Author Topic: Give parents school choice  (Read 633 times)

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namatakpenting

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Give parents school choice
« on: December 06, 2010, 04:42:50 PM »
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Give parents school choice
Sumber: http://ideas.org.my/2010/12/give-parents-school-choice/

December 4th, 2010

By Wan Saiful Wan Jan, The Edge, 4 December 2010

It has been over a year since I moved back to Malaysia, after 17 years living in the United Kingdom. The decision to move back was actually quite sudden. As a result, I did not get the chance to research properly about our state schools.

So I made what is perhaps an overly simplistic deduction. The vast majority of our Rulers and ministers educate their children in private schools, including overseas. This indicates that the leaders of our country have no confidence in the ability of our school system to educate their children. Therefore I deduced that it would be better for me to send my children to a private school too.

But then it hit me that I could not afford a private school for my three children. I did not leave London to work for a multinational corporation in Kuala Lumpur. Instead I returned solely to set up a not-for-profit think tank in the hope that we can do some good for the country. Unfortunately good intentions do not automatically translate into good money. One of our advisors, Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, often joke with me “Wan, is the money still lousy?”. I usually answered in the affirmative, but my answer is not a joke.

My wife and I did try to choose a good state school, only to discover how powerless we are in choosing a state school for our children.

Firstly, there was no information available about how a particular school performed. We could not easily find how a school performed in national exams compared to other schools. The only way to investigate is by talking to neighbours. We had to depend on rumours and gossips to know how a particular school performed.

Secondly, even if we made up our minds about which school to choose based on the rumours and gossips that we heard, we still can’t choose. The Pejabat Pendidikan Daerah allocates the school based on where we live. If the preferred school is not the nearest to home, the chances of getting that school is very slim. In our case, our appeal was not even entertained.

I am sure my experience is not unique. All parents in Malaysia are powerless when it comes to choosing a school for their children, unless they have money to pay for a private school.

This is not much different from what parents in the United Kingdom have to go through. British parents too do not have choice on where to send their children. Their schools are usually determined by a geographically defined catchment area.

But the new Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove is trying to change the situation with the introduction of Free Schools. This is a new type of government-funded school that can be set up by parental demand. Free Schools are given much higher freedom and autonomy, including the freedom to set their own pay for staff, and greater control on their budget. To improve choice, Free Schools can be set up by charities, universities, businesses, educational groups, teachers and even parent groups.

Among the first Free Schools to be set up is in Reading, which is about 30 minutes away from London. CfBT Education Trust – an organisation that also operates in Malaysia and is funding a research project at IDEAS – has been chosen by the British government to run this school.

When I met Tony McAleavy, Director of Education at CfBT, two weeks ago, he told me that the Free School is a great opportunity for parents and organisations like CfBT to work together to deliver education in a new way. Their school will start in September 2011, with places for just 120 primary school students.

Effectively, this bold reform creates schools that are funded by public funds, but operated by private companies. It will enable more and new schools to be created when there is demand by parents. It will put parents in the driving seat in the education of their own children. It will also bring the high quality usually associated with privately-operated schools to within reach of more people.

And the better news is, these Free Schools are still government-funded, and, therefore, free.

Malaysia too desperately needs a system in which parents have more choice. For too long parents have been at the behest of officials who wield powers that can make or break our children’s future. This has to change. Parents must have a choice about where they want their children schooled because ultimately, the responsibility to educate is with the parents.

We do have in Malaysia companies with the experience and expertise in school systems that will give parents more choice. CfBT is just one example. The best way to benefit from these companies is by encouraging more public-private partnerships in education. For the sake of our future generations, we must be bold enough to allow more private companies to run our schools.


Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (www.ideas.org.my)

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Give parents school choice
« on: December 06, 2010, 04:42:50 PM »