Sunday, July 09, 2006

UUCA Impending Reforms

Hey, I'm quoted in the papers! :) New Straits Times journalist, Chow Kum Hor, requested for some quick words from me for his commentary piece on the impending reforms of the University and Unviversity Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) and its out today.

Here's the gist of my comments in the article:
Self-proclaimed education commentator Tony Pua, who co-runs the popular Education in Malaysia blog, says given that students today are more interested in gadgets and fast cars, they will not turn into "monsters" just because the UUCA is reformed. Besides, there are already other laws to ensure law and order.

Pua, an Oxford graduate in philosophy, politics and economics, says Ivy League and Oxbridge universities all encourage students to organise, lead, participate and create activities, instead of stifling their pursuits and behaviour.

"In Oxford, anybody can join any club. There are silly ones like the Flat Earth Society or Association for Alien Studies. But this is where students are allowed to explore and debate and improve on their leadership and critical thinking," says Pua, 33, who is chief executive officer of a public-listed information technology company.

He says during his student days some of his friends also joined the Marxist Club in Britain. These people had no problem finding employment after graduation and did not end up as communists.

By easing the grip on student activities, Pua is confident that students can be weaned off their materialistic and pop interests and thrive in their creative and social pursuits.
The article also interviewed various other personalities such as former Universiti Malaya student leader-turned-politician Ahmad Shabery Cheek and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Centre for Public and International Relations director Prof Dr Yang Farina. But my favourite quote in the article, which was in line with my personal views of the issue came from Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat.
"When the ministry talks about amending the Act, people often miss the wood for the trees. The media keeps focusing only on certain aspects of the liberalisation [i.e., student's joining political parties and activities]. The bigger picture is to make universities more competitive and turn them into centres for developing human capital."

The former MCA Youth head says giving leeway to join off-campus organisations will take students off the pinnacle of the education system into the "real world".

Ong is not saying it, but under the present setup, the university student affairs department — better known by its Bahasa Malaysia acronym HEP — places all student activities under a microscope.

The HEP has to give the nod to anything from project budgeting to external correspondence to the type of banners that student bodies are allowed to put up. In short, almost nothing goes on without the HEP’s knowledge or approval.
And according a current 2nd year student of Universiti Malaya, Janice Puah (no relations with this blogger), "the common complaints against the HEP include foot-dragging, red tape and that the department has too much discretionary power".
"Why should the HEP take weeks to give the go-ahead for a cultural project? We are responsible adults. We don’t need someone to look over our shoulders all the time."
Why indeed.

The topic of UUCA has been on my mind for the past year or so and I've somehow just not managed to write too much about it besides a short post here. Kian Ming has also previous wrote on its academic impact here. There's definitely more I'd like to write about (I just need to have a bit of time to construct my thoughts). But since Kum Hor has kindly taken some of my views into print, it's a good place to start.

I was disappointed that the Zahid Higher Education report, which was excellent in many aspects failed to cover the impact of the UUCA in greater detail. However, our Higher Education Minister is clearly taking a more reformist stance towards improving our higher education system, including seriously reviewing some of its sacred cows. But more on this in upcoming posts. :)


Anonymous said...

My my, that makes you a celebrity blogger, TOny :D

Anonymous said...

Yup, agreed with anon (06:13:25pm). But not to forget the other celebrity, Kian Ming

Anonymous said...

hmm.. perhaps Tony should merit a column every Sunday, since Hishamuddin Aun cant write any england.

clk said...

There are larger issues here concerning students politics in our country. I can't say much for those abroad but really, do you seriously think that with the general quality of the local undergraduates there, could they enter into serious arguments about politics in a rational manner without being emotional? Worse, would they end up being agents of certain deviant groups? A good example would be to just look at our Parliament; a possible reflection of the results from our universities!

Anonymous said...

Dear All,
Please do not worry whether the University College Act will or will not change the mind sets of the students. The damage to the students in the Universities have been done with or without the University Act.
Reason is for so many years they have not been treating the university students as potential leadrs of today and tomorrow.
Nowadays, when new students enter the Universities, the first thing the authorities in control do is to brainwash them and make them as useless as they may be. The moment the freshies entered the universities, they are herded around like 'lembus' with no will to fight, think or resist from morning until late at night till they are tired day in day out for a week.
Even potentially aspiring students will also feel the 'lembu 'effect watching thousands of them being driven in the campus under absolute orders by their 'greater lembus' under the instructions of the authority.
They make each one 'succumb to external forces' To resist is futile!
The scene was not like this years ago and even in the west! Orientation course is social engineering or brain washing procedures where the students are exposed to continued subjugation mentally and physically until at the end of the week they become a patty dough in the hands of particular groups in the authorities.
Malaysia is bolihland!

Anonymous said...

Tony P and Kian are more famous than Zidane!

Anonymous said...

..what more..Zidane sweat but I think Tony and KM no sweat..talent writers..

Anonymous said...

Zidane not only sweat but butt his head!

ps said...

UUCA doesn't come as a surprise. It seems that Malaysia has bright young human capital, but it isn't being exploited nor encouraged enough. JPA scholars at INTEC are even forced to obey an Act forbidding them from releasing statements to the press...