Sunday, September 07, 2008

Unfair attacks on UiTM?

Since the posts on UiTM have been mostly negative, actually all negative, I thought that we should have an alternative view for the sake of balance. The following is a letter / email sent from one of our readers. I'm sure that some of our readers will be tempted to 'flame' the writer for his views but I'd like to make an appeal. Please try to write informed comments / criticisms rather than just lash out with knee jerk reactions. For example, the writer says that affirmative action is needed in the Malaysian context. But does the policy of affirmative action require a publicly funded university to be 100% Malay / Bumiputra? Does allowing a quota of 10% of non-Malays mean that affirmative action is no longer practiced in UiTM? I leave our readers to judge.

Following the public demonstration by the UiTM students, we have been bombarded with popular assumptions made by people from all walks of life concerning their idea of what education is, the evil of isolationism and the importance of English. Let us list down all of these popular assumptions with a special reference to UiTM, the favourite punching bag of the day:

Firstly, UiTM is the only university in which the culture of racial chauvinism thrives. In other universities, both public and private, both local and abroad, there is a cosmopolitanism atmosphere in which differences are tolerated, and the multiracial students and faculty members are oh-so-very friendly with each other.

Secondly, the UiTM students are so unfriendly to other people, particularly to those of different races. In contrast, the students from other universities are very warm, jovial and extremely helpful and friendly with everyone.

Thirdly, the UiTM students and graduates are the only ones whose command of English is putrid and atrocious. On the other hand, all the students from other universities could speak English like the native speakers. Why, listening to them, it is very difficult to believe that they are not British, Americans or even Australians. To take this even further, the command of English of all foreign graduates is impeccable and flawless.

Fourthly, the most important commodity that a university student must acquire out of his student life is the ability to communicate well in English, since success in life is solely determined by how well you could express yourself in English.

Most people have never thought of the concept of structural inequality, at the same time they have also chosen to disregard the multitude of elitism producing factors in the society. Most of these critics still believe fervently in the simplistic assumption that if you work hard, success will be in your way. When challenged, these same high priests of meritocracy would point out to some individual examples of successes and hence the conclusion: “you see! without any crutches, only with hard work, you would and could succeed” . This view automatically assumes that the poor are poor because of their own inability and weakness. While this could normally be harmlessly allowed in an academic discourse, to firmly juxtapose this assertion on the predominantly poor malay and bumiputra communities is nothing else other than racism. Hence it is funny to notice how some people tried to portray themselves as liberals yet end up on the dung heap of racism.

The next point of attack concerns the time frame of this policy of protectionism, that is to say, how much longer should UiTM enjoy its special malay/bumiputra nature vis-a vis the affirmative action policy. Well-intentioned critics would see this as a numbers game , that taxpayers have given enough time for UiTM to enjoy its special nature and that the Malay/bumiputra sectors have considerably improved their lot in life, thereby the status quo should be changed. This writer has no qualms in accepting the imperatives of helping the poor. However this must be viewed from a particular context.

Have the malay/bumiputra improved their economic standing? A knee-jerk answer would be in the affirmative, with the ASLI’s findings thrown in to bolster such claims. Unfortunately, there exists considerable ambiguity in such findings since we still are in the dark as to whether the so-called wealth has been spread around the community as opposed to it being in the hands of a few elites. Some would argue that this would not be relevant since if it is shown on paper that the Malays have achieved the specified percentage, then theoretically, the Malays as a whole are now richer. Another argument would be it is every man for himself , and this would be an incentive to spark and sustain future growth, whereby if a man gets RM1 million, it is his alone since it is a reward for his effort and he alone has the absolute share over the spoils. This would then be an incentive for others to work as hard as him, if not harder, and the others would surely obtain similar success . All of these so-called libertarian arguments strategically disregard the power of monopoly, historical and structural inequality of the community together with the greed factor in economics. Justice also has a social dimension to it, whereby it is unjust if the wealth of the community is in the hands of a few elites. There is no problem in supporting the move for wealth to be spread around equitably, that the use of taxpayers’ money should be done in a just manner, that there should be transparency and accountability in the policies of the government. Any reasonable person would be ready to champion such clarion call.

