Malaysia’s ambitious plan for education

By Gerald Fernandez

The 11th Malaysia Plan with the theme “Anchoring Growth on People” is the last leg of its journey towards being a high-income nation in 2020. The plan definitely reaffirms the commitment to achieve inclusiveness and sustainable growth which is the necessary hallmarks of an advanced nation.

Among the main targets set are for annual GDP growth of between 5% and 6% from next year to 2020, a RM54,100 per capita income in five years and a 72% increase in average monthly household income from RM6,141 in 2014 to RM10,540 in 2020. It is definitely a good plan but most important, can it be achieved and implemented successfully to achieve a high-income nation status by 2020? We don’t have the answers but as citizens, what we can do is to contribute to the plan and efforts to achieving it.

The government has defined six strategic thrust and identified six game changes. Education cuts across all elements and is definitely a key factor in ensuring success. As Nelson Mandela quoted “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”This definitely applies to the 11th Malaysia Plan and to succeed, education must be a key factor across the plan.

Thrust 1: Embracing inclusiveness for an equitable society

The 11MP will provide access to education and skills training, infrastructure and employment opportunities for all segments and society, in particular low-income group. Some of the target segments in this thrust include:

  • implementing youth leadership and entrepreneurship programmes;
  • Enhancing employment and training for persons with disabilities

The game changer for Malaysia will the upskilling and job openings for 2.7 million B40 households that will increase the nation’s skilled workforce and reduce inequality. Among the strategies include reducing school dropouts and increasing accessibility to higher education and skills training.

Entrepreneurship, financial literacy, leadership, business development and marketing are some of the important aspects that should be included in the curriculum for all levels of education. Combining these skills with the technical skills will only increase the level of employability.  Education is key.

B40 : Households at the bottom 40% of income contribution

Thrust 2: Improving wellbeing for all

Economic growth and the well-being of the people is crucial. Well-being refers to a standard of living and quality of life that addresses an individual’s socio-economic, physical and psychological needs.

One aspect in this thrust that I will touch upon is the sports and physical activity. It is an integral part of life and it is crucial that all Malaysians be encouraged to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Education in sports and physical activity is crucial. We see bits and pieces happening and certain health and fitness groups/societies trying their best to include education in what they do. Great efforts but support and infrastructure must be put into this to ensure success.

Embracing a healthy lifestyle in sports and physical activity is to have the knowledge on what to eat, what not to eat, what’s healthy and what’s not, amount of calories, what certain food can do to our body and many more. Combining this with structured and consistent physical activity will increase the success. Efforts must be placed to bridge the gap of education and sports/physical activity to achieve a wholesome experience. I am definitely not an expert in this but have taken the path to learn and bridge the gap for myself and it has done wonders for me personally. Education is key.

Thrust 3: Accelerating human capital development for an advanced nation

Employers are urged to adopt the Productivity Linked Wage System (PLWS) where salaries will rise in tandem with productivity levels. Some of the focus in this thrust is:

  • Transforming Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to meet industry demands;
  • Strengthening lifelong learning for skills upgrading;
  • Improving the quality of education for better student outcomes and institutional excellence.

Focus definitely must be placed in the quality of education, teachers/lecturers and curriculum development and delivery. With recent low rankings of our education system and institutions of higher learning, it is evident that we need to scrutinize and benchmark against the best in the world.

This thrust is extremely crucial for the 11MP to succeed. We must put in place the right mechanisms and programs to ensure that it is achieved. Both the the public and private education sectors must work together and the government must facilitate and support initiatives to ensure that the education sector in Malaysia is on par with the best in the world. We may not achieve this in 5 years as it takes time and a lot of effort but if we start the initiatives now, we will reach there. Education is key.

Thrust 4: Pursuing green growth for sustainability and resilience

Preventing climate change and reducing its effects are the main targets in this fourth thrust. Education, awareness, exposure and the right information is definitely key to this. How much do we know of climate change, endangered species, renewable energy, the Malaysian rainforest and many more?

We must educate the people and change mindsets to pursue the development in a more sustainable manner right from the beginning. How do we train people in the outskirts, the orang asli, and those in the urban areas? Specific training programmes according to segments must be developed and rolled out in all segments. Flood mitigation plans are a big part of the 11MP and the target is to protect 2 million Malaysian from becoming victims.

For areas we do not have the expertise, we must seek assistance and at the same time train and develop internal experts. Education is key.

The last two thrust is strengthening infrastructure to support economic expansion and re-engineering economic growth for greater prosperity.

As a conclusion, the 11MP is a strategic plan that paves the way for Malaysia to deliver the future that the rakyat desires and deserves. Excellent plan but can it transform ideas into reality, and address in concert the goals set so as to catapult Malaysia towards the end state of being an advanced economy and inclusive nation? We hope it can and will.

To achieve success, we as a nation must pull together resources and contribute in any positive way to implement the 11MP successfully. And of course the government must provide the support and infrastructure to the rakyat equally to ensure success.

Education is definitely a key factor in all six thrusts. If we do not implement the right education system to educate and change mindsets of the rakyat, no matter how sophisticated the plan is, it will not work. And most importantly, the nation must want to change for the better.

Education is a powerful tool and can definitely change the world. Education is the game changer for success.

Note: The full text of the 11MP and its accompanying strategy papers are available at this link to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU)

Reference Source: The 11th Malaysia Plan – Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister’s Department, Malaysia

Gerald Fernandez is Managing Director, 3Quantum Consultancy

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