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Saturday, 23 March 2013

Upgrade the standard of education to defrag high cost!

A LARGE section of teenagers will now decide what to do with their lives after receiving their SPM and STPM results.

Decision-time beckons for them as they will ponder whether to pursue a tertiary education, enrol in a skills programme or enter the workforce.

The higher number of those scoring straight As will please them and their parents to no end but the results also show that overall, students did perform poorer than last year.

It's interesting to note that nearly 20% of candidates who sat for the history paper failed and I wonder what will happen to the overall passing rate for SPM students once that subject becomes a compulsory paper for future students. They will need to pass the subject if they were to get their SPM certificate.

While receiving education through government schools is still the most popular route for students in Malaysia, there is a growing number of parents who have chosen that their children study in international schools.

Such schools teach and prepare their students based on the curriculum of other countries, namely the UK, America, Australia and even Singapore.

The rationale for sending their children to those schools would certainly be to enable their children to receive what they perceive is better education.

Sure. Children who make their journey through such schools will be exposed to a different learning system, a different curriculum and the broad-based approach to learning employed by those schools certainly will equip their students to think critically and maybe be more engaging during the learning process.

But the thing is that the allure of giving such an education certainly masks the cost of providing such learning to their children and many who enrolled their children in international or private schools will feel the pinch as they progress through the years.

One friend says that the school where he is sending his two kids to will raise its fees by 40% for the intake of students from September this year.

He is lucky because he doesn't have to feel the brunt of such a steep increase in fees but the annual cost of sending his kids to that school certainly keeps rising faster than the rate of inflation in Malaysia. Plus when they cross a certain year, there is a big bump in the fees he pays.

The thing is that when he first took the plunge to send his kids through the school, it was estimated it will cost him the price of a Mercedes E class. Today, he thinks it's close to RM1mil.

That's basically the cost of sending a student to study medicine overseas, and it's no secret that the cost of education from international schools is far more than what it will be to receive a university degree from a local institution of higher learning.

But that's a business and parents have to fork out huge sums of money if they want their children to go through such an education system. Some may feel it's worth it but parents should really examine what will be the hidden costs of sending their children to international schools.

The top international schools do have a long waiting list and with restrictions to open up such schools lifted, more of such schools will be built and hopefully competitive pressure will mean that fees will be a little more reasonable.

The one drawback of receiving an education from international schools, even though there is a growing number of Malaysians enrolled, is that pupils do not really receive the education that integrates them into the fabric of Malaysian culture.

There are no students from impoverished backgrounds and I don't think you will find them from the broad layers of society. One CEO I met refused to send his two children to a private school. It's not that he cannot afford the fees but it's because he didn't want them to miss out on society's education.

But the higher fees and the clamour for more middle and upper class Malaysians to choose international and private schools should translate to an urgency to raise the quality of education in government schools.

There is a national education blueprint and hopefully the final report on what needs to be done gets implemented fast. Otherwise, there will be a lot of middle class Malaysians who will feel the pinch as they choose to give what they think is a better education for their children.

Acting business features editor Jagdev Singh Sidhu wishes the quality of education in government schools was better than what it was like when he was a student.