Monday, August 01, 2005

Equal Access to Education (II)

As highlighted in the previous blog post, a Selangor delegate, Dr Amran Kasimin put up a motion calling for "more access to education for Malay youths and an improvement in the quality of education" during the recently completed Umno general assembly.

I completely agree that the government will have to improve access to quality education for the disadvantaged groups in the Malay community. This means that financial resources should be granted to these disadvantaged families, particularly those in the rural areas. In addition, teaching and learning facilities must be upgraded to ensure that they have at least a decent opportunity to receive the same education as their counterparts in the urban areas.

However, the Malays are not the only ones with a large number of disadvantaged youths. The Star has recently reported the comments by former National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam, who is now a Human Rights Commission member, that the poor performance of Indian students and the high number of dropouts have been attributed to poverty.

Statistics show that of 34,470 Indian children under the age of six, only
13,714 (40%) attend pre-school. And, 5,580 children of primary school age do not
go to school at all. The present enrolment of Indian students in national and
national-type school is 198,000.

There are 69,985 Indian children in the country in the 13-17 age group but
39,680 (56.7%) end their education at secondary level. Currently only 25,000
attend secondary school and of this only 2,000 (8.7%) were offered places in
institutions of higher learning.

The government should devise an education policy which will assist these disadvantaged students, irrespective of race to ensure that they have an equal access to quality education. However, we should never fall into the easy trap of attempting to provide "equal access" by lowering the standards of education, providing university placement as "handouts" or have a different "marking scheme" for different students, for this will instead make it an unequal access to education for the other communities. As argued in the previous post, such actions will only serve to disincentivise these target students and retard their ability to compete effectively in their future.

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