Historical amnesia is always deployed in trying to argue that the history of this country started in 1957/1963 and that every community was born in the said period, with no community having precedence over the other. It is also assumed that the natives of this land had no qualms in accepting any person to be part of the community without any conditions. Hence it has been bandied around that the idea of Malay/bumiputra special positions/rights/privileges is just a constitutional fiction, that the Malays readily accepted the immigrants to be the citizens of this country, embracing them with open arms even, with no prior conditions whatsoever. Some have even gone the extra mile by asserting that the Malays are not the true indigenous people of this country vis-à-vis the Orang Asli, hoping to prove that the Melakan empire together with the pre-islamic malay kingdoms were just a myth. Some of these critics have not even bothered to analyze the British colonial policy papers on the Malays, particularly on the Malay system of education. All of these ridiculous assertions could not hide the inevitable conclusion that the contention that there was absolutely no social contract made between the different races in this nation upon independence is certainly unacceptable.

This writer supports equality and also the call for the affirmative action policies for the malay/bumiputra to be reexamined , which is similarly contained in the Reid Commission’s report. But to do so by disregarding the social and economic disparities of the malay/bumiputra is truly a tad too fanciful.

The main purpose of a tertiary education is not to produce graduates whose command of English is fantastic. It is to educate the student so that he could be a better person and to be instilled with good values such as empathy, trustworthiness and honesty. It is hoped that he would leave the university with a supreme conviction to do good for his family, society and the nation. This is certainly not to deny the importance of the English language. It is however a tool, rather than be seen as an end in itself. Sadly, there are numerous examples of people who got to where they are right now simply on the basis of their command of English. It does not matter if they have no work ethics, it also does not matter if they cannot be trusted to handle the key organizational issues. To the guilty employers, image is everything. As long as the “English factor” could be used to prop up the company’s image, then, why not. It has also been assumed that a good command of English would ipso facto instill some good values in the individual. This is as absurd as the assumption that a good command of Arabic would transform the person into a rabid terrorist. Our society still has an unhealthy obsession with image. As long as the person dresses well and speaks English well, preferably with a genuine sounding accent, then everything is fine although the person might be devoid of ethics altogether. We still have a long way to go in trying to get rid off this “sarong party girls” mentality from our society.

Concerning UiTM itself, many pointed out to the alleged highest unemployment rate of its graduates. What many have conveniently forgotten is that the bulk of the graduates of UiTM are made up of diploma holders. So, what would a good diploma holder do? Why, enroll in a degree course, that’s what. Hence many of these diploma holders then enroll further in degree programmes not just in UiTM, but in other universities as well , thereby earning them the title, “unemployed graduates”. This baseless criticism also assumes that all the graduates of other universities have no problems in the job market, and that they are truly in demand like hot cakes. This is again another nonsensical assumption. This view further assumes that all of the employed graduates are employed based only on merit, not on some other criteria eg, nepotism, cronyism, family connections, etc, etc, which is far from being the case as the job market is rife with such practices. As for the command of English, most Malaysian graduates suffer from this malady as a result of the education system in the schools. Even if you were to walk into the Law Faculty of UM or the law departments of any of the private colleges, you could still find some students with a poor command of English and it goes without saying that not all foreign graduates have a good command of English.

As for unfriendliness and/or racial chauvinism, this writer would be the first to say that not every one is a friendly person. With different personalities and different levels of reasoning and feeling, there would always be people who are different than us. But to simply label ALL UiTM students and graduates as unfriendly and chauvinist and at the same time to assume that all the students and graduates from other universities are virtuous role models and perfect citizens is nonsensical, beyond comprehension. In fact, to say that all of the above problems are uniquely “UiTM” or even worse, “malay/bumiputra” is definitely racism by any other name and therefore inexcusable.

