Aida Zabidi
The call for free education in Malaysia is something that has been incoming for awhile. 

I often hesitate to comment on such issues – moreover because I do not have the background or the facts to do so, but the recent state of unrest has roused a certain interest. 

There has been a lot of opposition regarding the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN), with claims from opposing parties that the money used to fund these students are often misused for other things asides from actual education. There is a call to make education free for all – a cause which is fair in itself but one which I question the practicality of the implementation of such a system. 

Free education is not a right, it is a privilege that we are given, mostly because it is not as ‘free’ as one might expect. Like many other things within our society, education is yet another aspect where the costs are borne by the government, much like our healthcare system, a practice which is not necessarily sustainable in the long run. 

We live in a world where capitalism is a driving factor behind a lot of things. Not a lot of people take that fact into consideration that we are still a developing nation, but one which manages to keep our taxes very very low. Compared to many first world countries, where people are taxed almost half their salaries, most Malaysians don’t get taxed very much at all and those who do only get taxed a maximum of 26%. Case in point, as a first year doctor – I don’t even make enough to qualify for the tax bracket, and that’s considered a job that is of a higher income compared to other sectors of the community. In the next bracket up when I do start paying tax, I will only be paying 1% in tax. Compare this to a country like Australia, where I would be paying about 25% of my salary in taxes. 

Should the government choose to go the way of increasing our taxes, the middle and lower income classes would be hit the hardest, but that would be the easiest way of continuing the ridiculous amount of subsidies that our government provides. 

True, there needs to be a reformation with the education system, and true, education needs to be accessible to everyone. I also don’t dispute the fact that there might be inefficiencies and misuse of funds that are meant to be allocated towards education. 

In this case, it might be a much better idea to merely have a more efficient loan repayment system for those who have taken out the loan, much like a bank loan. 

Before jumping into a cause blindly, I believe people should be able to take a step back and evaluate objectively the practicality of implementing certain systems. There are more practical solutions, perhaps, then camping out and escalating violence. As youth, we want change, but we Malaysians as a society also need to show more maturity and understanding behind the mechanisms of governance before letting our emotions run away with us.
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