Listening to the President of the United States, Barack Obama addressing his State of the Union (SOTU) speech at Capitol Hill, on Tuesday was pretty entertaining and boring.
Basically, it is the time for the President telling the Congress everything that is right with the US, hence the State of the Union. During the speech, Obama also outlines his annual agenda.
One the things that struck a chord with me is the fact that Obama attempts to persuade the Congress to approve free education for community college students.
I have been an ardent advocate for free education for quite a while now (ever since I was a student!) and I feel it makes sense because education is a right and not a privilege.
It seems that in Malaysia, education is almost a privilege. Not all schools are equal and alike. Some are better than others in terms of infrastructure and teachers.
We have normal public schools, fully-residential schools, Mara Junior Colleges, BESTARI (s) that polarises the education system instead of making all schools equal.
People resort to all kinds of ways to get into a school of their choice, like ‘borrowing’ different residential addresses appealing to officials to be admitted into certain schools, etc.
Then, there is the tertiary education in Malaysia. Although there are many scholarships to be obtained, they are still limited and not to mention that many follow racial quotas.
Even the entry to public universities are perceived to follow racial quotas and the certain quarters who aren’t listed are left with no choice to pursue their studies in private institutions -- that cost even more.
And because of the cost, many will also be forced to forgo their tertiary education and head straight into the workforce. And, that is unfair to the people.
If the US, a country that is buried so deep in profit-making commercialism can entertain the thought of giving free tertiary education, so why not Malaysia?
In fact, we should take it a step further in giving free education to students so that an undergraduate degree will be as universal as Form 5 level education.
I'm sure Malaysia can do it. We just need to take a look at our social healthcare system which is already doing a fine job of providing equal healthcare for the rakyat
It doesn’t matter who you are and how much you can afford, you will not be turned away at a government hospital or medical centre and it is affordable.
And how do we pay for such affordable universal healthcare? The government has allocated the budget for it. Basically, different areas that generate revenues subsidise for the cost of healthcare.
Adopting similar methodology, I'm pretty sure this can be done for tertiary education too. Countries including Germany, Sweden and Denmark, to name a few, have provided free tertiary education.
In fact, these countries even pay their students to study as well as conduct research, that it can even become a career choice to become ‘professional’ students.
How will this benefit us?
It benefits Malaysia by increasing the number of quality graduates, enhances academic and research abilities and inculcates a sense of importance towards education.
I know that there are a lot of things the country has to strive for so that everyone is equal under the law of Malaysia.
But, I believe education has to be up there on the priority list, too.