In race to hone talent, Penang to copy German vocational schools

Lim Guan Eng seen in this July 16, 2014 file picture. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
Lim Guan Eng seen in this July 16, 2014 file picture. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 — The German model of vocational training will soon become an integral part of human resource development in Penang, as the Pakatan Rakyat-led state launched today a multi-pronged approach to bolster what it claims to be flagging standards in the national education system.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state will be the first to adopt the German vocational school system, to help develop “high-performing education systems” that build both theoretical and practical skills.

“We must provide our youths with opportunities and supply them with platforms to demonstrate their talents and strengths,” he said of the system, which will be run within multi-national corporations operating out of Penang.

“It is only when we are bold enough to invest in education can we truly win the challenging future,” he added when launching the Engagement Science Technology Engineering English and Mathematics (ESTEEM) Teaching at the Karpal Singh Penang Learning Centre.

Apart from the new vocational system, Lim said his administration will also extend annual funding to all existing half-funded vernacular and religious schools, and build learning centres focused on teaching science, technology, English and mathematics.

Lim stressed that Malaysian students lag three years behind their peers in South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore based on the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranking, which rates the command of science, mathematics and reading among 15-year-olds.

He acknowledged that the Barisan Nasional federal governnment allocated some 20 per cent or RM56 billion of Budget 2015 for education, but claimed that the money will be spent “to satisfy the needs of bureaucrats” instead of improving on students’ learning.

“In fact, Malaysia spends less than Thailand in terms of education for students in their first 10 years of their education, from six years to 15 years old.

“Unless there is a paradigm shift towards investment in education, accompanied by high aspirations as a nation to build on human capital, we cannot be a high-income, developed economy,” he said, in a tacit reference to Putrajaya’s goal of achieving developed nation status by 2020.