Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Reflections from OKM

I thought I'd follow up Tony's reflectionswith some of my own. Instead of reflecting on the whole experience of blogging here, I want to focus my attention on a specific issue - that of "race" in the Malaysian education system .

I thought that the following comments by this astute reader in Tony's "Reflections" post is very insightful and worthy of highlighting:

" It is very sad to see among the comments on the blogs,that things tend to deviate around racial lines, such as the non malays are always attacking the malays and vice versa.

This blog is a healthy forum where all parties can come and discuss things rationally and see that where 'wrongs and errors' can be righted out in the name of fair play. Both parties must try to look and understand the problems and frustrations in the system and try to solve it amicabily for the good of the nation.

May 13 is long dead and gone. Are we still continuouslly waking up to the nightmare and be reminded that it is still there?

I think if there is fair play and understanding and lots of give and take, there are plenty of good things in this country we can share together."

First of all, I'd like to apologize to our readers if I've offended them in any of my previous posts with racially insensitive remarks. I'm sure I've made my fair share of them even though I DO try my level best to stay away from such remarks. I think that both Tony and I are interested in improving the education system in Malaysia for ALL MALAYSIANS regardless of race and I think that our posts have largely reflected that philosophy.

Secondly, where we've observed unfair and unproductive practices within the system that have to do with racial policies, we have not shied away from pointing them out. These include hiring and promotion practices in public universities and the awarding of scholarships, among others. But I think that on the whole we've probably highlighted as many (if not more) education policies which have nothing to do with race including the weaknesses of the local private colleges (one of Tony's pet project), reforming the UUCA and applying for foreign universities and scholarships, among others.

Thirdly, I think we've tried to allow as much free flowing discussions as possible in our comments / feedback session in the interest of free speech. Tony and I probably wouldn't agree with the tone of some of the comments but I think we've refrained from deleting these comments with the exception of those which are the most egregious and racially insulting.

Fourthly, many of our observations and posts are influenced by our respective educational experiences. If we sound a little sore on the issue of the awarding of scholarships, it might be because we've both been offered and given scholarships from everyone with the exception of our own government. We both went to Singapore on the ASEAN scholarship, which was awarded to us by the Singapore government. Tony went to Oxford courtesy of a Malysian tobacco company. I was offered a scholarship to do my Masters in LSE from LSE (which I rejected because I wanted to go to Cambridge) and I'm here in Duke courtesy of the Fulbright scholarship (US government) and funding from Duke University (also tobacco money). We're both largely supportive of many aspects of the Singapore education system because we've been the benificiaries of that system. I'm more in favor of the US education system especially at the graduate level after going through both the UK and the US systems.

Lastly, I want to invite our readers to remind us if and when we've made racially insensitive remarks and to encourage our readers to post constructive comments in the spirit of having an honest and yet measured discussion. I am reminded of Atticus Finch's advice to his daughter Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird" and I'm paraphrasing - You never really know someone until you walk around in their skin.

Thanks a lot for your support and your comments and keep them coming!

17 comments:

Dinesh Ratti said...

Fair play. I think this blog is fantastic and gives excellent unbiased views of the state of affairs in Malaysian education today. I do not think it is biased or racially insensitive in any way, it puts it's points across in a rational and intelligent manner. Keep the board going and hopefully our politicians will take notice and the future of the Malaysian education system will improve and be based on merit and performance.

Bigjoe99 said...

First and foremost, if you chose to debate public issues in Malaysia, you can't avoid the racial angle. Unfortunately in this country the racial angle huge political capital for special interest groups. Secondly, education is at the core of our racial issues in this country sometimes even more than economics itself. Given these two factors, its an impossibility for you to avoid touching racial nerves if want to have substantial discussion.

In fact, I am not hopefull that our education can improve that much without dealing with the issue. I believe that at the core of our weak education policy is our racial issue. It no different than the issue of protectionism and misguided projects like Proton and Perwaja. Education is a very very competitive endeavour and more so every year. Ask a random sample of Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and Singapore student and count the attempted suicide by students in these countries..

Whether you want to admit it or not education, today, is largely about competitive economics and hence subject to the same forces and challenges.

ah piau said...

Dear Kian Meng,

I'm touch. I really hope our discussions in educationmalaysia blogspot will benefitted our higher education system in a way or another.

If as Tony wrote earlier this blogspot is also got attention from senior academic members of our IPTA than I really hope that more matured and responsible arguments by the bloggers in future. We together (Tony, Kian Meng and the bloggers that frequent this blogspot can help making this blogspot a credible one if talking about higher education in Malaysia.

All the best.

Black Mojo said...

BLACK MOJO gives his full support to the views of Ah Piau .

KM and TonyP have done a great job highlighting the state of education in this country.