This writer implores all commentators to use logic and good faith in dealing with this subject. Otherwise what is intrinsically an imperative discourse would turn out to be a just a mundane arena in which we display our true persona.



shinliang said...

i think this article is pretty well written and I hardly can find anything to rebutt...

However, the author made one mistake, a grave one, i think -

We can all agree to the social and economic restructuring of Malaysia, but as of 2008, this re-structuring should be based on ability/wealth and not race. Education should be provided to everyone that is poor and has less access to education....

the assertion of the author that all that are poor are Malays is an outdated one and a wrong one! It is possible that there are more Malays that requires Uni such as UiTM. But that doesn't mean that there will be no non-Malays that requires education as the author puts it.

And i quote "But to do so by disregarding the social and economic disparities of the malay/bumiputra is truly a tad too fanciful" is untrue because what we should not disregard is the social and economic disparities of the poor, and not a particular race alone.

Anonymous said...

To be exact, those graduates with diplomas who went on to further their studies in degree level courses are not the ones who are counted in as unemployed graduates. Take note that the numbers used for the count on graduate unemployment are those who are already seeking jobs, of which does not include those still studying.

Anonymous said...

Everything must have a deadline.

If you continue racial policies infinitely, then the country will be divided along racial lines. And the divide will grow wider with each year the policies are in place.

If you tell a man, "you are disadvantaged, I will give you a fish a day." Without a deadline, he will continue his lifestyle of being disadavantaged instead of improving on his fishing skills.

If you tell him "I will give you a fish a day for 20 days." Rest assured the man will improve his fishing skills on day number 16.

Anonymous said...

I believe the author has wrongly assumed that others assume that "the most important commodity that a university student must acquire out of his student life is the ability to communicate well in English, since success in life is solely determined by how well you could express yourself in English."

He went on to further argue that "the main purpose of a tertiary education is not to produce graduates whose command of English is fantastic.... To the guilty employers, image is everything. As long as the “English factor” could be used to prop up the company’s image, then, why not.... We still have a long way to go in trying to get rid off this “sarong party girls” mentality from our society."

Well, while it may be true that some teenagers or college kids may superficially judge a person's abilities by his English language skills, I seriously doubt the same is true for employers or managers.

I believe the whole argument against UiTM graduates (I'm generalizing here, I'm sure there are many exceptions who very capable) is that they lack the ability think critically, they lack adequate technical skills in their areas of study, and they are unable to communicate well.

Them being unable to communicate well in English is just one of many factors, albeit a very important one.

As things are in the Malaysian private sector (as well as globally), whether we like it or not, English is the primary medium of communication. And therefore, in order to do well, one should have a decent command of the language. In other words, employers who place such great importance on English, is not idolizing the language or having a "sarong party girl" mentality... BUT are just being practical. How do expect an employee to perform when he is not able to express himself and his ideas in the primary language of communication?

To summarize my point: the author argues that many people unfairly judge against UiTM graduates solely because of their poor English Language skills. However, I argue that that is not true. The judgment against UiTM graduates is not just because of their poor English, but also because of their lack in critical thinking skills and close-mindedness.

On the overall, while I find this article well written in terms of its language, I find it very superficial with many wrong assumptions in terms of its contents.

ben said...

I believe that we're barking on the wrong tree.

The problem is the education system. We need to revamp the whole system and start getting the talents into the teaching profession. All the flaws of the system has been masked by private tuitions, local private universities and overseas universities funded by middle and upper middle class families and also private loans.

