Higher Education Strategic Plan Beyond 2020 – what for if no “political will” for meritocracy and colour-blind policies

The bubble of the “Strategic Plan for Higher Education: Laying the Foundation Beyond 2020” launched by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday was punctured by the irresponsible denial syndrome of the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad in Parliament the very same day.

Abdullah announced a three-prong strategy to turn Malaysia into a world education hub, viz:

  • Apex University: where only the best brains — academic staff and students — will be admitted;
  • Autonomy: public universities to be self-governing in funding and research & development;
  • Audit Panels: Standard of all universities to be assessed by independent committee comprising only experts.

The Malaysian Government has honed to a fine art the preparation of grandiloquent plans (which is why every Minister wants to have a Masterplan of his own rejecting that drawn up by his predecessor and which is what happened in the short history of the Higher Education Ministry) although there is no political will to implement them — best example being the National Integrity Plan which has seen the country plagued with more rampant and uncontrolled corruption since its launch by the Prime Minister three years ago.

The “Strategic Plan for Higher Education: Laying the Foundation Beyond 2020” however must take the cake for being the first of such grandiloquent plans to have its bubbles punctured on the very same day of its launch, exposing the lack of political will to take all the necessary decisions and actions to restore Malaysia’s former international standing in terms of academic excellence and quality .

When I stood up in Parliament during question time yesterday to ask a supplementary query on unhappiness among lecturers in public universities over promotion to higher academic grades including professorship, I pointed out that Malaysia was again left out for the fifth consecutive year in the recent Shanghai Jiao Dong University’s Ranking of World Top 500 Universities.

I asked Mustapha how Malaysia could get back on track to university excellence and quality when academic appointments and promotions are still not based on merit and colour-blind.

I asked why non-Malay academicians can only find recognition overseas like Prof Eric Tan who became Chancellor of Curtin University in Australia, Dr. Danny Quah who rose to become the head of the most prestigious Economics department of the London School of Economics, recognized as one of the world’s leading institutions of higher learning with many Nobel Prize laureates to its credit or previously Dr. Wang Gung Wu as Vice Chancellor of Hong Kong University.

The reply by Mustapha did not inspire confidence that there is the political will to promote a culture of excellence and meritocracy which is colour-blind, without which the “Strategic Plan for Higher Education: Laying the Foundation Beyond 2020” would just remain empty words.

Mustapha just issued a bald denial claiming that what I said was untrue and accusing me of being irresponsible and when I protested and demanded that he substantiate his allegation and not make wild and baseless statements, the Minister just sat down in the ensuing din.

If Mustapha is not prepared to admit to the maladies responsible for the plunge in academic standards in our public universities, what hope is there that the “Strategic Plan for Higher Education: Laying the Foundation Beyond 2020” would be more than empty promises?

  1. #1 by malaysia born on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 2:27 pm

    Soon we will find mat rempits graduating form our uni.

    “Higher Education Strategic Plan Beyond 2020”. Such nice sounding plans. Don’t think there will be much of any universities come 2015.

  2. #2 by k1980 on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 2:38 pm

    Najib also claimed: “Each and every Malaysian must enjoy the right to have quality education… and that right is a process that has taken place in our education system.”

    He deliberately failed to add the words “with equal opportunites for all” to “the right to have quality education”

  3. #3 by Libra2 on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 2:43 pm

    They can deny for all that I care. The undeniable fact is the ultimate losers will the young unemployable Malay graduates. How many can the government absorb?
    This will the group which will join PAS/PKR to overthrow the government.
    Can the government then rise from the ashes? Will this country go the way of Liberia and Pakistan?

  4. #4 by ADAM YONG IBNI ABDULLAH on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 2:45 pm

    i have a problem living out the days of 2007 ,and abdullah badawi has such fantasy of beyond 2020.

    i have much problems to realise the promises made by abdullah badawi in the last general election , that any over promises are not received with confidence.

    abdullah badawi , please fulfil your promises of fight against corruption , please fulfil your promises about being fair to all raayat., please fulfil your promises, that you are a mere civil servant,before you make any OTHER FANTASY PLANS.

    the harvard and oxford of malaysia? it will never ever happen.

    all talk.talk is cheap.

