Race quotas, politics led to falling UM standards, says World Bank study

by Leslie Lau
Executive Editor
The Malaysian Insider
Oct 17, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — A World Bank publication has found that standards at Universiti Malaya have fallen and the institution has been kept at a disadvantage because of race-based admission quotas and political interference in university management.

In contrast, Singapore’s decision to prioritise research, keeping English as the medium of instruction and a merit-based admissions policy have all contributed to the success of the National University of Singapore’s success, according to “The Road to Academic Excellence,” which studies what contributes to a world-class research university.

The study also noted that Malaysian secondary school students are not well prepared for tertiary education.

It points out that the Malaysian education system promotes rote learning, conformity and uniformity rather than fresh and creative thinking.

The study is led by two scholars — Philip Altbach and Jamil Salmi — while various chapters see contributions from various academics.

Salmi, a Moroccan education economist attached to the World Bank, also notes that “disturbing political developments, from the burning of churches to the whipping of a woman for drinking beer in public,” also cast a shadow on Malaysia’s “image as an open and tolerant society.”

The comparisons between UM and NUS is contained in a chapter entitled “The National University of Singapore and the University of Malaya: Common Roots and Different Paths.”

The chapter is authored by Hena Mukherjee, a former Universiti Malaya department head with a doctorate in education from Harvard University, and Poh Kam Wong, an NUS Business School professor.

According to the study, “at an early stage, the Singapore government realised the universities’ role in sustaining economic growth.

“In contrast, after 1970, UM’s institutional goals reflected the New Economic Policy, an affirmative action plan for ethnic Malays and indigenous groups, put in place in the wake of disastrous 1969 ethnic riots that took the lives of hundreds of people on both sides of the racial divide.,” the study found.

The authors said that apart from the student quota system, the NEP translated into more scholarships to Bumiputeras, special programmes to facilitate their entry into higher education institutions, and the use of the Malay language in place of English in the entire education system by 1983.

“In UM and in government, the policy impact spiralled upward so that Bumiputera staff members, over time, secured almost all senior management, administrative, and academic positions.

“As NUS kept pace with the demands of a growing economy that sought to become competitive internationally, with English continuing as the language of instruction and research, UM began to focus inward as proficiency in English declined in favour of the national language — Bahasa Malaysia — and the New Economic Policy’s social goals took precedence.”

The study noted however that there has been widespread recognition that the implementation of affirmative action policies in Malaysia has hurt the higher education system, sapping Malaysia’s economic competitiveness and driving some (mainly Chinese and Indians) to more meritocratic countries, such as Singapore.

In the broader study, the lead authors found that research was an important element in the making of a world-class university, as well as top-grade talent.

“We’re both convinced that serious research universities are important in almost all societies,” Altbach, who is the director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, told the New York Times last week in an interview.

Said Altbach: “Independence, luck, persistence, some kind of strategic vision, adequate resources — usually, but not always, public resources — good governance structures, good leadership, the ability to attract good students and so on. But we have found that the quality of the faculty is really crucial.”

Salmi, who co-ordinates the World Bank’s activities related to higher education, told the same newspaper of their new 390-page study, which will be released later this month, that their advice is like that supposedly given for a rabbit stew recipe: “First, catch your rabbit.” Only in this case the advice would be: “First, catch your faculty.”

“The difference between a good university and great university comes down to talent.”

  1. #1 by Godfather on Monday, 17 October 2011 - 9:24 pm

    Oh no, the Jews are at it again ! The World Bank, long colonised by the Jews, is on a mission to disparage Bolehland.

  2. #2 by country for good malaysian on Monday, 17 October 2011 - 10:21 pm

    Who to blame if not the rakyat?

  3. #3 by bruno on Monday, 17 October 2011 - 11:12 pm

    UM used to be a well respected university once upon a time.It was also a top ranked university in our region.But because of race quota the standards of UM has gone to the dogs.Because the big chunk of quota goes to only one race.And unable to fill the race quota of this particularly one race with top students,they filled it with second,third and even fourth rated students,just to fulfill the quota.After the race quota came into effect,UM is just like another regular common university,where any Tom,Dick and Harry can just enrolled.

