Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Walk-In Interviews for PhD Holders

Hey guys, as highlighted in my post on my own blog, much apologies for having been neglecting my blogging responsibilites for the past few weeks. The new "career" is certainly dragging me all over the place and leaves me very little time to plonk myself for long periods of time in front of the computer to churn out something meaningful (and I'd hate posting something quickly just for the sake of posting). There's lots of stuff to blog about, and I'll try to catch up with them in the coming weeks. Hopefully this post will kickstart the action on this blog again! ;)

First, I thought I'd highlight a peculiar advertisement made by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) recently to attract more PhD holders into our public institutions of higher learning (IPTAs).

The good news is, the Ministry appears to be taking steps to increase the number of PhD holders amongst our university teaching community. But the curious thing is the approach which the Ministry has taken to meet its objectives - that is, via open walk-in interviews! You can read the statement issued by Pn Rubaayah Osman, a public relations officer of the Ministry here.
Temuduga pengambilan tenaga akademik secara berpusat bagi calon-calon yang memiliki Ijazah Doktor Falsafah (PhD) akan diadakan pada 26-28hb Mei 2007 mulai jam 9.00 pagi hingga 4.00 petang di Aras 2, Stesen Sentral, Kuala Lumpur.
This method of recruitment of PhD holders raises several questions.
  1. It appears that these PhD holders are treated a little like factory workers who are asked to turn up at a specific location and just wait for his or her turn to be called. If there are a lot of people, then one would just have to wait a couple of hours longer.

    Given the above, do we expect quality PhD candidates from top universities globally to be interested in turning up for these interviews and be treated as such?

    And by default, through adverse selection, would such interview proceedings lead to weaker candidates who are not able to otherwise secure academic appointments in other leading colleges making an appearance?

  2. And secondly, it also raises the key question as to why the Ministry has to take the role of the recruiter, instead of the respective faculties within the universities themselves?

    Does the Ministry has the necessary wide-ranging expertise to interview candidates of all specialisation on the spot? How could intelligent discussions be held if the relevant experts are not present to discuss the relevant subjects?

    Worse, if the civil service administrators are playing the role of recruiters, would they even sufficiently understand university demands of lecturers and researchers?

    And if these potential candidates are just required to turn up to submit their documents, instead of a thorough interview, wouldn't it have been better to request that they submit their applications either online or by post first so that the right expertise can be arrange to conduct the interviews. Otherwise, for many of these candidates who may well be outstation, would have to travel long distances just for a meaningless interview exercise.

  3. Finally, should the role of recruitment to left to the relevant universities to decide? Is there no more autonomy in our universities to decide on their own recruitment?

    Would these new recruits, once posted to the universities, be subjected to "marginalisation" from the existing lecturers?
Hence in a lot of ways, the above exercise, just doesn't make much sense. Which of course leads to plenty of conjectures and speculations. And here is my 2-cent worth of conjectures:
  1. Firstly, the University recruiters are reluctant to recruit qualified PhD candidates as lecturers in their universities. The reluctance is understandable in that the decline in the quality of our local universities over the past 2 decades have resulted in many unqualified and poor quality academics occupying positions of "power" within the university administration. As the patronage culture within the universities become ingrained, appointment of top quality academics, most of which are PhD holders become scarce for such appointments would be detrimental to their own positions.

    Hence, the Ministry while recognises the need for more PhD holders to be academics in our IPTAs, things are not moving on the ground. MOHE which lacks the political will to force reforms within the universities, then decides to take the less painful route of recruiting these PhD holders directly for placement in the universities.

  2. Secondly, it was also very very interesting to note that the statement released by MOHE specifically mentioned that:

    Bagi calon calon... yang mempunyai pengalaman kerja di sektor kerajaan atau industri amat dialu-alukan terutamanya di kalangan bukan bumiputra.

    I am very encouraged by the action taken by MOHE for it is certainly extremely rare for Government recruitment advertisements encouraging applicants from non-bumiputras, instead of otherwise. It is a clear recognition that there is a drastic shortage of non-bumiputras in our public institutions of higher learning.

    However, when this is reflected with the earlier point, it lends credence to the fact that not only are the incumbent university authorities not recruiting sufficient PhD holders, they are also biaised against the recruitment of non-bumiputras, making it necessary for the unprecendented move by MOHE to step into the recruitment process to "remedy" the shortcomings.
That then leaves the question (which I don't have a definite answer for) of whether, such centralised recruitment exercise to overcome the shortcomings of the current recruitment processes is the best possible mechanism.

Will the new recruitment process bring unexpected and other detrimental side effects? Or will it even attract the quality PhD holders which it seeks to do?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Chinese Ed Speaking English

This post was inspired by one of the previous comments in my most recent "update" post. I think we've been quick to criticize the relatively poor standard of English among those in Malaysia who are Chinese educated. But often, we forget too quickly how difficult it is to master a language which is not our 'mother-tongue' so to speak. Frankly, I'm always impressed by people I meet who are Chinese educated but are also relatively fluent in English. Like one of the commentators in the last post mentioned, how easy how it for those of us who are English / BM educated to speak as fluently in Chinese?

