Building Inclusive Societies Through The Need For The Empowerment Of Women – #MOST2017

“Malaysia has always put her people at the centre of development. Therefore every child in Malaysia, regardless of wealth, ethnicity or background, deserves equal access to quality education that will enable the student to achieve his or her potential.”

ASIA PACIFIC MINISTERIAL #MOST2017 FORUM

SUBTHEME 2: BUILDING INCLUSIVE SOCIETIES THROUGH THE NEED FOR THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN

• It is my great pleasure to be here as a panel to discuss and share my views and perspectives on today’s sub-theme: Building Inclusive Societies through the Need for the Empowerment of Women, in which I would speak from Ministry of Education point of view. Education is universally acknowledged to benefit individuals and the essential ingredient for development of a nation. Having equal opportunities to education for females and males will have positive impact to their lives and will bring significant gains socially and economically.

•Malaysia has always put her people at the centre of development. Therefore every child in Malaysia, regardless of wealth, ethnicity or background, deserves equal access to quality education that will enable the student to achieve his or her potential. Based from these principles, the Malaysian education system aspires to ensure universal access to education and full enrolment of all Malaysian children from preschool through to the upper secondary level. Equal educational opportunities, the provision of special assistance to disadvantaged groups and the strengthening of technical education are strategies used to achieve these aspirations. These strategies apply equally to all children regardless of gender.

•Malaysia has continuously made significant investments in education. Total public spending on education in 2016 is at 15.48% which is one of the highest in Asia and higher than average OECD. This is because education is always placed as the main driver in the development of the nation as shown in the various strategic measures implemented under the Malaysia Plans. Malaysia socio-economic progress is dependent on the supply of educated, skilled and trained labour force. The role of women in the national development has always been a priority. This is made possible through implementable legislation, policy, mechanism, structures or allocation of resources in ensuring provision of education to all Malaysian irrespective of gender.

•The government’s commitments to provide access to education have in many ways shown great progress. By year 2000, Malaysia had already achieved high participation rate at both primary and secondary at 95.6% and 85.7 % respectively. In terms of gender inclusivity, Malaysia has in fact achieved gender parity in primary education since 2000 which has benefitted and provided various educational and career opportunities for girls and women in Malaysia. Today, participation rate remains stable at 97.02% in primary and 90.02 % in secondary in 2016. Gender parity index (GPI) remains stable at 1.01 for primary and 1.06 at secondary.

•Malaysia believes that early childhood care and education is the first stage in shaping the young minds as a learner in preparing them to understand and deal with life. Through various efforts and mechanisms, there has been significants achievement in the number of children in Malaysia entering preschools. In 2016 participation rate at preschool is at 92.40%. This significant progress is made possible through our national blue ocean strategy by having strategic cooperation between ministries and agencies, such as the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and Ministry of Rural & Regional in ensuring equal access to education for all. In terms of participation rate at pre-schools for girls enrolment in pre-school is almost equal to the boys with 49.5 percent in 2016.

• It is projected that sixty (60) percent of the 1.5 million jobs that will be created will require TVET related skills in Malaysia. Hence developing and strengthening vocational pathway is a key priority. TVET is one of the game changers under the 11th Malaysia Plan for Malaysia to achieve an advanced economy status by 2020. Meeting this demand will require Malaysia to critically review its TVET programme to ensure TVET programme is market-driven and is able to address the future challenges of job deficit among youths irrespective of gender.

•In 2016, there were 61,100 students in Vocational College in the country and 44.35 % were female students in comparison to 31.9% in 2013. A significant proportion of the female students, are enrolled in the more traditional vocational pathways. The percentage of female students enrolled in  technical courses in the Vocational Colleges in 2016 are as follows:

•Construction Technology (6.24%);

•Electronic Technology (4.53%);

•Electrical Technology (2.71%);

•Industrial Machining (1.55%);

•Air-conditioning and Refrigerator Technology (1.04%);

•Automotive Technology (0.52%);

•Welding Technology (0.39%).

The small percentage is a clear indication that technical courses are made available to all. However the low percentage of female students in technical pathways is mostly by choice.

•Based from our national exam results, the gender gap is both significant and increasing, having widened over the last five years. Girls consistently outperform boys at every level; the gap in performance is already evident from primary school national exam level up to university level, where females comprises approximately 70% of the cohort. This trend in the performance gap between male and female is evident in the 2016 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia or equal to GCSE/O level, where 55.83% of the female candidates received SPM certification in comparison to 44.17% male candidates. I believe this is also a growing trend worldwide where female students are increasingly dominant in getting themselves listed as the top scorers of the schools and universities.

•In the teaching profession, female teachers are prominently represented (almost 70 %) in both primary and secondary education except in TVET Colleges.  However, gender profile of the leading positions reveals that male teachers are more likely to be promoted as school heads or principals. In 2016 37.9 % of school principals and headmasters are female and 62.1 % are male.

•The Government commitments to achieve gender equality and equity have proven to produce significant results. We are proud to have Malaysian women receiving international awards like Dr. Fatehah Mohd Omar, Dr. Nethia Mohana Kumaran, and Dr. Reena Rajasuriar for their researches in the various fields of science. These three women were awarded the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science National Fellowship an extension to the international L’Oréal- UNESCO awards. Women in sports who are trained by our National Sports School are performing equally well at international levels like Pandelela Rinong, Leong Mun Yee, Farah Ann Binti Abdul Hadi to name a few. These achievements of our Malaysian women are testimony of the government’s and the Ministry of Education’s commitment in ensuring an inclusive society and to ensure women are not discriminated or left behind. Key to achieve this, is education, the tool for empowerment. As Malala Yousafzai has mentioned “One Child, One Teacher, One Book & One Pen Can Change the World”.

•There gaps and challenges which need to be addressed. Contrary to what is happening in many countries in the ASEAN region, the issue at hand is not about maintaining females in schools but a question of how to sustain males in school and to reduce performance gap between males and females. Policy intervention to encourage more girls to enter more non-traditional fields in TVET should be further enhanced. This would require commitments from all levels – schools, governments, industries as well as communities. Although percentage of female leadership in schools achieved the 30 % national target, more opportunities should be given to women to take leadership roles in the upper tier of the management profile.

•Education is the key for promoting gender equality. The right to education is not only a matter of access. It requires meaningful participation and development through learning. This would require systemic approach to education valuing girls and boys equally, different from advocating for treating boys and girls in the same way. Boys and girls have different biological needs and socialises differently, with different experiences, understandings and ways of learning. For education to be gender responsive (UNESCO, 2008a), the system must acknowledge these differences and accommodate all students’ learning needs so that our future society is inclusive that not only empowers women but more importantly equitable and sustainable.

Mahdzir Khalid @ ASIA PACIFIC MINISTERIAL MOST FORUM

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