  5. #5 by dawsheng on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 3:33 pm

    Will Abdullah be sacked before our 50th Merdeka celebration?

  6. #6 by twistedmind on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 3:43 pm

    Let me quote Bee Gees on this:

    “It’s only words, and words are all I have ….”

    And I can almost hear the chorus going:

    “You think that I don’t even mean a single word I say!”

    Together…..” It’s only words “

  7. #7 by sotong on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 3:45 pm

    Education is important to unite the people.

  8. #8 by kktan9812 on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 3:48 pm

    Huh? What strategic plan? What world education hub? And what with the only best brains will be admitted?

    Aiyoyo…With our BN as our current ruling parties. The day I see our Universities actually achieving that is the day I can see pig climb a tree. Anyone seen a pig climb a tree before?

  9. #9 by pwcheng on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 4:12 pm

    This guy had been talking too much, corridors here and corridors there, world class this and world class that. It is alway easy to talk and if ever we start our corridors, just be prepared for bailouts and for world class it will remain a piped dream because how can we have anything world class when we are having a bunch of leaders who are underclass and who survive by giving out tongkats.
    We will never achieve anything world class if you still want the tongkat. This two cannot be packaged together.

  10. #10 by Justicewanted on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 4:20 pm

    Looks good on paper but leave it to the 4th floor boys to execute it, habislah.

    Just one of his gimmick or the SIL ways to reap billions from the public.

  11. #11 by BioLovepulse on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 4:42 pm

    We wanna model Harvard, Oxford, or Cambridge? I just plainly don’t believe in so called “apex university”.
    Think of ways to get our local universities into at least top 100 places then only talk about setting the centre of excellence in tertiary education!

    Even when I was visiting PECIPTA 2007 I was not really impressed at the exhibits. The recent Gerak Usahawan exhibition at PWTC was not good either – when I asked further questions, some exhibitors can’t even tell what makes their product work! They can show studies done by a university regarding their product – however I was not impressed, since the study was not done in-depth. Shame onto them! ;(

  12. #12 by sabah tun on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 5:09 pm

    It is very true. Many non-Malays are not given a chance to excel in the local academic scene. Well actually many non-Malay lecturers are VERY FRUSTRaTED with the local academic structure actually.

  13. #13 by wtf2 on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 6:03 pm

    first they cannot pay for good lecturers so they will just end up transplanting cronies from UKM, UTM, IIM etc there and the rot goes another one big round.
    All the heads will inevitably be Umno cohorts or indirectly under them. Oh yeah nearly forgot that all staff must sign the loyalty letter drafted by U know who.

    Secondly they cannot manage and maintain the facility, so they will probably hire some foreign consultants and managers as partners. They will setup whatever they need to manifest their delusion of grandeur, and then claim the accolades. Then they will do their normal finger sticking into every pie ( this time probably led by Mr Kris ) and guess what? We have another PKRZ situation!!!

    Thirdly it will end up like just another Malaysian university. Nothing fantastic. Nothing of great value or significant in terms of scholarship. Just another rundown badly maintained, low quality higher institute of learning that had spent millions( let’s hope it does not cross into the billions this time ) getting built on some lame visionary excuse and getting some parties extremely rich in the process.

  14. #14 by AnakTiriMalaysia on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 6:13 pm

    strategics Plan?

    If the universities all run by jaguh kampungs. it would produce many ‘JAGUH KAMPUNGS’


  15. #15 by madmix on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 6:35 pm

    This PM, ah…first shout we get rid of corruption blah blah blah… corruption perceived to increase during his tenure. Then shout no more wasting public funds on mega projects, now mega projects even more than Mahathir. Now want meritocratic world class universities. This will only mean current situation will worsen as what he says the opposite happen. He used to say he walk the talk, I think he talk the kok.

