Invest in quality studies
ON Nov 1, 1997, the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) started giving out loans. Private colleges, then, were starting to bloom, and foreign universities like Monash University and Nottingham University were also invited to set up campuses in Malaysia.
The PTPTN was created as a rolling fund to provide loans to students who could not afford tertiary education because very few banks in those days were willing to provide study loans. Moreover, banks were charging higher interest rates for students who opted for the loans, until the PTPTN was introduced.
Besides, the cost of private education is higher, understandably so because they are linked with international universities and were catering to a generation of students who would otherwise have had to go abroad.
There was also no government funding for adequate teaching equipment in these private universities. I remember former health minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek visiting a medical faculty in a private college and making such a big fuss, complaining that the facilities for the new medical faculty were not on par with those of public universities.
In my heart, I asked: “How much has the government provided in soft loans to these private colleges in the first place?”
As I see it now, with the exception of certain colleges, the private education sector has in fact met the aspirations of the young people of Malaysia, and because of the PTPTN, many students have been able to pursue higher education.
Otherwise, they would not have been able to continue their education overseas, or even locally in public universities due to the quota system.
My question therefore, is why is the PTPTN now the subject of ridicule?
The more I think about it, the more I see reason for the student protest. When I reflect over the current development whereby students and graduates are protesting against the PTPTN, I think the grouse does not only lie in the faults of the PTPTN.
I see it as the students’ failure to communicate their grouses more effectively to fellow Malaysians. The way I look at it:
- the standard of public universities has indeed dropped over the years so much so parents are reluctant to send their kids to pursue degrees in public universities. They rather send their children to Singapore than place them in a local public university.
- because of the vacuum created in public tertiary education, the private education sector has indeed seen tremendous growth over the years. Some of these colleges continue to expand and profit handsomely, while others have consolidated their positions and set up foundations to manage the institutions for eternity, pumping profits back into the institutions.
- the fact that the younger generation is left to fend for themselves is what I believe the young people are sore about with the government. While the burden is now shifted from the parents, the children have to pay the loan. Upon getting a job, the first loan that they have to service is the PTPTN one. Donft you think this is scary for the young ones?
- a graduate fresh in the job market will have three big loans hanging around his neck: (a) a car loan (b) a housing loan (c) the PTPTN loan, which is not even tax deductible.
- while they are suffering, we are watching how taxpayers' money is being abused. A good quality education would be a wise investment in the future of our country. If we cannot even invest in the education of our younger Malaysians, where would be head as a nation?