Published in The Sun 24 December 2012

THERE’S no doubt that the private sector is a major stakeholder in the national education system. As the driving force behind the nation’s economic development, it is their business to collaborate with the public sector to nurture employable citizens equipped with the relevant knowledge and skills. They therefore need to play a more dynamic role in preparing students for the workplace.

Support from the private sector for government development efforts comes in many forms, one of which is the much-touted CSR (corporate social responsibility). Here, private sector players, including foundations and civil society organisations, define for themselves the kinds of collaborations they wish to enter into. Often the support comes in the form of outright monetary contributions to fund education programmes. The bigger corporations with established CSR departments run activities which are sustainable and give out grants and scholarships, some in specialised areas, with a view to employing the graduates.

Many of these contributions to the community are carried out in an ad hoc way when appeals are made, or when a need is identified. A lot of times the programmes are one-off efforts with non-sustainable resources. Or if the resources are plentiful, they are not managed well to optimise their effectiveness.

To ensure that the resources in and for the national education system are properly administered and distributed to the immediate beneficiaries viz the schools, teachers and students, there must be a policy governing public/private sector collaboration supported by clear procedures and a legal framework.

The Education Ministry must define a private sector collaboration policy which governs joint efforts to improve the national education system so that it brings direct benefits to the stakeholders, most of all the students who enter the job market.

Among others, the following measures must be prioritised:

» Integrate public and private school education to ensure there is greater socio-cultural unity and the development of a truly Malaysian identity. Equalising educational opportunities and narrowing the gaps created by a diverse and multi-pronged education system must be prioritised to ensure the country is not divided along educational lines which bring about great socio-economic disparities. The private school system must be included in the RIMUP initiative (student integration plan for unity) to share their resources, infrastructure and facilities with the public school system. For instance, private schools can identify partners from among the national and national-type schools to have mutual exchanges of staff and students through joint activities and programmes. In this way socio-economic, linguistic and ethnic boundaries will be crossed and greater understanding achieved.

» Get product and service providers, radio and telecommunication corporations and media giants to collaborate and provide custom-built teaching/ learning technology and equipment such as computer labs, media rooms, language labs, work stations, radio and video systems, etc that are urgently required to teach students. For instance, one of the most effective ways of learning a language is through continuous exposure and total immersion via language tapes. If language teachers and students are provided with their own “portable language-learning lab” their language proficiency will improve tremendously.

» Group corporations and businesses in terms of the educational CSR they have identified for themselves. If they have chosen to support the teaching/learning of IT, their contributions of materials and equipment must be better managed and their distribution structured to optimise benefits and minimise wastage. Schools and businesses within the same vicinity can be paired or grouped to ensure communication among them. Their representatives must meet regularly with the ministry or state education officers to monitor developments, check results and address discrepancies.

» Register industry players and manufacturing companies with the ministry to take part in an apprentice system. As part of the mentoring responsibility, private companies must be involved in teacher-training programmes for subjects or skills which are relevant to their needs.

Through smart partnerships between the private and public sectors there will be a build-up of human resource, educational infrastructure and facilities; equipment and tools and most of all, innovative programmes and activities designed for the education of the nation’s youth. The benefits will accrue to all parties and the nation as a whole as the workforce becomes better educated.

By having clear guidelines and an efficient system of managing resources and monitoring developments, private-sector collaboration will be a source of not only financial support but more importantly, it will nurture a culture of responsibility for and commitment to the nation’s children who will be the next generation of human resource to drive the country forward.


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December 2012
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