KUALA LUMPUR — There is no reason to make a big fuss about the fee exemption given to Indians who participate in the technical and vocational education training (TVET) courses conducted at the training centres run by the Manpower Department, said academics.
Prof Dr Ahmad Martadha Mohamed, political analyst and lecturer at the College of Law, Government and International Studies at Universiti Utara Malaysia, said certain quarters were making an issue out of it just to gain political mileage.
The previous government had also been doing it, he said, adding that the fee waiver was part of the government’s efforts to help bridge the economic gap between the Indians and other communities in this country, as well improve the socio-economic status of Indian youths.
“It’s a known fact that many Indians are lagging behind in the economic and educational aspects and they also get fewer opportunities. Without proper education, it is hard for them to get good jobs. Through an initiative like this which provides them access to skills training, they are able to improve their standard of living,” he told Bernama.
On Monday, some parents and trainees expressed their frustration on social media over the fee exemptions given to Indian youths who enrolled at the Industrial Training Institute in Tangkak, Johor.
On the same day, the Human Resources Ministry responded in a statement that the fee exemptions to increase Indian youth enrollment at the Manpower Department’s Industrial Training Institutes were not new as the previous government had implemented a similar initiative from 2013 to 2015 under the Youth and Sports Ministry.
During that period a total of RM11.6 million was allocated to the initiative which had benefited 671 Indian students.
The Human Resources Ministry said RM5 million was allocated in Budget 2019 to encourage up to 2,000 Indian youths to take up TVET courses.
Ahmad Martadha said since issues like these tend to “grab the attention of the various races”, the government should come out with a clear and detailed explanation to avoid any misunderstanding or negative perception.
He also said that the government should assist youths of all races, particularly those living in rural areas, by giving them more opportunities to participate in skills-based training programmes.
This would help to bridge the urban-rural income gap, he said and suggested that the fee exemptions be extended to the B40 group, Orang Asli and bumiputera communities, including those from Sabah and Sarawak.
AVOID RACIAL ISSUES
Dr Hairol Anuar Mak Din, a lecturer at the Department of Nationhood and Civilisation Studies at the Selangor International Islamic University College, said the delivery of information on the fee exemption should have been managed more effectively by the agencies concerned to avoid confusion among the public.
“People need to be exposed to the fact that we need to have balanced economic growth and equitable distribution (of wealth). This includes making them understand that certain groups have to be given privileges because they qualify for it and need it. By right, in this Malaysia Baru era, racial issues should not be allowed to crop up,” he said.
According to Hairol Anuar, people these days were becoming more sensitive to information that is readily accessible to them even though its authenticity is questionable.
“This is why the government has to explain to them properly to avoid any misunderstanding. Once the people have a clearer understanding of an issue, they will be willing to accept it even though it involves other races,” he added.
The Human Resources Ministry has allocated RM5 million (under Budget 2019) to increase Indian student enrolment in the field of TVET.
The money is channelled into the trust funds belonging to each of the Industrial Training Institutes (run by the Manpower Department). The allocation includes RM3.5 million for the Manpower Department.
For long-term courses, only the essential fees are exempted for new Indian students, who have to apply for a loan through the Skills Development Fund Corporation in order to pursue a full-time diploma course.
Full fee exemptions are given to Indian students pursuing certificate courses.
To date, 356 Indian youths have completed various short-term courses and another 218 students are expected to enrol for full-time diploma and certificate courses for the July 2019 intake.
The Human Resources Ministry is also awaiting approval to provide fee exemptions to B40 and Orang Asli students who wish to participate in the TVET courses conducted at the Industrial Training Institutes.