Cost cutting in education draws flak in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR - The halt in the hiring of temporary Pupils' Own Language (POL) teachers as a cost-cutting measure by the Edu­cation Ministry is unreasonable because some students will still take language papers for their examinations, said Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan.

"It involves several languages such as Mandarin, Punjabi, Tamil, and some local dialects from Sabah and Sarawak. The classes must go on," he said.

Kamalanathan disagreed with the move, saying that cost-cutting measures should not affect the students.

"Any cost-cutting measure should not affect education itself. This is my personal opinion and I will meet Education Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad to discuss the matter," he told reporters after launching the Program Susu 1Malaysia seminar yesterday.

Unesco, said Kamalanathan, had noted that early childhood learning in mother tongue language would help children learn better.

"I understand that there must be some reason behind it but I will try to appeal to avoid this from being implemented," he said.

Kamalanathan was responding to a report in The Star on the six measures taken by the ministry to cut costs, including to stop the hiring of temporary POL and substitute teachers beginning today that will last for the rest of the year.

In a Sept 25 circular posted on the ministry's website, Dr Madinah had announced the cost-cutting measures, including prohibiting schools from holding events on a package basis at private premi­ses and introducing tighter controls on allowing students to take part in competitions abroad.

Kamalanathan, however, said he had no problem with the other cost-cutting initiatives.

MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam called on the ministry to ensure the austerity drive did not compromise POL classes.

"The reality is that there is a need for more full-time POL teachers in many schools," he said.

National Parent-Teacher Association Collaborative Council president Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Ali Hasan said the ministry should reconsider its decision to temporarily restrict students from taking part in international competitions as such experience was vital.

The ministry, he said, should also give headmasters the power to decide if the schools should take part.

"I believe schools should be empowered and they can get funds on their own without relying on the ministry. If the schools can source for funds on their own, then they should not be restricted from taking part.

"The schools however should inform the ministry for approval once they are able to secure funding," he said.

National Union of the Teaching Profession president Hashim Adnan said if schools were able to find their own sponsors, then the ministry should not restrict students from taking part.