I SUPPORT the call for decentralisation of federal powers to the state, as made by Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim (“Decentralise for better checks and balances” — NST, Aug 25).
This move will reflect the true meaning of Malaysia’s democracy, and ensure that the interpretation of the constitution, which outlines the sharing of power between the federal and state governments, is understood.
As Sheriff explains, the decentralisation of administrative and financial powers will ensure a more efficient and quick delivery of public services, and reduce the politics of patronage, where ministers and their departments, far removed from the programmes and activities needed on the ground, exercise control.
The long and tedious route of bureaucracy and red tape stand in the way of the implementation of not only good projects developed under government policies, but also those proposed by non-governmentral organisations and civil society organisations. It is a fact that decisions by heads of department, which should take a week, sometimes take two years before the project is approved.
When the Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE) wanted to conduct a worthwhile project with the PCORE English in Harmony Camp, or Kem Jalinan Bahasa Inggeris, in three schools — Sekolah Kebangsaan Dato’ Onn Jaafar, Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (C) Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (T) Tun Sambathan — at Kompleks Sekolah Wawasan in USJ15, Selangor, it took us six months to get the approval from the Education Ministry.
We had to run around to the district education department, the state education department in Shah Alam and the ministry’s English department in Kuala Lumpur for their approvals and endorsement.
Only then was the letter of approval sent to the school heads and they agreed to run the programme.
It should be made clear that PCORE had first seen the school heads, who gave their full support to a programme that they knew would benefit the students.
The camp involving 10 Year Five students from each school — Sekolah Kebangsaan, Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina and Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil — meets for three hours on five Saturdays, or five hours on three consecutive days, making up 15 hours of contact time.
It is designed to fulfil English language learning and national integration goals, where participants engage in communicative activities and games while mixing with co-students from the three school streams.
They practise language structures and vocabulary, and improve their pronunciation, grammar and social-interaction skills.
Another goal of the camp is to get students, teachers and school heads in the same vicinity to meet.
Through this experience, further collaborations involving other co-curricular activities will be en-couraged among the schools involved.
In November last year, PCORE ran the programme for three rural schools in the Kerling area, and in May, three schools in Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, participated.
It was clear that the students enjoyed the inter-ethnic interaction and the chance to communicate in English through fun-learning activities.
With the autonomy given to Sarawak to manage its education system, we will see vast improvements and quick decisions made to strengthen the state’s support of education in general and English education in particular.
It is hoped that the Sarawak chief minister will announce a bilingual education system where Bahasa Malaysia will be the medium of instruction for the main subjects and English will be the medium of instruction for History and Civics, which require greater use of language skills in story telling, reporting and discussion of events and the issues surrounding them.