Lame excuses for opting out of varsity rankings


October , 2014

Lame excuses for opting out of varsity rankings

by Dr. Kua Kia Soong@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

TimesHigherEducation300The reasons cited by Malaysian universities for not participating in the Times Higher Education Supplement’s Top 400 World University Rankings (THES) are suspect and unbecoming of a country that has launched its visionary Education Blueprint. In the words of the Prime Minister:

“Education is a major contributor to the development of our social and economic capital. It inspires creativity and fosters innovation; provides our youth with the necessary skills to be able to compete in the modern labour market; and is a key driver of growth in the economy. And as this Government puts in place measures under the New Economic Model, Economic Transformation Plan and Government Transformation Plan to place Malaysia firmly on the path to development, we must ensure that our education system continues to progress in tandem. By doing so, our country will continue to keep pace in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

In the THES World University Rankings 2012-2013, not a single Malaysian university was included in its Top 400 list for the second consecutive year.

For local universities to cite a lack of funds as the cause for this demise is rather lame when education expenditure in recent decades has been prodigious. The Malaysian Government has sustained high levels of investment in education over the 55 years since Independence, and according to the Education Blueprint:

“As early as 1980, the Malaysian federal government’s spending on primary and secondary education, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was the highest in East Asia. In 2011, the amount spent, at 3.8% of GDP or 16% of total government spending, was not only higher than the OECD average of 3.4% of GDP and 8.7% of total public spending respectively, but also at par with or more than top-performing systems like Singapore, Japan, and South Korea (Exhibit 1). In 2012, with an education budget of RM37 billion, the Government has continued to devote the largest proportion of its budget, 16% to the Ministry. This demonstrates the very real commitment the Government has to education as a national priority.”

National Education BlueprintIn last year’s budget speech, the Prime Minister said the government would ensure that the implementation of the National Education Blueprint achieves the objective of placing Malaysia in the top one-third category of the world’s best education within a span of 15 years.

As a result, the education sector received the biggest allocation out of all the other sectors with RM54.6 billion or 21 per cent provided in Budget 2014 in an effort to enhance educational excellence.

The Prime Minister said the government would focus on strengthening public and private higher learning institutions towards producing quality graduates who met the demands of the job market.

He said RM600 million would be provided in research grants to public institutions of higher learning in the quest to improve the status of research universities by increasing research and the number of articles for publications in international journals.

Malaysia’s McKinsey-commissioned Education Blueprint liberally cites international student assessments, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), as a means of directly comparing the quality of educational outcomes across different systems.

Likewise, at the tertiary level of education, the THES is a gauge of academic excellence that compares the performance of universities across the globe in research, teaching and quality of education in their campuses.

For UM to claim that it is “not yet in a strong enough financial position to compete with richer, older and better-ranked universities” is disingenuous when we bear in mind that UM and NUS both come from the same pedigree. (NUS is among the world’s top 20.) They started as one university in 1949.

Politicians and academicians alike would do well to read Hena Mukherjee & Poh Kam Wong’s excellent paper on “NUS/UM: Common Roots, Different Paths” (2014 Centre for Human Resources Development, Vietnam) to draw lessons from the experiences of the two universities: their missions post-independence; the thrust of the secondary school system in preparing students for tertiary education; their strategies for institutional management, nurturing of undergraduate and postgraduate students, and academic staffing; policies regarding internationalisation of students and faculty; and their inter-connections with global advances.

The history of UM demonstrates that politics and national-level policies can severely constrain the institutional development of a public university. This can have significant long-term consequences in terms of limiting its capacity and culture to pursue academic excellence and ability to compete internationally.

The victimising of academics and students for merely commenting on national issues such as the controversial Sedition Act shows that the authorities also need to win the hearts and minds of the major stakeholders, viz. lecturers and students in order to inculcate a new vibrant culture on campus.