It is up to others who join in this blog to contribute by behaving intelligently and maturely so that all the issues discussed here will be respected by all especially those in the Ministry and Universities. It is not strange that this will succeed as the bloggers here comes from respected areas of the education industry in the likes of Ah Piau and Learn From History,( Ah Piau, Jgn lupa blanja saya makan, sebab gua sudah angkat lu gila2 guna crane TADANO!)

Let us try to avoid being over emotional and racialistic in our approach.

I wont be surprised if KM or TP will be invited to give their views to higher ups on how best to improve our education system.

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK TP AND KM!!!

Marlboro Man said...

I think you two dudes should have a special post thanking us smokers for making your higher education possible!

Anonymous said...

We are a multi-racial-multi-culture-multi-religion nation living in an Islamic country. What do you expect man. Unlike the american where they a common culture common language, not so diversified on the religion side. Obviously, all of us have differences and needs. Some of the needs do not overlap, some of them do. That is where we have to give and take. For sure, there will be a dominant race and religion.

The truth is, Malaysia was born with the race parameters. The federal constitution touches race issues and it specifically states that all races welfare should be taken care of in a fair manner. The race element is in the DNA of Malaysia, we just have to face it and live on.

The races' self centred issue will never be solved but have to be constantly brought up to resolve further conflicts. There's never a perfict place in this world, so we just have to keep improving and make it a better place.

Anonymous said...

Since we are in reflective mode ... Blinkered racial considerations in our policies are the causes of the freefall of Malaysian education. How can one not notice that? Noticing that, how can one not comment, not only in the name of free speech, but also out of compassion for all Malaysian, especially Malays! I am a Chinese and the person I consider my best friend in Malaysia is a Malay. I grew up near kampungs. I often trespass onto compounds of Malay houses on my way to school, for shortcuts. Never ever a tinge of feeling of superiority nor inferiority nor resentment. I do not have any problem with Malays but feel saddened by the actions of their political elite. The Malay race, I think, will suffer the most in the long term from an endless stream of extremely short-sighted and politically-motivated educational policies. Over time, unfathomable idiocy crept into new policies. It is fast becoming an irreparable damage for all Malaysians. Especially for the Malays - the rest of us are just collateral damage. I had maids from the Philippines years ago who were graduates from their universities. Soon, our graduates can only land blue-collar jobs and be confined within our own shores. Instead of recognising and accepting limitations and putting our youths into vocational and skills courses which could guarantee a job for life, and economic growth for the nation, all are awarded bunches of "A"s at every level of school and given what appears to be an university education and, inevitably, so very many will end up with a worthless piece of paper and having wasted years rote-learning little. And no jobs. Can things improve? I can see no light. Smiling, bright-eyed faces of the Malay neighbours in the kampungs are always a part of my recollection of my childhood. Seeing them now in their pain is like watching a horror story unfolding. A horror story with no ending. My Malay neighbours do not deserve this state of affairs. No Malaysian should be trapped within this. My heart pains for all our saudara. Sakit sekali. Sayang sekali.

daniel said...

I must say that educationmalaysia.blogspot.com has become one of my favourite regular blog reads, and both Tony and Kian Ming has put a lot of insights and effort into the post. As the discussion revolves the very important and serious issues of education, a lot of research and data collection must have gone into each post.

I also observed that this blog tend to discuss top students, top universities and scholarships almost exclusively. I believe there are many average students (5-6As) who are not in these categories and would tend to explore opportunities in private colleges and twinning programs (my son is one) and they would benefit greatly if you could also discuss ways these students could get the most bang for the buck through various channels available.

Anyway, many thanks your effort and I look forward to more enlightening posts from both of you.

What A Lulu said...

i too wish we didn't have to discuss along the racial terms, but fact of the matter is, when it comes to entry to local universities, there are 2 sets of requirements. and it doesn't stop just at entry, but all the way till you graduate.
same with scholarship awards.

i believe that being educated will solve bring the racial divide closer. but educating people is not merely ensuring that the piece of paper is given at the end of the course.

the whole kampung cheers when the budak goes to uni, but the poor boy is tricked of a decent and honest education, he is not corrected when he's learning wrongly or not learning at all, his lecturer is slightly more competent than him (and that's not saying much) and he comes out of a local uni which was build as part of an election promise which no one has heard about, and the folks in the kampung are wondering why he can't find a job.

there's a pantun going around, author unknown which makes quite an interesting read.
the author is unknown.
it ends with
Sampai bila kita nak tunggu
Bangsa Melayu jadi bangsa termaju
Boleh, dengan beberapa syarat tertentu
Pertama dengan banyak menguasai ilmu
Kata nabi ikutlah al Quran dan sunnah ku
AlQuran yang diturunkan 1400 tahun dulu
tapi apakah yang kita tahu,cuma baca nak halau hantu

if you want to read the full pantun, search "Di mana boleh cari ramai Melayu?"

Andrew said...

i love you guys - it's all good. great job! :)

surfwarrior said...

