The issue of PTPTN has been so hot lately, that I’ve been wondering if it has fried some of our perspective and thinking. A cursory glance at the discussion online is enough to make you ask whether most of us actually received an education, loan-funded or otherwise.
That said, it is good to see Malaysians participating in the discussion. It means we either care, or we’re angry, which means we care too. So that’s good. But I am not about to bring more hugs into the room. Instead I’d like to bring forth a different set of concerns that I think we must have in the back of our minds (at least), that to me brings out the real issue: whether tertiary education should be free or otherwise.
Firstly, education can enable so much, we all know that. But think in the context of the clichéd Einstein example. If he was not given certain opportunities (be it a pen and paper, or a university and some allowance, whatever) the world would not be applying and enjoying some of his theories today.
Now that was one example of a very intelligent person. And we know intelligence come at various levels, with varying impact. The point is, because some (or perhaps most) people do not have the access to the assistance or guidance of education, what they could have potentially achieved then becomes our loss. By “our” I don’t just mean Malaysia and I don’t just mean our era. Think big picture, think Einstein.
So for a change, I’d like to ask people when discussing about education, to look at it in the aspect of who and what stands to benefit, other than the person who got educated. If we want to benefit more, let’s find more ways for everyone, including less fortunate people, to have a chance to impact lives with their intelligence, big or small.
Next is the question on the philosophy of education. It’s an important one because it frames us to answer a lot of issues, beyond PTPTN and finances. So how do we see national education?
Is it an entity that works in itself? Or something that general society needs to be part of, besides tax contributions and verbal critiques?
Maybe it’s something that is supposed to bring us closer to the visions of the country? Or is education just a factory that is meant as a supply to the demands of the economy?
Perhaps we need to tackle the question differently. Is education a leading or a supporting limb of a country? Does it partner with the other areas of a country, or is it a prohibited territory by those outside it?
Suddenly it’s not that straightforward is it? Ask: Is what we’re doing today, and how we see things, in line with our individual philosophy on education? If it doesn’t match, then that’s not an educated equation.
Finally back to the issue of finances. Should all this be free or not? To extend the question further — is it within our interest to want to see as many people as possible receive an education? Is it within the government’s obligation to handhold it’s citizens up till tertiary education? If not, why not?
Generally speaking I say yes, because what is at stake is immense. Not in terms of risk, but potential. Managing the finances is not easy but not impossible, especially if it is that important. However, I’m not saying it’s that straightforward.
We used to only have companies, or charities and NGOs. Today, we have companies with Corporate Social Responsibility departments, those who commit a percentage of profits to social causes, and those who run like a business, but their business is social cause.
The financial model and the objectives to consider are becoming quite diverse. I have no answers at hand but I refuse, with my educated mind, to think that the options are limited to only free, paid, scholarships and loan-based payments for education.
There has to be more than this.
And in time I trust some will learn, all will benefit.
Related post: Kopi Kluang: PTPTN — Making the Hard Decisions (Woon King Chai, 18 April 2012)