IDEAS NATIONAL SURVEY OF THE POOR: WHAT ARE THE MAIN ISSUES FACED BY POOR CHILDREN IN OUR SCHOOLS?
The Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) today released a new policy briefing paper outlining the main findings of their nationwide education survey of the bottom 40 percent. The survey which costed almost RM400,000 was conducted in 2013 with financial support from Yayasan Sime Darby, arise Asia Sdn Bhd, ECMLibra Foundation, and Tinggi Foundation.
The survey covered over 1,200 individuals from low-income households from across the country, from Perlis to Johor to Sabah, and Sarawak. The average monthly income of the households surveyed was RM 919 and, on average each household had between two to three children.
This groundbreaking survey is the first ever independently run survey of the bottom 40 percent that focused on their experience of our school system.
IDEAS conducted the survey to ensure the poor too have a voice in our school system. We feel that the bottom 40 percent were not sufficiently engaged when the Malaysian Education Blueprint was drafted. Since IDEAS is committed to making markets work for the poor, we wanted to ensure that the poor is not left out from the transformation process.
The survey discovered that there are five main issues faced by the poor when it comes to our schools. All these are discussed in the policy briefing paper, and is summarised below.
First, there is an information gap between government education initiatives and the information received by the poor. An overwhelming 90 percent of the bottom 40 percent population have never heard about the Malaysian Education Blueprint (MEB). This is indicative of the fact that this segment of the population was not included in the MEB consultations and that parents in the bottom 40 percent remain largely uninformed about initiatives that should help them move out from poverty. Even more worrying, we also found that poor parents are not very interested to interact with schools. 67 percent feels it is sufficient for them to trust teachers and headmasters.
Second, we found that government education aid is not reaching the needy. There is a surprisingly low level of awareness and receipt of education aids among the poor, despite the fact that these aids were supposed to be targeted at them. We found that only 62 percent of poor parents are aware of the Poor Students’ Trust Fund (Kumpulan Wang Amanah Pelajar Miskin). Even worse, only 15 percent of the poor students are actually benefitting from the fund. Clearly there is an urgent need to scrutinise the delivery mechanisms.
Third, we found that the main reason for poor children dropping out from schools is lack of interest in learning. 23 percent cited that their children dropped out because they cannot afford school related fees and expenses. These are compounded by other factors not being in favour of dropouts such as lower levels of parental involvement with the child’s homework and extra reading, lower levels of parental engagement with schools and teachers, as well as on average lower levels of expenditure on the child’s education.
Fourth, we found that education related expenses continue to be a burden for parents from low-income households. Expenditure such as school uniforms and PIBG fees, shoes, exercise books, and tuition or additional classes fees are problematic for them. The majority of poor parents are already spending 16 percent of their monthly household income to support their children’s education, and this is a relatively high proportion. 60 percent of them feel that their children need additional tuition but 40 percent says they cannot afford it.
Fifth, accessibility and physical distance to schools limits parents’ ability to choose better schools for their children. 97 percent of poor parents said their child’s current school was the one they preferred, but, when probed further, 64 percent said that it was the only school that was accessible from their homes, which means they don’t have any choice but to attend that school only. We also found that many still struggle with accessibility, with 32 percent of poor parents in Kedah and 23 percent in Klang Valley saying schools are not easily accessible for their child.
We also found that poor parents generally see private schools are better when compared to government schools. 74 percent of poor parents say that they would, despite accessibility issues, opt for private schools if the fees were paid for by the government, demonstrating their desire to provide their children with the best quality education possible.
Further discussion on all the above issues and more is available in the policy briefing paper which can be downloaded free from our website www.ideas.org.my.
IDEAS invites everyone interested in the data to contact IDEAS Education Unit (tel 03 62018896 or email firstname.lastname@example.org), and we will be happy to share the raw data for further analysis by other parties. We also intend to put the full dataset on our website in the near future so that more people can benefit from our survey.