Resolve Malaysia’s Education Crisis By Rejecting “One Size Fits All” Uniformity In Favour Of Customization That Returns To The Basic Principles Of Pursuing Excellence And The Teaching Of Cognitive And Non-Cognitive Skills.

Speech By Chief Minister of Penang Lim Guan Eng During The Official Opening of the Karpal Singh Penang Learning Centre & Penang Badminton Academy At Jalan Kaki Bukit, Bukit Gelugor, Pulau Pinang On Friday, 9 May 2014.

First let me thank Dato’ Seri Kalimullah and ECM Libra Foundation not only for the RM 4 million donation for which we are grateful but also for the kind suggestion to name it as Karpal Singh Penang Learning Centre. We will accept as directed. Thank you.

We live in an ever fast-changing world environment where the one assured path to success is a sound education system. Not only can education reduce income inequality, but it too, can provide social mobility and economic opportunity to all. In short education is the lifeboat to our future.

The World Bank in its report notes that a lynchpin of Malaysia’s transformation into a high-income, sustainable and inclusive economy is ensuring the country has a high-performing education system. It added that “Access to schooling is a necessary but insufficient condition for building human capital that will propel economic growth. In addition to ensuring the system has the broadest possible coverage (quantity), the quality of education is perhaps even more critical,”.

Malaysia’s education crisis is in a downward spiral following the latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report on education assessment that only one out of 100 15-year-old Malaysian students able to solve complex problems. We are willing to work together with the Federal government to address the wide disparity between its best and worst performers in order to improve educational standards.

The 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) put Malaysia again at the bottom 25%, coming in at 39th out of 44 countries, in the test on creative problem-solving. Malaysian students had been assessed by PISA to be 3 years behind the best students in South Korea, Shanghai or Singapore, scoring below average and ranked 52 out of the 65 countries in mathematics, science and reading. What is shocking is that Malaysia is worse than Vietnam of Thailand in science and mathematics.

Whilst Malaysia invests more than 20% of our national budget in education, there is no value for money as such investment serves to satisfy the needs of bureaucrats rather than meet the aspirations of the students to acquire knowledge and skills in order to realise their talent and potential. For instance Malaysia spends less than Thailand in education for students in the first ten years of their education from 6 years to 15 years old.

Luis Benveniste, the World Bank’s lead education specialist for the East Asia region, says scholars have argued that for Malaysia to catch up with high-income economies like Japan and South Korea, it requires the growth of a capital-and skill-intensive manufacturing sector, and of a high-productivity service industry.

Where our education fails our economy can be seen by our low number of university graduates. Gross tertiary enrolment in Malaysia is only 37.1%, far behind South Korea’s 101%, Finland’s 96% and the US’ 95%. About 25% of Malaysian males between the ages of 15 and 19 are in the labour force.

Unless there is a mindset shift towards investment in education accompanied by high aspirations as a nation to build on human capital, how can we grow into a high-income developed economy? One solution towards resolving Malaysia’s education crisis is rejecting the stultifying “one size fits all” uniformity in favour of customization that returns to the basic principles of pursuing excellence and the teaching of cognitive and non-cognitive skills

The time has come to empower teachers by rewarding the best, getting the best out of them with cognitive and non-cognitive teaching and able to help students who fall behind. Malaysia has no choice but to develop a high-performing education systems that focus on both cognitive (factual knowledge) and non-cognitive (team work, leadership and communication) skills. We cannot permit our education to fail our economy.

We must be confident and daring enough to invest in education. We must provide our youths with opportunities and supply them with platform to demonstrate their talent and strengths. For, it is only when we are bold enough to invest in the future can we truly be victors of it.

In this light therefore, the Penang state government will be adopting a 3-pronged approach towards strengthening our education system namely:-

Providing annual funding to all existing half-funded vernacular and religious schools;

Building Learning Centres with the concept of STEM – Teaching of Science, Technology, English and Mathematics as their main focus; and

Attracting world class universities as well as adopting the German vocational school system within multi-national corporations.

For Penang to have a digital technological cluster that works, it must be profitable in the market place. First, we need to have a sizeable startup colony (“ecosystem”) and also hundreds of startup schools (“accelerators”) to drive and propel the ecosystem forward. In between there is a need for entrepreneurial talent with digital knowhow or technopreneurs to make digital technology work in the marketplace by being profitable.

The Karpal Singh Penang Learning Centre is a starting point. The Penang state government can provide some seed money and a platform but the basis of success will still depend on the private sector, individual entrepreneurs and digital experts. And we thank ECM Libra Foundation for lending such a big helping hand.

Today, we witness the completion of both the Karpal Singh Penang Learning Centre and Penang Badminton Academy, aimed at providing our youths with a better choice – to upgrade their knowledge and skills. With that mentioned, we hereby wish to thank our sponsor, ECM Libra Foundation for their financial support.

ECM Libra Foundation allocated RM 4 million for this project. The Penang state government allocated 2.63 acres land for the site. It took 14 months to complete the construction. This is a classic example of the success of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model in action.

Apart of the Learning Centre, there is also a Penang Badminton Academy. It is equipped with 6 badminton courts, targeted to make Penang, the leading badminton state in Malaysia.

With the kick start of the Penang Youth Development Corporation (PYDC) together with the the completion of the Karpal Singh Penang Learning Centre, we are proud to say that whilst a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, this is Penang’s first step – with a little help from our friend ECM Libra Foundation. Let us provide our youths ladders of opportunity and escalators to mobility. Thank you.




我首先要感谢拿督斯里卡里姆拉和ECM Libra 基金会,除了赞助4百万令吉给此中心,并建议命名为卡巴星槟城学习中心,我们将依循吩咐,谢谢。






世界银行东亚地区教育教育学者Luis Benveniste说,马来西亚要赶上如日本和韩国的高收入经济,需要提高资本和密集技术制造业,还有高效率的服务业。




1. 制度化拨款给半津贴及宗教学校;

2. 建立专注在理科、科技、英文及数学(STEM)的学习中心;

3. 吸引世界级大学前来办学,并与跨国公司合作采纳德国职业技术教育系统。

卡巴星槟城学习中心是一个起点,槟州政府能提供一些资金和平台,但仍然有赖于私人领域、企业和专家协助打造成功基础。我们今天见证卡巴星槟城学习中心和槟城羽球学院完工,感谢ECM Libra基金会的赞助。

ECM Libra基金会赞助4百万令吉,槟州政府拨出2.63英亩土地,工程于14个月竣工,这是成功的公私合作伙伴关系(PPP)经典例子。除了学习中心,这栋6个羽毛球场的体育馆将加强槟州成为羽毛球强州,领先全国。