After being appointed education minister last May, Maszlee Malik’s pledge was “to improve the country’s education system and to ease the burden of teachers”.
Six months in office, the Simpang Renggam MP has been the subject of various controversies, but various quarters continue to support him, describing Maszlee as a man with extensive experience in education.
Starting with students having to use black shoes to school, the latest controversy was when he claimed to have been quoted out of context on the issue of including the 1MDB scandal in the country’s history, as well as the proposal for students to use hotel swimming pools for their activities, which was rejected by hoteliers.
The shoe issue follows complaints from parents that white shoes easily soiled and are difficult to keep clean, following which the Education Ministry, in October, agreed to enforce the black shoe ruling for primary and secondary school students nationwide starting 2021.
The proposal for students to use hotel swimming pools invited a lot of criticism, but it was among the happy news announced by Maszlee, as swimming would be an extra-curricular activity to be taught to students in schools which have public swimming pools nearby.
Prior to that, Maszlee, who was appointed the seventh president of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) with the consent of the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Ahmad Shah, was pressured, especially by netizens, to relinquish the post.
The former associate professor at the Department of Political Science, IIUM, finally gave in and resigned from the post.
Maszlee is of the view that the national education system needs to be injected with new approaches and should not be too focused on positions and examinations.
Saying that he was honoured to be in Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s cabinet, Maszlee said he was committed to transforming the nation's education system by focusing on a learning system that is technology-centric with emphasis on the English language,
He said it was the focus of his ministry in accordance with the aspirations of Mahathir who emphasised the need for children to master multiple languages from school.
The agenda to empower education continued with the ministry setting up a National Education Policy Committee in October with the appointment of 13 individuals, comprising academicians and experts, to study the policy.
The committee was set up following a cabinet decision on June 6. It will be given six months, from October this year until April next year, to give recommendations based on independent research t on the implementation of the National Education Policy.
The committee, chaired by the president of the Organisation for Administrative and Management Education of Malaysia, Prof Emeritus Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid, who is also deputy vice-chancellor of INTI-UC Laureate International Universities, also comprises former Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia lecturer Madeline Berma and International Islamic University College Selangor rector Prof Ab Halim Tamuri,
Touching on the repayment of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loan, Maszlee said a progressive loan repayment mode or Scheduled Salary Deductions would be carried out on borrowers starting January next year.
The salary deduction will be implemented by percentage deduction from the salary of the borrower when the salary reaches RM2,000 per month and the percentage deduction is between two percent and 15 percent.
Under the 2019 Budget tabled by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in Parliament recently, the Education Ministry received the largest allocation of RM60.2 billion in line with the government’s policy to create a better quality educational environment at all levels.
The allocation attracted various reactions, among them from Parents and Teachers Association president Mohamad Ali Hasan, who opined it as proof that the Pakatan Harapan government was giving priority to the country's education sector.