Former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has urged Putrajaya to cancel its plan to set up "elite" kindergartens, saying that it would only further widen the gap between the rich and poor.
In a statement, she said the country should instead be going towards democratising early education to enable fair access to quality education.
Wan Azizah, who is also a former Women, Family and Community Development minister, said the plan was against aspirations of the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding childhood education.
"According to WHO, the strategic vision in early childhood education has to place importance on a quality environment for development, including life and educational approach that involves parents, guardians, family and community.
"WHO's view is that the government and civil society must work together with families to provide all children with fair access to a quality environment for their development.
"The elite Tabika kindergartens proposed by the Community Development Department (Kemas) is against this aspiration," she said.
The statement was released in response to the plan by the Rural Development Ministry to create an elite version of Tabika Kemas for four to six-year-olds, with a better curriculum.
Berita Harian on Tuesday quoted Deputy Minister Abdul Rahman Mohamad, who said that a draft proposal for the "elite Tabika" is in the works and will be presented to the cabinet for approval.
Meanwhile, another former cabinet minister had also come forward to criticise the plan.
Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, who used to hold the youth and sports portfolio, said the country's education should be aimed at improving its quality instead of further pushing the gap.
He also questioned why the plan was not to implement the elite Tabika system into the whole of Tabika Kemas operations.
"Why need to create a new education caste? Why is this education advantage only accessible to high-income families?
"Is the ministry suggesting that children from poor backgrounds should be left with mediocre education quality?
"Education should be the rights of every child. Especially if it is provided by the government, any discrimination and bias towards any group should be done without," he said on Facebook.
The Muar MP also added a suggestion, saying that the ministry should use the millions of ringgit for the plan to upgrade existing kindergartens under Kemas.