Sylvia, a PhD student at highly rated Australian National University (ANU) wrote about how Australia is an attractive destination for Malaysia's talented emigrants, and how it is a "home away from home" without the discriminating factors (I disagree on this, but that's not relevant here). Joanna, a Malaysian student in Melbourne, wrote earlier that many of her non-bumiputera peers are already set in becoming permanent residents at the land Down Under. And of course, Dr Chris Anthony, who writes to the Star every other week, called on the need to restructure our university academic and administration system to fully tap yhe vast potential of all Malaysians. This was in response to our higher education minister's call to recruit more non-bumiputeras in the academia.
But the letter that really caught my eye was by an anonymous writer (I'm sure it won't take much for the Minister of Higher Education to reach him, if Tok Pa so wanted to), "Malaysian Oxford Don" (MOD), who looks likely to give up on Malaysia for a country and an education system which sufficiently appreciate his talents.
MOD received his Masters from Imperial College and is currently pursuing a PhD at Oxford University. Some of the colleges were so impressed that he was engaged first as a tutor at Magdalen College, and subsequently with a more substantial lectureship with Brasenose College. He has even been requested to assist with admission interviews for the college, and needless to say, his supervisor was surprised that he was unable to secure scholarships from Malaysia to pursue his doctoral education.
Now, he has been offered the "Highly Skilled Migrant" programme by the British Home Office. MOD has his heart in Malaysia because his family is still here. However, it looks like due to our country's inability to retain its own brains, we will soon lose him to a developed country which valued his services and talents more than we do.
And how did that happen? MOD joined our local academia for a couple of months only to find that his opportunity in being granted a postgraduate scholarship limited, and was disturbed by the unequal opportunities presented to Malaysian academics based on one's ethnic group.
The government may harp on the much needed brain gain programme as much as they like. Last year, our Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak related that "Malaysia needs to put in place a sustainable brain gain programme to attract skilled talents to meet ashortage of about 30,000 to 40,000 researchers, scientists and engineers in 2010." However, if the country continues to persist with discrimatory policies and unequal opportunities, particularly in the academia, then the country will never be able to meet its objectives.
I've written earlier that the irony of denying or limiting scholarships to non-bumiputeras in the academia only serves in the long term to inhibit the growth and progress of bumiputeras in our local universities.
By discouraging talented non-bumiputeras from pursuing further education at reputed institutions overseas, doesn't it then result in fewer qualified lecturers for the Malaysian public universities, which will then retard the local universities' abilities to provide quality education for our local undergraduates, who are largely (more than 65%) bumiputeras anyway?If the Ministry of Higher Education is reading this post, then I'd like to call upon the Minister himself to get in touch with MOD, particularly in one of his frequent trips to the United Kingdom and demonstrate how important MOD is to the country. For that matter, why not offer a PhD scholarship to MOD retrospectively, given that he has obviously proven his worth in one of the top schools in the world (and I don't mean rank 169th). MOD's contribution to the local academia could and should not be underestimated.
What may be regarded as a discriminatory affirmative action policy to support the "weaker" majority ethnic group in the country is paradoxically and ironically, at the end of the day, resulting in the very objectives of the policy not being met. By denying the benefit to a few non-bumiputeras from further education, the higher education policy is in effect denying the delivery of better quality education to thousands of bumiputeras over the years. The impact cannot be insignificant.