The Government Must Pay More Attention To The Disruption For SPM And STPM Students

The decision by the Federal government to close all schools in Malaysia until 17—18 December 2020—the last day of the school year due to the imposition of Conditional Movement Control Orders (CMCOs) on most states in the country is unfortunate, as is the postponement of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM) and Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM) examinations to 22 February 2021 and the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) to 8 March 2021.

The education of an entire generation of Malaysian students has been disrupted by the lack of planning and foresight of the Ministry of Education.

Valid questions have been raised over whether the practically nationwide imposition of CMCOs was necessary given that not all the states involved are experiencing a major uptick in cases. The decision to shut schools even in states still under the Recovery Control Movement Order (RMCO) like Kelantan, Pahang and Perlis is also questionable.

While we hope that Covid-19 vaccines will be available to us soon, the fact is that we are going to have to learn to live with the coronavirus for some time.

It is necessary for us to plan ahead to be able to continue our socio-economic lives while adhering to the best practices in terms of physical distancing and personal hygiene.

But it is unfair for the onus on this to be only on the people. They must also be guided, protected and facilitated by wise policies and decisive leadership, including in education. Unfortunately, neither has been forthcoming from the PN Government.

What the Ministry of Education has basically done is postpone everything and ask everyone to wait for details. This approach, as usual for this administration, is short on substance and empathy.

Take for instance the SPM, which are now scheduled to begin on 22 February 2020, while STPM will begin on 8 March 2020. Universty intakes, are ostensibly still supposed to happen in September.

Normally, SPM and STPM results are released in February or March and the Unit Pengambilan Universiti (UPU) usually needs around 5 months to process results for the university intake.

Now however, the SPM and STPM will end in March 2021. This means the papers will need to be marked, tabulated and reviewed, as well as results set and endorsed in less than three months—by June earliest.

This leaves July for UPU to input the results into their system and August for the students to apply to get their results in September. We must not forget that this is the same time UPU will be dealing with applicants from matriculation and foundation courses.

This won’t be workable without using new or innovative technology for the marking of exams, releasing of results and student applications for universities.

Current systems will not be able to handle this unless the date for university intakes are postponed as the exams have.

But I don’t just want to focus on recriminations. Here are some solutions the Ministry should adopt to help students and teachers cope with the upheaval.

1. The Ministry should convene a special taskforce with stakeholders and experts both from within and outside government to come up with a streamlined version of the SPM and STPM.

2. It should cancel all coursework requirements for the 2020/2021 and 2021 SPM batches except for where practical knowledge is critical like vocational subjects.

3. Identify which parts of the curriculum must be taught face-to-face and which can be done online.

For the latter, content development for online teaching and learning should be organised. The Ministry’s Bahagian Teknologi Pendidikan can help. Also, subjects that can be assessed or even tested for SPM online should be done so.

4. Freeze the transfer of all exam personnel in the Ministry, especially the Lembaga Peperiksaan, Majlis Peperiksaan and at the state education levels until both the SPM and STPM 2020/2021 and 2021 are settled.

5. The Jemaah Nazir should also work with schools to help organise classes or even go to the ground and teach—with all the usual SOPs of course. As I raised in the PH meeting with MOF on the 2021 Budget, we should also recruit interim teachers to assist full-timers with face-to-face and online learning.

Partnerships can also be formed with private training and technology companies for tech solutions and innovations in accelerated learning to help both teachers and students.

6. The UPU is also need of an upgrade to shorten the time needed to process applications and to ensure that it can handle the many tens of thousands that likely will be applying at the same time.

7. We also have to realise that the current batch of school students—the youngest members of the “Covid Generation”, will probably need monitoring and help for a long time to come.

The government should, for a start, increase capacity for matriculation and Form Six for the near future. This is to help better prepare Covid Generation students who have essentially missed a year of school for tertiary education.

For diploma courses, colleges and universities must consider introducing pre-tertiary course of studies (at minimum cost) to help both SPM and STPM batches catch up with the required knowledge in their related field.

I truly hope the Ministry of Education will consider these measures.

It goes beyond politics—it’s the future of a significant portion of young Malaysians, and thereby, the country itself, that is at stake.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN PARLIAMENTARY SPOKESPERSON ON EDUCATION
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Budget 2021: The Government Must Be Open To Bipartisan Input And Parliamentary Reform

Anwar Ibrahim recently called for both the government and opposition to “…take a bipartisan approach in crafting a robust strategy to face the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressing issue of unemployment and poverty.”

