Sunday, December 10, 2006

Medal Obsession Continues...

Ok, I've had it. I've criticised (see here and here) frequently, Malaysia universities' narcissistic obsession with collecting coloured medals at trade fairs and exhibition all around the world.

However, the ease at which these medals can be purchased and paraded as academic achievements to the clueless government and the general public who knows no better, is obviously just too irresistable for university officials.

The latest in the list of universities parading their self-gratifying achievements are Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in the Star here, and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in the New Straits Times, here.
A team of nine researchers from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) carved a name for Malaysia when they brought home five gold and five silver medals from the World Exhibition of Innovation, Research and New Technologies Brussels Innova & Eureka in Belgium last month. The team submitted 10 inventions for the competition held between Nov 23 and 27.

More than 300 inventions were displayed, with participants coming from the United States, Taiwan, Romania, Belgium and Croatia.
The proud and ecstatic vice-chancellor was proudly showing off the team from UiTM for having achieved "perfect" returns, 10 submission returning with 10 medals.
...Datuk Seri Prof Ibrahim Abu Shah told a press conference yesterday that the success proved the capabilities of researchers from the university to compete at the international-level.
Now, let me bring the Professor there back down to earth before Tok Pa or Pak Lah himself starts lavishing praise on these so-called achievements.

Firstly, and as asserted in my previous commentaries on dog and pony show events, these trade fairs and exhibitions which our Malaysian universities love participating are not, as described "competitions", much less "academic competitions".

They are, and I emphasise, for-profit events for the organisers which our universities have paid a lot of money to participate, and in turn receive "tokens" of appreciation from the grateful organisations in the form of well, what better than medals?

Need evidence?

Have a look for yourself the Brussels Eureka web page which listed the number of medals awarded. Count for yourself the number of medals awarded.

Yes, that's a total 303 gold, silver and bronze medal winners, out of a total of 314 participants i.e., a 96.5% success rate. The non-medal winners (11 of them), received a "Diploma" which comes automatically with the purchase of an exhibition booth. There are no losers. Out of the number of participants, a whopping 167 or 53.2% of participants went home with "Gold-coloured" medals.

You'd also be interested to know that these colourful medal awards are not judged by distinguished academic peers but by the organisers themselves, who in all likelihood, have little knowledge or interest with regards to the inventions' reliability, application, efficiency, safety, commercial viability or for that matter, honesty!

Now, if UiTM and other local universities attempt to boast of its impressive achievements at "international levels" based on medal collections from such trade shows, I think it's just absolutely disgraceful and its really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

You'd be interested to know, the Malaysian "academic" contingent comprising of 26 submissions would have forked out anywhere between RM300,000 to RM500,000, depending on various factors such as the size of the floor space and utilisation of supplementary services such as furniture, electricity, telephone etc., just as basic participation fees of the event. Basic accomodation and economy flights alone will easily add an additional RM200,000 or more to the cost of sending our exhibitors. This has yet to take into consideration the "cost" of preparing the relevant prototypes for the "inventions".

Essentially, each year, by taking part in some 4 to 5 such trade shows, the Malaysian public universities are spending millions in public funds, yes, our tax payers' money, on trade fair junketts to London, Brussels, Geneva, Nuremberg and other exotic destinations to collect academically worthless medals.

When instead, the precious funds which our universities are already short of, should have been spent on attaining achievements which really matter, like getting worthwhile research published in internationally renown journals.

I'm tearing my hair out on this issue, but I'm not finished yet, more on our obsession with fancy medals tomorrow's Part II.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome stuff... bring it on... lol.

Anonymous said...

That is the faster way to be a world class university compared to waiting for a research paper to be published in Science or Nature. Which needs many many ten years.

Is me, the student.

Anonymous said...

Degrees conferred by Indonesian Universities are recognised by Malaysia and other countries as equivalent to diplomas only. In the not too distant future, this will also happen to our Malaysian degrees until and unless the jokers and dummies in charge of our Universitis are replaced by competent administrators.

Anonymous said...

I would say that in this case, 'something is better than nothing'. The problem is, this extravaganza spurted out our hard-earned monies like the blood gushed out by stabbing us from behind. The mismanagement of funds and the overt singling out of certain marginalised groups has rubbed salt into the wound.
Ouch!

Anonymous said...