Student leaders would be unwise to support the move to opt out of the THES ranking since there is no valid reason for any university in the world to pursue excellence at the expense of quality of education and a culture of academic and student autonomy. Participation in varsity rankings is intended to drive academic institutions towards improved quality rather than, as has been suggested, as a mechanism that degrades the quality of education and campus culture for students.

Malaysian universities would do well to sustain efforts that use world rankings as a benchmark and source of motivation for progress. The government should stop using “transformation” merely as a buzz word but inspire our local universities to match a new vision and new targets. Doesn’t transformation suggest an ante- and post-facto comparison?

As with the other national targets, it is ultimately one that requires the political will to stay the course over the long term. And to stay the course, our universities need an objective gauge to compare academic excellence and the quality of educational outcomes across different systems. Thus, dropping out of the THES varsity ranking is simply not an option.

Kua Kia Soong is an adviser to SUARAM

A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu: Part III


A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu

Last of Three Parts:  Leveraging Residential Schools

by Dr.M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

bakri-musaIn Parts One and Two I suggested that we should focus on enhancing Malay competitiveness and productivity instead of forever begrudging the success of non-Malays or bemoaning the presumed deficiencies of our race and culture. We should begin with our young, the best of them, those at our residential schools. Have high expectations of them, put them through a demanding program, and expose them to rigorous competition.]

The key to any high performing school is the teachers. Both Korean schools (Daewon and Minjuk mentioned earlier) actively sought graduates of top universities to be on their staff. Such highly qualified teachers inspire their students. And when it comes to writing letters of recommendations, those teachers carry much weight, especially when students apply to their teacher’s alma mater.

You do not need and it is impossible for all your teachers to have sterling credentials, only that there should be a critical number of them to set the tone and change the culture. Besides, there are many excellent teachers who are graduates of lesser universities.

mckkThe Malay College Kuala Kangsar, Perak

Look back at MCKK of yore, with Oxbridge and London University graduates on its staff. At KYUEM, a local college prep school with exemplary record of student achievements, most of its teachers are local but there are sufficient graduates of top universities, including the headmaster, to set the pace and establish a high academic ambience.

On another level, it would be difficult for a local graduate to understand the intricacies and nuances of applying to top foreign universities, or the challenges of attending one.

With the present pay scheme there is little hope to recruit such top graduates. This is where the private sector could help by sponsoring highly educated foreign teachers. Petronas sponsors Formula One and the KL Philharmonic. Why not economics teachers for MCKK? Such “endowed” appointments are very common at American schools and colleges. If MCKK were to charge wealthy parents it could also hire its own foreign teachers.

You do not have to pay as high a salary as in Singapore or South Korea as Malaysia has much cheaper living expenses. Thailand has no difficulty getting excellent expatriate teachers at US$30-40K per annum.

For every three students we send abroad, we could recruit two American teachers and benefit many more students at home. In terms of actual loss of foreign exchange, it is far cheaper to recruit one American teacher than to send a student abroad as that teacher’s salary would be spent locally with the attendant multiplier effect, while the entire student’s scholarship money is expended abroad.

Such highly-paid foreigners would not generate resentment from their local colleagues. Local teachers at KYUEM are paid less than their expatriate colleagues yet they do not resent the preferential treatment. Of course if you do get a Malaysian who is a graduate of a top university and is an excellent teacher, then he or she too should be paid as well as the foreigner. There should be differential pay based on the quality of the teacher, not citizenship.

Apart from recruiting from abroad, there are Malaysians who are graduates of top universities whom, given the augmented pay, SBPs could employ as teachers, or at least tap as mentors.

Policy Makers and Executors

Stable, competent, committed, and inspiring leadership; those are the essential ingredients to a successful organization, more so a school. The headship of SBP should be a terminal appointment. There should be nothing else after that except retirement and glowing in the reflected glory of your students’ success. The appointment should never be a stepping stone for someone on his way to be Undersecretary for Procurement at the Ministry.

