Higher Education parliamentary secretary Datuk Dr Adham Baba said the allocation was for 6,700 scholarships, of which 35% was to be done locally, 5% abroad and the rest under split programmes.It is great news to hear that such a large amount of funds have been allocated to upgrading our academics in our public institutions.
The Government targeted 60% of IPTA lecturers to be PhD holders by 2010, he said, adding that at present, only 30% out of the 19,615 lecturers had the qualification.
However, there's the additional question which I'm sure Kian Ming will write about at some point in time, and this was discussed during our blog meet up a week or so ago, once he gets some decent internet access :).
I understand during our blog meet up (which I've yet to blog about :)), and a comment from one of our readers earlier that there are 3 schemes which academics can apply to for the purposes of obtaining funds to pursue their doctorates:
- Skim Latihan Akademik Bumiputera (SLAB)
SLAB is exclusive scheme for bumiputeras only. This is the preferred choice by local universities and is commonly found advertised in local newspapers.
- Academic Staff Higher Education Scheme (ASHES)
ASHES is for current lecturers who have given at least 3 years (teaching) service at university.
- Academic Staff Training Scheme (ASTS)
ASTS is open for all. Anyone with good first degree CGPA (>3.00) is eligible. Applicants are not required to have contributed academically (e.g teaching) when applying for this scheme.
What is however, damning about the system is the injustice meted out to non-bumiputera receipients of the ASTS scheme, particularly for overseas programmes.
According to the reader who was also an ASTS receipient,
For overseas funding, a bumiputera recipient under ASTS receive full financial assistance (tuition fee, living costs, housing-family-book-thesis-winter allowances).All candidates are however bonded to the relevant academic institutions for the same period of time, irrespective of the amount sponsored. I am certain that others in the know will confirm the above as a matter of fact. The questions goes simply, and it goes beyond just a matter of blatant racial discrimination:-
A non bumi will receive everything EXCEPT the tuition fee (this is the recent tweak of sponsorship agreement). Non bumi will have to seek funding elsewhere (which do not has any bonding).
Given that these non-bumiputera candidates will have to return to their respective Malaysian universities to contribute their knowledge, wisdom and expertise to the younger local Malaysians - who will include a large majority of bumiputera students, is the policy of disadvantaging non-bumiputeras here, a clear case of cutting of ones own nose to spite ones face?
By discouraging talented non-bumiputeras from pursuing further education at reputed institutions overseas, doesn't it then result in fewer qualified lecturers for the Malaysian public universities, which will then retard the local universities' abilities to provide quality education for our local undergraduates, who are largely (more than 65%) bumiputeras anyway?
What may be regarded as a discriminatory affirmative action policy to support the "weaker" majority ethnic group in the country is paradoxically and ironically, at the end of the day, resulting in the very objectives of the policy not being met. By denying the benefit to a few non-bumiputeras from further education, the higher education policy is in effect denying the delivery of better quality education to thousands of bumiputeras over the years. The impact cannot be insignificant.
Hence our politicians in parliament need to ask not just on how much is to be spent to upgrade our academics but also the rationale behind our self-defeating policies. And if you need further advice, don't hesitate to have a read of Kian Ming's earlier post on "How to Increase the % of PhDs" and "Less Than 30% of Public University Lecturers have PhDs".
You may also be interested in other reader comments on the impact of programmes such as SLAB, here and here.