve around the nation's economic and financial situation to further extending into issues of Bumiputera speacial rights under Article 153.
Nevertheless, facing up to the reality of budget constraints, this blogger argue that the Bumiputera economic future is better served by lesser budget cut to IKM and more cut in allocation to MRSM.
Government have overextended their MRSM program and need to relook the MRSM program which in this blogger's opinion have astrayed from it's original purpose.
MRSM can operate on a lower budget and be more socially effective if the Middle class Malay stop their dependent mentality to demand for more boarding schools, specifically MRSM, and take charge of their children's basic education.
Before touching further on the subject, which could spark screams from this blogger's circle of boarding school Alumni and Middle class Malays, the Article 153 will be briefly touched.
The late Supreme Court Lord President, Tun Suffian's had interpreted in his book on the Malaysian Constitution that previlages under Article 153 is actually a permanent cost for trade-off between the Immigrants' citizenship and willingness (or in actual fact, force by colonials) to accord the citizenship by the Malay Rulers.
Though the previlages is termed as Malay Special Rights, it is actually basic and minimal in value. Compared to rights for licences and permit to do businesses, and job in the civil service, it is scholarships and training that has significant economic value.
Although there are constitutional avenues to stem the Government effort to cut MARA's budget, budget constraints is a reality and there is no other choices but to prioritise. Thus, it is timely to express openly to the public this blogger's view that have been vehemently opposed by his fellow boarding school Alumni in the past.
Face it! Reality has sink in and the need has come to do some drastic changes.
Part of the problem lies with the Government, institution or individual, lackadaisical attitude in their financial management of MARA and it is time to take stock of the situation and review back it's priorities. They have to face up to the reality that money can never flow like water. Even producing clean tap water to reach the rural areas cost money.
There have been many attempts in past years, if not a decade and half ago, to consolidate MARA's financial position and make them financially self reliant. The idea was to make MARA sustain it's educational and entrepreneur development program beyond the NEP period.
Unfortunately, the attempt was never taken up seriously by the many pen pushing Little Napoleans. Such basic as auditing function in MARA was lacking. Let alone to establish a Fund with regular income stream from its investment.
Despite the limitation in finance, MARA continued to expand it's MRSM program along the grandiose idea from the late 80s for an MRSM at every Parliament area. One wonders the benefit of having a closed entry school system in a particular locality. Majority of students are from other localities.
There is no real economic benefit to the local economy other than petty economic activities in supplies and jobs. Secondly, do we need to keep building more MRSM to cater to the rising population and rising number of Bumiputera?
When MRSM was conceived in early 1970s, it was to increase the number of Bumiputera students in the Science stream. The rural schools were lacking in facilities to teach the Science stream subjects (streaming was later extended to commercial subjects). The science stream allocation in urban Government school were limited and were taken up predominantly by non Bumiputera, notably Chinese.
Bumiputera were lacking in exposure in the Sciences. They needed to be given a chance. This explains why the program was placed with MARA which is under the auspices of the Ministry of Rural Development.
The Government intention at the time was to build more boarding schools to rigorously groom potential Bumiputera students to produce good results and catch up in numbers. MRSM was built as a Boarding school and not the day school like the Bronx High School it was modelled after.
But since then, demography, lifestyle and educational needs have changed significantly. There is more urban Government schools today and sufficient facilities in Government schools to teach Sciences. Qualified Bumiputera students should be able to get a place.
The Bumiputera middle class demography, particularly among the Malays, have increase in numbers. Correspondingly, it is quite noticable that urban middle class Malay children are benefitting from the present boarding school program. One can find parents driving Mercs and BMWs on registration day or on a typical weekend.
The reason primarily is the perfect As minimal requirement which by probability, favours children from the urban and well heeled family. The minimal academic requirement severely disadvantaged the potential rural and urban poor students, particularly the East Cost and East Malaysian students. They usually do poorly in the English language subject and this denied them that entry opportunity.
Although more urban Middle class children are getting in, another trend is emerging. Boarding school life is no more suitable to these urban qualified children. Most boarding school had to face two wave of attrition and three sets of registration dates before student population settle in.
It is not unusual that further attrition resulted in the number of students per batch is less than budgeted for. In total, many rural and urban poor were deprived of that opportunity due this flip flop habit of urban kids.
Usually these students entered boarding school at the insistent of their boarding school alumni parents. But boarding schools do not provide urban students an added advantage in terms of facilities and accessibility to facilities than those at their schools and homes.
This impress on the point that boarding school entry requirement should be made on economic needs for a second chance for the economically disadvantaged than as reward for the capable haves or a status symbol for future snobs.
These yearning by Middle class Bumiputera family, particularly Malays to send their children to baording schools have to be addressed.
It has reached a point that if they failed to send their children to those branded boarding schools, they are willing to send their children to quasi boarding schols which is more religous school than a normal school stream.
For that matter, the current boarding schools have expended so fast in numbers that it is not producing the quality character for future success.
This can be attributed to the problem of quality teachers able to build character are not meeting the demand, over emphasis on producing straight As while neglecting other aspects of education, and the infiltration of politically PAS-aligned wardens turning the schools into sekolah agama rakyat-like environment.
Products of boarding school are regimented and spoon fed lots that either turn into lifeless book worm or plunged into disciplinary problesm at varsity level.
In a conversation with Encik Wahab Alwi few years back, the man oftenly dubbed as "Father of MRSM" for pioneering the MRSM school concept, he highlighted that the education budget in this country is lopsided. The bulk of the educational budget is spent on the smaller segment of the population.
Off course, it can't be expected to go on a laisse fairre free market economic model. That would further deprived the needy of education and see further injustice from misallocation of resources. An example is the merit based scholarship launched by Government are financing students from economically capable family.
Educational budget have to be reprioritised and that include the objective of MRSM and boarding school education. It has to be kept within a realistic budget.
One is to focus on the rural and urban poor. The budget saved by MARA could be reallocated to training programs like IKM, and scholarship for Unversities which is have immediate impact in the numbers of Malay professionals. MARA cannot subsidize the education of the affordable Malays.
Secondly, should the Middle class still persistant and argue according to their children's right (which is a weak self serving argument since children are dependent of parents), they will have to bear the full cost and cross subsidize for poor children. Let them pay to their nose to have the school facility which should be meant for social engineering rather the already socially engineered.
More, if not equally important, and more so with an East Malaysian as Minister for Rural Development Ministry, there should be more boarding schools and MRSMs for Sabah and Sarawak than in Semananjung. The need for more social uplifting is more pressing there!
So what do we do with the capable urban and Middle class Bumiputera children? Stop whining. Go to a normal locality school, preferably the mixed race schools and compete. Show Melayu or Kadazan or Iban or Bajau or ... boleh!
It is high time Middle class Bumiputera take charge of their own life and take responsibility of the children's own education and not left it to the Government. If they can have nice homes with beautiful interior, more than one car and annual holidays abroad, they can surely spend for their own children's education.
There should not any more be children of Alumni be given priority entry. It is ridiculous that a beneficiary of Government assistance see it as a previlage that his or her off spring receive the same Government assistance. That applies to all MRSM, MCKK, TKC, STF, STAR, SMS, etc.
These people should instead be contributing back in serious monetary amount back to the school as a sense of gratitude that taking away the opportunity of other children.
Turn those elitist MCKK or TKC into a Sekolah Rakyat for all I care. After all, products of MCKK today are in PKR and PAS playing populist politics to appease the non-Bumiputera voters and betraying the plight and rights of the Bumiputera.
Monday, December 21, 2009
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