Posts

education in malaysiaMillions of individuals struggle to get an education in Malaysia. This is due to systemic repercussions of poverty, stigma and lack of resources. However, the Malaysian government and the U.N. have released conflicting numbers regarding the poverty rate in Malaysia. Malaysia reports that the poverty rate is less than 1%. But the U.N. contends that the poverty line should be adjusted for accuracy to 15% to 20%. When statistics ignore the reality of those living in extreme poverty, the consequences go beyond understanding household income and financial security. Poverty deprives individuals of job opportunities and education in Malaysia, as well as exposes them to discrimination.

Poverty and Education in Malaysia

Lori Niehaus is a 2019 Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia and founder of the Change Makers program. Niehaus told The Borgen Project about the significant role that poverty plays in Kelantan, the Malaysian state with the lowest GDP. Poverty impacts the daily lives of students and their ability to get an education in Malaysia. For starters, many students are driven for financial reasons to work all night to support their families. As a result, they have less time to study, which puts them at a disadvantage in school.

Through the stratification process in public schools in Kelantan, students with low scores in any subject are designated to lower-level classes. These classes receive very little attention and resources from their schools. In some cases, students often arrive at school and sit in a classroom without a teacher the entire day. As such, this stratification further stalls their education and deprives them of opportunities to advance.

Additionally, social stigmas that result from poverty and Kelantan’s low GDP rate also deprive students and adults of professional opportunities. Kelantan is unique in that its population speaks its own language, a mix of standard Malay and Thai. However, wealthier populations within Malaysia speak standard Malay. Niehaus told The Borgen Project that standard Malay speakers “automatically discount Kelantanese as less educated, and that creates a mental and cyclical effect on what they feel capable of accomplishing.”

Gender Disparities in Education in Malaysia

Along with poverty, gender disparities in the classroom prove to be another obstacle to education in Malaysia. Social and cultural gender disparities produce a stifling, hyper-gendered environment for girls. In that environment, academic insecurities and shyness prevent female students in school from reaching their full potential. To combat gender disparities in Kelantan, Niehaus and a colleague created the Change Makers program in their community.

Change Makers

Through a two-day, one-night camp, the Change Makers program worked with 80 female students from four different high schools. The camp fostered an academic environment in which girls have the chance to engage in problem-solving workshops. Moreover, the camp curriculum included three major issues. These are mass displacement (in the context of the Rohingya crisis), environmental issues and the relationship between racism and identity.

However, because Niehaus and colleagues facilitated this particular program, it will not continue in the future. But schools support similar events every few years. Without initiatives like these, female students around the world will continue face challenges while pursuing their education in Malaysia or chasing professional opportunities.

“The purpose of Change Makers was to encourage our [students] to think critically about the problems that their community—both in Kota Bharu, their city, and in Malaysia at large—face and how we might bring about change,” said Niehaus. Niehaus believes that by creating conversations about change for marginalized groups within Kota Bharu and Malaysia as a whole, students will find ways to think critically and effect real change in their communities. They may then be able to work on solving problems with education in Malaysia within their own communities.

Nye Day
Photo: Flickr

closing the gender gap in Southeast AsiaGender equality is an important factor in determining the future of civil and social development in a country. However, gender norms and traditional roles in Southeast Asia, sustained by historical-cultural contexts such as religion and village class systems, create a preference for boys and a belief that motherhood is a woman’s primary role. This perception diminishes the skills of women, affecting the way they view their own capabilities and futures.

On average, women in the Southeast Asian region are 70 percent less likely than men to have a career. While it is difficult to assess the full economic standing of women in Southeast Asia, it is evident that countries with higher poverty rates experience greater barriers to gender equality.

Listed below are some of the ways countries at the forefront of gender equality are closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia.

Job Opportunities

According to the Asian Development Bank, most women in Southeast Asia earn between 30 and 40 percent less than men. In addition, the average percentage of workforce female participation in Asia is only 55 percent.

In contrast, Vietnam’s informal and formal workforce holds 80 percent of the country’s women. Influenced by the rise of working women during the Vietnam War, Vietnam’s current rate of participation is due to increasing numbers of self-employed women, especially as the manufacturing industry becomes more prominent than farming. For example, according to the Mekong Development Research Institute, new road development in the Mekong Delta has allowed more women to travel to work in nearby textile factories while their husbands stay in town to farm. As a result, women in the delta have gained equal standing and in some cases even higher pay, thus balancing power dynamics in the family unit.

In environments like this, women are even attaining more positions as executive officers. The Boston Consulting Group reported that 25 percent of CEOs in Vietnam are women. Vietnam boasts a 17.6 percent rate of female board members in a survey of 50 companies, compared to more developed countries like South Korea and Japan, which have some of the lowest rates of female board members.

