Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Globalised Higher Education

The Star is organising a conference entitled "Globalising Higher Education in Malaysia" in conjunction with the Asian Centre for Media Studies (ACMS) as well as the Global Malaysians Network. The conference aims to raise and discuss several pertinent issues including:
  • What could local universities and colleges do to become truly world class institutions?

  • How should the government, through its various ministries and departments, help to promote this global enterprise?
Actually, while I strongly believe that the intent of the conference and forum is good, I'm not sure what exact tangible benefits it will actually bring. The public is invited to attend the conference to hear a series of distinguish speakers presenting their views (and of course, pay RM800 to attend the event). Will it however, actually serve any purpose for someone like myself (who is deeply interested in education in this country) to fork out the cash to attend the event?

Irrespective, the conference has brought together speakers from some of the top institutions around the world and in some of the pre-conference media publicity, these speakers have highlighted some pertinent points and issues which the authorities as well as those involved in education in this country will do well to pay heed.

Here are some highlights of some of the comments made compiled from various articles published on various days:

Professor Dr Rod Coombs, Vice-President, University of Manchester:
A key to building globalised universities is to have researchers who collaborate more with academics outside their country than inside... Other elements that make a university globalised are faculty members that come from all over the world and a student body that is fully international and recruited on merit.

Source: The Star, June 28th 2006
Prof Quinn Mills, Albert J. Weatherhead Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School:
Why is Harvard University consistently cited as the top university in the world in virtually all rankings? The reason, according to Harvard don Professor Daniel Quinn Mills, lies in the university's faculty and students.

"It is also respected because of the accomplishments of its graduates. Harvard attracts students of exceptional potential and they are also key to its reputation."

Source: The Star, July 6th 2006
One of the reasons for [Harvard's] success is the decentralisation policy practised.

“Harvard is probably the most decentralised university in the world. The president has direct control of only about 7% of the university’s total budget as every school manages its own budget... In the short term, decentralisation creates big differences in salaries and facilities between the schools but in the long term, decentralisation allows each school to respond to the market for its services, and prevents Harvard from subsidising declining professions and fields."

Source: The Star, July 9th 2006
It is interesting to note that these comments which highlight the most important factors according to these distinguished guests on creating truly "world-class institutions" are exactly what the Malaysian higher education system has been most resistant to, for one reason or another.

Both senior academics have highlighted the need for both the faculty and the students to be "recruited on merit". The ability to attract students of "exceptional potential" is the "key to its reputation". While small baby steps have been taken to "meritocratise" our university entrance mechanisms, a terrible lot is still left to be desired.

Interestingly, Prof Quinn Mills also highlighted as extremely important, the policy of "decentralisation", not only between the university and the government authorities, but also between the faculties and the university administration. But the key underlying factor which goes directly against such as policy is the simple fact that our academics are essentially part of the country's civil service. And the death knell on any possible attempts at decentralisation is epitomised by our infamous "Akujanji" pledge to the higher powers there be.

If the Government is not willing to overturn the sacred cows, the most important factors as highlighted by these top notch global academics, then how are we ever going to create world class institutions, as envisioned by our leaders and enshrined in our "vision 2020" and 5-year plans? Why bother inviting this distinguished personalities to speak on the topic if we are not prepared to listen to them?

Anyway, of note, among the panelist is our very own pony-tailed (will RTM insist on a haircut? :)) law lecturer from Universiti Malaya, Associate Professor Azmi Sharom, who thankfully serves as a beacon of "hope" for a change for the better at our local public institutions of higher learning. He will be presenting on "Attaining and Maintaining World-Class University Standards", chaired by Tan Sri Datuk Dr Anuwar Ali Vice-Chancellor, Open University Malaysia.

Also interestingly, Professor Wang Gungwu, Director of the East Asia Institute at National University of Singapore and former Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University who was originally scheduled to give the Keynote Address of the conference on "What makes a University Today Really Good?", has been relegated to become a panelist for the same Address, now to be delivered by our new vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaya (UM), Datuk Rafiah Salim. I would have thought that Professor Wang Gungwu, who was himself formerly an academic from UM, would be in a better position to share his world class experience.

(I must be damn free man, noticing these useless little details...)


Anonymous said...

Ask Rafeah Salim to improve herself academically first before asking other people to be world class
Wat is the point of her just "reading' some noted scholar's paper when she herself cant give her own original insight and academic views
Rafeah should start looking at her backyard "UM" first before taking the podium. Wat a shame!

Ask her to read Lim Kit Siang's blog forst and see if she has maintained the academic standards of her own university?
Ask her to look into the sorry state of Faculty of Computer Science or even the Biological sciences of Science Faculty.

All we ever hear from these so called "top academics" and education officials are just and more talk.
All using hype sounding terms yet they cannot deliver wat our previous academics in 60s and 70s can....
To me to have the conference here is just a plain attempt to appease the rakyaat we are world class when factually we are not
Stop these play acting, and start working hard to bring back UM to its former glory!