This approach deserves the support of all Malaysians. It is definitely important that the 2021 Budget be passed to ensure that our country’s fight against the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic as well as for an economic recovery is not disrupted.

Nevertheless, as the Malay Rulers recently and so judiciously stated, the various political actors in our country must work together to face the current crises while avoiding any abuse of power.

Malaysia’s politicians must be willing to work with the government to ensure the Budget is passed, with the proviso that all parties, including those in the Opposition, are consulted on its points in a holistic and substantiative fashion.

No party should be expected or asked to simply rubber stamp the process—that will defeat the very purpose of seeking a bipartisan consensus. Major and realistic reforms must be pursued to restore confidence after what the country has gone through through this year.

The process must not be rushed simply because of the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed, any Budget will likely fail in its purpose of addressing the pandemic if it is not subject to the necessary legislative scrutiny and real bipartisan input.

It goes without saying that any spending must not be for political or patronage purposes. Every single sen this Budget proposes to expend must be for the good of the rakyat, including their health, education, housing and welfare.

We must also realise that our frontliners—especially those serving in Sabah—are in urgent need of help on all fronts.

I also strongly feel that this Budget must lay the groundwork for addressing the fundamental issues that have been facing our economy but have been left unaddressed.

This includes not only long-standing challenges like moving away from our reliance on commodities and foreign labour, upskilling our workforce as well as sustainably boosting wages and productivity, but also new ones like preparing for regional security threats.

The only way for Malaysia to get the best Budget possible is for the current government to also commit to parliamentary reform. It must not only allow all MPs to debate critical issues, but urgently move to restore the repealed Parliamentary Services Act, revive the Select Committees that had been previously introduced.

The Parliamentary Services Act is especially important as Pakatan Harapan had almost completed work on its reintroduction. A more independent, efficient and stronger Parliament can only mean good things for the rakyat and their livelihoods.

Meeting the Covid-19 threat and reviving our economy cannot happen without political and institutional reform. Indeed, the 2021 Budget will be ineffective without it.

Whatever happens, my colleagues and I are committed to ensuring that the interests and wellbeing of the Malaysian people are upheld.

We remain steadfast in providing both checks-and-balances as well as ensuring that the country can turn a corner from the difficulties that it has been under for so long.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN PARLIAMENTARY SPOKESPERSON FOR EDUCATION
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Muhyiddin’s Failed Attempt To Declare Emergency Unnecessary, Dangerous

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/548165

MP SPEAKS | His Majesty, the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, as well as their majesties the Malay Rulers were absolutely correct in their belief that a state of emergency is not necessary for Malaysia. This should be respected by all Malaysians.

No one denies the threats posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to our country. The situation remains serious and in Sabah especially, tragic.

But no other nation in the world has responded to it by suspending its democratic processes or proroguing its legislature. We must get rid of this idea that politics is somehow a barrier to good or efficient governance – in fact, they cannot exist without each other.

Read more here.

Competency Of English Is Only Part Of The Challenges Facing Bumiputera Graduates

The Executive Director of the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) Shamsuddin Bardan has recently argued that the poor command of English is the main reason why Bumiputera graduates find it hard to get jobs in the private sector.

This is not a novel idea and indeed, Shamsuddin made this exact same argument in response to what was virtually the exact same question in 2018.

I do not deny that competency in the English language is a crucial skill that all Malaysians need. It is valuable in and of itself. And I also do not deny that it is a problem facing many Malaysian graduates—Bumiputera or otherwise.

But it is just one component of the problem. It may be a very big one, perhaps the biggest—but again, it is just one piece of the puzzle.

The danger is that we rely on simplistic assumptions in trying to understand a complex issue, especially if it involves blaming the real victims of a problem.

The fact is that the Malaysian job market has become more challenging in general over the last couple of years.

Indeed, it is no stretch to say that it has collapsed, and this will likely be compounded by the recession created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jobs can be created, but if there are not well-paying, or rather, if they don’t provide opportunities for growth, no one—except perhaps cheap migrant labour—will take them.

You cannot demand workers surrender to perpetually low-paying jobs they can never escape from—which leaves them nothing to save or build families with.

On the other hand, academic studies such as 2016’s seminal “Degrees of Discrimination: Race and Graduate Hiring in Malaysia” by Dr. Muhammed Abdul Khalid and Dr. Lee Hwok Aun has shown that there are real instances of private sector discrimination against Bumiputera graduates.

