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Dec 21, 2007

Pak Lah lies about abolishing school fees

via lordnirrajim

I would like to bring to the attention readers that I feel there is no more honour left in this country's Parliament. Due to the immunity against prosecution given under the law, the Parliament is being used as place to create lies, make irresponsible and sexist remarks. It is a place where our esteemed MPs show their childish behaviour

For example, during the recent 2008 budget speech in Parliament, the prime minister said and I quote, "Mr Speaker, the government has progressively increased the access as well as reduced the cost of education. Last year, the examination fees for PMR, SPM and STPM were abolished. The only remaining fees are the examination fee for Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia and the annual fee for primary and secondary schools. Effective 2008, all these fees will be abolished."

The news that there will be no school fees in Malaysia was further strengthen by the education minister as a part of his campaign strategy to head the Unesco. I quote Bernama report on Nov 1, "Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said today that he was proud to mention that education in Malaysia is free when he spoke at Unesco's 34th general conference in Paris recently."

The local media then jumped on the bandwagon, talking about how good this government is because they provide free education in Malaysia. Unfortunately, sometime in early November 2007, schools were issued with a circular (SPI 13/2007 dated Oct 30, 2007) where instructions on the issues of school fees in 2008 was highlighted. Among others:

    • The word "yuran" or fees has been dropped and replaced by the words "bayaran tambahan" or additional payments (Refers to Item 6 of the SPI). I quote: "All parents will be required to make payments and not fees for all additional services and facilities provided."
    • Item 10 of the SPI says that school heads can apply to impose these charges by submitting a request to the Education Department by Sept 30 every year.
    • Item 11 of the SPI says that the Education Department has the right to approve or change the packages if it feels that the package requested by the school's head is not appropriate to the school's environment
    • Under Item 16 (16.1, 16.2 and 16.3), parental consent must be obtained via the Parent-Teacher Association committee in choosing the package.

Let us study the SPI 4/1998 which has not been rescinded despite the presence of SPI 13/2007. If we were to compare the "charges" schools have been imposing under SPI 4/1998 with the new SPI 13/2007 for the primary schools, we can conclude the following:

    • Only the special fees has been removed, that is the RM4.50 for primary schools and RM9 for secondary schools.
    • They have introduced new package charges under co-curricular activities between RM2 to RM5.
    • They also increase the charges for internal exam papers from RM5 to RM8.
    • School sports day, which was previously not charged for, is now being charged between RM6 to RM10. MSSM fees has now increased from RM0.50 to RM2.
    • The other charges remain the same.

What can we conclude about the "free education" as announced by the PM and proudly mentioned at the Unesco event by the education minister recently, based on the facts that is available us?

The following is my analysis:

    • The free school fees is merely an election gimmick. I think it was announced without proper studies being done. Perhaps some genius in the government was trying to hoodwink the public.
    • The removal of the RM4.50 special school fees as indicated by the SPI 13/2007 was in fact replaced with other charges. Not only was it being replaced, but they have smartly replaced the word "fees" with the word "additional charges".
    • The new charges are actually between RM6 to RM21 more than what was charged by the government before the abolishment of the school fees. For schools that opt for package B, parents have to pay an additional RM13.50.
    • What was actually dissolved by the government is not the actual fees but the word "fees" that has been replaced with the term "additional payments".
    • The role of the PTA is actually as a rubber stamp body whose voice and functions are being curtailed. What is the point of getting the PTA's approval if the Education Department has the right to change what was agreed at the school level (Item 11 of the SPI 13/2007)?
    • In the first place, if the Education Ministry via its circular has decided on the rates and the packages, why is there a need for the PTA to get involved? It is merely a tactic to show that parents are involved in the decision-making. I beg to differ, the PTA was made into a rubber stamp and its role is to endorse what the Education Ministry has decided.
Honorable PM, my faith in you as an honest and good leader is eroding quicker than ever. If your intention is to increase the school fees then you should have said so during your budget speech. Don't lie to the people in the honorable House. Just because Parliament provides you with immunity from prosecution does not mean that you can lie to the public.

I believe most Malaysians are educated enough to understand the need to increase fees. I, for one, has no issue if it was done in an honest way. There is no need to lie for political mileage and for our education minister to go to the UN (Unesco) and lie to the world. This is simply embarrassing. It reflects poorly on us at the international level. It appears that lying is now an acceptable culture.

Pak Lah, please do the right thing. Don't preach one thing and do something else. As for the parents, I feel sorry for all of us as again. Our function is being curtailed by the ministry. Our voice are not important at the school level.


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