Manyin (centre) with the IGC Report as MESTR deputy permanent secretary Dr Abdul Rahman Deen (left) and MESTR head of education division, Donald Henry, look on.

KUCHING: The setting-up of international schools in Sarawak is done in compliance with all Ministry of Education (MOE) requirements, and does not contravene the nation’s laws.

Education, Science and Technological Research (MESTR) Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong said his ministry had studied the relevant laws, had extensive engagements with the MOE and complied with requirements in every step of the process.

“In coming to the decision to set up these schools, we have considered the responsibility of the state to protect its rights with regard to its education policies as stated in paragraph 17 of the Inter-Governmental Committee Report, 1962 (IGC Report) which reads:

“…although Education, item 13(a) of the Federal list in the Ninth Schedule will be a Federal subject; the present policy and system of administration of education in North Borneo and Sarawak should be undisturbed and remain under the control of the Government of the State until that government otherwise agrees. In particular:

(i) the present policy in the Borneo States regarding the use of English should continue; …”

“So as far as the Sarawak government is concerned, since 1963, we have not passed any law or any Bill to agree that this should not continue until today. This means we have never departed from this policy,” he said at a press conference here on Monday (Sept 28).

He was responding to a statement by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia educationist Prof Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong, who cautioned that the proposal by the Sarawak government to set up international schools went against the provisions of the Education Act 1996.

Teo told an online news portal on Saturday (Sept 26) that this was so because all government schools must use Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction.

To this, Manyin said the Act did not apply to the international schools as per Section 15 of the Education Act 1996 [Act 550] which reads; The National Education System shall comprise — (a) pre-school education; (b) primary education; (c) secondary education; (d) post-secondary education; and (e) higher education, but shall not include education in expatriate schools or international schools.

“These schools to be set up are international schools and are to be owned and maintained by Sanjung Services Sdn Bhd, a private company registered under the Companies Act 2006. Sanjung Services Sdn Bhd is a subsidiary of Yayasan Sarawak.

“To reiterate the above, the proposed Yayasan Sarawak International Secondary Schools are not government schools within the definition of the Act. They are private schools as they will be owned and operated by a company just like most of the other private international schools that are currently operating in Malaysia.”

Manyin also pointed out that the earth-breaking ceremony for the first school was done only after obtaining a letter of support from the MOE with reference number KPM.600-8/1/1Jld7(68), stating that Sanjung Services Sdn Bhd had fulfilled the criteria set by the ministry.

He also said the objective of setting up these private international schools was not only to improve the command of English but also to provide access for high potential students from low income families to quality international education.

“To enhance the quality of the education system in the state, Sarawak is also investing millions of ringgit to complement and supplement the efforts of the MOE and the state education department.

“These include upgrading or rebuilding of dilapidated schools, increase accessibility to treated water supply and 24-hour electricity supply, continuous professional development programmes for school leaders and teachers, support students co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, provide teaching and learning resources and facilities as well as programmes to nurture and develop interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).”

Manyin continued: “I thank the professor (Teo) for his suggestion that we import British teachers to improve the standard of English in our schools. We have actually considered this costly option but feel that, for the moment, it is better to invest that money to improve the competency of our own teachers and students.

“We have implemented many programmes towards this, including teaching of Mathematics and Science in English, Sarawak English Language Education Symposium, Post-graduate Certificate in Teaching English as Second Language (budget has been approved by State Government but still awaiting approval from MOE), supply of teaching and learning resources in English, Sarawak English Language Proficiency Initiatives, and Speak English Every Day Every Where.”