Sunday, May 07, 2006

Zahid Higher Education Report

Yes, the Zahid Higher Education Report has been released to the "public" as highlighted by Kian Ming earlier. And after some initial difficulty obtaining the document, I've managed to get a physical copy of the Report in Bahasa Malaysia (BM) from Sdr Lim Kit Siang on Friday evening. And thanks to his persistent pestering, the Ministry of Higher Education has released certain key sections of the report which can be downloaded online in both English and BM.

Originally, I had thought that I would do the scanning of the report and send a copy to Kian Ming for his reading pleasure as well. However, after actually obtaining the hard copy bound report, it's actually a 218 pages long (of which only 32 pages are available online), I gave up the thought. With an initial browse, the document actually provided a fair bit of detailed facts and figures which will be useful for analysis in the future. It'll actually take me a fair bit of time to go through the entire document, and some more just to put down my comments and thoughts. Kian Ming will just have to make do with the online version for the moment! :)

But before I start writing on the details in subsequent posts, I thought I'd just highlight some of the objectives and points raised in the report, particularly for those who weren't aware that such a report has been commissioned in the first place.
The Committee to Study, Review and Make Recommendations Concerning the Development and Direction of Higher Education in Malaysia was appointed by the Minister of Higher Education, the Honourable Dato’ Dr. Haji Shafie bin Haji Mohd Salleh, on 17 January 2005. This Committee was given the mandate to study the status of higher education in Malaysia taking into account contemporary regional and international developments in tertiary education. On 18 July 2005... the Committee completed its work...
As part of the basis for the report, it was clearly noted that there was major change required of our higher education system. There was no mincing of words when the Prime Minister mentioned in his speech at the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) dialogue forum in March 2004 that
…we will need nothing less than an ‘education revolution’ to ensure that our aspirations to instil a new performance culture in the public and private sectors is not crippled by our inability to nurture a new kind of human capital that is equal to the tasks and challenges ahead.
It is also comforting to note that the committee is fully aware of the scepticism shown by many in the public due to past "half-hearted attempts". The committee did not disagree with what one particular participant highlighted:
…If a decision has been made, we must have the political will to carry it out. We must change what needs to be changed. What we do not want to see is the fragmentary and piecemeal implementation of projects based on superficial and incomplete studies. I hope this Committee would be able to make bold and unambiguous decisions. Let this be the very last Committee to study higher education for the next ten years. We have been talking about this matter for at least 30 years.
If you are concerned that the report might mollycoddle itself due to policies relating the affirmative actions for certain groups, then you should be at the very least, be slightly comforted that the Committee, while admitting the needs for policies "to be implemented in the context of a multi-ethnic society",
[i]t must be stressed that the pursuit of progress must be undertaken tirelessly and in all seriousness. The implication of this is that the country cannot wait for groups which are not yet ready before striving for excellence. If the nation ever takes this course, then this ‘levelling down’ can only result in loss and regressiveness.
As a result, I must say that the study and report started on a very positive note and the balanced views provided in its objectives. As have been well publicised, the Committee has put forward 138 recommendations for consideration by the Government. These recommendations have been grouped under five categories:
  1. Excellence in teaching and learning

  2. Excellence in research and development

  3. Excellence in the capability of institutions of higher education (IHE) to make contributions to the economy and society

  4. Excellence in the capacity of IHE to fulfil their core functions

  5. Excellence in initiating the democratisation of education by ensuring access and participation of all Malaysians irrespective of race, colour or political loyalty
The Committee has also highlighted 11 specific priority recommendations to be immediately. They include:
  1. A call for moratorium on the awarding of licences for the setting up of private institutions of higher education (IHE)

  2. A Quality Control, Audit and Accreditation Agency (QCAAA) be established under an Act of Parliament to audit the quality of IHE every five years.

  3. A University Scholars Programme be implemented as a mandatory course for all undergraduate and post-graduate students up to Masters level.

  4. A Government and private sector concerted effort to research and develop the oil palm industry and related fields.

  5. Promoting the Malaysian Maritime Academy to the status of a university or part of one.

  6. A call for curriculum development in polytechnics and community colleges be done in partnership with professionals from the industrial and commercial sectors in accordance to globally accepted guidelines and standards (for e.g., Develop-ACurriculum (DACUM) and Systematic Curriculum and Instructional Development (SCID))

  7. A call for Malay, as the National Language, be used for all official purposes while English should be used as the medium of instruction for science, mathematics and professional subjects.

  8. A training programme in pedagogy and andragogy for newly recruited teaching personnel and lecturers.

  9. The establishment of research and post-graduate universities by converting public universities which meet the criteria set by the Ministry of Higher Education, into research, postgraduate and post-doctoral universities.

  10. A Malaysian Research Board to develop and strengthen research activity as the basis for innovation in science, technology, humanities and learning through collaboration with top-flight researchers across borders.

  11. The Committee recommends that project MyBrain15 to produce 100,000 Ph.D graduates in the next 15 years.
In brief, of the recommendations above, I am fully supportive of 1, 2, 6, 7, 8. I don't have issues with 3, 4, 5 and 10, although I have little knowledge on the importance of maritime studies. However, in all probability, one of the most challenging recommendations which they have set for the Government is to produce 100,000 PhD graduates in the next 15 years - realistic? Kian Ming has written his take on this issue earlier.

However, all in all at this point of time, and knowing before hand a couple of glaring omissions in the recommendations, the report still looks very promising. I look forward to studying it and coming out with my take on them in due course. Watch this space.


dracula77 said...

100k PhD student in 15 years time? Where did they get this number? It means every year we must have ~6500 PhD graduates.We don't even have enough space at local universities..Even if we do, do we have enough money to support their project?

Everybody knows how difficult to get research grant nowdays i.e IRPA grant unless you know somebody. Of course, it's also depends on your 'link' to get it. It's very hard for young reseacher to get it, and always easier for seniors...

Anonymous said...

It is not the numbers of PhD that matters, but more the quality of PhDs being produced.

100,000 PhDs with peanut qualifications will not have any impact, that would be equivalent to 100,000 Koshy Philips

If you still want that 100 000 PhDs its simple...just give them the useless degrees and worthless papers that bestow the titles PhDs. The degree will not worth the paper its pronted on, but there is no body to monitor the quality! As it is now, there are so many universities both private and public given the ' licence' to churn or print out PhDs!

Who cares about quality nowadays??
Nowadays, its numbers that count!!

Anonymous said...

100,000 PhD students in 15 years that is the biggest bogus in this report. Be realistic man.

Item 10, depends on the people they put up there. For all u know they are gonna squeeze in all the Tom, Dick and Harry that are incompetent themselves.

Item 2, quality control, now that is the biggest issue of all. Where everybody is mediocre who should we ask to regulate the quality? Someone from the ministry? We have tonnes of quality control, ISO, Sirim yada yada yada, but didnt turn out too well either.


UM MSc said...

Dear Tony,
May i know if there is any way i can get the full version report? Or is there anyone out there willing to scan all the pages and hosted it online (for distribution). Don't worry, this is not violation of copyright*.

*This may not be relevant here, but federal government documents may be freely copied

kampongbouy said...

there are so many "excellence" used in the report but there are nothing there to address the "level of excellence". Are there more concrete actions mentioned in the complete report?

Anonymous said...


I thought you should be aware by now most of the so called reports are good at using hype sounding words or terms. These words will give the " oomph' to the report.Its like hot air!