  16. #16 by kowtim on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 7:08 pm

    The Apex University will be ” University Of Tomorrow” at Pulau Tuba, Langkawi. It was mooted by a former Menteri Besar ( at that time MB ) to conduct courses in astronautical engineering, oceangraphy, artificial intelligence and robotics or something like that. So wait for tomorrow as it is already 10 years already.

  17. #17 by Bobster on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 7:29 pm

    Get rid of the Akujanji whatever nonsense political regime policy from our public universities (where Dr Azly Rahman and his wife being victimised by UUM).

    Else whatever blueprints, strategies all going no where as the younger generation are not trained to think out of the box but being brainwash/to be made like robot only follow what the government says and submit to the oppessive force. There is an oppressive regime developing in our public universities as the heads are working closely with the ruling party to rule over and brainwash our future generation.

  18. #18 by ihavesomethingtosay on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 7:42 pm

    “Higher Education Strategic Plan Beyond 2020” – PM AAB

    why 2020? when 2008 we will see deserving Malaysians being left out of the uni again because they are with the wrong colour skin, wrong religion, and born into the wrong family.

    realised 2008 first, mr PM, stop bluffing us.

    incidently mr pm, do you realised that Singapore will be building a new uni, starting from next year, and i will bet that they have more places and the faculty of choice for deserving and smart Malaysians compare to our uni, than we have for our own malaysians.

    stop the bull, 4 years, all empty promise, and now you want us to believe in fairness?

  19. #19 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 7:53 pm

    As usual, our government people are awesome at beautiful words and forms, and then spending a huge sum of money, on the pretence of going after excellence and apex (but actually opening new channels of siphoning off more money).

    If one carefully and objectively analyses the points raised (e.g., the best brains – academic staff and students – will be admitted, self-governing in funding and research & development, and to be assessed by independent committee comprising only experts), no way we can achieve any one of them. The points are good only for a good laugh.

    Our government wants the best brains to be in our public universities, wants them to be world beaters and great thinkers pushing the frontiers of knowledge, and wants them to be independent and self-governing. However, the various restricting acts, such as the University and College Act and OSA, and Akujanji are still enforced.

    Do we seriously believe that our government will allow our best brains to make objective statements about the faulty and self-enriching implementation of NEP?

    How many experts do we have to be members of various independent assessment committees? Mind you, our government only wants experts who are pro-government. Would our government appoint experts like Lim Teik Ghee, Jomo, etc. of international repute to be members of Audit Panels?

    Furthermore, to truly elevate the standard of some of our current so-called top and research public universities, our government must throw out many existing deadwood pseudo-intellectual academic staff (many of whom are senior as well). Is our government prepared to go to this extreme? Can our government bring about positive changes after >30 years of self-erosion of standard by just pumping in money?

    So, ladies and gentlemen, this is just another wayang for our Merdeka celebration. Don’t get too excited about it. The naked fact is our so-called top and research public universities are rotten to the core and the way forward is only one way – down.

  20. #20 by karaoke singer on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 9:12 pm

    I watched part of the opening on the television. It felt so uplifting as if Malaysians are just so clever. But there are clever Malaysians around. However it is quite meaningless if you have the brains but don’t have the right attitude. May be it is high time to employ those brilliant minds from Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Cambridge and all those that are considered to be the best among the best. Let them come and let us DON’T interfere. I am sure they will get the shock of their life time. But may be they will find it a challenge to transform a pseudo university into a genuine world class university. What say you ? Bring out all the ringgits and employ all these world class professors. Don’t worry whether the ringgits will go to waste. Just pay them and let them do what they think they need to do.

  21. #21 by tidaknama on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 9:28 pm

    The main reason I want to migrate is because of my children’s education. Today my daughter waves the Malaysian flag proudly and sings negaraku. But there will come a day when she will realise no matter how good the grades she gets, she will be treated as a quota number.

  22. #22 by MY VIEW on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 10:25 pm

    I take this as another joke.