Moreover, Shamsuddin contradicts himself when he reportedly said that: “There’s no need to be afraid or shy because when they improve, they will benefit from it, too. Companies can then teach them other skills.”

But how are Bumiputera graduates supposed to get such on-the-job-skills when they won’t even be hired in the first place because of the English issue?

Am I saying English is unimportant or should be ignored? I am not. Should employers be forced to hire mediocre workers? Of course not.

But the point I am trying to make is that there are nuances to the Bumiputera graduate unemployment issue than just a case of poor English skills. The same can be said for the challenges facing graduates of all races in Malaysia.

Solving this dilemma requires holistic solutions—including overhauling our education system, ensuring just wage growth and incentivizing companies to constantly upskill as well as develop their workforces to boost productivity.

But these won’t happen if we are stuck in the belief that the onus is only on the workers to improve themselves without any aid from the government or private sector. This is simply not realistic and will hurt all sides—including business owners—in the long-run.

The MEF’s stand is hence tone deaf. But it is also par on course when one considers that this organisation, perhaps unsurprisingly, has always resorted to blaming workers for their plight rather than confront the real issues at hand.

It would be very unfortunate if the current government takes such wrong-headed and dangerous ideas seriously—if it ever gets down to formulating serious and much-needed policies to address our deepening unemployment crisis.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN PARLIAMENTARY SPOKESPERSON ON EDUCATION
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Philippines Revival Of Sabah Claim An Attempt To Distract From Duterte’s Badly-Bungled Covid Response

It appears that the Philippines is continuing with its illegal and fantasy-driven claim on Sabah. Its Foreign Secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr has recently announced plans to reactivate the country’s so-called “North Borneo Bureau” while claiming that “Sabah is ours (the Philippines)”.

Make no mistake, Sabah is and will remain an integral part of Malaysia. The Philippines revival of its “claim” is a desperate attempt to distract its public from the monumental failures of the Rodrigo Duterte administration, including its badly bungled Covid-19 response.

Nevertheless, it represents an affront to Malaysia’s sovereignty and dignity which cannot be ignored.

Secretary Locsin’s actions are nothing less than an attempt to interfere in our country’s democratic processes, especially given that Sabah is undertaking state elections at this very moment.

They are moreover a breach of the ASEAN principle of non-interference in the affairs of member states. It is unfortunate that they are engaging in such divisive actions at a time when Southeast Asia ought to be standing together in the face of attempts by certain superpowers to divide our region and turn it into a battleground for their geopolitical rivalries with each other.

While it is right for Malaysia to not entertain the Philippine claims, our government must also consider a stronger response if the latter does not cease and desist from its wild rhetoric.

As the saying goes: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” There is a danger that this might become a reality if we fail to take active steps to put a stop to the Philippines’ aggressive attempts to delegitimise Sabah’s rightful place as part of Malaysia.

The Philippines actions are not that of a friend. The Malaysian government must do much, much more than it has done so far to protect our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
CHAIR OF PARLIAMENTARY DEFENCE AND HOME AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Rosmah’s Trial Exposes How Corruption Impacted Education In Sabah And Sarawak

There have been a number of shocking revelations emanating from the trial of Rosmah Mansor in relation to the solar hybrid energy to schools in Sarawak project.

This includes claims from a former aide of hers that a special team of cybertroopers was set up with a monthly budget of RM100,000 to protect her online reputation.

Rosmah is alleged to have solicited RM187.5 million and receiving RM6.5 million in bribes in the project.

The allegations unavoidably give rise to disturbing questions about how the culture of corruption that existed under the previous Najib Razak administration has impacted on the state of education in the country—especially in the East Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah.

Funds that ought to have gone to helping as well as providing opportunities for the youth of those states are now alleged to have been squandered for the interests of the elite. Is it no wonder that our education system in general continues to lag behind other countries and hence stunt the country’s potential?

Moreover, the recent Veveonah Moshibin controversy in Sabah suggests that not only do East Malaysian students face numerous challenges in terms of facilities and infrastructure, but also in the form of ignorance, bad faith and outright prejudice from the current Perikatan Nasional government.

Expecting a resolution to these problems from the administration of the day is perhaps a remote prospect when one considers how it is essentially a confederation of vested interests—many of whom were voted out of office during the 2018 General Elections—brought together for the sole purpose of arrogating power to themselves.

Malaysian voters—especially those in East Malaysia—can and must judge for themselves which coalition is better placed to ensure the well-being of their future generations.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN PARLIAMENTARY EDUCATION SPOKESPERSON
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT