The new government led by Muhyiddin Yassin that came into power on 29 February 2020 has reverted to two separate ministries in Education. Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin is Senior Minister of Education and Dato’ Dr Noraini Binti Ahmad is Minister of Higher Education.
The two ministries were split in 2004, merged again in 2013 and split again in 2015, before being merged under PH education minister Maszlee Malik after the Pakatan Harapan stormed to a historic victory in the May 2018 national elections, upending six decades of UMNO rule.
Many academics and commentators have welcomed the move as a means to tidy the large and unwieldy Ministry of Education that had oversight of education at all the five levels of the National Education System. A merger of the two systems was also under consideration by the previous government before it was evicted from power.
The regulatory management of higher education will not be improved by the creation of a separate ministry, supposedly to look after higher education. There has to be a more careful reexamination of what constitutes higher education and how its processes are to be coordinated. A different ministry in charge of higher education will not by itself bring an alignment of good governance-systems and quality control procedures of higher education. Also, there is currently a difference in the way the Malaysian Qualifications Agency and the Ministry of Education regard these questions concerning higher education. Apart from all that, current policies do not give the ministry of education sole authority over higher education. It would seem that other ministries may also establish degree-awarding higher education institutions.
A division of the ministry without a solution of these fundamental issues will not take us anywhere.