Please read New Challenges Faced by Malaysian Educators – The Emperor’s Old Clothes by Mr Hanif Othman Merican [CEO of SRI KL Group of Schools] from the 12th Malaysian Education Summit 2008. and Dr M.Bakri Musa, a surgeon based in California, USA

Ultimately, we can argue until cows come home [or for some until foaming] or let jobs do the talking

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see them fall flat on their own face. Continue with such racial discrimination and graduates of UiTM will soon plunge further into socio-economic isolation. Their paper (degree) could be worth no more than those wrapping goreng pisang. Already UM is out of the 200 and plunging. UiTM may be out of the 1000. So don't waste time arguing. Let UiTM sow its own demise, and continue with your practice of self-preservation. I wonder who else would employ (beside the government)anyone with UiTM degree.

noname said...

There's a vast difference between developed and developing/undeveloped countries. And this difference lies in the forward/backward mentality.

The developed nations look upon the historical events, deliberate on them, learn/unlearn them, and then move on to the greater heights unto the forefront in everything they strive on. Hence, they become the superpower(s) and leaders of the direction of today's civilisation.

On the other hand, the developing/undeveloped nations always harp on the past events, dwell on them, let them linger on to the next, and to the future generations which in turn, come down as the indoctrinations of these countries, which are then become the emcumbrances that is used to bog down the current generation.

Think about it.

Anonymous said...

You see Tony, after studying in NUS, then UK, I notice one thing fundamentally wrong with our country.

People in our country assume degree = job = good life.


Take ANY Malaysian degree, or even Malaysian Campus Curtin/Monash degree and compare to my NUS degree, what is the difference?

The recognition.

I can take my NUS degree to UK and they will agree it is an accredited, good degree. I take any of the above Malaysian degrees and many time we get a "apa ini" expression.

These people are trying to give degrees, without ensuring the quality of the degree. End up, you get unemployed degree holders and a huge social issue.

Singapore ensures its degree holders have jobs WAITING for them. Our Government just prints degrees by race to give face, and invite racial tension when face is not given to lousy degree holders.

Sad is the poor understand of fundamentals of education and economy.

Anonymous said...

dont lie !
if people from overseas gives "apa ini" expression, how come local graduates can use their degree to secure good career overseas?
and how come sooo many local graduates managed to enroll in overseas university?
stop making ur own stupid judgment.
i dont think sooo many people knows about NUS too.
coz after all, everything depends on urself, the quality that u have, how u market urself & how lucky u are.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the above comments. There are too many uncontrolled colleges, university colleges and university printing degree daily. Nowadays, you do not need a good academic results to enter university but dollar and cents will do :)

mr realistic said...

anonymous 9/09/2008 10:13:00 AM

oh please, NUS, NTU etc are facing the same unemployed graduates problem too now in spore. dun you read the straits times?

you must be from NUS's marketing department.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

oh please, NUS, NTU etc are facing the same unemployed graduates problem too now in spore. dun you read the straits times?
O pls, did you not read their annual report? 97% always get jobs in 3-6 months.

You must be from the lousy University who makes up research figures!

Anonymous said...

You notice how those from local U secure good jobs overseas are the OLDER people when UM was still Asia's best few?

And you notice almost all of them are either Chinese or Indian?

You notice how many of our local U graduates nowadays either become teacher or walk around internet cafes pretending to be employed but posting stupid comments on Tony's blog? =)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that educational policies based on the the "poorer race" is indeed a flawed one in this day and age. If Uitm places ought to be given to the perceived poorer race, I reckon 100% of UiTM should go to the Indians. But that aside, I feel that it is time Malaysian as one ought to move on from race based politics...and whether or not the Malays were also "pendatangs" or what not, all races whether squatters or the likes contributed to our Independence and the development of this country. We can no longer afford to sit and watch our best and brightest children contribute to the societies of the West and nearby Singapore courtesy of a severe brain drain. By all means, the Malays can keep UiTM for as long as they want to. Because what is very real is that when our oil reserves run out, Malaysia will go to the dogs with it's race based politics.