With 13 million members throughout the country, the Vietnam Women’s Union is an organization that is closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia and implementing gender equality policies in the private sector. VWU has helped to increase the rate of female employment in Vietnam by collaborating with SNV to support activities under the Enhancing Opportunities for Women Enterprises (EOWE) project that assists women in both Vietnam and Kenya. By supporting small and medium enterprises led by women, one of the initiative’s key focus is to ensure 20,000 women in Vietnam gain greater business and workforce techniques by 2020.

Political Participation

The rates of female representation in Asia’s parliaments and political bodies differ from region to region. However, the Philippines boasts some of the highest numbers of female lawmakers. The WEF Global Gender Gap Report in 2018 listed the Philippines 13th place, out of 149 countries, based on its empowerment of women in politics. Female participation rates in Philippines politics is still relatively slow growing with an overall ratio of one woman to every two men holding top positions in government. Yet, in the Philippines Lower House, women occupied almost 30 percent of the seats in 2016 and overall, more than 40 percent of positions in civil service were filled by women. The growing push toward closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia through female representation in Philippine politics is attributed to some of the organizations that are mobilizing more Filipino women.

The Philippines’ future goal is to have more women engage in conversations about gender equality. The Philippine Commission on Women assists that goal by focusing on strengthening areas of women’s empowerment. One of its specific focus areas is the Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda, which creates thorough policies that stand before the government for consideration and also removes existing discriminatory laws that hinder the abilities of all Filipino women.

Education

The narrative around girls’ education has been improving in some countries of Southeast Asia. For instance, in Malaysia, women in Malaysia surpassed men in primary, secondary and tertiary education enrollment rates in 2017. Female enrollment rates in secondary school topped 78 percent compared to male enrollment which stoood at 72 percent.

Since the 1970s, National Union of the Teaching Profession Malaysia has sustained the futures of teachers. With a total membership of 172,995, it has reached many Malaysians nationwide. Its different branches host member activities and local committees. A few of the union’s accomplishments have been establishing counselor positions in schools, extending maternity leave time from 60 days to 90 days and increasing the basic salary of teachers by 13 percent. These successes challenge the systemic problems around education and push the government to make necessary changes to support the nation’s educators.

Final Thoughts

Over the past two decades, several countries have already made progress in closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia through employment, politics and education. While female participation rates have increased in the region, improvement is still needed to ensure that equality policies are being created in all areas of Southeast Asian life and that opportunities are not withheld from women.

After all, continuing to uphold gender discrimination could result in worldwide economic loss. The OECD estimates a 7.5 percent loss of GDP. In addition, ADP found, via a simulation model, that closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia and across the world could contribute to a 30 percent increase per capita income of an average Asian economy in one generation and reduce poverty rates. Therefore, increasing women’s standing in the Southeast Asian region will also increase the region’s economic prosperity.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Income Inequality in Malaysia

After achieving independence in 1957, the Malaysian government has maintained a laissez-faire approach. To an extent, this approach was successful as the country’s GDP grew by 4.1 percent from 1956 to 1960, 5.0 percent from 1961 to 1965 and 5.4 percent from 1966 to 1970. However, despite these positive trends, economic disparity continued to persist.

The UNDP 1997 Human Development Report and the U.N.’s 2004 Human Development Report (UNHDP) both found that Malaysia has the highest income gap between the wealthy and poor in Southeast Asia (including Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines). The UNDP’s research also found that the richest 10 percent in Malaysia earn 38.4 percent of the nation’s wealth. In comparison, the poorest 10 percent only control 1.7 percent.

Impact of Income Inequality in Malaysia on Children

This level of income inequality Malaysia has an especially concerning impact on children. UNICEF warns that the widening gap between the poorest and richest 20 percent has implications on child development, protection, participation and survival. Dr. Alberto Minujin, Professor at The New School and at Columbia University explains that children experience poverty differently than adults. They are especially vulnerable to certain types of deprivation and even short-term destitution can result in long-term effects. For instance, malnourishment can influence a child’s health and ability to perform well in school. This in turn would negatively affect their long term health and education.

Hans Singer, who works for the U.N.’s Economic Affairs Department, explains that investing in children would actually help the economy. In his study, “The Role of Children in Economic Development,” Hans found that malnutrition was a factor in low productivity in developing countries. Therefore, development initiatives focused on the wellbeing of children would further spur the economy and potentially shrink Malaysia’s income gap.