Words are cheap! Words are plenty!

Even at the ground breaking ceremony of University Darul Naim, even before the eggs are even laid, and not even hatches...all those big words of "world class" and " standard" are already mentioned!

My God! Are we all blind to see the truth? Cant we read the writings on the wall? Are we continually kidding ourselves?

Must we all have the "HASHIM BILL BOARD SYNDROME"?

Will Pak Lah and all those powerful shoguns in the education industry see truth?

Anonymous said...

Hm.. at RM 800 per person, thats a tad too expensive I think. Do note that at the World University President's Summit held at Thailand in the middle of last month, participation was free and it was even broadcasted Live on tv.

Nonetheless, is anyone planning on going? Perhaps we could get a bunch of Education@Malaysia readers and buy in bulk and pray for a discount.

Anonymous said...

..why talk global & higher when the basic is not a source of praise & envy?..and right up to postGrad, admin. and academic wise, every level is only showing signs of deterioration..

World class..such a famous word but meaningless and somewhat a paradox here..


Anonymous said...

Dont waste your well earned money trying to listen to a lot of crap spoken, (except wat Dr Azmi will be speaking.)
Spend that good money buying chicken rice

Anonymous said...

Dear Tony,

From your point of view, what is the importance of culture, value and local environments such as (economy,political stability, social stability) in determining way forward of a public uni in Malaysia?

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

The universities in malaysia are limited by its own policies. We can grow only up to this stage, that's all.

All the talks about how to produce a globalised world-class institution in malaysia are a waste of time, really.

If we are not ready to improvise the policies, I urge the government to stop all these craps because we are wasting resources, time and money.

Anonymous said...

Yes, agreed, don't waste RM800 to attend the coming conference entitled most ridiculously "Globalising Higher Education in Malaysia".

You will hear talks and talks about what factors ensure eminence and quality in higher education. Why waste money when you can read about all these factors in this frank Education in Malaysia Blog free of charge?

No way we can globalise higher education in Malaysia when UM VC openly declared that UM has to preserve our national agenda - cannot ape the West by using English liberally but must use BM to protect and promote our national language, cannot have international students but must reserve university places for our local students, cannot do this and that etc.

How can we globalise higher education in Malaysia when the mother of all stumbling blocks - rampant implementation of various policies of racial discrimination - is actively practised by our civil servants?

How can we globalise higher education in Malaysia when more and more university students were taken in based on matriculation results rather than STPM results?

It's all a joke. Let history judge our education system and products 10 to 20 years from now.

Anonymous said...

Mr. LFHistory,

..have always found your comments enlightening .. think better not mention anything about fees & costs here lah ..less the technopreuner Owner of this Blogg might just catch on your point as viable and have readers e-pay before e - read & e-comment :)

Anonymous said...

Why waste RM800 to hear some half-baked probably plagiarized ideas which are never going to be implemented anyway?

Why don't Tony and Kian Meng make an appeal to Prof Wang to publish his intended keynote address HERE in EDUCATION IN MALAYSIA. He will get a more appreciative audience here :)

Anonymous said...

Learn from history,

Lets go to the seminar and throw list of questions to the speaker and exchange ideas. I know u have a lot of questions and ideas. May be u want to ask question u posted here. eg.

1.'How can we globalise higher education in Malaysia when more and more university students were taken in based on matriculation results rather than STPM results?'

2. 'No way we can globalise higher education in Malaysia when UM VC openly declared that UM has to preserve our national agenda - cannot ape the West by using English liberally but must use BM to protect and promote our national language, cannot have international students but must reserve university places for our local students, cannot do this and that etc.'

3. By declaring that a matriculation A = an STPM A, and then taking much, much more matriculation students over STPM students into professional courses in our public universities (in fact, matriculation is now the mainstream qualification of intake into our public universities), our Malay-dominant government has found a brilliant way to achieve its objective of Malay-dominant entries into professional courses based on an open, competitive, and meritocratic selection system! Most matriculation students are obviously ranked higher than STPM students for them to be offered places in professional courses, e.g., medical and dental, in our public universities.'

I'll be there. join me.

Anonymous said...

Dear ah piau:

Thank you for your invitation to join you in the coming "Globalising Higher Education in Malaysia" conference.

I'm touched by your sincerity in wanting to improve situations in Malaysia. However, I don't sense any change in attitude of policy makers for the better, and I regret to say that I will not be there.

I'm certain our policy makers are reading this freely accessible blog and all the comments present in the blog. They have to indicate their will power to change the system for the better.

Malaysia is blessed with countless talented and concerned individuals who are nationalistic and patriotic and who want to improve things in the country. However, as individuals, their efforts have only limited effects. We need the policy makers to act appropriately and move the system, leading to positive changes.

Can we all work together to make Malaysia truly progressive? That seems to be the impossible dream at this moment!

Do have a great time in the conference and tell us your views later.