Thursday, September 21, 2006

Budget 2007 (IV): Civil Servants or Academics?

In this 4th out of five instalments of my assessment on the 2007 Budget with respect to the education and training sector, the focus will be on the treatment of teachers and university academics as your regular civil servants.

I have previously written - 'Teachers Hold the Key' and 'Quality Teachers' - on the importance of teachers being treated differently from your regular civil servants in the government offices. The argument is very simple. The worst case which can happen in the government offices is incompetence and inefficiency leading to poor productivity and late delivery of documents e.g., passports, certificates of fitness, land and strata titles. However, the impact of an incompetent teaching force in the country will be retarding the intellectual progress and development of an entire generation of young Malaysians. The negative impact will be immeasurable, especially when one also takes into consideration the multiplier effects on subsequent generations.

To quote the former Director-General of the Ministry of Education, Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad:
"How can the mediocre (teachers) produce the best (students)?"
Hence I believe as per my pervious blog posts, that it is critical that the government create a separate class of civil servants specially for those in the teaching profession so that they will have their revised pay structure as well as growth and promotion prospects to attract some of the very best people to the profession. Their remuneration package cannot be linked to the typical civil servant packages. More critically, while the civil service may be able to act as the dump for the unemployable, the teaching profession must not absorb this lot.

As for the academia in our local universities, it is imperative that they be "de-link" from our government civil service. There are many reasons for this argument and some of the more prominent ones include political patronage and the lack of academic freedom restricting intellectual development. Instead of focusing on academic achievements such as research and publications to determine promotions, due to the government civil service structure, many academics fall into the trap of being "pro-establishment" purely for the sake of self-interest - for e.g., the publication of the disgraceful ethnic relations guidebook. And of course, the issue of restricted academic freedom has been discussed to death.

More importantly however, it is important to review the remuneration package of the academics at our local public universities to ensure that they are not too far different from regional and international standards in order to avoid attriction of our already limited pool of top academics, as well as to attract new ones into the schools.

In the budget speech, our Prime Minister has stated that
"...the Brain Gain Malaysia programme has been implemented to attract Malaysians and international scientists residing abroad to collaborate on R&D technology clusters, including agriculture, bio-technology and ICT."
Many of these brains are targeted to join the many research institutes linked to our local universities. The question then is, how are we supposed to attract these top brains in the world to join our local civil service and possibly even in one way or another, fall within our civil service remuneration structure? Which self-respecting academics from the top universities in the world would demean themselves to be regarded as part of the "civil service"?

Hence, the Government will certainly have to review these issues in the preparation for the next budget, as these are not just policy issues, but budgetary ones as well. They have expectedly not been considered in this budget, and it is hope that their importance is recognised in the interest of developing and strengthening our education system.


Footnotes: You may read the earlier instalments on the 2007 Budget impact on education and training, unity or segregation as well as quality versus quantity.

In addition, for those interested in my views of the 2007 Budget beyond just education and training, have a read on my interview with Malaysiakini here and here. :)

14 comments:

MINISTER OF FINANCE 3 said...

Haiya!...no need to give the university lecturers more pay la....For wat they are doing,not coming to office or coming late for lectures and talking rubbish in lecture halls...I think we over paid them!

If u propose higher pay for lecturers people like Wira karnain and Kushi pillay will be grinning from ear to ear. First they must justify if they deserve the pay....

Anonymous said...

Dear MoF3,
You pay peanuts, you'll get monkeys. Yes, the low pay given to the lecturers have made the profession non desirable, especially to the highly inttelectual graduates. There are some bad apples (in fact the number is growing) who are incompetent to be school teachers, let alone lecturers.

...

I agreed with Tony that academician should be placed in diferent category, not to be lumped as any civil servants. Especially with the promotion evaluation thing. Tell me how relevant is PTK in academia?

I graduated from the local public uni (IPTA) fairly recently. During those years I was almost aghast with the Eglish proficiency of the lecturers. The proficiency part may still be tolerable, but the lack of technical know how really pissed me off.

Even during conferences, I have seen researchers/lecturers presenting academic papers with minimal knowledge of research methodology. The statistical analysis is wrong and they'll try to impress the audience with all those bizzare statistical analysis, sometimes presenting irrelevant statistical tests.

Recently, I got to know several of my ex-coursemates getting the lecturership and scholarship to pursue PhD abroad. The thing that really puzzled me is the speedy process they went through and being selected by the interviewing committee. Guess what, they don't even obtained CGPA above 3.00 for the undergraduate study. As for their English, I doubt they can even make it to Band 4 (MUET) or C4 (SPM 1332 English...can forget bout the 1119 standard).

Such scenario is not isolated and I believed is plaguing almost all the IPTAs. Few years down the road, I wonder if they are able to proficiently present lecture in English. Pity the next generation university students.

What to do. We have institutionalised preferential selection and special channel for the "privileged graduates" in applying lecturer position. I believe Tony and Kian Ming blogged about this before.

Anonymous said...

