Wan Azizah: No need for ‘elite kindergartens’ that will create disunity within communities

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail speaks to the children at the Child Care Centre in the Parliament building, Kuala Lumpur February 7, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail speaks to the children at the Child Care Centre in the Parliament building, Kuala Lumpur February 7, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — The proposal to create an elite tabika (kindergarten) with a better curriculum for four to six-year-olds is a not a good idea, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said today.

The former women, family and community development minister said the establishment of such kindergartens will widen the gap between the high and middle-income groups, and will create disunity in the community.

“I urge the government to dismiss the suggestion to build such kindergartens as it will widen the gap between the B40 and T20 groups.

“Malaysia should be taking steps to democratise the education system for early childhood education to provide equal and quality education to all,” Wan Azizah said in a statement.

She also cited the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) study on children’s education, saying early child development (ECD) is critical for an individual’s development and future success.

According to the study, a child’s surroundings must be productive and feature the involvement of one’s parents, caretakers, immediate family and the community.

Yesterday, Deputy Rural Development Minister I Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Mohamad said the elite kindergartens will be targeted at middle and high-income parents because the fees for these elite kindergartens would be higher than existing Kemas (Community Development Department) schools.

He added that the elite kindergartens will provide a better curriculum than normal ones.

Wan Azizah, however, feels this move is counterproductive and will not help in building a united nation.

“WHO is of the opinion that the government and the civil public have to work together to provide equal opportunities to all children. These elite kindergartens that were suggested by Kemas go against these aspirations.

“There were already plans to form a special committee to formulate a plan to combine all the early child education institutions. This proposal was presented to the Cabinet in November 2018 and was approved to regulate and form an integrated establishment to govern the operations of these early child education centres,” she added.

Meanwhile, former deputy minister of the women, family and community development minister Hannah Yeoh agreed with Wan Azizah’s sentiments.

The Segambut MP said the special committee found that all the early education centres were governed by different ministries while some were run by the state government.

She said the committee had suggested that all child care and education centre be under the purview of the Ministry of Education (MoE).

“When PH was in office, we agreed to form a special agency to regulate all these early child education centres.

“This is because at the time, child care centres were all governed by different ministries,” said Yeoh in a statement.

Yeoh said that at the time the Department of Social Welfare and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry ran the childcare centres, while kindergartens were under MoE and nurseries under the Ministry of Rural Development, while the National Unity Ministry owned the Unity Child Care Centre (Taska Perpaduan).

She said if they do not try to bring all early child education centres under one agency, seven-year-olds who start school at Standard One would all have different basic education.

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