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."Tan Sri Arshad also raised the all important issue of “whether Malaysia’s higher educational institutions had sufficient teaching manpower.”
"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."
"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."