"Such scenario is not isolated and I believed is plaguing almost all the IPTAs. Few years down the road, I wonder if they are able to proficiently present lecture in English. Pity the next generation university students."
Dear Anonymous,
You are right in your belief. What is disturbing is that many of the "new blood" are far worse than the senior mediocre academics they are suppose to replace. VCs and Minister of HE may talk impressively in interviews but it looks like status quo or worse in the public universities.

Bigjoe99 said...

In the context of Malaysian poor administration, its most logical to separate teacher's pay. In Singapore teacher's pay is separate scale with its own separate measuring system but unfortunately that measuring system itself is also flawed.

In other words, its not enough to separate the pay scale, the very measurement system must be revamped and its very very hard to do.

This is something even US public education system struggles with.

The truth is education is NOT very scalable. The only really known effective mechanism is private education where schools are accountable to the parents that pay the huge fees and make schools accountable for high standards of teachers and the pay that goes with it. This system is antithesis to public education.

No way our government will allow decentralization of public education and hence no way will they be able to go far to address the problem.

Raising teachers salary and changing performance measures will NOT improve much if you ask me. The only real improvement is Meritocracy first and foremost and everything else is a very far second..

Anonymous said...

OFF TOPIC

Tony, u need to moderate the blog on University Teknologi Mara- World Class.

It has become too emotional and sensitive

Anonymous said...

I agree. The teaching service should not be linked to the civil service. The PTA exam is more relevant for assessing civil servants than teachers. All teachers have been trained before they are allowed to teach, and have a Diploma of Education or certificate of edication. But other civil servants have no training. Why doesn't the government recognise these as professional qualifications and exempt teachers, ( and those with professional qualifications such doctors and engineers)?

Anonymous said...

i am a teacher in my late 40's and let me say my 2 cents worth. the standard of teachers have gone down so much that it scare me out of my wits to sent my future gerneration to school. the situation is critical and need immediate remedy. we can't wait 4 the next generation of teachers. the damage is to big a price to pay. not pay rise. majority of teachers are not complaining of the take home pay. it is the enormous amount of non teaching duties( and it is still increasing irregardless of what anyone say), the random changes in the education curriculum, the incompetence in the english language amoung others that we have to address NOW.can someone think about more support staff includung assisstant teachers? can the public not suggest the school to take over everything parents are not doing. eg, teach the kids to cross the road, sex education, basic moral values, living skills like holding hammers and keeping toilets clean? where are the parents if teachers need to discuss how to keep aedes mosquitoes at bay, check their sons' hair length and make sure that they have a home to go back to after sch? i even sew name tags for my students and buy them pencils.i check their school bags to make sure they have books and teach them safety on the road and in the shopping mall. mind you, i am dealing with 18 years old boys! not primary kids. next, what Pn nor reezan bapoo say is so very true. ALL SCHOOLS NEED A GOOD SMART HEAD. the head must have a proper vision, be able to motivate the teachers and create a healthy environment. pls don't promote teachers that are about to retire and need to be given a post because of senority.

Anonymous said...

just curious says..

heard Tun Dr. Mahathir's talk this morning at MMU titled " Universities for Vision 2020" attracted hugh crowd..

Can't wait to read tomorrow's papers ..

jonoave said...

To give a slightly balanced view, I generally agree that the quality of our educators had gone down. But there are still shining examples of good educators, and policies must be made to retain or even attract more of them.

I'm doing my final year in UKM now, and I've seen a couple of bad apples. But the number of good and excellent lecturers I've seen far outnumbers the bad ones. One thing I've noted though, that most of the better lecturers have at least spent some time overseas - be it undergrad/master/Phd.

As for teachers, I'm blessed with many good ones in my secondary and primary school. The trend I've noticed is that most of these good teachers are those who were educated in the English medium and are nearing their retiring age. It's indeed sad that all their experience and knowledge will go to waste.

Policies must be made to retain these good lecturers/teachers. A higher pay might help. More importantly reduce the ridiculous administrative work of our teachers in school. Most of them show a passion for teaching, and I'm sure it'll not take much to retain them under contract. That is, if there is gov is actually serious about increasing the quality of our education system.

Anonymous said...

No offence to teachers here..but students have complained privately that sometimes some teachers in private colleges act as if they are lords because they have the power to fail students..

Anonymous said...

eh, please lah, teacher and lecturer is different ok. please don't get it mixed up. if you all insist that lecturer and teacher is interchangeable, then very soon our colleges/unis will be no more than extended high schools. then we'll be teaching 21 year olds to flush toilets and spoon feeding them porridge. when that happens, don't come here complain some more ok...

Anonymous said...

Anon (Sat Sep 23, 08:08:40 PM),
Actually it is already happening now. University lecturers and administrators are more keen in advising the students on :
[1] attire to class
[2] latest time to reach hostel
[3] must always wear name tag
[4] must work in group (as assigned by lecturers)
[5] spoon-feeding with lecture notes
[6] proof-reading students' grammar for final year dissertation
etc

Anonymous said...

in high school,students learn shakespeare in lit. classes plus the hibiscus, grasshoppers and frog stuff in biology classes and grid lines for physical geog. etc.

which school did toilet and porridge stuff teaching?

Anonymous said...
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