Sabah and Sarawak should appoint State Ministers of Education not only in anticipation of grant of education autonomy to the states by Putrajaya, but to discuss with Federal Government and stakeholders on the definition and scope of state autonomy on education
In keeping with his promise to empower both Sabah and Sarawak, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday unveiled a slew of measures to benefit both states.
He said 90% of teaching posts in both states will be filled by Sabahans and Sarawakians within three years.
With this, the number of Sarawakian teachers will be increased from 32,168 now to 38,082 in the state, with a similar increase in Sabah.
Najib said approval for tenders involving federal projects would be done at the state level by a committee comprising the state secretary and other civil servants.
A joint committee of federal and Sabah/Sarawak officers will be set up to evaluate the administrative aspects of the empowerment exercise so that it would be carried out in an orderly manner.
It is however totally unsatisfactory in the decentralisation of powers and functions from Putrajaya to Sabah and Sarawak is solely in the administrative and not in ay substantive sense.
For instance, the grant of autonomy in education from Putrajaya to Sabah and Sarawak cannot solely be in terms of increasing the number of teaching posts in the two states to be filled by Sabahans and Sarawakians respectively, but also in the functions, powers and the jurisdiction of the two states in the area of education.
The Sabah and Sarawak state governments should appoint State Ministers of Education not only in anticipation of grant of education autonomy to the states by Putrajaya, but to lead discussion with the Federal Government and relevant state stakeholders on the definition and scope of state autonomy on education.
The areas of responsibility by the Sabah and Sarawak Governments with the grant of education autonomy to the two states should include the following:
- Raising the standard of educational attainments of primary and secondary school students in Sabah and Sarawak, comparable to their peers not only with other states in Malaysia but also internationally, whether in global educational assessments like TIMSS (Trends in Maths and Science Survey) or PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment).
- Improving the quality of education in both primary and secondary schools so as to reduce the need for students to be so dependent on private tuition, which has become a major financial burden of parents of school-going age.
- Development of mother-tongue literacy and education, including Kadazan and Iban languages.
- Institutionalisation of annual government grants and financial support to all primary schools so that this is not dependent on political or individual whims and fancies.
- Adequate provision of higher education opportunities for local students in the two states. At present, Sarawak has three reputable private higher education institutions, namely private universities of Curtin, Swinburne and UCSI but there is not a single one in Sabah.