Sarawak needs a revolution in education, says NGO

Peter John Jaban

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KUCHING, May 10: Solidarity Anak Sarawak (SAS) is calling on the Sarawak government to use new approaches to plug gaps in the education system and to address the issues of dilapidated schools and poor facilities.

SAS said this in response to Minister for Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong’s recent statement that he would close existing schools and build new ones.

In a statement, SAS opined that this approach was unsustainable and also a rerun of the current system, which would not address any issue over the long term.

“Therefore, the Sarawak government should look into innovations in educational technology and internet provision that will equip Sarawak students for the digital revolution,” said its spokesperson Peter John Jaban.

He lamented that Sarawak was being left behind in education and left behind the peninsula in terms of provision.

“Education is the key to societal growth. Without progressive education provision, our students will remain poorly equipped for a future world in which technology is playing an increasing role.

“If the system is not updated soon, Sarawak will have an unskilled workforce, unprepared for the future, continuing into the next generation, losing our best and brightest to overseas education systems and consigning those who remain to work as low paid coolies,” he cautioned.

Peter John stressed that local students were still travelling miles to reach their schools or else they were being shipped off to boarding schools, losing their link to their traditional communities and indigenous lifestyles. When they get to those schools, the buildings are in dangerous conditions and often poorly staffed and equipped.

In addition, the syllabus also needed a complete overhaul as it did not reflect any Sarawak specific content and “is frankly outdated”, he commented.

“The two major world languages in the future of business and commerce, English and Mandarin, are not being emphasised enough. In fact, the most important world languages for the future must surely be in computer code and these are not even being taught to our students.

“How to learn code when our students do not even have access to computers or the internet? he asked.

Peter John observed that the Internet was currently one of the world’s largest education providers, and there was a wealth of materials available online.

“The world’s leading education systems, like the Scandinavian countries, for example, are increasingly doing away with subject-based learning, using technology to provide project-based learning and putting importance on technical education. South Korea has emphasised education for several decades and now they are an innovative and technologically advanced nation,” he pointed out.

Peter John said Sarawak had a relatively small population, though it is geographically very spread out. Smart investment in educational technology and rural internet provision could make a huge impact on the future outlook for Sarawak students.

“Education has been neglected for decades. Sarawak has just as many bright students as any other country and they deserve a real chance to shine.

“In fact, every student needs to be given the skills required for the future, not for a world that is already obsolete. The digital revolution has provided mobility and flexibility as well as a wealth of new career options. If Sarawak wants to take part in this revolution, it must have a revolution in education,” he said. — DayakDaily