  23. #23 by sotong on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 - 7:21 am

    The government is not taking good and proper care of the education aspirations of the Non Bumi.

    The non bumi contributed significantly to the economy and revenue but discriminative and abused policies denied their children a fair education opportunity to achieve their very best for themselves and to contribute to the country.

    This is most unfair, damaging and irresponsible of any government – irrespective of their good intention of social restructuring…….many innocent people lives are made very difficult or ruined.

  24. #24 by Jimm on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 - 8:51 am

    Government have been playing the role of provider in education system for Malaysian and in that same process they also created jobs for teacher and educationist. The education industries especially in higher are very much a commercialized business.
    All along we have been exercising a balance check to ensure that those weaker in education are given a ‘special’ chance to excel in their level of understanding. At times, there are enough evidence that we lower or ‘select’ those passing marks to make up the numbers. Somehow, we created a sub-standard education system.
    These group of student that make the cut are now part of the leader pack group for national interest. What can we expect from them ? They have never been put to the fullest test of knowledge and their learning habits are wrapping around their own ‘limited’ understanding. They earned degree and recognition from the education board, however, does that mean they are at the helm of the knowledge world that constantly changes and needed to be upgraded each time.
    We went across the danger line and created a group of self satisfying educationist whom happens to live in their own dream world. Not many of them are contributing for the future of this country. Some of them are so good in talking about other country affairs that they might as well moved over to stay in that country. We have a lovely and beautiful country that needed a group of good scholars and educationist to spearhead its future.
    Where are we heading now ?
    Our education system cannot support a good future for our young generation. We are just merely holding on and seems to be ‘at least something better than nothing’ mode.
    Good to know that as most of those rich and famous are sending their children abroad for education. Some of them that supposed to make changes in our own education system too are doing the same. What’s that means ?

  25. #25 by Jimm on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 - 8:59 am

    Someone or people that we entrusted to bring changes and improve our education system are backtracking to make a balance of social harmony quota which they claimed is a must for the country harmony. Instead of gearing those weaker to take up or change their mindset and learning abilities, we were ‘robbed’.
    After claimed 50 years, we somehow paid for the price of ‘shortcut’ the nature system.

  26. #26 by pulau_sibu on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 - 9:21 am

    get those overseas great bolehsians to help out
    it is better to do something than doing nothing
    this is at least a positive move

  27. #27 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 - 10:00 am

    theStar, 29 Aug: “On the Graduate Training Scheme as mentioned under the action plan, Mustapa said students graduating from general courses would be provided with opportunities to acquire specific career skills to prepare them for the workplace.

    “We may conduct the training elsewhere as skills training are not part of the role of universities,” he added.”

    A very sensible and practical proposal – please train some of our graduates to have skills to be employed as maids, butlers, nurses, oil palm estate workers, petrol kiosk helpers, janitors, air port baggage handlers, mechanics, etc.

    Some of our graduates may also learn from the great Zakaria – how to rise from a humble beginning (like keeping an eye on gates) to a datuk with palaces; or from KJ – how to be a millionaire or billionaire while being unemployed or how to influence national policies while not an elected assemblyman or MP.

    Some of our graduates may also automatically become VIP ball carriers.

  28. #28 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 - 11:12 am

    How can our government promote academic excellence and freedom when it so quickly banned a truth-seeking debate on the infamous multi-billion-ringgit Port Klang Free Zone bailout in our so-called democratic parliament?

    Our government that wants to promote academic excellence and freedom cannot even tolerate an open discussion on an issue that requires accountability.

  29. #29 by AntiRacialDiscrimination on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 - 1:05 pm

    According to PM, the students intake will not be based on race, BUT the enrolment MUST reflect the racial composition of the country.
    The plan itself is self contradictory, it will be a big failure.
    Please wake up and use the time to fight corruption rather than talking about other nonsense plans.

