On 15 April, the Minister of Education, Dr Maszlee Malik, announced that the “Permata” program, which was the brainchild of the former, disgraced, “self-styled”, First Lady of Malaysia (FLOM), Rosmah Mansor, would be retained by his ministry.
The Permata program was originally placed under the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD), and it was run by experts ostensibly for gifted children.
When Pakatan Harapan took over the government last May, the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, said that the government would not stop the Permata programme, but have it audited and reviewed, before a decision was made.
She said, “We – the Harapan government and Prime Minister – have said what is good will continue. We will have to audit and review it, including the allocation, cost-effectiveness and results”.
“My child is a genius. Is yours?”
The issue is that after the audit, minor adjustments and its relocation to the Ministry of Education, Maszlee said that the “Permata” program would be renamed “Genius”. Why?
Why rename the program at all? If his team is confident that the program is producing results, then why bother to give it a new name?
Why choose the word “Genius”? It is mere affectation and is pretentious.
The proud parents of a child, who is fortunate enough to be enrolled in the Permata program, may tell other parents that their child is a “genius”, but one can imagine the sniggers and bitching over this particular boast.
After all the hype about using the national language, why use the English “Genius” instead of the Malay “Permata”?
Think of the effect on a child who has been called a genius.
Similarly, think of the effect on one, who was not accepted into the “Genius” program.
Out of touch with parents
Maszlee’s ministry seems to make too many errors. Is he out of touch with the needs of many parents? Does he know how teachers are affected by ministerial policy? Is he aware that his lack of clarity will impact millions of schoolchildren?
Maszlee may be a genius and expert in his field, but so far, he has done an excellent job of hiding his genius from the public.
The white shoes to black shoes debacle is not easy to shake off. Maszlee’s worry that neither Sabah nor Sarawak have enough religious schools is another fiasco that has angered Malaysians. He skirts round important issues, and ignores the more pertinent topics that parents would like him to resolve. Perhaps, his aides are incompetent. Perhaps, he is unable to decide which issues should be dealt with first. Does he feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems faced by his ministry, because his decisions will influence future generations of Malaysians.
Tell us why the Permata program is so marvellous
Perhaps, Maszlee should explain the “Permata” program to Malaysians.
We know that it is a program which uses play to stimulate children’s minds.
How many children have benefitted from this program? Who are these children? Why are they kept hidden away? How are children selected for Permata?
During disgraced, former PM Najib Abdul Razak’s tenure, Permata received several hundred millions of ringgits, when other ministries or departments were struggling to find funding.
We hear of overseas trips by those in Permata. The latest high profile case was a visit to Oxford University, where the patron of Permata, Rosmah, said that she hoped Permata would send more students to Oxford.
Use the money meant for Permata to improve education
Why can’t the hundreds of millions of ringgits be allocated to the Education Ministry and be used to improve the education for all Malaysians?
If the issue is teaching, then use the money to train more teachers in the methods that Permata claims have unlocked the potential in children’s minds.
Why can’t the money be used to improve and upgrade the infrastructure and quality of teaching in rural, and Orang Asli schools?
Why can’t the money be used for music lessons, dance lessons, drama and theatre in schools, if creative subjects have been proven to stimulate the minds of children?
Why can’t the money be used in improving the education of all schoolchildren in Malaysia? The real geniuses will get the help they need anyway, because philanthropists and governments (think Singapore) will fund their future studies.
In February 2018, Rosmah said, “I strongly hold to the principle that all children are assets and a jewel to the country. They have the same right to grow together as cheerful children and become the nation’s human capital.”
Do not just concentrate on the elite group
Instead of concentrating on the elite group, Maszlee should provide good education for all, in every part of the country. He should get rid of the tahfiz schools, which do not have a full school curriculum and which stunt the intellect of the children.
The hundreds of millions of ringgits meant for Permata, should be made available for all children and not just the elite.
Every child should be given equal access to good education.