Education is vital for any country wishing to engineer development and economic growth. For Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg as he works to modernize Sarawak in line with digitalisation overtaking the global economy, equality and equity is a must, and education is that leveller for Sarawakians of all races, language and religions.
In leapfrogging development in Sarawak, Abang Johari’s initiatives focus on providing the access to a quality education system for the people of Sarawak which includes encouraging the use of the English language in teaching Mathematics and Science, support of Chinese schools and education, giving financial aid and upgrades to schools in need and many more.
Renewing and repairing schools
For Irene Linda, the headmaster of Sekolah Kebangsaan St Andrew, the school looks more refreshing now that it got repainted and repaired.
“We also managed to repair all the old windows, repaint the walls and able to get a lot of facilities such as computers, televisions and others for the school,” she said.
According to Irene, the school will be able to construct a new classroom building as previously there were not enough classrooms for its students.
“I am happy that the school received aid for the construction of the new building as the school currently does not have enough classrooms for its students and we had to divide the students into two sessions which are the morning and the afternoon sessions,” Linda said.
It is just one of the many schools that will be receiving aid to improve infrastructure, buildings and facilities as per the Sarawak government’s plan to upgrade and repair dilapidated schools. This financial aid also extends to mission schools and Chinese-medium schools.
Use of English in teaching Math and Sciences
On top of plans for setting up five residential international schools which will use the Cambridge University syllabus, Abang Johari understands the necessity of using English especially in Mathematics and Science, in order to better prepare the next generation of Sarawakians for the fourth industrial revolution (IR4.0).
Various solutions have been prepared for instructors and students to address the shortage of English proficiency, one of them including an RM11 million allocation from state government in 2019 to train 2,873 teachers to teach Science and Math in English as well as supply teaching materials among others.
“It is a good initiative as the students can learn the English subject as well as the other subjects. It is like hitting two birds with one stone” Linda said.
“Our teachers were also experienced when the students were taught using the English language,” Irene added.
Victoria Michael, a teacher from SK Ulu Machan, Kanowit said that students can learn English well if the teachers were willing to put the effort into teaching them.
“I found it difficult to teach subjects in English at first, especially in rural schools as the students use Bahasa Malaysia and other languages to learn in primary schools,” Victoria said.
“But I later found out that the students are willing to learn the subjects in English if the teacher is willing to put all effort in it for the students,” Victoria added.
According to Victoria, the students now can learn in English, and it is a big achievement for the students and also the education system in Sarawak.
“Usually after I finish my teaching lesson, I will always take a picture with the students so that they won’t be stressed with the homework,” Victoria said.
“They can ask me anything with the subjects I thought after the class to make sure that they understand everything which I had taught during the class,” she added.
Victoria said that her colleagues, who were also the school’s teacher also did the same to the students on their own initiative.
Chinese Education in Sarawak
Another of the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem’s legacies that Abang Johari continued after becoming the Chief Minister of Sarawak was the recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) for independent Chinese secondary schools.
“Our Chief Minister, Abang Johari is really different as he is willing to open up his mind regarding our Sarawak education,” a Chinese teacher for SMK Methodist, Yew Ko Woo said.
“He had done a lot of things for the Chinese education in Sarawak and he had started to accept the existence of private Chinese schools in Sarawak,” Yew said.
According to Yew, he believed that the recognition of UEC in Sarawak was a good sign that Abang Johari had accepted private Chinese schools in Sarawak and the young generations had more education choices in Sarawak.
“It is great news that UEC had been recognised in Sarawak and UEC holders can even apply to work in the Sarawak Government sector,” Yew pointed out.
Yew said that by doing so, the students will feel included among other Sarawakians instead of feeling left out.
Increasing scholarships for medical studies
There are never enough doctors in government hospitals, and the case applies to Sarawak as well. In 2017, the ratio of doctors to patients was one to 822. Abang Johari’s administration attempted to tackle this issue in 2017 by sponsoring 200 students to pursue medicine at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) over the course of five years.
By doing so, not only will there be the possibility of more doctors but it is hoped that the quality of medical services which can be brought to the people will be increased.
“There is an increase in numbers of the doctors but it is still not enough,” Faynella, a doctor at Sarawak General Hospital said.
According to Faynella, she said that hospitals in Sarawak are still lacking many things and everyone including the doctors and the nurses are doing their best to take care of all patients regardless of the problems where they are facing.
“I was hoping for more doctors in the future so that we could actually get a bit more time to rest as the working hours are really exhausting,” Faynella said.
Improving education is one of the 81 initiatives which encompass various aspects of building up Sarawak, which also include such as regaining Sarawak’s lost rights, leapfrogging the state’s digital and technological development as well as revenue re-engineering, injecting funds to boost infrastructure in rural areas, fair religious and racial policies and many others. —DayakDaily