PRESS STATEMENT: More collaboration in future between public and private sectors in education

6 November 2015, Kuala Lumpur – The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) hosted a forum titled, “Success and Challenges in Public Private Partnerships in Malaysia” featuring speakers who are involved in PPPs in Malaysia and abroad.

Panelists were Tengku Nurul Azian Tengku Shahriman, Director, Education and SRI Human Capital Development, PEMANDU, Tan Jing Kuan, COO of Brighton Education Group and Ian Comfort, Group CEO, Academies Enterprise Trust, United Kingdom. The session was moderated by Dzameer Dzulfikli Co-founder and Managing Director of Teach for Malaysia.

Tengku Azian, set the scene with an overview of the various types of collaboration possible through public-private partnership. She gave the audience a sense of the PPPs currently in operation in the country touching upon PPPs in schools (Trust Schools) and TEVT opportunities. She emphasised on the government buying seats in vocational education training program for children with Special Education Needs. While she gave examples of PPPs currently available in the country she also acknowledged that there had not been a great change in number of PPPs in education. “I’m a great believer in raising competition in the school sector quality will rise and it will give parents more choice,” she added.

Jing Kuan, elaborated on the challenges he faced when training principals to manage their funds better during his time working with the Trust School. He likened being a principal of a school to being a CEO of a company and underlined how important it was for these leaders to get out of their “silo” budgeting and utilization of resources. He underlined that while schools always complained they were not given enough funds by the government, in actuality they were not always making the most efficient use of their allocations. However, he also pointed out that the MOE and MOF should work to remove some of the unnecessary financial procedures that also prevent principals from using their budgets more effectively.

Ian Comfort, who Skyped in from the UK, added some insight from the perspective of Academies, the equivalent of Trust Schools in Malaysia. He mentioned that in the UK when academies are handed over to a private operator it includes all aspects of operations including staffing decisions. He cautioned that, “Even one year of a bad teacher in a child’s life will impact them for a long time to come.” On the topic of the Academies program having survived three different parties in government – he underlined that if there is political will to see the change through then the change in mindsets of educators will follow.

IDEAS Chief Executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan commented on the discussions by adding, “PPPs are a great way to begin weaning education off governments’ reliance – especially when it comes to running educational institutions. Currently, there is a large space for private sector involvement in education but only a few companies seem to be privy to these opportunities. And the government seems selective about the areas they want private sector. Moving forward we need to see a proper, open and transparent framework for PPPs in education to ensure that at the end of the day the students and the future of this country benefit from the collaboration. We must also ensure that when we say private sector, the charity and non-profit sector are also included. They can make invaluable contributions to improve education in Malaysia.”

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IDEAS is Malaysia’s first think-tank dedicated to promoting market-based solutions to public policy challenges. We are an independent not-for-profit organisation. As a cross-partisan think tank, we work across the political spectrum. Our purpose is to advance market-based principles, and we are not bound by party politics, race or religion.

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