Saturday, October 07, 2006

Zahid Higher Education Report - Cold Storaged?

I mentioned a little about the interview conducted by the Sun with Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, our Minister of Higher Education in the ealier post. There was however, one other troubling thing which I picked up from the interview. There isn't enough to come to a concrete conclusion, but it definitely requires further clarification from the Minister.

Husna Yusop of The Sun asked the minister - "What direction will the ministry take to achieve Vision 2020?" Part of Tok Pa's reply was as follows:
...there is a high level committee in the ministry which is looking at various issues and proposals, on how we can bring about radical changes. It started work more than three months ago and will be coming out with a draft report.
And when asked if this report was different from the Tan Sri Wan Zahid Higher Education Report, Tok Pa replied that "this report is more comprehensive and will address future challenges until 2015".

I'm more than a little concerned because it appears that a "change" of regime at the Ministry of Higher Education immediately meant dumping the work done, even if it was decent work, and starting with square one once again. I've read the entire Zahid report, and I must say, with the exception of 1-2 issues, there are plenty of issues which have been dealt with pretty well - particularly on issues of governance.

The Terms of Reference of the Zahid study focus on the achievement of excellence. The Committee was charged to formulate recommendations that would enable higher education in Malaysia to achieve world class status and establish the country as a regional centre of excellence in education. Feedback was obtained by the Committee through dialogue and discussion sessions as well as website commentaries.

The report also took the bold step of highlighting that "the country cannot wait for groups which are not yet ready before striving for excellence. If the nation ever takes this course, then this ‘levelling down’ can only result in loss and regressiveness."

As part of the detailed study for the report, the Committee therefore formed study groups from within the members of the Main Committee and the Ministry of Higher Education officers to study best practices in selected institutions globally, as a guide to formulate recommendations to the Government. The various sub-committees visited 17 different countries from China to Egypt covering some 78 institutions and government agencies.

The report itself produced 138 recommendations and is almost 300 pages long. Hence, I'm struggling to comprehend why a separate "more comprehensive" study is actually required. I also do not understand how the Zahid report doesn't actually "address the challenges til 2015". Yes, it's not the perfect report, and it probably did not cover certain issues in sufficient detail such as academic freedom and the University and University Colleges Act. But that doesn't justify an entirely new report!

Unlike his predecessor as well as most of the other ministers, Tok Pa demonstrated great openness by releasing the Zahid Higher Education Report to the Parliament in March. On hindsight, was it released because it has become an irrelevant document due to the fact that a different and new study was about to commence? Was it the reason why despite multiple queries by parliamentarians, the Ministry of Higher Education has not made any announcement or commitment to implement any of the recommendations made in the Zahid Report?

The Zahid report took all of 6 months to complete. Tok Pa indicated that the new report in its draft form will be out soon after having commenced 3 months ago. By the time the formal new report is completed, it'll probably be early next year, at best. It will then be almost 2 years after the Zahid Report has been released to the Ministry. Are these 2 wasted years where no major reforms are implemented? With the urgency around the need to arrest the decline of our universities, can we afford to dally that long?

I also can't see how a report that takes approximately the same time to complete will be better by any significant extent than the previous one. Especially when the previous report was not just done by the ministry officials but by prominent academics like Prof Emeritus Dato' Dr Khoo Kay Kim, and Prof Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak (Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia).

Tok Pa, will you please clarify the reasons for do this? I'm a little disappointed, to say the least.


Anonymous said...

Its always the case. If a report is
too frank and politically incorrect,then it will be locked in a dark cabinat never to see the light again !

Anonymous said...

The obvious: talk and action are different.

Anonymous said...

"the country cannot wait for groups which are not yet ready before striving for excellence". This is obviously strike at the heart of the issue but yet it is rather unacceptable politically. I am however pretty glad that this can be made known in an official document, at least some brains are moving in the right direction.

On the Global competitveness index that was published recently, (which took into account various issues including education), Malaysian is in the 26th spot vs Singapore (5th), out of 123 countries ranked. Not a bad result, but Malaysia is down one place from 2005 survey. Plain simple - move ahead with true determination, else someone will. And wawasan 2020 will remain a dream.

And oh.. I wonder how much the new report cost to produce - I am guessing purely presumed here - some other consultancies are probably behind the report and they are not cheap?


Anonymous said...

hi tony and km

Very interesting read about singapore scholarships

Anonymous said...

thank you to anonymous who posted the link: the blog was refreshing to read, there is a lot of wisdom, dreams and discussion, without resorting to catcalling and idiotic thrashing like some of the comments here (I don't often read blogs). Somehow I feel it is due to the more developed mentality among our neighbours, and I have met many young Thais who are just as impressive. Now how I wish our loudest young voice (Khairy something) can come up with something as profound and meaningful..

Anonymous said...

[off topic]

Bloggers Forum “How to Set Pak Lah Free?”.

Date: 11 October 2006 (Wednesday)
Time: 7.30 p.m.
Venue: The KL and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
(No. 1, Jalan Maharajalela, 50150 K.L.) Click for Map

Moderator - Oon Yeoh

Panellists –

1. Jeff Ooi
2. Tony Pua
3. Khoo Kay Peng (Sedar Institute)
4. Sharizal Shaarani
5. Nik Nazmi (special assistant to Anwar Ibrahim)
6. Fong Po Kuan
7. Lim Kit Siang

Anonymous said...

..its a pleasant surprise to read that Tony & his friends are speaking at this forum..they will be the representatives who can help forward some of the views expresssed on this Blogg that these collective voices can be heard by the authorities and leaders we entrust to guide our future..

for those who are free with no shift will be nice to go support tony & his friends at this forum.


Anonymous said...

Another report and no action. Yes we are in "Boleh" land. We should take up Nike's tag line "Just do it".

Chen Chow said...

Tony, it is great that you are bringing up the Zahid Higher Education Report. I fully agree that at least part of this report should be examined and utilized.

I'm personally curious on how each IPTA is taking this report. Do any of the VCs and management staff scrutinize this report and try to make developmental action. While a few of those actions might be politically incorrect and let say we do not want to carry those out, this does not mean that we cannot look at each part of this report on its own, and act upon them.