I was probably luckier than most kids who grew up in rural Malaysia. My father was both my teacher and the village school headmaster, which meant learning was not just confined to school. Classes continued at home too.
He instilled in me a strong learning discipline and impressed upon us the importance of education. Without a doubt I believe it was education that lifted the lives of many of my classmates out of poverty in remote Bario.
Education has the capacity to profoundly impact lives. This is why I continue to advocate its importance and believe that a nation must allocate as much resources as possible to this area.
Recently, I was at a forum with the World Bank senior economist for Malaysia, Frederico Gil Sander. Responding to a question, he said that the level of Malaysian household debt although concerning was not alarming. We should be more concerned about education if we want to remain competitive, especially since countries like Vietnam did better than us in international test scores such as Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), he said.
As the World Bank pointed out in the "Malaysian Economic Monitor" titled "High Performing Education", Malaysia does well in terms of access to education but it has to make improvements when it comes to quality. Our Education Blueprint aims to do exactly this.
Education is imperative for our transition to a high-income nation with a minimum per capita income of US$15,000 (S$18,722) by 2020 and this is to be done in an inclusive and sustainable manner.
We need high quality leaders to move forward. Also, in becoming a more competitive nation, we need to not only attract talent but to build it continuously from within our own system.
The Education Blueprint provides the plan to do this holistically because we simply cannot afford to fix this problem in a piecemeal basis as we play catch-up with the rest of the world.
The Blueprint features 11 shifts to be undertaken:
·Equal access to education
·Ensure proficiency in Malay and English
·Make teaching a profession of choice
·Have high-performing school leaders
·Customise solutions based on needs
·Leverage ICT to scale up quality
·Transform delivery capabilities and capacity
·Partner with parents, community and private sector
·Maximise outcomes for every ringgit
·Increase transparency for accountability
However, a strategy document alone is not enough to ensure success.