KM/TP
Please please send a write-up on Medals Addiction to a new publication endorsed by MOHE -Prospect Malaysia - so that those who syok sendiri realised their huge blunders

Anonymous said...

I still remember when Najib was the Minister of Education, he confidently said that he wanted to make Malaysia as a regional educational hub which was and is a big bullshit if we try to assess the "empty promise" now.

Sally said...

Tony, would you be interested in submitting this article to a local newspaper? I think more Malaysians need to know about this.

Anonymous said...

Giving the local universities the benefit of doubt.

I wonder if all these award winning ideas were commercialised ? (if so, who owns the interlectual property)

Or those projects will be sweep to tong sampah along with all the mdelas ?

(or perhaps the universities are keeping all these medals with the intension of one day build a balai to display them?)

Ahpiau academic said...

Sally is right.....

Tony, submit your comments to a local daily and Malaysiakini.com. The public should be informed that their hard-earned money been spent unneccesarily to generate those "feel-good" medals....

Other bloggers....please support this initiative.....

signed

clk said...

This "chest thumping" exercise is all our schools can at best perform. Year in year out the public gets deceived by "achievements" from our schools.

No breakthrough research or controversial but valid journal publications, but at best medals to show from Geneva and a trip paid by public funds with photos from abroad.

Anonymous said...

Without TP & KM, I would never know of the sham being practised so wastefully and with such deception.

However, I do not agree with Sally. I do not think more Malaysians need to know about this. I think ALL Malaysians need to know about this sort of academic fraud perpetuated at such a grand scale.

I am not talking about fraud by the organisers, that's just business as usual for them; I am talking about fraud by our institutions of higher learning and, by extension, the Ministry of Higher Education.

I cannot believe for one moment that the Universities and Ministry did not know of the near-100% "success" rates. To know, or to turn a blind eye to the facts, and tell it as otherwise is sheer fraudulence.

If such is the practice, culture and habit of our "higher" education establishments, then there is no more residual ability to feel shame in our society. If they are of such inclination, can we really and in all honesty expect civil behaviour from our other public servants? Or can we expect common courtesy from the man in the street any more? Or plain civic consciousness from our children?

Utterly disgusting and disgraceful. One other regret I do have is that I do not have a stronger word in my vocab to express my revulsion.

Anonymous said...

And they dare say "carved a name for Malaysia"! Indeed, they are carving Malaysia's name into the Monument For The Perpetual Laughing Stock. Next they will boast that we are the "top 3" on the list of names on that monument.

At least, "top 3" sounds better than "top 250", never mind where that accolade come from.

Anon 10:57:36

Anonymous said...

very well expressed, Anon.dec.11, 10:57:36 am.

another case of the nation's absolutely dishonest and irrational education management

thanks to the blog author for the unveiling of the sham.

Anonymous said...

You should publish your article in some journal. I bet it'll be more highly-cited than those useless medals.

Anonymous said...

Has this issue been raised in Parliament yet? What is the answer from the authorities? Why oh why are they perpetuating mediocrity? Who is going to put a stop to this embarassing madness. Can someone with time to spare also analyse whether there is a correlation between gold medal winners and publication records in decent journals, or between medal winners and academic position. Am anticipating a very telling finding.

Anonymous said...

rather than spending the tax payer money attending the trade expo, the money should have been better spent digitalising all the journals published by IPTAs so that people around the world are aware of studies that Malaysian academics have done over the years.

Anonymous said...

Dear all,
This phenomenon is also due to ignorant of the public and top figures in the government. Most would know what gold, silver and bronze medals mean better than articles published in reputable journals with an impact factor of 8.

Anonymous said...

To - Anon Dec 11 07:52:43,

What you suggest is a bad idea, as it would allow people around the world to become aware that Malaysian academics have done little or no studies over the years.

Not a good idea also because then they will start to digitalise all the "certificates" and "awards" receive in those fun fairs to show off, and that would also allow people around the world to become aware that Malaysian academics have done little or no studies over the years.

I am not sure why Tony P calls those fun fairs "dog and pony shows" - I am sure it is harder to get medals at the real dog and pony shows. I think Tony owes the organisers of the real dog and pony shows an apology. And stop using that description on those fun fairs.

Anonymous said...

im a student from local unversity. im so stupid to believe a UITM student low std people can be awarded in the international competition. i also couldnt believe that msia could do such disgraceful stuff!! and that international country that host the competition is more disgraceful than msia