Given that the budget for the next year appears to be a tad more adventurous, I'd also raise my personal standards and propose more drastic reforms which the country can undertake to improve the education system in Malaysia. This is not an attempt to disparage a credible budget from the Malaysian government, but instead should be viewed as an opportunity to further raise the bar in the subsequent budgets.
With all the thoughts that's swirling around my head, I thought its best not to try to dump everything into a single very long post, but instead break them into chewable chunks. Hence this post will first focus purely on a general analysis of the content of the Budget gleamed from the Budget speech by the Prime Minister as well as the Economic Report 2006/7. Readers may be interested also to have a look at the commentary posted here on the Budget allocation for Education the previous year.
In this budget, the Prime Minister has set out 5 key objectives to be achieved from its policies, which are essentially variants of the budget in the previous year. They are:
- To move the economy up the value chain;
- To raise the capacity for knowledge and innovation and nurture ‘first class mentality’;
- To address persistent socio-economic inequalities constructively and productively;
- To improve the standard and sustainability of quality of life; and
- To strengthen the institutional and implementation capacity.
1. Improving access to quality education and training at all levels
To further strengthen the education and training system, a sum of RM33.4 billion is allocated for operational and development expenditure, accounting for 21% of the overall 2007 Budget. Of this, RM6.7 billion is for primary education, RM6.2 billion for secondary education, RM10.4 billion for higher education and RM10.1 billion for training programmes.This represents a significant increase of RM4.4 billion to be spent in the education sector compared to the previous year, which in itself is a substantial increase from 2005. However, the overall proportion of expenditure on education remains the same at approximately 21% of the budget.
Breaking down the numbers further, out of the RM33.4b allocated, RM6.6b or 19.8% is designated as development expenditure. This represents an increase of RM1.6b over the previous year. In fact, development expenditure increased by a greater percentage from 17.2% previously. This is good to know.
2. Strengthening Primary and Secondary Schools
Depending on whether you read the budget speech or the economic report, you'd get slightly varying statistics as to what will be achieved in this area. From the budget speech:
To accommodate this increase, 22 new primary and secondary schools will be operational next year, while an additional 198 schools will be built, including fully residential secondary schools. For this, about RM1 billion is allocated. At the same time, RM90 million is allocated for the construction of two new Maktab Rendah Sains MARA (MRSM) and for the purchase of equipment for existing MRSM facilities.From the Economic Report:
A higher increase of 38.5% was allocated for educational infrastructure including the construction of pre-schools and primary schools, 12 Mara Junior Science Colleges, University Kuala Lumpur and 22 industrial training institutes.Irrespective, it does mean that a lot more schools are going to be built, although a higher than proportionate amount goes to building MRSMs. Earlier, it has also been mentioned by the Deputy Minister of Education that three new matriculation colleges, "costing about RM200mil each, would be built under the 9th Malaysia Plan at Banting in Selangor, Marang in Terengganu and a yet-to-be-decided site in Kelantan." I'm not sure if this is part of the current year's budget.
As part of the overall budget, teachers will also benefit from RM782 million for training as well as RM101 million as part of a plan for 67 housing projects in rural areas.
RM288 million is also allocated for the Bestari school programme, which involves the procurement of computers and peripherals for Access Centres in some 1,000 schools. Interestingly, nothing is mentioned on the software content for courses. Hmmm... anyway, I've written about smart schools here previously.
It is also announced that Chinese and Tamil language will be taught at 150 and 70 national schools respectively from 2007. We'll see if this gets executed in time. There has already been a delay in the implementation this year as blogged here.
3. Strengthening Higher Learning Institutions
Not much was mentioned with regards to the institutions of higher learning except that construction works is expected to commence early 2007 for the 2 new universities - Universiti Darul Iman and Universiti Darul Naim in Terengganu and Kelantan respective. An additional allocation of RM195 million is provided to upgrade and improve facilities in existing universities.
On the bright side, students who obtain at least 10A1s in SPM or its equivalent from families with monthly income of RM1,500 and below, are given scholarships to pursue tertiary education.
4. Enhancing Skills Training
- 450 million is allocated for the construction and upgrading of polytechnics and community colleges.
- 148 million for the construction of 2 new industrial training institutes and four Advanced Technology Training Centres
- 214 million for programmes under MARA including Mara Skills Training Institutes, Advnaced Skills Training Institutes, Giat MARA programme and Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
- Tax relief on purchase of books increased to RM1,000 from RM700.
Different departments of the government is clearly giving different statistics, and the Department of Statistics indicatred that there are about 31,000 unemployed graduates as at the end of March 2006. As a result, the government is implementing various training schemes such as the Capital Market Training Scheme under Securities Commission and "Programme to Enhance Professionalism" by Malaysian Development Corporation.
That's about it actually from the current budget (ok, that's actually quite a lot already). A fair bit of good stuff, but obviously there is room for further improvement. I'll give my views of these various aspects in subsequent pieces. Happy reading :)