Its wonderful to think we can talk about education in Malaysia without racial overtones. In fact, we are eluding reality on the ground where NEP, Islamisation and Ketuanan Melayu is very much alive!

Unless we face the demon head-on and apply basic human needs and consider ourselves as Malaysian first, we will not achieve our true potential as a nation. Unfortunately, there are some who rather promote their own brand of utopia and consider themselves first and Malaysian a poor second or third.

Malaysia, not having to face real hardship to realise the importance of nationhood and its citizens must someday face the global challenge where ethnicity and religion is irrelevant. That day may be here sooner than expected.

Anonymous said...

Read this:

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/226273/1/.html

Anonymous said...

Here's a piece of news by our "10 minutes football player" from BERNAMA today :D

When i read it i almost laugh till dead. Sorry, can't help it. Didn't mean to hijack your blog :P

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 (Bernama) -- For Malaysia to be effective in the global arena, the country's education and training system must focus on equipping the people with skills and knowledge that make them productive in the workforce, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today.

For this purpose, he said, functional training must be provided to ensure that the workforce had the specific skills required by industries and other employers.

"While knowledge and information may be more accessible now, most people require further training to be able to transform that knowledge into something that is valuable and meaningful. In that sense, people need to be educated on how to use knowledge to their advantage, to create value in their personal lives and in their work," he said.

The prime minister said this when opening the four-day 35th International Federation of Training and Development Organisations (IFTDO) World Conference and Exhibition on Training and Development here, Tuesday.

He said the functional skills were the core elements of language, mathematics and Information Communication Technology (ICT) that provided an individual with the essential knowledge, skills and understanding that would enable them to operate confidently, effectively and independently in life and at work.

He said that to successfully address new challenges, countries especially developing ones, must begin to readjust the direction of the human capital development policies, enhance the effectiveness of their education and training systems and strengthen their human capital.

"This means that we must begin to reassess what we teach and how we teach our students, our employers and our citizens as a whole. Indeed, as we enter a time where knowledge flows are increasingly complex, efforts must be made to ensure that our people are able to cope with complex knowledge flows and indeed, to manage and thrive as a result," he said.

Propounding that a culture of life-long learning must be developed, Abdullah said that in today's dynamic working environment, one needed to be highly flexible and adaptable to succeed in the long term.

"Thirdly, in order to align education and training to the current and future needs of employers, there is a pressing need to get industry groups to play an active role in shaping the content, delivery and assessment of education and training.

"This is particularly important at the tertiary level. Indeed, many scholars have considered university-industry cooperation as a critical issue in maintaining national competitiveness," he said.

Abdullah said the most precious asset of any nation was its people and development of human capital was ultimately the biggest challenge of any modern society.

"That is why in leading the transformation of Malaysia into a knowledge based economy, I have made a conscious decision that alongside investments in infrastructure and other forms of tangible development, investments in the development of people will also be given stronger focus.

"I believe conditions are ripe to build upon Malaysia's strong base of human capital, to scale it up, in order to propel Malaysia to new heights of economic success."

He said the country's investment in human capital development over the years had been the secret of its economic, social and political success.

Nevertheless, the prime minister said, Malaysia could not afford to be content with its current progress as, with the ever changing world, it had to constantly keep abreast with the changes and make necessary adjustments to its policies.

He also said that the government was committed to undertaking comprehensive improvement to the nation's education system, from pre-school to tertiary and vocational institutions, to boost the development of human capital.

"At the same time, heavier emphasis on training and skills development as well as the shaping of moral values will be emphasised to create more well-rounded individuals for the current and future workforce," Abdullah said.

He said to ensure that human capital development policies and processes were implemented effectively, a study of human capital development must be formalised and institutionalised.

"Here, I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate Universiti Teknologi Mara for not only organising the IFTDO conference but also for establishing its Global Centre of Excellence for Human Capital," he added.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Malaysian education would soon by like that of Philipines is quite truthful. The quest for grades instead of innovative thinking, the aim for cronysm at all levels of the system and the discriminatory pratices at all levels of our society can only lead to problems in the future. Only someone with realitic ideals that the competition comes from outside and not from within will the light switch on in some dim witted planners.

Anonymous said...

..I agree with some of the comments expressed above; but sometimes things about disappointment and anger is ..time after time, how to we heal it ? as always accept it as human existance and consciously refrain from emoting ?

just curious..

Anonymous said...

It is very hard for us to not touch on racial issues especially when the education policies have been institutionalised along the racial limes. Until our education system have been totally revamped into a freer and truly democratic one which is free from the shackles of politicians, our education system will remain as it was and still is.
Perhaps our HEd and Ed Ministry should look at the successes of the United World Colleges, which only reward its scholar based solely on merits regardless of colours and creeds.

Anonymous said...

It is true we cannot discuss properly by denying the racial issues, but try to minimise it, be rational and not get emotional and over board with it...