KOTA KINABALU 15th August, 2011: Datuk Masidi Manjun has reiterated his call in urging the federal government to cede some of its authority over matters concerning education, to the state government.
He believed it would enable better and more effective management of the development of education in Sabah citing the increasing number of private institutions of higher learning as a reason for the need to have better control.
“With a few hundred licensed private colleges in the country it may be difficult for the Ministry to effectively oversee their operation (in Sabah),” he said.
He pointed out how the Ministry of Higher Education recently had to send a senior assistant director of enforcement all the way from Putrajaya to Kota Kinabalu, to investigate a complaint against a private university college here.
A disgruntled parent had alleged that the college committed several misconduct which included misrepresentation and operating without an Occupational Certificate (OC) and a trading license, as well as deploying intimidating tactics to silence ‘whistleblowers’ and other complainants.
“Perhaps the Ministry may want to consider appointing Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) as its representative to ensure enforcement and authority on regulatory compliance,” Masidi suggested.
Besides being the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Masidi is also the Minister in charge of matters on education in the state although education is exclusively a federal portfolio.
“Private colleges come directly under the Ministry of Higher Education and outside the purview of the State Education Department. As it is, I may be the minister overseeing educational matters in Sabah, but I have no executive power or any budget to give this post any substantive importance.
“A secondary school principal has more power than me. I can shout complaints at the top of my voice, which I have been doing, but the senior federal officers who make decisions can choose to ignore them,” he explained.
He was responding to the controversy surrounding one university college, after a disgruntled parent of its former student Dr Forest Kang accused the college of resorting to “intimidating tactics” in order to silence him and other parents who lodged an official complaint with the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) here, on Tuesday.
The issue was first brought to light on July 29 this year, after Dr Forest highlighted it to the media with the assistance of Luyang state assemblywoman, Melanie Chia.
Masidi acknowledged that lately there have been many complaints against certain private colleges operating in Sabah.
These ranged from misrepresentation and conducting unaccredited or unrecognised courses to charging stiff tuition fees.
While noting that the availability of loans from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) has led to private colleges mushrooming in the country, he lamented that this has not been matched with a concerted effort by the Ministry to ensure consistent quality of courses offered.
“There is an urgent need for the Ministry to evaluate not only the courses offered by private colleges but also the quality of their academic staff and basic educational infrastructure.
“The Ministry should ensure that the students are not made into a cash cow by unscrupulous businessmen who are more interested in the cash turnover of their college while ignoring the well-being of their students,” he asserted.
He added that questionable private colleges and universities are growing in numbers all over the world and Sabah too has not been spared from such a phenomenon.
“In fact even among existing licensed private colleges operating in KK, there are a few with insufficient facilities not to mention very stiff fees. The easily available PTPTN loan has led to many private colleges that are set up with dubious facilities and inadequate teaching capacity.
“Students have become their cash cow. And the Ministry’s enforcement branch has not exactly been proactive in their job,” he lamented.
Noting that the State government is very concerned with the latest incident involving the said private college, Masidi called upon all local authorities to be vigilant and ensure that offices and commercial premises are properly licensed.
“They should be very inquisitive to avoid ‘fly-by-night’ businessmen from exploiting the trusting nature of Sabahans,” he stressed.
He added that he has urged officers of the Department of Private Education to continue monitoring all private colleges in the State.
Meanwhile, when contacted, director-general of the Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) Datuk Yeo Boon Hai confirmed that he had signed and issued a closure order to the said college last Wednesday, citing the fact that it was operating without an OC.
To a question, he conceded that the college had not submitted any application for an OC to the City Hall.