Friday, March 21, 2008

5 Priorities on Higher Education Issues

With a stronger opposition in the parliament and hopefully a more reform minded PM moving ahead, I want to list out what I think are 5 priorities on higher education issues which the opposition as well as the government should move on. I want to emphasize that these priorities cannot be achieved by opposition pressure alone or by the BN.

1) Revamping the UUCA

- It is ludicrous that students in public universities, a majority of which are over 21, could have voted in the recently concluded elections but cannot join a political party or be involved in political campaigns.
- This law is especially ludicrous to me given that so many college students who were formerly politically apathetic have been galvanized into political action by Barack Obama's campaign here in the US.
- The demobilization of the public universities have led to a decrease in voter registration among the young people. Revamping the UUCA would be a step in arresting this trend.
- I'm pretty optimistic that something can be done in regards to the UUCA for two reasons. The first is that there had already been indications during Tok Pa's time as Minister for Higher Education that the government was looking at revamping the UUCA, albeit probably in not a very radical fashion. The second is that the opposition, together with civil society, is more capable of pressuring the government to revamp the UUCA. Imagine a Bersih type rally but of university students! Now that would be something.

2) Ensuring at least one VC appointment process that involves a respected committee
- Tony has blogged about this in the past on numerous occasions. I'm not sure which VC from one of the major public universities (UKM, UM, USM, UPM) will come up for renewal first but when it does, I hope that there will be a stringent and open process by which their performance is evaluated.
- If a new VC needs to be appointed, hopefully a well respected committee can be established to oversee this process.

3) Ensure that the process of selecting government sponsored PhD students is open and and transparent
- As mentioned in this blog many times in previous postings, the government is on an aggressive campaign to increase the number of PhDs in the local universities and is spending tons of money sending students overseas to obtain their PhDs.
- This process has been less than transparent in the past and qualified candidates have been denied this opportunity in favor of less qualified candidates because of racial quotas. Given the new political environment, one hopes that this practice can be cut down if not totally eradicated and students can be sent overseas based on merit.

4) Ensure that the key initiatives started by Tok Pa in the Higher Education Strategic Masterplan is followed through
- I've been generally positive about the MOHE Higher Education Action and Strategic Plans in previous posts. I hope that the new Minister, Khaled Norin, will be able to see through these key initiatives instead of taking the path of the Minister of Education which had a new Education Blueprint written after he became the Minister. I think continuity is important and the opposition should support this initiative where possible.

5) Ensure that the process of tendering contracts by public universities are transparent

- This is an issue which I've not written about that much but have heard a lot of anecdotal evidence on. Many academics and insiders have complained that VCs and other administrators in public universities sometimes 'benefit' from the allocation of certain projects or contracts in the public universities.
- I'm not sure how this can be done but perhaps the opposition or the government can seek 'whistleblowers' who can notify the authorities if they hear of such wrongdoing. Or the board of governors, which is supposed to be revamped under the Higher Education Strategic and Action Plan, can have a bigger advisory role.

I'm not sure if Tony agrees with any or all of these priorities in regards to Higher education in Malaysia but I'm sure he'll chime in when he has a bit of time on his hands.


Anonymous said...

Yes, we have heard of corruption at universities. This pertains to allocation of canteens, university shops, etc which need under table money to get them. We also heard of staff from bursary dept. giving the project to their friends or family members and getting a cut out of it. Some are even bold enough to give to their own companies.

Lecturers also force students to buy their books, etc.. Would this also be considered as corruption?

It all boils down to leadership and the VCs. They do not have leadership and allow their staff members to be corrupted. If they impose transparency and quality in all aspects in their universities, things will not be that bad.

As already suggested by some writers, make sure promotion at universities is transparent. We want to know why a person has been made VC, prof. or AP. We want to know if they truly deserve it. As practiced by some universities, they get their cronies to do their evaluation. If they like the candidate, they will give the promotion. If not, they will get their cronies not to give a good evaluation. Some universities also give promotion easier than others. I like Tok Pah’s suggestion to standardize promotion and an external board will evaluate all promotions. This will maintain some form of quality. I hope the new Minister of Higher Education will see to the suggestion being implemented.

Also, there is a growing trend of forcing university staff members and students to go for BTN courses. These are the most racist of all courses and the people running them are also racists. I will not be surprised there will be more of these courses in line for universities since BN lost 5 states. There will want to use BTN to brainwash academics and students for the next election. I hope Tony and Kian Ming will look into this. We are just so sick of racism and low quality in so many things in this country. We certainly do not need BTN to create more problems.

Anonymous said...

How about reforming the tenure system in Malaysia? See my post here

Anonymous said...

I think the ideas you have proposed here are great.
Given my area of specialization - which is teacher education, I have greater concerns with regards to the quality of pre-primary, primary and secondary education.
Simply put, if the quality of students we are feeding into the higher education system is not of a credible standard, we are still going to have an uphill battle.
In the education field we tend to refer to this as 'fire-fighting'.
At these basic levels I would also suggest a complete review of the following :
1. Curriculum Orientation
2. Teacher Recruitment, Training and Promotion
3. Evaluation Systems to ensure Quality Education Standards
4. Ranking and Benchmarking of schools
5. Effective Regulation of Private and International Schools

I Talk - You Do said...

Don't forget.
Today's education system is still linked to the policies that set by Anuar Ibrahim when he was the education minister once upon a time.

He may be forget what ever he did once upon a time, but the victim like me, will not forget.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anushia Senthe. Whatever you do for the higher education would be futile if you don't improve the primary schools. Stupid gov't is much more concerned with sending a man to space than to improve schools all over the country! Our priorities are skewed...

Also, I agree with "I Talk-You Do".. and yet, no one has noticed this big error by DSAI..