Saturday, October 01, 2005

Education Ministries: Are You Listening?

It’s quite interesting (and refreshing) the fact that many of the retired politicians and civil servants are speaking at various conferences and seminars and making plenty of sense. Nowadays, you will hear our former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaking about the importance of mastering the English language and our former Finance Minister and UMNO Treasurer, Tun Daim Zainuddin arguing sharply, that education, not equity participation is the method to improve the Malay community. But they are not the only ones.

Former Education director-general Tan Sri Murad Mohd Noor have complained of a “overly bureaucratic education system” during his lecture on “Revolutionising the Education System” at the Higher Education Ministry on 26th September.
"When the Government wants to promote IT literacy, they go about it by spending millions on building computer labs. Actually, what would make students IT-literate is content, what books they read, what is taught to them, the quality of their teachers, their ability to think.”
Hey, hey, hey, this was exactly the point that was raised when our Minister of Education, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein tried to justify his “Smart Schools” achievements recently. (See blog post here.)

Tan Sri Murad was tasked by Tun Dr Mahathir in December 2002 to head a group to propose far-reaching educational reforms to redress what he had vividly described at the time as the “double hijacking” of the national school system from its original objective of catering to all races in Malaysia – sabotage of the Pupil’s Own Language (POL) programme and the attempt to turn the national schools into Islamic rather than Malaysian schools.

The report has been completed since August 2003 but unfortunately, it has never been publicised for debate by the education and public community. When queried by Sdr Lim Kit Siang in Parliament earlier in June, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin claimed that there is no need to make public the Murad report as “it contains recommendations and proposals to strengthen national schools and the administration of the Sekolah Agama Rakyat (SAR) which still needed to be studied in detail as they involve legal and financial implications”.

Just two days before Tan Sri Murad’s lecture, the first director of then Institut Teknologi Mara (now Universiti Teknologi Mara, or UiTM), Tan Sri Arshad Ayub argued for a “review of higher education policy” during a lecture organised by the Alumni of University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Tan Sri Arshad argued that too many colleges have been upgraded to university and university college status. (See also blog post here on "Skills Training".)
"A college should remain at college level first. Only the best should be universities. We are so concerned with expanding enrolment at our public and private institutions of higher learning that we fail to ask whether some of these students are ready to pursue degrees."

"Should they be pursuing diplomas instead? I think a quarter or even half of the existing number of students pursuing degrees should be doing diplomas. Perhaps this is why we now have a problem of unemployable graduates."
Tan Sri Arshad also raised the all important issue of “whether Malaysia’s higher educational institutions had sufficient teaching manpower.”
"Do we have good people to teach architecture, engineering, medicine? By good people, I don’t just mean PhD holders. A good lecturer should not just be a PhD holder but a member of the professional body in their areas of expertise. If you are teaching engineering, you should have a PhD and also be accepted as a member of the professional body governing engineering."
This comment is interesting because, apparently, based on an anonymous comment given in the post here, Universiti Malaya are appointing candidates struggling with their PhDs to permanent lecturer positions.

So, are the two education ministries listening? We would certainly like to hear from the ministries their replies to the above suggestions and constructive criticisms. Very often, the only thing we hear from these ministries are “Everything OK”, when everyone knows they are not “OK”. If these ex-senior civil servants and prominent educationists can’t make these ministries listen, I’m not sure who else can.

To quote Tan Sri Arshad, who was as polite and diplomatic as he could be, in being critical of the Ministry of Higher Education:

"The Higher Education Ministry needs to be strengthened. It does not have the capacity to deal with the many issues facing higher education and the growth of the industry."

4 comments:

Bigjoe99 said...

I know of at least two instances where companies serious about developing new application of their own did tests out of hundreds could only find a couple of acceptable employees. India worst colleges could make better IT students then the best here. Chinese ones are even better technically but makes lousy English makes it difficult to work with internationally.

Tony P said...

Hey Big Joe,

No-lah. There's no way that the worst colleges in India could make better IT students then the best here. I've contract some Indian programmers - while some of the may be pretty good, a lot of them are pretty useless. The good local ones definitely better than them!

:) Tony P

wyejon said...

BigJoe,

There's no way in hell that the worst of India's IT colleges produces better IT students than the best here. I've been involved in some projects that have basically been ruined by programmers from India. I think the good Indian programmers are probably in the US. The ones we get here are no good.

Anonymous said...

It is a true blue issue that the format of our education is of much lower standard than those of the countries suroundings, most famously, Singapore, who is now arguably one of the leading countries in the world in education. While not possessing a great income of international students compared to the cream of the crop (The United Kingdom, Switzerland, etc.), I have witnessed the structure of the system and, while it pains me to say it, that their nation is smarter than ours.

Is this the fault of the Education Ministry, however? The issue is mixed and I choose to stay neutral, but it has to be said that the Malaysians in charge of their own country's intelligence are not doing as good a job as they could. In reference to the Tan Sri, we don't need people just studying hard to get A's in their SPMs and PMRs, but a good all round knowledge base.

I, personally, know people who can write the correct answers in exams (These are PhD graduates) 10 times out of 10, and yet, end up not knowing what to do when presented a situation when practical knowledge is required, which proves a lack of skill application.

Now, take your usual Tom, Dick or Harry; the man is as dumb as a rock; 2 A's in the SPM and a Diploma; the bare minimal.

Right now, that man does much better in his sector of work than the "A Student". We lack education, Malaysia. We must admit it; there's a reason Singapore is a First World country and we are still Third.

And education in practice is definitely one of them.