On a national level, UNICEF Malaysia has been supporting the government to implement development initiatives to improve the well-being of children and improve inclusivity. Initiatives range from promoting equity to strengthening national policies to establishing social services to child-focused social inclusion and disparity reduction.

Recent Legislation Protecting Children

One of the organization’s achievements was the enactment of the Sexual Offences against Children Act 2017. This piece of legislation allows for the advancement in the protection of children from sexual crimes. UNICEF Malaysia programme priorities match the goals of UNICEF’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Headline Results. This means they focus on protecting children from both online and offline sexual exploitation, abuse and violence, fighting harmful practices against girls, strengthening civil registration and increasing access to justice and family-based care.

On a global level, UNICEF has also launched several development initiatives for the benefit of Malaysia’s children. In the 1980s and 1990s, the organization formulated the First Call for Children concept, which mandates that “children’s priority needs should have a first call on resources.” In addition, UNICEF established the 20/20 principle — a new initiative to restructure existing spending methods, rather than adding additional funds, to maximize current resources. The idea was that both donor and developing countries would contribute 20 percent of their national public expenditures to basic needs including primary health care, primary education, clean water and reproductive health in hopes of achieving greater global collaboration for a good cause.

– Iris Gao
Photo: Flickr

SOLS 24/7
SOLS 24/7 is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to ending poverty in Malaysia. It aims to provide poor and underserved people with technology and education to which they otherwise would not have access. The nonprofit runs five social enterprises to help eradicate poverty in Malaysia.

Five Ways SOLS 24/7 Promotes Technology and Education

  1. SOLS Energy
    SOLS Energy believes that solar panels are the best way to alleviate poverty in Malaysia in a lasting, sustainable way. Malaysia is the world’s third-largest producer of solar panels; local production makes solar panels affordable and their purchase supports the domestic economy. Malaysian homes with solar panels get, on average, a 16.9 percent return on their investment annually from being able to sell excess solar power to the electric grid. In total, the solar panels distributed by SOLS Energy have prevented more than 162,000 pounds of CO2 emissions from electricity generated by fossil fuels. SOLS Energy also runs Solar Academy, which trains Malaysians in solar technology to create jobs and spread the knowledge of how to maintain, install and repair solar panels.
  2. SOLS Tech
    SOLS Tech has a twofold goal: eliminate e-waste and spread digital literacy in Malaysia. As a licensed electronics refurbisher, SOLS Tech collects, repurposes and distributes discarded electronic devices. In 2015 alone, Malaysians discarded 44 million electronic devices. Rather than let this waste sit in landfills and pollute the environment, SOLS Tech fixes discarded electronics and shares them with those in need. Approximately 10 million Malaysians do not have access to a computer. SOLS 24/7 believes that computer literacy skills and computer ownership will widen economic opportunities and help alleviate poverty.
  3. SOLS Smart
    SOLS Smart aims to provide high quality and affordable education to all Malaysians. It teaches English and computer literacy, two skills that SOLS 24/7 views as essential to thriving in the modern economy. SOLS Smart is a certified Cambridge English Language Assessment Centre, meanings its students can take the internationally recognized Cambridge English Exams. Learning English and passing these exams opens new opportunities in employment and further education. To date, English classes have reached more than 10,000 Malaysians, and another 5,000 have received training in computer skills. SOLS Smart is one of seven Google for Education partners in Asia. Students are taught to use Google software and products and, at the end of their training, can receive an official certification from Google.
  4. SOLS Scholars
    SOLS Scholars works to help promising students from underprivileged Malaysian communities pursue higher education. It has held more than 100 development workshops, at which students receive academic coaching, job preparation training and college counseling. It has provided more than 450 scholarships to universities across Malaysia for students who otherwise would not be able to afford higher education.
  5. SOLS Edu
    Combining SOLS 24/7’s interests in education and technology, SOLS Edu is a digital learning platform that can be accessed by app or online. The idea behind SOLS Edu is to offer Malaysians, newly equipped with technology through the SOLS Tech program, another way to receive an education. The digital platform is interactive; students learn in a variety of ways (games, videos, etc.) and teachers remotely track students’ progress. SOLS 24/7 believes that access to education and technology will give Malaysians living in poverty new economic opportunities and a brighter future.

Through its many social enterprises, SOLS 24/7 is working to alleviate poverty in Malaysia. Its focus on both education and technology is reflective of the highly globalized, highly electronic modern world of today. By offering classes, job training and education opportunities, as well as providing people access to electricity and electronic devices, SOLS 24/7 is helping millions of poor Malaysians shape a brighter future for themselves.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Education in Malaysia
Whether in textbooks or spoken in lectures, language is crucial in effective education. Without a common means of communication, many students will be left behind. While education in Malaysia has predominantly used Malay, the country’s official language, in its classrooms, some Malaysian schools also include more English, Chinese and Tamil cultures into their curricula.