My 'mother-tongue' is Mandarin because that is the language I use to converse with my parents (with a generous smattering of English, BM and Cantonese). But I wasn't Chinese educated (to my deep regret, later in life). I could not imagine myself delivering a lecture or a speech in Mandarin in the same fashion as many Chinese educated politicians and friends deliver speeches and lectures in English (and sometimes BM). And I would consider my Mandarin as better than most Chinese were not educated in Chinese. Even as I'm learning how to write and read in Mandarin at Duke, I find that I'm far from comfortable in speaking in formal settings in Mandarin simply because my vocabulary is insufficient and I often get my sentence structure mixed up.

So for a Chinese ed person to make the transition to speaking English, to me, is actually a pretty impressive transition given that I have a sense of how difficult it is for an English educated person to make the transition to Chinese. Tony is pretty impressive in that he, like myself, was English ed but his Chinese is much better than mine and he's much more fluent in delivering off the cuff speeches in Mandarin compared to myself. Of course, I don't have to face the same frontline scrutiny and pressures as he does. But still, this only highlights the difficulty of making such transitions be it from English to Chinese or the other way round.

So the next time you meet someone who might not speak perfect English and if this person happens to be Chinese educated, think of how you would fare if you were asked to speak in Chinese. Or if you're Chinese educated listening to the poor grammatical structure and vocab of an English educated person speaking Chinese, give the poor guy / gal a break because he or she is at least trying.

I can extend this to those who are fluent in both Malay and English (and to the rare few who are fluent in Malay, English, Mandarin and perhaps even a few dialects) and heap kudos on them to. (though having the same script for Malay and English obviously helps)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Quick update from Kian Ming

So many things to talk about, so little wireless access. I've got quite a few things on my blog list including the decision to get rid of UPSR and PMR exams (generally positive), the decision to raise the allowances for teachers in rural areas (generally positive), a quick update on Jeffrey Sachs and what he's doing as the Royal Ungku Aziz Chair of Poverty Studies (very negative). But unfortunately, I don't have streamyx at home and have been too busy catching up with friends and family to spend many hours at Starbucks or Coffee Bean. Apologies for the lack of posts but hopefully I'll have some time at the end of next week!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Teach for America

Justin wrote to share his thoughts on the Teach for America movement in the United States and thought he'd like to share his ideas with the readers here.

I am Justin Wong, a Malaysian currently studying in USA, and I try to keep my ears open to the socio-economic issues back home (in fact I wrote a paper on it). I have stumbled across a movement that is gaining support and impact here in America and I can't think of a more appropriate person to share this with than one such as yourself.

You might have heard of it but allow me to introduce Teach For America (), a non-profit organization that addresses the achievement gap in the not-so privileged areas in the country. It recruits ready and willing college graduates who commit two years to teach in places in dire need of educators. I find this to be a noble effort indeed.

I have always felt for the 'situation' of the Malaysian education system, though it may not entirely be the case such addressed by Teach For America. With proper planning and execution, I believe that education issues such as lack of capable teachers or unemployment rate can be addressed. If the government is taking its time to do something about the pressing need for better, fairer, or further spread education (regretfully, I do not know every issue there is), a committee of dedicated learned individuals can.

With this letter I am not asking you to act upon my thoughts, instead I'd like to hear what you and perhaps some other capable persons think about an idea to put together an organization that benefits Malaysians. A simple discussion would suffice, regarding any ramifications, possibilities, limitations, or maybe even visions for anything our good countrymen can do for the future's generations. Forwarding this to anyone else who would like to share and add would do much good, I believe.

I intend to see Malaysians help each other for the nation's betterment. I hope you receive this letter well.

- Justin Wong
Junior of Towson University, Maryland, USA

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Our esteemed Minister of Science, Technology and Information

I heard about this through a reader of this blog but didn't know of its veracity and so didn't refer to it until this letter from Mkini was published. It is a short summary of the racist attitude taken by Jamaludin Jarjis (or JJ as he is popularly known) at the recent apperance in California. I wonder if the esteemed Minister realizes that India has created a number of world class technology companies and that certain Indian pharmeceutical companies are slowly but surely creating waves in the international scene. His actions and words, if true, are unforgivable and he should be given a public reprimand. I've cut and paste the letter below.

Apology demanded from racist minister
Dr Sheela Moorthy
May 2, 07 2:52pm

I am a Malaysian currently living in the USA. I am supporting the education of my sister who is enrolled at CalPoly, California.

The reason I am writing this letter is to express my disgust and anger regarding comments passed by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Jamaludin Jarjis during a working visit to California recently.

He was present at a gathering organised by the Malaysian Consulate for the students to meet him. The purpose of this meeting was for them to address any concerns or queries they had. Being away from home, we all know that we love to meet our fellow-countrymen regardless of what color or creed they may be.