The headmaster should also serve for a sufficient term. As Howell noted, “No headmaster can leave his mark on a school and have a lasting influence on its development in under five or six years.” He or she must also be a graduate of a respectable university, again to set the tone. He need not have an advanced degree. Given the choice, all things being equal, I prefer someone with a good bachelor’s degree over a candidate with a higher degree but from a less stellar institution.<

Like great individuals, little is known about nurturing great institutions. One thing is certain however. Like individuals, if institutions are held under tight control and not given the freedom to grow, they will quickly become sclerotic and unresponsive. The job of policymakers is to select capable individuals to helm these schools. Once that is done, they should be given the leeway to carry out their mission without micromanagement from the ministry.

This means SBPs must have full autonomy–academic, administrative, and financial. They hire and fire the teachers. The ministry’s lever should be at the macro level, as with selecting the board of governors and through funding.

SBP’s measure of success should only be this:  number of their students ending up at top universities. All other measures, except where they contribute to this singular goal, are irrelevant. At Speech Day the headmaster should be announcing which top universities his or her graduating students would be attending, just like the graduation exercises at top American prep schools.

The policy does not end with these students being accepted to top colleges. They must also be assured of a scholarship and then be given the freedom to choose whatever field of study. If they are smart enough to be admitted to those top institutions, then they are smart enough to plan their future wisely, certainly better than those folks at JPA, MARA, or Khazanah.

It pains me to see bright young Malays pursue a course of study for which they have minimal passion because that is the scholarship they were being awarded, based on supposed “national interest.”

Providing scholarships for matriculation (sixth form) is misplaced. I would wait after the students have been accepted to a top university. That would free them to choose whatever route (matrikulasi, twinning programs, Sixth Form, IB, or A level) that best suits them. Meanwhile use those funds to support IB and “A” level programs at SBPs to benefit many more students.

After they have graduated, do not tie their hands with rigid rules like having to return immediately or work for a specific entity. Grant them some freedom. If they are offered graduate work or a job abroad, let them. Do not stand in the way of their pursuing their aspirations.

The only stipulation is that they should serve the nation in whatever capacity they see fit for a specified period during the first decade after their graduation. Only when they fail to do so would they have to reimburse their sponsor.<

GLC and Private Sector Participation

Khazanah through its subsidiary already has a successful model–KYUEM. It prepares students for “A” level. That is more productive in developing quality human capital than the route Petronas and Tenaga chose in setting up their own universities, which are nothing more that puffed-up technical colleges. Khazanah is also involved in joint ventures with the government through the “smart school” programs.

There are other ways for private sector involvement. One is the current system of letting anyone set up a private college and charge whatever the market will bear. That would benefit only the few wealthy Malays.

An alternate route would be for Khazanah to pursue its own path a la Singapore’s Raffles Education Group. Freed from governmental strictures, Khazanah could lead the way with its string of prep schools modeled after KYUEM. Without the residential component, the cost would be considerably less. Then it could proceed to a university, modeled not after local ones but the likes of the American University in Beirut or the Aga Khan University in Pakistan.

Education is as valid a sector for private investment as tourism or health. It is doubly profitable, enhancing both human and financial capitals. It would certainly be more productive than pouring money into a floundering airline.

It is time for Malays to discard the old destructive narrative of the “lazy native” imposed upon us by the colonialists and slavishly perpetuated by our intellectually-indolent “nationalists.” When the colonialists concocted that narrative, they benefited from it. It was their rationale for bringing in hordes of foreign indentured labor. When our latter-day Hang Tuahs aped that, they only made a monkey out of themselves. What benefit do they derive by denigrating our culture and nature?

4th PM of MalaysiaWe need a modern relevant narrative, grounded in solid social science. Our problems stem from our being not competitive and productive. Fix that and we solve our problem. Bend our rebong now and a generation hence our bamboo groves would be more to our liking. By then we could not care less whether the likes of Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali and Tun Mahathir would eat their words. They and their myths would have long been forgotten.