  4. #4 by yhsiew on Monday, 17 October 2011 - 11:18 pm

    ///The study noted however that there has been widespread recognition that the implementation of affirmative action policies in Malaysia has hurt the higher education system, sapping Malaysia’s economic competitiveness and driving some (mainly Chinese and Indians) to more meritocratic countries, such as Singapore.///

    End of the road for Malaysia under the BN government. Hear what agentdiary has to say:

    sorry for a bit of out of topic here.
    I have a customer left Malaysia 13 years ago and came back last year to handle his father inheritance. He have never back before throughout 13 years. And this is his comment to me,”Malaysia has to catch up quickly, the Indonesian and Thais are already on par with you, some areas exceed Malaysia. And I bet in less than 10 years, you can’t afford to hire maids from Indonesia”,

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Monday, 17 October 2011 - 11:25 pm

    What this story means is that the same thing is happening to all our other 30 publicly funded universities.

    It is not confined to MU only and if MU is already down, then they all too must be much further down the list / rankings.

    It is a systemic thing. Our education system is down, down, down.

  6. #6 by sheriff singh on Monday, 17 October 2011 - 11:29 pm

    My drinking kaki at the local passed this comment:

    ‘One university concentrates on research. The other, cut and paste.’

  7. #7 by tsng on Monday, 17 October 2011 - 11:34 pm

    All those who favour learning math & science in english as an option in Sek Kebangsaan please join this group,

  8. #8 by Cinapek on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 1:33 am

    “Race quotas, politics led to falling UM standards, ” says World Bank study

    Hey World Bank, tell us something new. Every old auntie and uncle doing their morning taichi in the park knows this. Those who can afford it has long ago sent their children overseas.

    Go eavesdrop on their conversation. It centers around what their children are studying and why they are overseas.

  9. #9 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 4:37 am

    Ha, ha – really funny lah, dis is what rakyat hv been telling UmnoB/BN all these years (of cos, those who said so kena OSA, ISA n called various names n asked 2 vamoose)
    Now World Bank said so, OK 1 what, so funny lor

    Dis whole thingy abt standards jatuh also reflects VERY BADLY abt d abuse of NEP
    Rakyat support NEP 2 help economically n socially disadvantaged Malays n Bumis 2 improve themselves, esp through education
    Got quota 4 them in public univs n scholarships 4 them 2 study locally n overseas

    Many obtained basic and higher degrees incl PhD, benefitted fr NEP
    They r then no longer disadvantged economically n socially, they r well educated, well paid, well fed, n hv big houses, expensive foreign cars, n even fanciful titles
    They r certainly on par with, if not better than, many fellow rakyat

    BUT Y is it dat many of these products of NEP still need or demand SPECIAL RIGHTS in their work places 2 get appointed 2 high positions n 2 get promoted fast WITHOUT proper experience n relevant qualifications?

    Y can’t they, with their no-longer disadvantaged status, compete fairly with others?

    Y must all VC n most DVC posts in our public univs b reserved 4 Malays/Bumis, many without d proper academic experience n vision?

  10. #10 by dagen on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 8:29 am

    The finding is flawed. Obviously. 40yrs ago I walked 3km to school. Today I progressed to taking the lrt. But look ppl. Look at umnoputras. They drive ferraris and go yachting in style. Their children attend residential schools and international schools and they ride horses and play polo. Their wives are adorned with ferragamo handbags and imported jacob & co jewelleries. Umnoputras certainly has progressed far. They are no different from the super rich and famous in the united states.

  11. #11 by monsterball on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 8:30 am

    Talents we have plenty from the minorities.
    Replace all the deadwood lecturers and chancellors…admit only students most qualified instead of quota system……most U will become Chinese and Indians Universities.
    The race and religion politics is evil.

  12. #12 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 9:11 am

    “First, catch your faculty.”
    2 dis, all public Us will loudly n proudly reply: YES, we hv d SLAB (Skim Latihan Akademik Bumiputra) 2 catch our faculty, good what

  13. #13 by sadmalaysian on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 9:22 am

    The ethno-religious focus in Malaysian higher education is sickening. Many people have no idea how anti-west Muslim academics are in our universities. USM, the so-called APEX university, has been obssesed with the programme of decolonisation. The former vice-chancellor, who stepped down a few weeks ago, had no interest in improving USM’s international rankings at all. His decolonisation programme promoted substandard research, such as the strange claim that western philosophy, science, history are corrupted by post-crusade Christian theology. Some Chinese and Indian academics there are very ashamed of being associated with this university, which is fast becoming a laughing stock.

