Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sacrificing Quality for Quantity?

Three credits at Form Three level. That's all you need to get yourself enrolled into Wawasan Open University which starts operations in 2 months, subject to being at least 21 years old.

With all due respect to all who are not academic performers, isn't an entry criteria of 3 credits for your PMR examinations a tad too low for entry into a degree programme, with maybe 5-6 years of working experience?

As reported in the New Straits Times, Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik said the idea of lowering the minimum requirement to the Form Three Penilaian Menengah Rendah examination was to "encourage the five million skilled and experienced workers in the country to equip themselves with a diploma or a Bachelor's or Master's degree."
"The idea behind this university is to make education more accessible, affordable and flexible for working adults, especially those without proper qualifications but who have the experience."
And yet in the same breath, Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik argued that:
"Students won't have to worry about getting half-past-six degrees as all of the courses will be accredited by the National Accreditation Board."
Datuk Seri, are you sure that students don't have to worry about getting "half-past-six" degrees? I actually think that there are plenty of accredited courses which are "half-past-six" degrees (but degrees nevertheless) endorced by the National Accredition Board (LAN).

Readers, please don't get me wrong. I wholly support the idea of a Open University or Community College for the purposes of making available lifelong learning opportunitites irrespective of the academic calibres of the prospective students. However, one needs to be clear about the objectives and purposes in which the universities are set up in the first place.

Not too long ago, Datuk Seri proudly proclaimed that the Wawasan Open University College will overtake Universiti Malaya in terms of quality within a short period of 5 years! (I blogged about it here.)
“Give us five years to put Wawasan in front of Universiti Malaya (UM) which presumably is the country’s best university. That will be our benchmark,” he said.
What I see then, is 2 very conflicting targets and objectives. It is hard enough as it is to compare an Open University to a traditional one. However, if the entry criteria is set at such a low-level presumably to increase accessibility (although more likely to increase student intake), there is no way in h*** that Wawasan OUC will be able to match UM, even at the latter current state of decline.

Datuk Seri, do you really understand what you are saying? It is interesting that Datuk Seri is making all the press statements and not the appointed vice-chancellor of the university - Datuk Prof Emeritus Gajaraj Dhanarajan. It is my firm believe that politicians should really stay out of the administration and organisation of institutions of higher learning for the above, and many other obvious reasons.


Anonymous said...

Australian universities are dumbing down entry requirements thus I am not surprised we are doing it too

Anonymous said...

Wawasan Open University is all BULLSHIT. I hope no one attends and it has to wind up sooner or later.

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing that they made tertiary education accessible to more people. I have seen alot of people who wants to further their education but finds it difficult to do so due to their secondary qualifications not able to meet the minimum level required by local colleges/universities.

But quality wise, it's pretty obvious it's going to be compromised.

They can still proceed with the loosen of requirements under a different part of their academic modules. To mix them up will prove disastrous and cause lots of inconsistency with their goal to be one of the best tertiary education provider in Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ Wed Apr 12, 01:51:57 PM,
Could you explain further on why do you think that Australian universities are "dumbing down entry requirements"? I'm quite surprised by your statement.

Sorry Tony, a bit OT here.

Anonymous said...

actually UK unis are dumbing down their entry requirements too....

You will be very suprised of the number of people going to oxbridge this year..

Currently there is already 15 conditional offers for Cambridge at Taylors.. and about 4 for Oxford..

An all new record? Statistically yes...

Is there a compromise in quality for the potential $$ ? Hell yea..

I think about 50 + malaysians will get into Cambridge this year while 40 + to oxford..

Anonymous said...

Actually an Open University is supposed to be "open". That is to say entry requirements are really low. The standard has to be maintained not at the entry but at the exit point. It can still be a good degree if exam standards are really tough. The "low" quality of students does not have the same effect as in a "normal" university, because in a normal university you have lectures and tutorials, so if there are really weak studnets these two activities will suffer. An open university has no such thing and a student pretty much studies by himself. Let whoever who wants to come in, come in, but if they can't stand the academic programme, then tough. An open university is supposed to give people a chance, success depends entirely on their dedication and intelligence.

dulcinea said...

By the sound of it, Wawasan isn't a university... it's a polytechnic. And LAN can accredit any course they want, employers may not. And the point here is to equip them for better jobs. What with? Paper qualifications that can't hold water?

Btw, 19 conditional offers to Oxbridge from Taylors doesn't imply they are lowering their standards. When I was in junior college in Singapore 4 or 5 years ago the numbers were in the 50s or 60s for my school alone. It's about time Malaysians started catching up! Don't insult them by implying that its easier to get into Oxbridge now.

Kian Ming said...

