Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Lack of Competitve Pressures: A Response

Kian Ming posted a blog post entitled "Competitive Pressures... or the Lack Thereof" earlier here. Kian Ming argued that "there are no such competitive pressures within the academia in Malaysia. There is no ‘publish or perish’ culture. It is possible to stay at the level of Assistant Professor (or the equivalent titles in Malaysian academia) all your life without publishing a single piece of academic work."

His post has attracted a response from a regular reader of this blog, whose email I shall republish here below. The reader is a lecturer at a local private college himself, while his retired father was with a local public university. He seeked to establish the fact that there was to some extent, a "publish or perish" culture, but it was a discrimatory one. It also tells of the many ills which plague our local universities, supported with real life anecdotes:

"There are some aspects of your article which I do not agree with you. My dad was an academician in a public university and he was only promoted to a Professor when he was about to retire (about 2 years from retirement). There is no 'publish or perish' policy in public university for a certain group of privileged people. However as for my dad, coming from the non-privileged group, he and his colleagues have to publish a lot of their works and researches for chances of promotion and to stay alive in the university.

He would tell us at the dinner table that he was granted grants by international organizations and agencies and his other colleagues of the 'privileged group' would want to hitch a free ride or get a free meal. He would tell us that his junior colleagues 'of the privileged group' has gotten their professorship or associate professorship but has neither the experiences and the amount of work to justify the promotion.

Bear in mind, that there is a lot of politicking involved in public universities in Malaysia for academic promotion. The non-privileged group of academicians will either fight among themselves or work together. Most of them bitter about their status in the organization until the end of their tenure because they are not honored and recognized for the work they did. It happens and life is unfair. My dad and most of his colleagues from the non-privileged group have their basic degrees (some of them including my dad has first class honors), masters degrees and Ph.D. from top universities in UK and the USA.

However, even there are some people of the privileged group, were merited with promotions. However it constitutes only a small percentage from that group.

As for the private education institutions in which I am currently working in, does not permit their academicians to publish and to do research because of time constrains. The amount of teaching hours that a lecturer have to teach per week is about an average of 20 hours per week which is 2 or 3 times less the workload of a public university academician.

Private colleges and universities can hire any top notched academicians available in the market and paying them top money, but in actual fact, they would only end up teaching only and will not have the time for research. The bottom line for these private education institutions is how much money they can make. Thus is it worth the amount of money spend to hire these guys and get less teaching hours from them? That is why in most private education institutions, those with phd always end up doing administrative and managerial duties rather than to teach.

There is a lot of red-tape too in private education institutions. Don't be fooled thinking that the private sector is more efficient in their work. We private academicians have to do a lot of paperwork too. However, I would agree with you that private sector education institutions are working towards challenging the public universities for grants and better academic standing because of strong influences and pressures from their foriegn partners and the acceptance of the reality that education is not a business but a social service, by making lower profits and or breaking even. There have been arrangements for private education institutions academics to be given less workload if they are doing research and has gotten a grant for themselves. They are these arrangements now and it is a matter of time to see private education institutions being up to par or to better than public university in terms of research and development.

The government has given a lot of opportunities for public universities to improve through grants and allocations but the standards are still appalling. However, with external pressures from private education institutions, they might buck up one day!"

The reader also gave another example in a subsequent email with regards to a certain unhealthy practice at some of our local universities:

"There is another monkey business going on in university regarding to retirement. A lot of lecturers before they retire are given promotions resulting a several pay scale jumps thus upon retiring, he collects a high "pencen". It is ridiculous because it is not based on merits that he got the promotion but as a farewell gift. It happens to a lot of academic staff in the university who has retired. Although not formally admitted but openly practised."

Not a pretty picture at all for our institutions of higher learning...


Anonymous said...

I believe LAN restricts the number of hours a lecturer can teach per week. The writer should check his rights. Or maybe the colleges found a loophole.

Anonymous said...

LAN restricts the number os hours a lecturer can teach to 20 hours per week. However, if we want to keep our jobs in the college, we are given more hours to teach. I am teaching 26 hours this semester. I was teaching 24 hours last semester?

Anonymous said...

All this problems caused by the "privileged" vs "non-privileged" division is an open secret and is rife throughout the civil service and government agencies. This is the reason why many leave and find greener pastures elsewhere.

The crux of the matter is, whether the authorities knows or care to know and if they do, are prepared to take proper remedial actions. I think we know the answer to that...

Anonymous said...


d privileged group kno that
they kno it from young,
the day they go 2 skool.

Changes must begin from skool,
nay from d top,
but who wants changes,

keep d status quo and it seem every1 is happy.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness!
Is this guy really a lecturer at a local private college? It'd be interesting to know what he teaches.
I think he needs help with his writing. And thinking. Someone once said the way you write reveals your thought processes. Gosh, so muddled!

Anonymous said...

Dear namesless one,

Be kind. Not everyone has had your talent, nor education.

It takes more learning to be able to read anything correctly, than to be able to read only somethings correctly.

elegant lily said...

LAN restricts the teaching hrs alrite....but colleges always have ways to evade those restrictions.

It's pretty simple...when LAN inspectors come for auditing...timetable A is shown to the inspectors....when in fact timetable B is the actual schedule that lecturers have to adhere to.

LAN inspectors are given the impression that all is well...and that lecturers handle a max. of 3 subjects per semester...but in actual fact, they are handling 5 subjects.

Std Malaysian culture lah...when some VIPs announced interest in visiting your secondary schools...there would be gotong-royong to clean up the entire school compound. Once the VIP has left, the dirt and rubbish will come back again.