Stanford University, Palo AltoStanford University, Palo Alto, California

As for me, Insha’ Allah (God willing) I look forward to one day meeting many young Malays at San Francisco Airport on their way to Stanford and Berkeley. That woulbe the sublime and truest expression of Ketuanan Melayu.

David Cameron’s Speech at Conservative Party Convention


October 6, 2014

David Cameron’s Speech at Conservative Party Convention: Securing a Better Future

Listen to this superb speech from Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain to his party. Listen also to George Osborne and William Hague. I wonder what our Prime Minister will say to his party members at the next UMNO General Assembly.–Din Merican

David Cameron

George Osborne

William Hague

Remembering our History


October 5, 2014

Remembering our History

by Tan Siok Choo@www.thesundaily.com

RECENTLY, a former judge said only the Malays sacrificed their lives to fight the communists and this was the reason why “those who demanded independence were the Malays”.He claimed the Malays fought for independence to free the country while the non-Malays did it to safeguard their interests after independence.

Tunku A Rahman and his early team

Collectively, these statements reflect the former judge’s ignorance – whether wilful or inadvertent – about the then Malaya’s struggle for independence and the sacrifices all communities made during the Emergency.He has also overlooked one incontestable fact – the British agreed to grant independence ONLY if the Malays, Chinese and Indians showed they could work together.

That the Malays demanded independence isn’t disputed. Equally, indisputable, some Chinese and Indian leaders fought for independence – not because of vested interests – but because they didn’t want to live under a colonial regime. One such individual is my grandfather, the late Tun Tan Cheng Lock.

As early as 1926, Cheng Lock said “our ultimate political goal should be a united self-governing British Malaya.” He also called for “fostering and creating a true Malayan spirit and consciousness among its people to the complete elimination of racial and communal feeling.”

Critics may argue Cheng Lock’s proposal was for self-government, not independence. While this point is conceded, Cheng Lock’s objective was far-sighted. In 1926, individuals living in this country thought of themselves as Malays, Chinese, and Indians rather than as Malayans.

Working towards self-government, nurturing a Malayan consciousness and eradicating racial sentiment – these were essential way stations on the road to independence.

In his inaugural speech at the Malayan (now Malaysian) Chinese Association (MCA) – an institution he founded in February 1949 – Cheng Lock said “One of the basic aims of the MCA is to help, in cooperation with the Malays and other communities, the development of the process of making the whole of Malaya one country, one people and one government.”

After my grandfather passed away on December 13, 1960, in his condolence speech in Parliament, Tunku Abdul Rahman said: “If not for the great support and contributions rendered by the late Tun Tan Cheng Lock, I must admit that the struggle for independence for Malaya would not have succeeded.”

Tun Tan Cheng Lock

Furthermore, the retired judge also overlooked one fact about the Emergency: on April 10, 1949, the communists threw a hand grenade at Cheng Lock in Ipoh. Although his shoulder was pierced by shrapnel, he survived this attempted assassination.

Given the retired judge’s worrying ignorance about this country’s two significant events, the Education Ministry’s decision, implemented last year, to make history a must-pass subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination is, theoretically, a very welcome initiative. Equally noteworthy, effective this year, history will be part of the core curriculum for primary school students.

Whether these two policies will succeed in nurturing Malaysia-centric students will depend on how history is taught. If the emphasis is on memorising a long list of dates and events, this will prevent students from appreciating other ethnic communities’ contribution towards the making of Malaya and later Malaysia.

Also crucial is whether students will also be taught the 20th century and 21st century history of ASEAN countries as well as that of China, India, Japan, North Korea and South Korea.

History is the study of individuals, societies and countries and their actions throughout the centuries. Without this knowledge, it will be difficult to foster a better understanding between Malaysians and all those living in other ASEAN and Asian countries.

Because the causes of conflict and the reasons for a country’s ascension to greatness or for their decline have remained unchanged for millennia, knowledge of the past is useful in planning for the future. Students should also be encouraged to visit museums like the Memorial Kemerdekaan in Malacca.

