KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Education Minister Maszlee Malik, who has faced numerous criticisms since becoming a minister in the Pakatan Harapan government, has resigned.
In a packed press conference at Putrajaya on Thursday (Jan 2), Dr Maszlee said he has informed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of his intention to step down. His resignation takes effect on Friday.
“On the advice of Dr Mahathir - who is a father figure to me, a leader and a great statesman - I, Maslee Malik, with a calm yet heavy heart, return my position as Malaysia’s education minister to the prime minister,” he said.
The 46-year-old from Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia has attracted several controversies since Pakatan Harapan took over federal administration in the May 2018 general election, overshadowing the educational reforms he introduced.
He has been criticised for getting distracted by issues and failing to improve educational standards, and there have been online petitions calling for his removal.
In September 2018, Dr Maszlee accepted the appointment as the International Islamic University Malaysia president despite PH’s pledge to restore academic freedom in universities.
He stepped down in November following strong objections from student groups and politicians.
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He was also labelled the “shoe minister” after he announced that students should wear “black shoes” instead of white shoes to prevent them from looking dirty.
Among others, Dr Maszlee also proposed swimming classes for students at hotels and pushed for a cashless ecosystem in schools.
He came under fire this week for appearing in the ministry’s advertisement billboards, prompting veteran newsman A Kadir Jasin to comment that government should not be about “ministers building a personality cult”.
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In his Thursday press conference, Dr Maszlee said that he was seen as creating problems for the leadership because of issues such as the teaching of Jawi script in vernacular schools and the free breakfast programme.
He listed the educational reforms introduced by the ministry in the past 20 months, which he described as “significant and beautiful”.
Examples he gave included reducing teachers’ burden by reducing non-teaching tasks, promoting the Malaysia Reads campaign to encourage a reading habit, and an impending review of the Education Act to make secondary education compulsory.
“The education ministry received the attention of media, certain groups and politicians not because of our results and achievements, and not because of our contributions to the society that have significant meaning.
“Unfortunately, these did not make headlines. (But rather) sensational headlines that were more colourful. Sensitive issues were played up and became the priority,” he said.
In a Facebook post, Dr Mahathir thanked Dr Maszlee for his service.
"I will decide on his replacement and will make an announcement shortly," he said.