Malaysian Prime Minister focuses on STEM as Education Minister

Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has been named the acting Education Minister after the resignation of previous education minister, Dr. Maszlee Malik.

Observers predict he will focus more on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) study to the detriment of social studies, arts and humanities fields seen by the older generation as a waste of time and resources.

Mahathir Mohamad was appointed during a Cabinet meeting and would hold on to the position until the new Education Minister is selected.

He takes over from Maszlee, who is also a member of the Bersatu supreme leadership council was beset by a string of controversies during his tenure. Including the issue of Jawi being taught in vernacular schools, students wearing black shoes, free breakfast at schools, amongst other controversies.

Mahathir reportedly told the Cabinet that he would not be appointing anyone in a rush. An internal source noted that the Malaysian Prime Minister explained he would meet the education ministry officials to find out who best will suit the sector.

The Malaysian prime minister said the education sector is crucial towards Malaysia’s development and would hold onto the portfolio until a genuine candidate is picked. He stated that while it might be tough to merge both vast scopes of primary and secondary education along with tertiary education at university levels, he would give his best.

The source also noted that Mahathir is very meticulous in who will be appointed for the ministry after the controversies over Maszlee inexperience.

It is also speculated that the Prime Minister will take into account the problems of the ministry before appointing anyone of his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) MPs to the post.

What to expect from the Malaysian Prime Minister

It is presently not known how long the Malaysian Prime Minister intends to stay in control of the education sector. The following policy is expected to be enacted by the PM.

Overhauling Islamic studies

It is no secret that Mahathir does not think highly of the way Islam is being taught in schools. He has openly criticized the focus on rituals rather than values as far back as 2013, which he blamed for what he saw as the deterioration of Malaysians’ character.

Mahathir first indicated his intention to overhaul Islamic education in kindergartens and schools as early as September 2018 just months after PH took over Putrajaya, and the then intimated his plan to Maszlee soon after and several times since.

Many experts believe the Malaysian prime minister will push this through, which would inevitably lead to a new curriculum and sidelining of dogmatic teachers. Still, considering the political climate, there is much doubt if he can start, much less finish this goal.

Schools as factories

Recently, Mahathir was slammed for reportedly accusing the poor of being unproductive while simultaneously saying the wealthy contribute more to the country’s development by paying more in taxes.

This policy focus on schools as first and foremost factories for productive workforce means that Dr. Mahathir will likely focus more on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) study to the detriment of social studies, arts and humanities fields seen by the older generation as a waste of time and resources.

The return of YTL monopoly

Just one day before his resignation, Maszlee highlighted fast and free internet in schools as one of his ministry’s goals for 2020, and similarly, he highlighted the pledge in his last address.

This comes as schools and teachers lauded the end of YTL Communications Sdn Bhd’s contract for the 1BestariNet virtual learning program awarded by the previous administration of which Putrajaya has spent RM3.8 billion and millions more in lost income.

1BestariNet was to be replaced with the free Google Classroom service run by three other internet service providers instead of starting June last year.

The decision was a blow to YTL, which had benefited from lower operating costs, including cheap rental and free electricity from schools, for its own commercial mobile internet service.