While its conception is excellent, it is a pity the Memorial Kemerdekaan provides little information about the active involvement in the independence struggle of leaders like Cheng Lock and Tun V.T. Sambanthan. Previously, the memorial showcased my grandfather’s handwritten speeches. Today, for some inexplicable reason, this is no longer on display.

Arkib Negara Malaysia plans to build in Kuala Lumpur a Memorial Negarawan to highlight the contributions of leaders like Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, Cheng Lock, Sambathan, Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, Tun Mohd Fuad Stephens and Tun Temenggong Jugah Anak Barieng.

Although I congratulate Arkib Negara for this commendable initiative, I have three concerns.First, will Memorial Negarawan be built on an open tender basis? Second, will sufficient funds be allocated each year for its maintenance? Third, will it become a building that few care to visit – like Tunku’s former house, the Residency?

George Santayana said: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is something individuals like the retired judge should note.

Opinions expressed in this article are the personal views of the writer and should not be attributed to any organisation she is connected with. She can be contacted at siokchoo@thesundaily.com

 

A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu, Part 2


September 29, 2014

A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu

Part 2: Molding our Students

by Dr. M.Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

 bakri-musa[In Part One I suggested that our current obsession with the presumed deficiencies of our race and our undisguised resentment over the successes of others are but expressions of frus (frustration) and fury for our own lack of competitiveness and productivity. We should focus instead on remedying both, and begin with our young, especially those promising ones at our SBPs.]

It may seem obvious but needs to be stated explicitly: We must prepare these students for top universities the moment they step foot at a SBP. That’s how they do it elsewhere. American students aspiring to top universities begin their preparation upon entering high school, or even earlier. The courses they take, their extra-curricular programs as well as their summer activities are all geared towards this central mission.

My grandchildren who are in an American school in Singapore have assigned reading lists for the summer, and they are still in primary school! Likewise, SBP students must have mandatory reading lists and writing assignments during their long holidays. The purpose is two-fold. One is to prevent attrition of knowledge and study skills during the long hiatus, and the other, to inculcate the habit of reading and writing. It impresses upon them that those skills are not just for examinations.

Once when I took my family on an overseas trip, my son’s teacher asked him to keep a journal to be shared with his class while my daughter was assigned to study a Malay folk tale. In high school my son was invited to spend his summer break at Ames Research Center.

I speak with some experience. When my daughter entered Harvard Law School over 15 years ago, she was the first Malaysian to enroll there. There has not been another since. One of my sons works for an agency that prepares students for selective universities.

We should prepare all SBP students for recognized matriculation examinations like IB, American AP, or British “A” level, and start them from day one. Consequently it would serve no purpose for them to sit for SRP and SPM. Those tests have little predictive value anyway; their philosophy and assumptions are also very different.

Since these students have limited English proficiency coming as they are from the national stream, why not have their first year at SBP be full English-immersion akin to the Special Malay or “Remove” Classes of yore? Better yet, make all SBPs English-medium. That however, is no panacea. MARA already has a few English-medium SBPs but their students’ achievements remain disappointing. We need to do more.

I envisage admitting the students in the middle of their Form II instead of Form I, as at present, based on their SRP scores as well as their Form I and first term of Form II performances. By the time they sit for their IB or “A” level five years later, their cohorts in the regular school would be in the middle of their Upper Six.

Their college counseling should start right away, as with preparing for their PSAT and SAT. There must be adequate resources and personnel to guide these students in their college choices, but more on that later.

 Daewon’s and Minjuk’s excellent results were skewed because their students were children of diplomats, expatriates, and others who had been educated in the West. The South Korean government has since changed the rule to make those schools liberalize their admissions. For SBPs I suggest that they reserve half their slots for those who would be the first in their family to enter university and those from the kampongs.

No matter how stringent the selection process, inevitably there will a few who would not thrive in the residential school environment. While every attempt should be made to help them, but if they do not measure up, then they should be returned to regular schools. They are not failures rather they are better suited for day school.

