On October 22nd, it was reported in Malaysiakini that several parents from Jinjiang, Kuala Lumpur, are faced with the possibility that their children have to pay more for school fees because one of the parents is a foreigner. Their place in the school may also be in doubt as it is subject to approval from the Federal Territory Education department’s communication unit. This is despite the fact that these children are already Malaysian citizens on their own.
Parents were unsurprisingly “dumbfounded”.
"I don't understand. I am Malaysian. My wife is from Taiwan, but my 12-year-old child is Malaysian, has a Malaysian identity card (IC) and was born here. Is she still to be treated as a foreigner just because my wife is Taiwanese?" asked Ong Seng Eng.Another parent, Lock Heng Chong, whose wife is from Thailand, said the school authorities themselves had certified his daughter's citizenship but he still had to fill up copies of the 'JPWP/HDS001' application forms entitled 'foreign students' application to enrol in state/ state-subsidised school. The officers in the school informed him that it was “new regulations” issued.
What’s even worse, was a case reported through a letter in the Star on October 31st whereby “M. M.” was required to re-register her child with the State Education Department although her husband and I are Malaysian citizens by birth!
The only possible reason for the “discrimination” was because the child was born overseas, registered at the Malaysian High Commission and issued with a Borang W within a year of her birth. At the same time she has carried a Malaysian passport all her life and has been enrolled in the government school system for the past nine years.
“Yet we were issued with triplicate pink forms entitled Permohonan Penerimaan Masuk Murid bukan warganegara Ke Sekolah Kerajaan/Bantuan Kerajaan and asked to provide duplicate certified copies of supporting documents.”There has since been several versions of replies provided by the Ministry of Education officials to date. One official argued that the regulations were not new, but were just being “enforced” today.
"It's just that there has never been a comprehensive exercise to record such particulars since the law was put into place. The ministry just wants to find out how many children of permanent residents and other foreigners are enrolled in our public schools. We don't know, for example, how many undocumented migrants have their children enrolled in public schools. That's all this is, for record-keeping purposes."This was perhaps confirmed via a report in the Star on October 30th which stated that:
Every school-going child with one or both parents who are non-Malaysians must register themselves with their respective state Education Departments before they are allowed to start school next year.I can completely understand the ruling if it refers to children whose citizenship is not Malaysian, even though I am certain there are more efficient methods of administrating the process above. What I cannot understand is why should a Malaysian child, who by default, has the right to enjoy the national education system be put through such silly hassles and humiliation just so that the Ministry can collect some “data”? As far as I’m concerned, there are far less discriminating and discreet methods of collating the required data.
The new directive from the Education Ministry requiring such students to fill up a special form titled “entry forms for foreign children” is to facilitate its efforts to collect data on students and their parents’ citizenship status. Parents who have received letters informing them of this new requirement should go to the relevant state education department to fill out a pink form.
Datuk Khusaini Hasbullah attempted to appease the infuriated parents by assuring them that “the school will accept the child as long as one of his parents is a Malaysian citizen”. He rationalised that the parents were angry because of the name of the form which implied that their child was a foreigner. He suggested that his Ministry will rename the form “Entry Form of Children with One Non-Malaysian Parent”.
Datuk Khusaini Hasbullah completely misses the point. Why should the child, if Malaysian and possess relevant documentation, be required to complete a form and obtain approval from the Ministry of Education when he or she has no problems obtaining the national registration identity card as well as the Malaysian passport? Why not just revise the enrolment form for all students to incorporate these data requirements for the Ministry to collate the information as per the cited Education Act.
To quote “M. M.”:
While we appreciate that the Education Ministry needs to reconcile its students register/ database, the authorities could have handled the exercise with a little bit more logic and sensitivity and not assume that one cannot be a citizen just because he or she is born overseas.What really humiliates the child as well as the parents, and rubs salts onto the wounds, is when an official clarified that the charges, RM 240 for the secondary school level, RM 120 for primary school pupils, would be levied on parents upon approval of their application forms.
"The approving body is at the ministry level, not here at the department, and definitely not at the school. Furthermore, there's no question of payment at this moment. That only comes into the picture if the approval has already been made at the ministry.Once again, this official completely misses the point. The contention is not so much “when” the parents have to pay the extra fees, but a “why” should their child, who is a Malaysian, have to pay more fees than other “normal” Malaysian children?
Noor Rezan Bapoo Hashim explained that one of the clauses under the Education Act states that as long as one of the child’s parents is a foreign national, the parents must fill the additional form. “Based on that, we can check whether these children have to pay more fees,” she said.
At the same time, the Education Ministry financial division secretary Mahanum Abdullah said that the move was to ensure that foreign students settled their fees promptly as many had failed to do so.
No, Pn Noor and En Mahanum, the way to check whether the child have to pay additional fees is not by checking for the nationality of the parents. It is by checking the nationality of the child!
Pn Noor had the cheek to advise parents to go ahead and register their children early “as sometimes these forms take time to process and I don’t want them to miss out on the first few weeks of term.” Pn Noor, if your department or ministry is unable to cope with the administrative and paper work involved in the policies to be implemented, then please don’t create these unnecessary rules and regulations in the first place!
I am certain that the above administrative debacle is not due to national laws and regulations such as the Education Act. The spirit of the law is clear, in the simple sense that foreign students need to be properly identified and registered. However, the civil service interpretation of such laws tend to be overwhelmingly to the letter and form, even if it is impractical, inefficient and worse, diametrically opposed to the spirit of the law.
We have obviously too many civil servants in the government, for the director-generals could no longer find productive functions for them to perform. Instead they have to be occupied with strategising on a "new entry registration for children with one non-Malaysian parent" and implementing new administrative red tape, paperwork and absolutely unnecessary hassles for the rakyat.
As expected, the Minister of Education Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, when queried by the MP for Kepong, Dr Tan Seng Giaw in Parliament more than a week ago, had no answers. I don't expect the minister to have answers probably because he is unaware that his ministry officials are so capable of ingenius ways of inconveniencing the public. Hopefully, he doesn't take too long to rectify the silliness of these new procedures and provide his response to Malaysians accordingly.