By Siti Alya Nadiah Ismail and Nur Afiradina Arshad
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 (Bernama) -- Free studies sponsorship programme for first-generation students from poor families who are able to pursue studies at institutions of higher learning, as suggested by Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, is seen as being able to change the fate of this group.
Senior Lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Center for Studies in Learner Diversity, Dr Anuar Ahmad said the success of such programmes was seen in the 1970s when the government successfully supported this group through various initiatives such as hostels, scholarships, and loans.
“In the 1970s, programmes like this were able to open up a lot of opportunities for children in this group. Many of them (who were helped) excelled in education and have changed their destiny, becoming professionals with better incomes.
“If this policy is successfully tabled and implemented, it will certainly have a great impact not only on this group but also in bridging the poverty gap in this country," he said when contacted by Bernama.
He said that in implementing this policy, the government must ensure the definition of the poor who needs to be sponsored, as there are different forms and categories of poverty in this country.
“There is a need for research on the part of the MOHE (Ministry of Higher Education) because we do not want the implementation of this policy to open up space for criticism.
“It is hoped that the ministry has clear guidelines on how to implement this sponsorship, and there must be a definition, framework, and explanation for those who are eligible in the selection process,” he said.
Meanwhile, Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer of the Faculty of Economics and Mualamat Dr Muhammad Iqmal Hisham Kamaruddin said that through the programme, human capital formation among the poor and the B40 can be fully realised.
He said that the programme will provide access to education and knowledge to the students involved in order to bring them and their families out of the cocoon of poverty.
“This programme will especially help poor families and B40 to get the same educational opportunities as other groups in Malaysia,” he said.
“Taking into account the country’s financial situation, this programme can be implemented by providing at least free tuition for this group,” he said.
However, this would depend on the total number of recipients and the financial impact on the government, he said.
He said the programme is a continuation of the earlier implementation of the Siswa Sulung Keluarga Malaysia Development Programme (SULUNG), with both programmes having similar features and focusing on poor families, or B40.
Asked if this was the first step toward free education for Malaysians, he said people need to be realistic as the introduction of free education for all will have a big financial impact on the country.
On Jan 30, Mohamed Khaled announced that the ministry hopes to introduce a free studies sponsorship programme for first-generation students from poor families who are able to pursue studies at institutions of higher learning.
He said the matter will be tabled before the Cabinet for approval.