Monday, September 19, 2005

Education vs New Economic Policy

In a surprisingly enlightened speech by our former Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin as reported here by Bernama - he argued that the transformation of the Malays hinges on education and not so much on accumulation of wealth.
"The natural second phase to social and economic transformation of the Malays is only through education, not equity participation. You take care of education and they will have enough to participate in the capital market," Daim said in his speech on "Issues Facing the Malays".
You know what, as much as I may have disagreed with some of the financial and economic policies carried out by Tun Daim during his years as the Finance Minister of Malaysia during the 1980s and 1990s - this argument is something I wholeheartedly agree with without a single iota of reservation.
"The NEP (New Economic Policy) has always concentrated on equity participation of the Malays. The poor Malay's route to success will not be through having shares in the KLSE (Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange, now Bursa Malaysia).

"(But) it is through education. The obsession with equity figures have eclipsed the true success story of the NEP. The vast numbers of educated Malays produced since the 70s, they have contributed to the expanding middle class."

It is worth noting that I am in agreement with the above statement not because it will mean that the NEP as it is understood today will be "repealed" and a new policy more equitable to the non-Malays in the country will instead be put in place. The above is in no doubt, a benefit. However, I'm in absolute agreement with Tun Daim because a good education will be the only way for Malays to truly achieve relative parity status in terms of economic wealth in Malaysia.

The analogy is pretty simple and is oft used. The way to help the plight of the poor is not to give him a wad of cash. The way to help them, and their (future) children is really to teach them how to fish or farm, so that they will learn the methods to take themselves out of poverty. Hence, the process to ensure that the Malays will achieve relative economic parity with the other racial groups within Malaysia, is really to ensure that Malays receive a proper quality education.

What then, constitutes a "proper quality education" for Malays? Tun Daim and the education authorities need to take it a step further and decide that to provide such education to Malays is not equivalent to creating institutions which are privileged for Malays alone. Examples of such institutions include the Maktab Rendah Sains Malaysia (MRSM) matriculation colleges or Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM). It is my argument that these colleges not only fail to provide the environment to help the bumiputeras achieve their fullest potentials, they actually serve to retard that process.

But first things first, Tun Daim have correctly argued that equity participation (economic handouts) will not serve the interest of the Malay community in the longer term. It is education which will ultimate help the Malays achieve relative economic and social parity with the non-Malays in Malaysia. The question then is, will the policy makers and education authorities sit up and listen?


clk said...

Yes the provision of quality education for all is paramount to the success of the Nation.

But I must emphasise that its quality that counts. What has happened in the last 1 or 2 decades is liberalisation of education particularly at the tertiary level but at the huge expense of quality.

We've got loads of "graduates" who have been "taught" BUT LEARNT virtually nothing upon graduation.

Anonymous said...

the hidden words behind it would be more malays quota in local U. the theory sounds right and reasonable, but it has been practised for so long.i think what is done for education for malays is much much much more than enough.seriously, when a race which is the majority in a country, and holding majority of the resources, and yet having policies as such, is just ridiculous. real pity for the non malay middle and lower income family. you can never tell your children that they can achieve whatever in life as long as they work hard.. how sad.

Anonymous said...

I agree with CLK access to quality education in this country will have dramatic impact to our socio-economic development.

Perhaps we shouldn't over teach them, but rather let them learn themselves (self-taught/instructed) like in the Open Universities.

-- Old Man

Trashed said...

I thought that we are already past the "second phase" that the Tun talks about.

As stated in the messages above and messages to come, opportunities for the Malays have always been there. Social transformation has already taken place.

The issues facing Malays are the unequal distribution of wealth ... but that is an issue that faces all races in this country. Not all Chinese are rich towkays nor are all Indians lawyers and doctors. This is not meant to stereotype any race but the main issue facing the Malays really is whether they can accept the repeal of the affirmative action policies. Education in Malaysia has suffered by the poor planning to meet the needs of the country due to political expediency. We need to get it back on track for Malaysia ... not only the Malays.

I don't think the Malays are as handicapped or weak as the politicians make it to be.

Anonymous said...

Hey "Anonymous Tue Sep 20, 10:42:56 PM",

You missed the point here. What Tun Daim said does not necessarily translate to a demand for a bigger Malay quota in local Unis. He is pitting education vs equity participation. Quota is equity participation...
I think he means quality of education and an improvement there will be good for everyone, not just Malay students.

Anonymous said...

Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Stanford..even these world class universities cannot produce the desired results if they admit students:

1. who cannot meet the required entry standards, and therefore need a free ticket into its hallowed halls

2. who do not have the necessary aptitude, and

3. who cannot work hard at their studies when they are given the places.