  30. #30 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 - 1:07 pm

    Frankly, BN ‘leaders’ can talk till the cows come home, nothing’s going to happen and nothing will. I’m so tired with their coffeshop yak-yak in, of all places. Parliament!

    I simply don’t trust anything anymore that has to do with BN, especially Pak Lah and his Cabinet.

    pwcheng Says:

    August 28th, 2007 at 16: 12.01
    “This guy had been talking too much, corridors here and corridors there”. Call i’ ‘doors’. It’s time to show BN the doors and the boot!

    Talk about education? Boy, they might as well bay at the moon! Just look at this email that’s been making the rounds. The reason for so many question marks on the Malaysian Cabinet is because it’s face-saving to cover-up, as always! Even Malaysian media do not brag about their Cabinet’s intellectual abiltiies; nothing to shout about! But the media would shout about some passenger astronaut ( no fault of his! Poor guy, just being used) or some airy-fairy 2057 dream and now producing 100,000 Ph.D’s (is that 2057 target again?) etc.etc.

    Now we know why all this talk-shop and tokkok from the tokkoh BN:

    Singapore Cabinet vs Malaysia Cabinet

    PM Lee Hsien Loong
    Cambridge University – First Class Honours (1974)
    Harvard University – Masters (1980)
    PM Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi
    University of Malaya – Bachelor of Arts Honours ??? (Islamic Studies) (1964)

    SM Goh Chok Tong
    University of Singapore – First Class Honours (1964)
    Williams College , USA – Masters (1967)
    Deputy PM Dato’ Sri Najib Razak
    University of Nottingham – Bachelor of Arts Honours ??(1974)

    MM Lee Kuan Yew
    Cambridge University – First Class Honours (1949)
    Minister of Foregn Affairs Syed Hamid Albar
    (can someone tell me his univeristy?? )- Bachelor of ???

    Minister for Law Prof. S Jayakumar
    University of Singapore – Bachelor of Law Honours (1963)
    Yale Univerity – Masters (1966)
    Ministry of Works- Dato’ Seri Samy Vellu
    (Education Unknown???) [ Form 6, Anderson School??? ]

    Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng
    University of Singapore – Bachelor of Arts & Business Admin (1977)
    London Business School – Masters (1979)
    Ministry of International Trade & Industry Rafidah binti Aziz
    Universiti Malaya – Bachelor of Arts Honours ???

    Minister for Foreign Affairs BG George Yeo
    Cambridge University – Double First Class Honours (1976)
    Harvard Business School – MBA w/ Distinction (1985)
    Minister of Agriculture Muhyiddin Yassin
    (Education Unknown???) [ ??? English, pass or fail???]

    Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang
    Cambridge University – First Class Honours w/ Distinction (1976)
    Harvard University – Masters (1986)
    Ministry of Domestic Trade Shafie Apdal
    (Education Unknown???) [ Form 5, Failed English???]

    Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean
    University of Manchester – First Class Honours (1976)
    Imperial College, London – Masters w/ Distinction (1977)
    Minister of Education Hishammuddin Hussein
    (Education Unknown) [ Bachelor of ??? LLM ???]

    Minister for Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam
    London School of Economics – Bachelor of Arts
    Cambridge University – Masters
    Harvard University – Masters
    Minister of Home Affairs Radzi bin Sheikh Ahmad
    (Education Unknown??? LLB ???

  31. #31 by Cinapek on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 - 4:45 pm

    As long as they remain colour blind and not free from political pressures, all these talks are just “shiok sendiri” rantings.

    It is not what you think you want to do that brings results. It is what you do from you think that will bring you where you aspire to be.

  32. #32 by ProMalaysiaNotBN on Friday, 31 August 2007 - 10:59 am

    More fancy slogans, semantics and pure rhetorics.

    One prize we haveto give Malaysian politicians for is their constant entries for the best catch phrases that are good for supermarket stalls at VMY periods so tourists and shoppers – local and foreign – can know Malaysia has also got a very active think tank at work. Who says we have a Council of fools led by a sleepy Head? Cheers.

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