Last updated Wednesday, October 01, 2014 01:10am

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin launches Education Blueprint final report at Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. — Pic by Saw Siow FengDeputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin launches Education Blueprint final report at Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. — Pic by Saw Siow FengKUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 — Putrajaya’s education overhaul plan lacks substance and fails to incorporate key concerns raised by stakeholders like the need for more vernacular schools and diversity in the teaching workforce, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) said today.

While agreeing that some initiatives in the Education Master Plan 2013-2015 were laudable, the opposition bloc’s education taskforce said the blueprint, unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin last Friday, was mostly incremental and focused only administration changes rather than the reforms needed to turn around the education system.

“Unfortunately, the final document fails to address many of the concerns previously expressed by stakeholders after the release of the preliminary blueprint.

“Furthermore, what is ‘new’ in the final blueprint is not transformational and fails to give confidence that the state of the education system in Malaysia is making a turn for the better,” PR said in a statement today.

After much criticism and consistently seeing its rankings drop, Putrajaya announced its plan to revamp the education system as part of a grand transformational programme aimed at making Malaysia a developed country by 2020.

Among the key policies outlined in the report were making English a compulsory subject to pass in SPM come 2016; implementing a new BM syllabus for national-type schools; increasing the percentage of higher order thinking skills (HOTS) questions for the UPSR, Form 3 and SPM examinations; revamping of teacher training colleges; and expanding initiatives for special needs education.

On the blueprint’s plan to recruit teachers from the top 30 per cent of each graduating cohort, PR noted that there was no mention of steps to ensure a more diverse teaching workforce.

“While the Final Blueprint outlines a strategy to devolve more decision making power to education agencies at the state and local levels, it has no provision to include the state and local governments in any decision making process,” the pact added.

“While the intention to place more emphasis and resources into vocational education has been expressed in the Final Blueprint, it makes no mention of any efforts to streamline technical, vocational and skills training among the different ministries which offer these programmes,” PR continued.

Groups like Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) have also weighed in on several key pointers in the blueprint, particularly on the plan to turn English into a must-pass subject in 2016.

PAGE chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, a teacher herself, argued that Malay students stood to lose out if the government focused on examination results instead of genuinely improving the English skills of the students.

Opposition party DAP also criticised the move to increase contact hours for classes teaching Bahasa Malaysia (BM), the national language, in vernacular schools. It argued that increments in the hours would not necessarily improve students’ BM.

The predominantly Chinese party also highlighted the plan’s purported negligence of vernacular education, a view echoed by PR’s education taskforce.

“Many of the concerns and recommendations of stakeholders were totally ignored.

“There was no mention of building new schools according to the needs and demands of parents, most notably Sekolah Agama Rakyat and Sekolah Kebangsaan Jenis Cina and Tamil,” it said.

But Muhyiddin insisted that vernacular schools would not be sidelined. He maintained that the right to vernacular education is recognised and protected in the Education Act, a policy that helps form the fundamentals of the Najib administration’s Education Development Plan 2013-2025.

“The existing education policy is based on the Education Act, which is still upheld in the education development plan. The ministry does not intend to sideline any streams that exist in this country; in fact, it will ensure that every student of government schools, government-aided schools get access and equity and quality education.

“The existence of vernacular schools is also safeguarded by the Education Act 1996 (Section 28) and I would like to state here that right to practice mother-tongue education in these schools have never been denied,” he said in his opening speech when launching the plan on Friday.

Putrajaya is expected to roll out the implementation of the final blueprint immediately but PR claimed the government had ignored calls by interest groups not to rush the programme until all concerns are properly addressed.

“The minister has turned a deaf ear to these requests and have gone on to announce a Final Blueprint which fails to excite, neglects many concerns and recommendations of stakeholders and does not inspire confidence that a substantive renewal and reform of our education system will take place,” PR said.