Shawn Tan said...

saying that all our local degrees are not recognised is just silly.. i have many friends from local unis who have gone on to MIT, Cambridge and Stanford for further studies, using their "unrecognised" degrees.. i also have friends who are working in various developed countries around the world, for large organisations, using their "unrecognised" degrees.. oh, btw, I'm not even 30 yet.. so, it's not a case of "old timers".. in the end, what is most important is your own self.. if you have the necessary skills and abilities, you will go places where no piece of paper can go.. anyone who thinks that only overseas degrees are any good is delusional..

WY Kam 甘永元 said...

Response to MOHD NAZIM BIN GANTI SHAARI’s letter

It is interesting to read that most comments on that particular piece of writing is leaning towards the positive end, and presumably (and probably erroneously) Malaysians in general would have responded in a similar fashion. I suppose Malaysians are so used to poor writing (Malay or English languages), such that whenever one piece is properly written, it will catch the audience in awe. Yet, I cannot but agree with one of the commentators, “while I find this article well written in terms of its language, I find it very superficial with many wrong assumptions in terms of its contents.”

Let’s examine the author’s arguments for UiTM’s policies:

1) Structural inequality justification: It seems like the author refuses to believe that hard work in a meritocracy world will lead to success. I wonder what makes this author think that only Malays are poor, and why you could not succeed with pure hardwork.

2) Affirmative actions are still needed for the poor Malays: Since the author suggested that the wealth is held in the hands of several elitists Malay, it would be apparent that UiTM itself, and the rest of the current affirmative actions are failure in generating wealth and middle-class Malay-Malaysians. The point is, 40-odd years of affirmative actions have been very successful, judging from the numbers of Felda millionaires, Bukit Damansara Raya open houses, luxurious Umno politicians castles and thousands of other Malay middle-class professionals.

3) Libertarian does not work: First, the author argued against working for oneself success. Next, he claimed that historical-structural inequalities are condemning the Malay communities to poverty unless there are infinite and continuous affirmative actions. While I agree that, yes, if you are so poor that you cannot afford to go to school, some form of welfare net should be there. That would be the kind of welfare-action required. Not racial-based affirmative action. I still cannot see a point FOR racial affirmation point.

4) Malays special rights/priviledges: I absolutely hesitant to reply to this point, as it will just give leeway for others to bash me as anti-Malay. If the author care to research and read the actual Reid Commission report, and not just quoting the report to borrow its credibility, then the author would have discovered that the Reid Commission stated quite clearly that Malays’ special entry (rights) to education, civil services, public scholarships by establishment of quotas, should be revisited in15 years (i.e. 1972). Instead of abolishing the quotas, Tun Razak and his cohorts expanded the implied special rights under the whole programme of NEP.

5) English is all that graduates learn in university: Of course! If university graduates only have a good command of the Queen’s language, without any improvement to their maturity, critical thinking, social skills and relevant technical knowledge, then the university is as good as useless. Some have already argued that UiTM is bordering such a state (since their graduates are said to be narrow-minded, poor communicators, lack of critical thinking and maturity ). As for instilling good values, I think that should be left to the parents and the society in general, not universities. There are only so much lectures and university do. I do agree with the author’s claim that speaking good English (in his case, writing good English) does not constitute good arguments.

6) UiTM graduates are not unemployable! They are simply furthering their study! Someone should tell him that unemployment statistics, by definition means the person must be actively seeking for jobs and cannot acquire one. If UiTM diplomas are not good enough for employment, then stop producing anymore of those graduates. Simple.

7) Other rubbish arguments: He implied that the every other graduate got their jobs through nefarious means. What is the difference between UiTM graduates and other local universities graduates when come to employment? The author tends to hint that he has absolutely no idea of the real employment market out in real world. People will hire the best worker and pay to commensurate the added values the employee gives. Simply as that. Then he went on a polemic arguments about UiTM graduates being unfriendly. Rubbish again. What does human personalities have to do with university education? Perhaps, it is more accurate to hypothesize that UiTM graduates have poorer communication skills than other graduates. This may be because of the lack of exposure and communication with diverse range of people and ideas.

