Sarawak-owned universities important in enabling more students to pursue course of choice

Abang Johari addressing the 57th Sarawak Secondary Schools Heads Education Management Conference in Sibu.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Oct 5: With the Sarawak government fully owning four universities that are not tied to the Central University Admission Unit (UPU), Sarawakian students have better access to higher education and will not have to compete for limited places in courses of their choice.

Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg emphasised that Sarawak government’s strategy to set up its own international schools and take over private higher learning institutions has proven to be the right move.

“I hope people will understand why the Sarawak government in some way meddled in the education sector which is in fact the responsibility of the Federal government. At some point, we have to look after ourselves.

“Enrolling in public universities is subject to UPU (the gateway to public universities in Malaysia). Sometimes they can get in, sometimes they are denied.

“But for some who were able to get in, it may not be the course of their choice. They want to do science but are offered human resources. This is what is happening. So with Sarawak-owned private universities, we are not tied to UPU and we can send our children to pursue what they are interested in,” he said.

Abang Johari highlighted this when officiating at the 57th Sarawak Secondary Schools Heads Education Management Conference at a hotel in Sibu which was streamed live via the Sarawak Public Communications Unit’s (Ukas) social media platforms today.

Abang Johari (seated, centre) in a group photo with heads of schools participating in the conference. Photo credit: Ukas

Currently, the Sarawak government through Yayasan Sarawak owns four private universities namely Swinburne University, Curtin University, University of Technology Sarawak (UTS) and i-Cats University College, as well as one training centre, the Centre of Technical Excellence Sarawak (Centexs).

The Premier added that this has resulted in the increase of participation among Sarawakian children in higher learning as he reiterated his aspiration for free tertiary education in Sarawak.

On the setting up of five international schools in Sarawak, Abang Johari said this is to provide opportunities for children, especially from villages with poor backgrounds, to pursue quality education for free.

“I believe the cream of the crop must compete among themselves. Later they can further their studies in local or international universities. This will have a positive impact in our effort to develop our human capital who will contribute back to nation building.

“With that, we can educate and train our children locally using international syllabus. More importantly, Sarawak is doing rather well as our revenue has increased, including through the implementation of SST (State Sales Tax for petroleum products) which has given us good returns,” he added.

He thus called on the educators to work together closely with the Sarawak government to enhance human capital development in Sarawak in line with the new era and economy.

Sarawak State Secretary Dato Sri Mohamad Abu Bakar Marzuki , Deputy Minister of Education and Innovation Dr Annuar Rapaee, State Education Department director Datuk Dr Azhar Ahmad and heads of schools were among those present. — DayakDaily