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Degree or No Degree, It Don't Make a Difference

No, I am not discouraging you from furthering your studies to the highest level possible. I still harbour hopes of studying in the USA, thank you very much. A degree is not was it was in our parents' day - a privilege, limited to the elites who could afford to send their children to prestigious institutions of higher education in Britain, etc. Now, it is considered a must in order to even be considered for a job. No degree, no potential rice bowl. Possess a degree, and doors that were previously closed are opened to you.

However, this order does not seem to apply in the teaching profession in Malaysia. Read these: "Sacrifice of teachers that hasn't paid off" and "Upgraded in qualifications but losing out". These letters appeared in The Star 2 weeks ago, both voicing out the injustice faced, of which I'll explain of later.

Their case, as is with perhaps 50,000 other teachers, is as such: they were non-graduate teachers in the 1970's, just armed with their cert from the training colleges. They believed that in upgrading themselves by doing their degrees, they could do a better job with their newly-acquired skills, plus have better shots at higher salaries and promotions. Pretty much like the corporate world. However, to their dismay, when the pay revision was done by our Education Ministry, their salary was lower than of non-graduate teachers. Imagine!

Why I write this is because it is an issue close to my heart, involving my father, a teacher of 29 years already. My father joined the teaching profession in 1979 as a C2 teacher. He passed his STPM in 1986 and was subsequently placed in the C1 category two years later. In 1993, he attended a one-year specialist course for secondary school TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) teachers. He was awarded his first "Anugerah Perkidmatan Cemerlang" in 1994.

In 1995, he received half-pay leave to study for his 1st degree in Universiti Sain Malaysia. Life was hard then. My brother was barely a year old (he was born in late 1994), my mum was frail after the delivery yet had to care for us - I was barely above 5 years of age, and my sister, a mere 3 years old. My father only could return from Penang on weekends. One stark memory of those years I have of that period of time was when my mum and I were down with high fever. My mother was so weak that she could not muster the strength to go to the doctor; instead my grandmother called the doctor to the house. I remember my brother crying, myself not being able to eat, and my sister being bewildered most of the time. Thank God for my very formidable grandmother, who came over and took care of us. I also remember, on a separate occasion, my parents talking about how much costs they had to cut back, financial difficulties due to his pay being halved while on study leave. Being very attached to my parents, I used to cry when he wasn't around, because there was no daddy on the weekdays to read me Cinderella for the umpteenth time at night, or make icecreams out of Play-doh for my sister and I to play house.

Despite the hardship, my father graduated in 1999. During the 4 years of his study, he was not given any pay increment. This meant that upon his graduation, he had lost out FOUR increments to his peers who had stayed on as non-graduates. Three months after his graduation, there was a pay adjustment for non-graduate teachers. He discovered that his basic pay was RM1 less that of the non-graduate DGA6 teachers (the DG thing is their pay scheme coding). His request to be emplaced in the non-graduate DGA6 scheme before the graduate DG3 was rejected. That did not deter him. Instead, he went on to receive his second "Anugerah Perkhidmatan Cemerlang" in 2002. Being a man who believed in acquiring more knowledge in order to serve his God, King and Country better, my father applied and received a full scholarship to do his Masters programme in UM. And yet, despite his initiative, perseverance and hard work, his pay is still less than of my mum, who is a non-graduate.

My mother joined the teaching profession in 1981 two years after my dad became a teacher. Like my dad, she graduated from a teachers’ training college in KL as a C2 teacher. She has been a non-graduate teacher ever since. She decided not to pursue her studies so that she could look after her children and enable my dad to pursue his career. However, all their effort and sacrifice have in fact worked against them. Even thought my mom has never received the awards my dad did, she still earns more than my dad. She is in DGA32 and my Dad is in DG41. Both got 3&4 for their PTK. How can this be? It clearly shows that the salary revisions over the years have not taken into account of teachers like my dad. Although they are upgraded in qualifications, they lost out badly terms of seniority, increment in pay and opportunities for promotions to their peers and juniors in the profession. It is downright demoralizing, de-motivating and grossly unfair.

Obviously, something is very wrong with the current system. It is extremely cowardly for the Ministry concerned to sit quietly, instead of revising the ins and outs of the enforced pay scheme. Teachers like my father have given the best years of their lives, yet they have been left out in the cold when it comes to the benefits. These are experienced teachers - a definite asset to our nation. In the light of the upcoming election, I urge those in authority to rectify this huge oversight quickly. Give them back what is theirs before you begin wondering why less and less people want to be teachers in this country.

3 mad rant(s):

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  1. Jasper said...


  2. Shine said...

    Jaspreet aka Jasper the Jackass Ghost: Don't comment then, numbnut.

    Anyways, case in point, sorry I cannot relate to how you feel as none of my family members have been government workers.

    I am very impressed and have great respect for your father, along with his effort to improve himself. But one thing to consider is, why does your mom still earn more than him?

    Does this mean that experience is more important than degrees in teaching?
    If that is so, then maybe your father shouldn't have gotten that degree after all.

    At the beginning of your article you touched on the importance degrees. True that it does bring about more opportunities, but I disagree that these opportunities will be any better than those available to us even without them.

    With reference to your mom's pay > dad's, my father (did not attend secondary school) > all my brothers (2 MBAs, 1 accountant, 1 electrical engineer) income, and a friend of mine who is now a millionaire and owns a pub in Langkawi even though he did not finish Form 5, a degree may not be as important as it seems.

    It's a proof of education, not knowledge.

    I may be out of topic, but just my two cents on the matter.

    Not to be pessimistic, but considering the political situation in Malaysia and how corrupted it is, it will take a miracle for any radical improvements on any other field besides education.

    Vote wisely, or don't vote.  

  3. Anonymous said...

    Degree or no degree. It DOESN'T make a different.

    A degree is not what it USED TO BE in our parents' day.  


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