Free education will create subsidy addicts, claims Putrajaya

A student sleeps inside a classroom during the first day of school at an islamic local school in Kuala Lumpur on January 4, 2012. — AFP pic
A student sleeps inside a classroom during the first day of school at an islamic local school in Kuala Lumpur on January 4, 2012. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — Putrajaya continued today to defend its decision to keep the contentious National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) running, arguing that abolishing the corporation would have severe impact, including creating a generation of students addicted to subsidies.

Dismantling PTPTN would also see spending on other key sectors affected as the government would be forced to provide free tertiary education which is costly, Deputy Education Minister Mary Yap Kain Ching told the Dewan Rakyat here.

“Among the reasons..is that this would incure higher cost for education and this would affect spending in other key sectors,” she said in a reply to DAP Ipoh Timur lawmaker Su Keong Siong during Question Time.

“This would also make students more dependent on subsidies and this could make them..uncritical,” she added.

The deputy minister also suggested that giving out free education would spoil students.

“If education is free they will take it for granted”.

Su at this point rebutted and argued otherwise, citing as example those studying abroad and their refusal to return due to the lack of education opportunities back home.

Yap’s reply was: “That is only your opinion”.

Over more than 45,000 PTPTN out 132,801 borrowers have been blacklisted recently for failing to make repayments amounting to RM239.44 million, up to October 31, Parliament revealed yesterday.

Yap had said the move to blacklist the borrowers was not carried out indiscriminately but it was a last resort after the borrowers failed to make repayments and came for negotiations.

The staggering amount of loans owned by borrowers and concerns of repayment evasion have prompted the government to revive its plan to list defaulters on Bank Negara Malaysia’s bad credit list, although the proposal was purportedly shelved following opposition pressure.

But the opposition have called on Putrajaya to reconsider, arguing that the government should conduct research instead and determine the root cause behind the failure instead.

Among the suggestions was  that the federal government do a breakdown of PTPTN borrowers’ backgrounds and factors affecting them, including their monthly incomes, success rate in obtaining jobs related to their qualifications and the quality of the public universities, in order to determine the possible issues they face.

The plan to list borrowers on the CCRIS, or Central Credit Reference Information System, was announced recently by Minister in the Prime Minister Department in charge of education, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, as a measure to help the PTPTN recover loans.

It immediately earned criticism from politicians across the divide, including Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Khairy confirmed the shelving of the proposal via his Facebook and Twitter accounts, saying the Cabinet rejected the idea at its weekly meeting.

The federal opposition bloc Pakatan Rakyat had proposed to do away with PTPTN and argued that free education was a viable idea.

It became one of its major election pledges in the last national polls and helped gain traction among the country’s youth voters.

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