KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 — The government should consider splitting the education portfolio into two ministries as equal emphasis cannot be given to such diverse topics like black shoes for school students and information and communications technology (ICT), former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said today.
Rafidah said the government should have a rethink about having only one Education Ministry, pointing out the big difference between the needs of primary as well as secondary education; as compared to tertiary education.
“You cannot have the same emphasis on the policy of black shoes, in the same breath having a policy for interacting with ICT and upskilling. Just black shoes and ICT skills, two different things,” she told a public forum today when illustrating the different issues relating to different levels of education.
“So why not have — as we did before — education at the lower end and tertiary education, so the focus can be equally strong and not just dissipated. To me, maybe this is what the government should try to do,” she added.
Rafidah noted that issues such as the colour of school shoes can be handled by any parents who can voice their discontent, but suggested that having a separate ministry for tertiary education would enable experts to directly provide their views.
“So we will have professionals to deal with the minister in charge of higher education, whereas black shoes — anyone can do it. So you have two ministries,” she said.
The federal administration of the education portfolio has gone through several changes in the past, including the creation of the Higher Education Ministry dedicated to overseeing tertiary education before reverting to just the Education Ministry before being split again.
After the 14th general election, the Education Ministry and Higher Education Ministry was again combined to come under the Education Ministry, coming under the leadership of Maszlee Malik who has introduced policies such as the eventual switch to black school shoes from white school shoes.
Rafidah was speaking at a forum titled “The Current State of Malaysia’s Education System and the Way Forward”, which was jointly organised by Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK) and Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) and held at Universiti Malaya’s law faculty.
Earlier, Rafidah also said education should not be politicised or be viewed as a way to garner votes.
“Don’t let this be another political issue. ‘See, you vote in Pakatan Harapan, nothing happen’.
“Decades of rot, you expect people to change in one year, that’s so unfair, isn’t it? Decades of rot and inattention, you want to say ‘you do it today’?
“Of course we expect you to hit the ground running, but let’s be realistic about it,” she said.
Rafidah said Malaysia’s education policy should be sustainable where it meets the needs of the present generation without jeopardising the future generations.
“If you just think about education policy and how to get votes in the next three years or 10 years, that’s not the way. It’s about beyond generations and beyond elections,” she said.
Throughout the forum, Rafidah spoke about the need to leave politics out of education, and to leave emotional baggage aside when discussing it.
“In politics, sometimes education is a political football. During my time, during my heyday in politics, it was assumed that anybody who holds the education portfolio is the next PM-in-waiting, can you actually believe it?
“You actually link a portfolio in government to holding the prime minister’s position? Surely education is not the way to climb up the political steps, if that’s how this world revolves, we are finished,” she said earlier.
Rafidah later also shared her hope that those in authority would listen to the public’s concerns regarding education, and that they would authoritatively declare a timeframe for a complete revamp of education in Malaysia from all aspects including “policy, structure and system, content and ecosystem”.