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In support of Sarawak’s request for greater control of education powers

I note with great interest media reports which state that the administration of Chief Minister of Sarawak, Adenan Satem is seeking full control over education in its quest for more autonomy from the Federal Government.

The Chief Minister noted that Sarawak has suffered from Putrajaya’s frequent educational “flip flops”.

I for one fully welcome this development.

Educational autonomy, after all, was accorded to Sabah and Sarawak as part of the Malaysia Agreement. The Kuching Declaration 2012 of which KEADILAN is a party to, seeks to uphold the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement.

Indeed, KEADILAN and our partners have also sought autonomy in education in the states we have governed. I have frequently raised the need for decentralisation of education in the past.

On a more practical level, we can learn from the best practices of other countries where tertiary education, national curriculum and standards are still controlled by the Federal Government; primary and secondary education are controlled by State Governments while school administration includes a greater proportion of local participation.

We believe that state control will not only improve the quality and standards of the education provided to Malaysian students but also go a long way towards promoting national unity and integration.

State governments are most knowledgeable and best-placed to deal with issues on the ground.

Moreover, greater competition between the states will help to spur educators and administrators to seek to provide the best education possible.

It is ironic that while Malaysia is a Federation, all forms of governance here is getting more centralised while other countries are pursuing decentralisation. This includes unitary states such as Indonesia, that has pursued a committed decentralisation policy since its Reformasi and South Africa, where provincial governments maintain substantial powers in primary and secondary education.

I sincerely hope the Federal Government will give this proposal serious consideration, not just for Sarawak but for all states in the Federation.