I have previously written - 'Teachers Hold the Key' and 'Quality Teachers' - on the importance of teachers being treated differently from your regular civil servants in the government offices. The argument is very simple. The worst case which can happen in the government offices is incompetence and inefficiency leading to poor productivity and late delivery of documents e.g., passports, certificates of fitness, land and strata titles. However, the impact of an incompetent teaching force in the country will be retarding the intellectual progress and development of an entire generation of young Malaysians. The negative impact will be immeasurable, especially when one also takes into consideration the multiplier effects on subsequent generations.
To quote the former Director-General of the Ministry of Education, Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad:
"How can the mediocre (teachers) produce the best (students)?"Hence I believe as per my pervious blog posts, that it is critical that the government create a separate class of civil servants specially for those in the teaching profession so that they will have their revised pay structure as well as growth and promotion prospects to attract some of the very best people to the profession. Their remuneration package cannot be linked to the typical civil servant packages. More critically, while the civil service may be able to act as the dump for the unemployable, the teaching profession must not absorb this lot.
As for the academia in our local universities, it is imperative that they be "de-link" from our government civil service. There are many reasons for this argument and some of the more prominent ones include political patronage and the lack of academic freedom restricting intellectual development. Instead of focusing on academic achievements such as research and publications to determine promotions, due to the government civil service structure, many academics fall into the trap of being "pro-establishment" purely for the sake of self-interest - for e.g., the publication of the disgraceful ethnic relations guidebook. And of course, the issue of restricted academic freedom has been discussed to death.
More importantly however, it is important to review the remuneration package of the academics at our local public universities to ensure that they are not too far different from regional and international standards in order to avoid attriction of our already limited pool of top academics, as well as to attract new ones into the schools.
In the budget speech, our Prime Minister has stated that
"...the Brain Gain Malaysia programme has been implemented to attract Malaysians and international scientists residing abroad to collaborate on R&D technology clusters, including agriculture, bio-technology and ICT."Many of these brains are targeted to join the many research institutes linked to our local universities. The question then is, how are we supposed to attract these top brains in the world to join our local civil service and possibly even in one way or another, fall within our civil service remuneration structure? Which self-respecting academics from the top universities in the world would demean themselves to be regarded as part of the "civil service"?
Hence, the Government will certainly have to review these issues in the preparation for the next budget, as these are not just policy issues, but budgetary ones as well. They have expectedly not been considered in this budget, and it is hope that their importance is recognised in the interest of developing and strengthening our education system.
Footnotes: You may read the earlier instalments on the 2007 Budget impact on education and training, unity or segregation as well as quality versus quantity.
In addition, for those interested in my views of the 2007 Budget beyond just education and training, have a read on my interview with Malaysiakini here and here. :)