And being brought up in the true Malaysian way, we were thought to respect each other and look beyond the shallowness of skin color.

This was not the case with our minister. He made several derogatory remarks about Indians in general, about how they were brought in as 'buruh kasar' and at one point asked my sister about how many Indians were in her batch of students.

My sister answered him saying there were two of them. The other Indian student was fair-skinned and was actually sitting at the same table as the minister.

He did not realize that this student was also an Indian and went on saying that he must be a 'high class’ Indian and then pointed at my sister and said that she must be a ‘low class’ Indian as she was darker skinned.

I am appalled that we have people like this sitting at the helm and trying to run a multi-racial country. I urge all Malaysian to stand together and voice out against weeds like this who give our country a bad image.

I demand an apology from him and I want him to take responsibility for his words and I believe that malaysiakini is one of the venues to voice my dissatisfaction.

Friday, May 04, 2007

US Education Fair

The U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and the Malaysian American Commission of Educational Exchange (MACEE) will jointly host a “USA Fair” on Sunday, May 6, at the Menara Yayasan Tun Razak, 1st Floor, No. 200, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. The fair is free and open to the public. Special door prizes will be awarded, including a free airplane ticket on Malaysia Airlines and vouchers for discounted travel.

For those who are interested in getting an education in the United States, the USA Fair will provide answers to all your queries. You will be able to learn more about:
  • Four-year undergraduate study programs in the U.S.
  • American Degree Program transfers and twinning programs which allow you to work toward a U.S. degree right here in Malaysia
  • graduate education
  • “summer work and travel” programs which allow you to earn up to RM20,000 in 14 weeks, and then travel in the U.S. for up to a month
  • High school exchange programs
  • Financial aid and scholarships
  • The U.S. visa process
Great opportunities such as working as a camp counselor or au-pair, as well as professional internships are available – all the details will be at the fair! U.S. visa officials will be on hand to help guide you through the visa process and answer any visa questions you might have.

For more information, please visit here or here or call 03-2166-8878.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Two kinds of scholarships

I thought the announcement of these two scholarship programs, one old and one about to be launched, on the same day on the Star was an interesting example of the schizophrenic nature of the Malaysian state. I'll paste some exerpts from both newspaper reports and let our readers make their own judgements. PS Note: My posting volume will be reduced in the next month or so as I'm back in Malaysia and I don't have DSL or broadband at home.

Firstly, the BN scholarship:

KUALA LUMPUR: K. Sathyvelu studied just one-and-a-half hours a day. Yet, he became one of the six SPM top achievers chosen for the Special Scholarship Award by Bank Negara yesterday.

This award enables the carpenter's son to study any course of his choice in one of the top universities in the world chosen by the bank.

Sathyvelu, who scored 15 1As, plans to become one of Malaysia's richest men and cites billionaire philanthropist T. Ananda Krishnan as his role model.

For now though, his love of mathematics and science is prompting him to do Actuarial Science at the London School of Economics.

“One of my dreams is to study overseas, and I know my parents cannot afford to send me abroad. That was the reason I took 15 subjects,” said Sathyvelu.

The others who received the award from Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz yesterday were Nadiah Amirah Jamil from Johor, Afiqah Abdul Aziz from Sarawak, Azwan Arif Abdul Aziz from Perak, Chong Qing Joel from Johor and Siti Fatimah Mukhtar from Kelantan.

Nadiah had 14 1As, four 2As and one 3B and wants to study Pharmacy, Siti Fatimah from Kelantan had 17 1As and one 2A and wants to study medicine and Azwan Arif from Perak had 10 1As and wants to study chartered accounting. All want to study at Cambridge University.

Chong Qing from Johor had 11 1As and wants to study engineering at Imperial College of London while Afiqah from Sarawak with 13 1As wishes to study dentistry but has yet to choose a university.

The scholarship covers full tuition fees, subsistence allowance, airfare and book and computer allowance. Scholars are not bonded but have to return to Malaysia to work.

Zeti said the scholarship was part of Bank Negara efforts towards nation-building.

The selection was stringent and they were looking for candidates who were resilient and adapted to changes easily, she said.

Bank Negara has given out more than 1,000 scholarships to Malaysians and the Special Scholarship Award was introduced three years ago, she said.

Secondly, a scholarship for Muslim students.

PUTRAJAYA: Muslim students who excelled in major examinations will be honoured in the first-ever Muslim Students Excellence Awards to be held on June 23.

Nine awards will be presented to students who did well in the STPM, SPM and PMR examinations.

Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Othman, the religious adviser to the Prime Minister, said this was the first time that Muslim students who did well in their studies would be awarded. The top award will be thePrime Minister’s trophy.

Two awards, he said, would be presented to the special Muslim students in recognition of their hard work and good examination results. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will present the awards in a ceremony to be held at Istana Hotel, organised by the Malaysian Muslim Students Foundation (YPIM).

“At the event, the foundation will be launching a welfare and education fund, so more activities can be held to help Muslim students nationwide,” he said at a press conference yesterday.