Following criticism, Deputy Rural Development Minister Abdul Rahman Mohamad has given his assurance to the people that there will be no discrepancy in education quality between existing and “elite” Community Development Department (Kemas) tabika (kindergartens).
Earlier this week, Rahman was blasted by opposition lawmakers after announcing Kemas’ plans to target “higher-income capacity” parents by setting up “elite” early learning centres equipped with a “better curriculum”.
A proposal on this to the cabinet is currently in the works.
In a statement today, Rahman contended there was indeed a demand for such Kemas kindergartens, especially from middle-income (M40) families.
“Kemas kindergartens were first set up in the early 1970s to offer early childhood education to low-income families. After 30 years in operation, our studies show that the number of entry applications has risen, especially from the M40 group,” he said.
“This suggestion and study is the ministry’s effort to provide M40 parents with an opportunity to send their children to Kemas kindergartens, and to solve the entry quota issue at existing Kemas kindergartens,” he added.
'There will be no difference in curriculum'
After previously saying that the proposed elite centres would teach an improved curriculum, Rahman now said that there would be no difference in the curriculum.
“Kemas assures that there will be no ‘double standard’ in the learning and facilitation of modules, teaching materials, facilities and teaching staff as implemented at all existing Kemas kindergartens,” he said.
The deputy minister further explained that the name “elite kindergarten” had yet to be decided.
“The ministry will determine a suitable name for these M40 Kemas kindergartens after the ideas have been presented to and approved by the cabinet,” he added.
Rahman’s explanation came after Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil raised concerns that a higher price tag would mean Kemas’ improved curriculum would only be accessible to children from higher-income families.
This, they argued, would serve to widen the education gap between the rich and poor.
They also opposed using the word “elite” as it discriminated against social classes.
Former women, family and community development minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had called for the idea to be scrapped entirely.