  14. #14 by sadmalaysian on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 9:26 am

    USM is obsessed with the so-called decolonisation programme. C. K. Raju, a visiting professor at USM, has been claiming that western history of maths and science is full of myths and lies propagated to prop up the Roman Catholic Church (see, e.g. http://www.thesundaily.my/news/65758 ). Many Muslims in our university admire him for allegedly exposing the rampant plagiarism of western science from Indian and Islamic scholars, but some non-Muslims who attended his talks found his claims unsubstantiated. The following is my brief response. If they define ‘decolonisation’ in such a way as to preclude acceptance of other people’s ideas, there is no reason to accept their decolonisation agenda. If they don’t define it in such a way, what’s wrong with accepting western claims so long as we have critically evaluated them? If they claim that the main issue is to recognise the lies and plagiarism of western science, then my response is ‘show me some credible evidence’. The former vice-chancellor, who stepped down a few weeks ago, is a big fan of decolonisation and has used this as an excuse not to give attention to the improvement of USM in established international rankings.

  15. #15 by sadmalaysian on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 9:28 am

    A response to Zainon Ahmad:

    ‘Stop explaining away incompetency

    Posted on 18 July 2011 – 05:04am

    I REFER to “Decolonisation of universities begins with us” (News without borders, July 1). The article is surprising in that it is reporting an international proceedings at a Malaysian university. It is cause for alarm if our universities think that such processes can bring them forward…’

  16. #16 by k1980 on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 10:20 am

    I view with great amusement the antics of parents pleaing for thecontinuation of PPSMI next year.

    Amusement because these parents just do not seem to get the whole idea behind umno’s abolishment of the PPSMI after its launch only 6 years ago.

    Umno stopped the PPSMI because the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English has created an uneven playing field between those students (mostly urbanites) who have increased their English proficiency and those (in the rural areas) who academic performance in the 2 subjcts deteriorated because of their poor command of English.

    Umno rightly fears taht this deficiency will lead to mass unemployment among the rural grads when competing with their urban counterparts when seeking jobs.

    So goodbye and good riddance to PPSMI.

  17. #17 by cseng on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 12:51 pm

    It is a systemic problem, a culture, a mentality that roots too deeply in our society. It impacts all segments, not only University.

    It all started with the “Ketuanan” and “protectionism” policies. Suppose-to-be a short term privileges ended into a long term curse. Suppose-to-be a way to develop the nation, ended the way digressing the nation. It over-run its time, run over its objectives. Those suppose to be helped, become weak and helpless. Its noble cause, turned into tool for abuses. All because of few greedy elites and many fool voters.

  18. #18 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 1:28 pm

    Even if you are from Malaya University, but if you cannot work well and you are there just because you carry the name of MU, what’s the point ? You are also as louzy as others and others are as good as the good ones from MU. One feature of a developed country is research. Students doing a lot of research in the university. Rather than being sponges. Supposing if you fill Malaya University with Chineses, what will happen ? Let’s say they make the university ranking goes up because their marks go up. Upon graduation, what prospects await a MU graduate ? Very good prospects ? Or you too will have to go out into the world which means it does not matter if you are from Malaya University or any other university. Does it really matter if you from the prestigious, exclusive, top notched Malaya University, that is if she still possesses all those ? Or how you live your life is the more important of all ?

  19. #19 by megaman on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 2:43 pm

    country for good malaysian :
    Who to blame if not the rakyat?

    So very true.

    It was the rakyat that voted in the current government.

    It was the rakyat that was silent when the wrong policies where implemented by the current government.

    It was the rakyat that continued to send their children to the same universities every year despite the deteriorating quality.

    It is also the rakyat that do not have the courage to face up to reality and change.

    So when the rakyat got screwed, what right does the rakyat have to complain ?

    Anybody expect Somebody to fix it but Nobody did anything therefore Everybody suffers.

  20. #20 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 3:14 pm

    kuota itu kuota ini
    bangsa mereka bangsa kita
    akibat kuota malunya diri
    apalah nak jadi negara kita

  21. #21 by Loh on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 4:52 pm

    The world Bank is twenty years too late to find out the truth. It should have seen this coming soon after NEP was introduced.

  22. #22 by negarawan on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 - 7:01 pm

    UMNO has turned our local universities to what they are today – mediocre but with “jaguh kampung” attitude among its academics. Some of the UMNO-inspired research thesis in local universities:

    – The manipulation of bedroom videos to resemble opposition politicians
    – The application and optimization of C4 explosives to destroy human evidence
    – The physiology of delayed human defecation in a male adult
    – An automated immigration data conversion and migration of foreign workers in Malaysia into NRD as blue ic holders.
    – Blue ocean strategy of increasing national debt to enrich UMNO cronies
    – The mineral and optical properties of a RM24mil diamond ring and its effect on obese women
    – The diffusion rate of tear gas in confined spaces projected at a low angle
    – and the list goes on……..

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