Free primary education from 1966

Published on: Wednesday, August 04, 1965

DAILY EXPRESS (Wednesday, August 4, 1965) JESSELTON, Aug 3 – The Central Government Minister of Education today gave the people of Sabah and Sarawak what they had been asking for a long time – free primary education.

“With no strings attached or conditions imposed,” free primary education will be in force in the two Borneo States effective January 1, 1966.

This was disclosed here this afternoon by “ the happiest man of the day” Enche Mohammed Khir Johari, who in announcing it, stressed that this was however going to cost the Malaysian Government has not yet gone into the details of implementing it.

The Minister, who flew in this afternoon by Malaysian Airways Fokker Friendship to personally deliver pointed out that Government has not yet gone into the details of implementing it.


He expected a greater increase in the primary schooling population as from next year and the Malaysian Government is getting set to meet the anticipated increase.

The Federal Minister revealed that the Central Government has “more or less set the terms in which Malayan teachers are to serve in the Malaysian Borneo states.” Enche Johari said that the teacher, most of them volunteers if possible would be given inducement allowances to come and take charge of teaching in these territories.

Though no definite target for the number of teachers has been set “we want to see how many will come forward first”.

The Minister was confident that a large number of teacher would volunteer to serve in both Sabah and Sarawak. 

In a prepared statement, the Minister stressed that the Central Government has come to this decision despite its many other important commitments at the moment. 

“This shows beyond any doubt that we in Kuala Lumpur always have the interests of Sabah and Sarawak at heart.”

Saying that he did not like to stress this but was forced to do so in view of all the allegations ‘bandied’ about by people who like to see Malaysians disarrayed and disunited, Enche Mohd. Khir added. 

“No doubt we have taken time, but there are things to consider and however much we like to do so, we cannot just deal with matters such as this in isolation.” 


He called on the people to ‘harp’ more on “unity and harmony rather than play into the hands of our enemies by seizing upon issues such as this and magnifying differences when in effect we are united in our aims and our efforts to work for the cause of Malaysia and to defend ourselves against forces of disunity and destruction from within and without.” 

As promised. the Alliance Government in Kuala Lumpur and he as the Minister specially responsible for education, had been considering very sympathetically the request of Sabah and Sarawak for the abolition of school fees in primary schools in these two states. 

In Sarawak, the Alliance Party in the States made a pledge during the last elections that should the Party be returned to power, it would fight for free primary education in Sarawak. 

The Minister added: “As you are aware, this represents a commitment imposed on the Central Government over and above what was agreed upon in the Malaysia Agreement. 

“I say this, because it may not be fully realised here that the additional commitment amounting to some million dollars every year, will have to be assumed by the Central Government, not because of any formal agreement it has made, but because of its expressed desire to ensure that as soon as possible the two Borneo States should have the facilities in education available to States in Mainland Malaysia.” 

Saying this had to be two-way traffic and people here cannot just have their cake and eat it, Enche Mohd. Khir observed that from the National point of view it is vital that in education the Government must have coordination in its policy and system. 

Government cannot have `bits and pieces’ pulling in different directions except in one or two major matters. The State and Central Governments would have to consider very seriously how to bring closer together the Federal and the State Systems. 

Reiterating that this was vital to the national interest as a whole, the Minister observed that in a democracy like Malaysia’s, there was no question of the Central Government arbitrarily imposing its plans on any State Government. Stressing that neither should the States think purely in terms of State and parochial interests, Enche Mohd. Khir added: 

“As I have often said, we are together in Malaysia for better or for worse and if we are to survive for now and for the future, we will have to mobilise our potential and resources and plan our affairs on a national basis in terms of national priorities.” 

State needs and interests should of course he given due consideration but these should and must be complementary to the needs of the nation as a whole.  The Minister said that on behalf of the Alliance Government, he had made a pledge to the people and “now here I come personally to fulfil that pledge.

He had great pleasure in announcing that the Central Government had agreed that there would be abolition of fees in Government and Government-aided primary schools in Sabah and Sarawak with effect from Jan. 1, 1966, subject to the State Governments and local Authorities in the two States undertaking to continue collecting education rates which have already been in force in the two States. 

He explained that in the States in the Peninsula, Education rates used to be collected before but the collection has been temporarily suspended as it had been found that there are so many flaws in the laws governing them. A special Committee has now been appointed to review them with a view to reintroducing them again in the States in the Peninsula as soon as possible. 

The details of implementing the decision regarding abolition of primary school fees in Sabah and Sarawak will now be worked out in consultation with the State Governments. 

The Minister, later said that other fees such as sports, library, etc. will continue to be collected.  “This is a privilege we are giving to the parents,” he said, “the privilege to pay.” 


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