In most instances, immense diversity is a privilege to instill greater global awareness, but, in the Malaysian education system, it has hindered progress, especially in keeping up with other countries’ educational opportunities. To keep up in an ever-changing economy and job market, education in Malaysia needs to establish a common language for all schools.

Despite its linguistic differences, Malaysian education is goal-driven and focused on improving itself. The government released an ambitious Malaysia Education Blueprint in 2013. The detailed plan hopes to achieve universal access and full enrollment of all children from preschool to upper secondary school, improved student test scores, and reduced urban-rural, socio-economic and gender achievement gaps, all by 2020.

To meet such high standards, however, promoting a mother tongue language for education in Malaysia is key. The benefits of doing so include higher enrollment and success rates, especially for girls and rural-based students, and greater parent-teacher communication. The students that tend to feel the most marginalized, those from poorer households, are more likely to attend school, retain information, and participate in their learning.

Other countries in the region with similar struggles serve as examples of how to overcome potential language barriers. Laos has dozens of diverse languages that are mainly spoken in rural, impoverished communities. However, with education requiring fluency in Lao, the official language, children from different ethnic backgrounds were left out. With UNICEF’s support, the government took a “Schools of Quality” approach that starts children in their native language and slowly transitions them into Lao. The change has been a successful way to boost student morale and attendance.

Such benefits of a mother-tongue-based education will propel Malaysia to become a world leader in a digital economy. Students who face language barriers in their education have limited opportunities to reach their full potential. If students fall behind in understanding their studies, they will also fall behind when facing an increasingly technical-based economy. Acquiring skills in technology and STEM-related fields requires a quality, forward-thinking education as a foundation. That education appropriately requires a cohesive language to teach and learn.

Education should be an accessible service to every person, regardless of their language, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Education in Malaysia is on the right path to improving its system, but an important step forward will involve overcoming language barriers. Other countries in the region serve as testaments to the positive growth in preserving the mother tongue, and, with continued support, Malaysia too can experience this progress.

Allie Knofczynski

Photo: Flickr

Education in Malaysia Agrees with the Global Agenda
Redesigning the infrastructure of education in Malaysia goes hand in hand with the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals make up a section of UNESCO’s 2030 Education Plan.

Education Deputy Director General Datuk Seri Khairil Awang says that the Malaysian Education Blueprint (MEB) “was implemented three years ahead of Education 2030, (and) we found that MEB is very much in line with the targets of Education 2030.” Malaysian Education is being redesigned to be part of a global initiative for education.

UNESCO’s 2030 Education Plan was formulated at the World Education Forum 2015 held in Incheon, Republic of Korea. Students from both the public and private sectors, along with teachers, were present at the forum.

One hundred and sixty countries, 1,600 participants and over 120 ministries were also in attendance in order to create and adopt a new perspective of education that will be the new approach to teaching for the next 15 years. Within this new system are elements to ensure twelve years of free and public education, at least 9 of which will be compulsory.

In response to the most faulty educational systems being located in conflict-ridden countries, UNESCO’s plan stated, “We recommend a sufficient crisis response, from emergency response through to recovery and rebuilding; better coordinated national, regional and global responses; and capacity development for comprehensive risk reduction and mitigation to ensure that education is maintained during situations of conflict, emergency, post-conflict and early recovery.”

The plan, even though ambitious, proves to propel this agenda through legislation utilizing policy framework in order to assure transparency within the governments choosing to adopt this system.

The architects of education in Malaysia have opted to adopt the Sustainable Development Goal of the 2030 Agenda and implement the missions too, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” The main challenge for the Malaysian educational system is providing accessible education for children with unique situations.

Children that require special educational needs, or the indigenous and minority children, were often marginalized and were not given the proper support in order for them to thrive within the previous schooling offered in Malaysia.

In order to properly install the 2030 program on a national scale within the Malaysian education frame according to Khairil Awang, it will “require building a strong capacity of management and coordination in utilizing data and evidence.” The future of Malaysia’s educational system looks promising if executed correctly.

Malaysia is only one of the few countries that vowed to adopt this system in order to better their children. Malaysia is setting itself up to succeed by investing in education and the future of the country.

Through such a bold statement, it gives the country confidence that it isn’t a false promise. The 2030 plan will revolutionize public education for the entire world and education in Malaysia will be a protagonist in the narrative of countries investing in the youth because it provides long-term solutions instead of short-sighted ones.

Mariana Camacho

Photo: Flickr