50 or 60 oxbridge offers for Raffles sounds about right. If you include the other top JCs (Hwa Chong, VJ, Tampines and NJ), you'd probably have a total of 150 to 200. But not all of the offerees will end up in Oxford or Cambridge. Many of them will get government scholarships to go to top universities in the US. On a per cap basis, Singapore definitely sends more students to top UK and US universities than Malaysia. Amend that, they send more students, period, to top UK and US universities that Malaysia. You're absolutely right in saying that we have to start catching up.

Anonymous said...

At least it requires some qualifications. In New Zealand, "mature" students ie those over 20 can get into ordinary university courses with next to zero qualifications.

Anonymous said...

"Amend that, they send more students, period, to top UK and US universities that Malaysia. You're absolutely right in saying that we have to start catching up. "

That day at the MIT talk, the host was lamenting about how in the 1970s Malaysia use to send about 5 people to MIT a year while Singapore only had 1 or 2...

Now its the other way round... :p

Anonymous said...

US education is almost a taboo subject here in Malaysia. Compounded by the fact that the government scholarships are exclusively for UK universities. I think there's actually some table money going on between them.

Anonymous said...

OT here again, Tony, but I just wanted to comment on Anon @ Wed Apr 12, 01:51:57 PM's comment:

"Australian universities are dumbing down entry requirements thus I am not surprised we are doing it too"

I'm at Sydney University atm, and I got into uni here locally, ie through Australia's pre-uni exam. The entry requirements for locals here are pretty much transparent, and still relatively high, based on a demand and supply mechanism which determines a cut-off rank for each course called a UAI. The UAI's here are pretty consistent, so I don't think Australian unis dumb down the entry requirements for the local students. For example, the entry requirements to get into Law/Commerce at my uni has always hovered around a 99.60 UAI (meaning only the top 0.40% of students in the state are eligible to get it).

However, in terms of Australian uni's international student intake, I have some doubts there. For starters, I've meet a former classmate before from another Aussie uni who got into a course that an Aussie friend of mine's currently doing. The entry requirements for it was also no pushover, respectably high for local students: around the low 90's UAI. However, and I don't mean to offend my former classmate here, but when I knew her in high school, she wasn't exactly the very studious type. Let's just say that her SPM results were in the vicinity of maybe 2-3A's. She took a twinning couse in a local college in Malaysia after that for her pre-U course before coming here.

So the question is, holding on to the assumption that her academic standards remained somewhat the same as during her SPM days during her foundation course at her college, is a result of 2-3A's in SPM equivalent to a NSW UAI of 92? I don't really think so. Was that uni dumbing down its entry requirements then? You decide.

Btw, Aus unis currently are relying heavily on foreign students to fund them, since the government has been increasingly stingy on uni funding under John Howard, hence the sneaky suspicion that it some unis could be dumbing down its entry requirements. Providing tertiary education to foreign students is a huge business over here, providing the Australian govt about A$1.6 billion of revenues yearly, with students being attracted to study here due to its lower cost of living, and proximity to Asia, compared to the UK and US.

Anonymous said...

In the near future, everybody is a graduate. WHOPEE!!!

Anonymous said...

to Sigma,

well.. the dumbing down of standards is very much obvious. In fact there are also shortcuts.

For a medicine course in Melbourne U ... one has to get about 96% TER to apply for it. For confirmed placement.. one has to get 99.75%.

However, if you enrol at Trinity College (where the keris wielding's daughter is at) .. a 89.5 TER is all you need to apply and 95 to confirm.

Hm.... $ > all it seems

Anonymous said...

I see. Its the same with Sydney Uni's medical entrance.

Damn, how I hate unequal entrance opportunities...

So, Hishammudin's daughter's heading for Melbourne Uni, huh? :P Should be quite interesting for one to get to be classmates with some VIP's kid, IMO. I'm a big admirer of her great-grandfather, btw.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kian Ming:
"50 or 60 oxbridge offers for Raffles sounds about right. If you include the other top JCs (Hwa Chong, VJ, Tampines and NJ)"

Tampines is a top JC in Singapore?? please do some research and get ur facts right..Tampines JC is not even one of the top 8 JCs in Singapore. A few years back MOE scrapped the JC ranking system. But still, u can vaguely rank the JCs by their admission requirements( cut off point).
And if u rank the JCs according to that, the top five JCs in SIngapore will be Raffles(RJC), Hwa Chong(HCJC), National(NJC), Victoria( VJC)and Temasek(TJC). So maybe u mistook Tampines for Temasek. =>
btw Tampines is not really good, even MJC( new JC in East Coast) is better than Tampines nowadays..


Anonymous said...

Anon, Apr 14, 03:56:17 PM.

Give me a break and get a life. Kian Ming has probably been out of the region for 5 (10?) years. Messing up Temasek with Tampines hardly deserves the level of condescension shown by your comment.

We are talking about a blog entry here (more specifically, a follow-up comment to a blog entry), not a court document. And we get his point just fine.

Anonymous said...