Anonymous said...

This country waste talent like it waste other resources - trees, water, land, money, oil etc. You name it this country just waste it. The so called non-privlleged group is just that a huge waste mitigated only by migration. The sad thing is that there are still people who believe the system will change by itself. We might as well have flying cars and oil become cheap again for this to tbe true.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of talents...

I agree with the anonymous blogger totally..

Just two days ago, I attended a talk by a top personnel of Normura investment on how Japan would transform themselves in the next
20 years given the challenges of low birth rate and greying population..

I just want to share quotation that was presented in the last part the presentation.

It reads,
"One thing we canlearn from history is that a country is destroyed not because there are lesser talented or capable people.

But the country is destroyed when the mechanism that allows the full functioning of capable or talented people becomes lesser and lesser."

This quotation touches me very much.

Why we cannot retain the talented Malaysians that decide to return and contribute to Malaysian society?


We also read on how the medical doctors are mis-treat in the services on how their promotions are based on PTK instead of professional examinations like MRCP, etc. under the SSB schemes.

And other red-tapes that hinder
their stay involving their spouses and children.

And the funny thing is, in contrast, we recruit people from Bangladesh, Egypt, etc to come here to look after our health ????

As we can read from the press, some of them can't even perform basic surgical procedures !

This nation can only be GREAT if and only if the society is built on the universal principles of rewarding the right effort.

And this also includes NOT deceiving our students by giving them easier papers in SRP or SPM to sit, so that they would get strings of A's.

Come on, we should prepare our kids for future competition in global arena!

Anonymous said...

History has taught us that great leaders seeks resourceful people to be used in various sectors ranging from military all the way into the society.
Malaysia is doing it on the other way around. So one has to ask is our leader really as capable as we 'thought' they are hence voting them to be one.
What you said about the Japanese society is absolutely true. Japan recognise that fact through all the writtings like in Sun Tzu Art of War etc and hence applying it. So does the leaders in Malaysia know this? I think they do, but it is a matter whether they want to do it for the good of the people.
Another irony appears here is, they claim they want to have a progressive society where things are equal where you increase quality of life, but as you and I can see, the division of special privelleges and non privelleges has occur since the very first day of independence of Malaysia. I find that completely ironic.
So one thing leads to another, the education competetiveness is the branch of the core problems in Malaysia. So can you actually blame the talented people for not leaving?
Some of the people who I actually know told me this,
"I would rather be treated as second class citizen in other people's country than in my own country."
If you think what he said is bad or sad to hear. Then you probably have more preserverance or patience than him. Or then again he might have seen more opportunities just like the Indians and Egytians in other people's country and he has the guts to choose to change.

PS: Didnt the government claim that we want to use our own people to run not only medical sector but also the MSC as well? But reality dictates otherwise, we are taking in more and more people from India and other part of the world to do that. Ask the people in the IT industry and they will tell you, they are less inclined to hire locals for the job. They would want people from India. Ironic, isnt it?

Anonymous said...

Japanese society is a very unique
society in their own ways. But I believe we still many things to
learn from them.

It is not surpring that they stay competitive as they are quick to learn new things, and knowledge are well disseminated into the mass.

People are vocal in expressing their views in the mass media. They
can even criticize the politicians
or the Prime Minister without fear and favour.

I think our ex PM is right in going for the Look East Policy
back in 1982.

But I sad to observe that we still very far from picking up the good system implemented there.

What have our study tours from Municipal or State Governments implement what they have observed
during their study tour back in Malaysia ?

Selangor State Assembly together with the MB did a study tour back in 2 years ago, I wonder did
Selangor improves the efficiency and effectives of state administration !!??

Anonymous said...


the correct word is "effectiveness"
not "effectives"

Anonymous said...

yeah i dun lecture

and tis not a lecture,

I am surprised at the tolerance level of some comments, the gist of the subject being discussed here is not my grammer, is it?

As long the idea gets through, any language will do.

tis is hw I feel lor...haha

Anonymous said...

"I think our ex PM is right in going for the Look East Policy
back in 1982."

Too bad, there are too many exceptions made in his political era compounded with cronies activities for this vision to be realized. Hence the vision is nothing but a hearsay in the grand scheme of Malaysia's plan.

The ex PM himself did not actually allow too much freedom of speech, hence expressing point of views in mass media is somewhat risky.

Alright let's get back to the subject, is it lack of competitive pressure around? Yes and also I would think there is no motivations to be competitive in environments in Malaysia. Everybody seen how goverment sector work, eg: getting your ID card or passport. In the private sector, unless you have 5 to 10 years experience, you are likely to slave away your life for a meager RM800 to RM2000 pay per month. So, the reward doesnt justify for the motivation needed for competetiveness in the industry.
Unfortunately for us, this situation would not be changed too soon, if our country is still going in its current course.
I always believe in order to be competitive there has to be a motivation as well as a goal. Like Singapore, they give high pay and subsidies (motivation) to those who strive to produce (goal). The Singaporean goverment do give out scholarship to many students who went oversea and do well. For Malaysia, well that is another story we have in another blog.

Malaysia, they claimed that they want to lead in various sectors of technology. Unfortunately again, most of our technologies are bought from outside for these past decades. Heck, even our twin towers is bought. Built by Japanese and Korean, designed by Italian. So by being a consumer all these while you have to really have to wonder, how to be competitive in terms of making and producing.

I really wonder how. Unless of course you want to include Proton, or Pewaja Steel those sort of things but I doubt it.