GEORGE TOWN: The time has come for the Education Ministry to consider allowing autonomy for elite urban secondary schools so that the government can channel more funds to rural schools.
St Xavier’s Institution board chairman Dr Francis Loh Kok Wah said that for starters, urban schools can be empowered to raise more funds on their own to reduce the government’s annual capital expenditure.
The amount saved can be redirected to rural schools, which need more facilities, especially in today’s information technology age, said Loh.
He said the betterment of rural schools would also be a plus point for the community, which need not worry about having to raise money to send their children to urban schools.
In return, there can be some autonomy accorded to urban schools in selecting their own innovative subjects, educators and raising the academic fees for parents who are willing to pay, he said after launching his book, The Xavierian Journey – The Story of a Lasallian School in Penang, Malaysia 1787 - 2019.
“The government has always struggled to improve rural schools. Able teachers shun being posted there and students are considered inferior,” he said.
At the same time, Malaysia has inherited many established missionary, vernacular and religious schools, which have the experience, networks and alumni to help them chart a new path if they are granted more autonomy, Loh added.
He pointed out that established schools still retained their prestige and reputation for having educated many of the nation’s top leaders.
But because they come under the fully or semi-aided national schools system under the Education Ministry, these schools must abide by the curriculum and guidelines.
Loh said that while the curriculum can be followed, more autonomy will allow for the flexibility of choosing new subjects and raising more funds by allowing daily or monthly rental of school facilities and using modern ways to market the schools to young families.
The book, which was co-authored by Cecilia Ng and Anthony Rogers, is an effort to illustrate the importance of St Xavier’s Institution to Penang over the centuries and to list down some of the country’s finest who studied at the nation’s second oldest school.