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Can our children take on the world and carve a better future for themselves and the country? Photo: FAIZ ANUAR

HOW much would parents be willing to spend on their children’s education? How much would they allocate every month for their school-going children?

Obviously, the answer is linked closely to their own income.

The higher the salary, the bigger the allocation. Many high-income parents place a premium on their children’s education.

That includes sending their children to international or private schools.

That is why these schools are thriving in the country.

In their minds, parents have clear paths for their children upon entering such schools. The target is to further their children’s education by enrolling them in foreign universities, including top and prestigious ones in the United States or the United Kingdom or other parts of Europe.

Some of these parents may have graduated from Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Yale and such.

They now want their children to follow in their footsteps.

These parents are not looking for their children to be employed in this country! Go work where you can fetch good salaries, wherever your qualifications take you — that’s what they preach to their children.

I have friends who send their children to international schools. I marvel at their children’s academic progress and achievements.

Apart from getting good grades in their chosen subjects, they excel in co-curricular activities too.

Stephanie is very good in music, ballet and triathlon; her brother, Julian, is becoming a good saxophonist, linguist and has interest in competitive cycling.

Both will sit for their O-Level exams in the next year or two.

Both parents benefited from foreign university education, a legacy they wish to pass on to their children.

The parents budget their spending tightly to ensure they have enough to pay for their children’s foreign studies.

What about the ordinary folks, salaried men and women who struggle daily to put food on the table; the small entrepreneurs who tighten their belt so that their children can get a proper education.

Enter the new acting education minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is not new to the portfolio.

Dr Mahathir had first served in that capacity in the 1970s before gradually working his way up to become the prime minister. Twice, in fact.

What reforms would Dr Mahathir bring to the education system? Many of his ideas in education are well known, with a clear preference for English and Mathematics, as too Science.

And that English be the medium to teach Mathematics and Science.

I’m sure he will take a deep look at education with a view of preparing our children for employment in a rapidly changing global and national economic landscape.

Can national schools prepare our children to take on such challenges?

Can our children take on the world and carve a better future for themselves and the country?

Dr Mahathir will have his hands full, I tell you. The academic hopes and achievements aside, he may want to take a close look at the number of increasing dropouts from the existing system.

There must be a solution for the thousands who dropped out of schools without proper education and skills.

It has been reported that 30 per cent of today’s jobs will vanish in a few years’ time, to be replaced by automation, robotics and other forms of technological innovation.

Chances of these dropouts joining the blue-collar workforce, thus, becomes greatly reduced.

There is a growing view that another look is needed at our education policy.

The education blueprint is already there. But a deeper look into its implementation is needed.

Universiti Perguruan Sultan Idris Deputy Vice-Chancellor (research and innovation) Professor Datuk Dr Noraini Idris, in a published report in this newspaper two years ago, said: “Malaysia is in need of human capital that possesses critical and innovative thinking to position the country as a Top 20 nation in economic development, social advancement and innovation.”

As the country targets a 60:40 ratio of science to arts students, the low number of enrolment in STEM (Science, Technology, English, Mathematics) programmes is a matter of grave concern.

Noraini, who is the chairman of the National STEM movement, said the challenge was in getting students to love science… and to make these subjects easier to understand with more hands-on and exploration-based techniques.

We will wait for Dr Mahathir to deep dive and start offering practical and real solutions to help bring our children to stand tall on the global stage.

Any change or reforms must start from the top. Dr Mahathir, as amply demonstrated again and again, is not averse to making innovative changes if they are for the common good.

Now we wait!

Red cresent launches volunteer on wheels in Jitra

Malaysian Red Crescent Society chairman Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz Almarhum Sultan Abdul Halim seated inside the ambulance, which was handed over to the agency by Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah (seated, wearing round neck T-shirt) recently.

THE Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) launched its Volunteer on Wheels service (VOW) in Jitra, Kedah, last Friday .

Several bicycles were made available to the MRCS.

Several other states have already launched the service. Under the programme, trained volunteers can be present at events and provide first aid treatment quickly and on the spot.

Those with serious medical cases would be transported by an ambulance to the nearest hospital.

The service was launched by MRCS chairman Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz Almarhum Sultan Abdul Halim.

On the same day, the Kedah MRCS received an ambulance and equipment valued at RM150,000.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah handed over the vehicle to Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz.

The handover ceremony was witnessed by MRCS volunteers and several of its executive board members.

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The writer is a former NST group editor. His first column appeared on Aug 27, 1995, as ‘Kurang Manis’.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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