Anonymous said...

UiTM is a bullshit low quality third tier universiti. It is a race-based uni for Malays who cannot get into better local unis. It is a safety-net uni to reduce unemployment temporarily. Calling it world class is like calling a monyet a princess. UiTM is an utter waste of tax payers' money. It is a degree mill. It produces graduates who cannot speak or think well. Local graduates get good careers overseas because they 'erase' their UiTM degree by sitting for Graduate Record Examinations in the US to get into a respectable grad school and use this degree to look for a job.
Who would you hire to build a bridge: an engineer from UiTM or NUS???

(in nothingness) said...

come on! i know a few brilliant students from UiTM. although i must agree the mono-ethnic environment isn't exactly the most conducive. and shame on whomever thinks a degree from NUS is worth something just because it's from NUS

azahar said...

I am one who never put the praise and blame to any university in as far as producing a good street-smart student is concerned.

I have seen Cambridge, Harvard or Offord graduates becoming scums of society, and yet on the other hand, I have also seen and met many graduates from your so-called lousy universities perform the best.

Please spare me your prejudice and negative perceptions. It all depends on you. If you were a good seed, thrown in the ocean, you will still bloom into an island!

Anonymous said...

nazim is an uitm lecturer in law faculty.. he is my lecturer for jurisprudence.. all hail mr nazim..!!!

kystina said...

"an UiTM lecturer"?
Dude. Please. Don't put me to shame. And to think that you read the post just to leave THAT as a comment. Sheesh. Are you from a particular *ehem* competing law school trying to embarrass UiTM students?

On the post... am actually quite surprised that Nazim pretty much sided with the ol' affirmative action. Pretty flimsy arguments written in good English.

You kindda disappoint me Sir. Your letter to the VC was much more entertaining.

Good try though. Good try.

Firdaus Adzhar said...

Shin Liang, in respect of your comment, I do agree with your view in that in economic reconstruction, social and economic disparities of the poor must be taken into account juxtaposed as to race..
However, a knee jerk reality is that in Malaysia WE still DO have RACIAL disparities among ourselves that is each races in Malaysia have refused to let go of their differences in order to be assumed as one Malaysian..
Therefore, it is not surprising in dividing the nation's wealth, races is one of the factors that must be looked upon.
Furthermore, as cited by Tun M recently, the Malays only seek for 40% of the nation's wealth albeit the Malays make up of 60% of the Malaysian citizen. Is it wrong for us to seek as such??
Therefore, to make your opinion a reality, the first fundamental steps which must be taken is to reduce the RACIAL DISPARITY among the races in Malaysia then division of the Nation's wealth can be divided without taking the race factor into account..


Anonymous said...

I am truly astonished to the phrase of "their paper (degree) could be worth no more than those wrapping goreng pisang" from one of the above tendered comments.

First of all, as far as I concerned, UiTM indeed in parallel with other international and local universities in the academic segments and that opinion is very judgmental and made in hasty generalization.

Second, in Bahasa Melayu it upheld the rule of Hukum DM, as 'diterangkan' and 'menerangkan.' Goreng pisang means to fry the banana. The proper usage is pisang goreng as to indicate the fried banana itself. Let's the UiTM's degrees holders fry you as pisang goreng. LOL.

Anonymous said...

dear readers, i've read nazim's letter and some of you misunderstood his points. You have to understand that he is an excellent writer and as a reader one should read line by line and also in-betweem the lines to get to his message. If you readers continue to bash a particular university's degree (to wrap goreng pisang) you have made a very clear point that you are being racist. We have graduates of local and foreign universities who are highly qualified and those who survive because parents have very deep pocket.

Readers, your inability to reason and support your argument are two main reasons why your points cannot be understood.

In addition, you will gain no one's support with negative remarks, you will only tell others how bad you really are, as a person and also an internet user.