Korean Schools

Three features of the Korean schools are worth emulating. First is the mentoring system where first-year students are paired with a senior. Second, those students are constantly exposed to successful role models, fellow Koreans as well as non-Koreans who are graduates of top universities. Those students get first-hand perspectives beyond what could be gleaned from the college brochures. Likewise, our SBPs should invite Malaysians who are graduates of top universities to give talks to and inspire these students.

The third striking feature is that the students’ time is structured during their entire waking hours. They are always involved in something, if not with their classes and class assignments then debates, sports, music, and a myriad of extra-curricular activities. When students are occupied, they are less likely to get into trouble.

MCKK (The Malay College Kuala Kangsar) obtained excellent results during the time of Principal Howell when he instituted daily afternoon “preps” in addition to the evening ones. When you have high expectations and demand more from your students, they respond. The converse is even more consequential. If you have low expectations or reward those who do not strive, as with sending them to third-rate universities abroad, then you are imparting the wrong message. That would be akin to membajakan (adding fertilizer) lallang. Even without the extra help, those weeds would snuff out the lengkuas. In a rentier economy, we are busy fertilizing our lallang.

MARA is membajakan lallang by sending hundreds of its students to third-rate universities abroad. The money could be better spent to strengthen its matriculation programs and SBPs at home. MARA should adopt tougher standards and send only those who have been accepted to top universities. Currently it sends students abroad even for sixth form. It is cheaper and far more effective to prepare those students in Malaysia. MARA’s current policy only perpetuates this culture of mediocrity.

 
Next Week: Last of Three Parts: Leveraging Residential Schools

Have High Expectations Of Our Young, says Bakri Musa


September 22, 2014

A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu

First of Three Parts: Have High Expectations Of Our Young

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Hardly a day goes by without those self-proclaimed champions of Malay race and defenders of Malay rights frothing at the mouth demanding that they (non-Malays) do this or that so we Malays could be the unquestioned Tuans (masters) of Tanah Melayu.

Dr.MahathirWhen these Hang Tuah wannabes are not consumed with their theatrics of brandishing their ketchup-soaked kerises, they are obsessed with denigrating our culture and national character. To them we are lazy, dishonest, and know no shame.

Strip the rhetoric and those expressions of frus (“Manglish” for frustration) and fury are understandable if not predictable. We are frustrated because with the billions spent on us and the ever-generous special privileges heaped upon us, we still lag behind the others. We are furious because despite not being mollycoddled by the government, they thrive.

We are so angry that we cannot even pause to ponder perhaps they prosper precisely because the government leaves them alone and does not direct their lives, or that the massive “help” we get is anything but that. There is an art in helping. Done right and you open the door to the world for those you help; done wrong and you have a dependent invalid.

Our futile and unenlightened reactions do not solve our dilemma; they hinder by hiding the glaring reality and fundamental issue: Malays are not competitive or productive.

Malaysia cannot be stable much less thrive if a sizable and readily identifiable segment of its population (more so if they consider themselves “special” or “princes and princesses of the soil”) is marginalized through lack of competitiveness or productivity. Then all Malaysians would suffer. If Malays are competitive, then Malaysia would be too.

At the individual level, if Malays are competitive then we would be Tuans even if we are not in Tanah Melayu. I can attest to that.

Because we are not productive, our hard work does not generate commensurate returns.That disheartens us. To aggravate matters, those whom we deem “successful” get there not through their own effort but connections, corruption, and other classic manifestations of a rentier economy. That discourages us even more; worse, it encourages us to emulate them, meaning, do anything but an honest day’s job.

Our laziness and dishonesty are the result and not the cause of our lack of competitiveness and productivity. Our newly-acquired value system where honest hard work is denigrated only aggravates matters. Once we acknowledge that we are not competitive or productive, and appreciate the various contributing factors, then we can begin crafting effective remedies. That demands hard work and much thought, with little time left to shout or be angry.

Enhancing our competitiveness and productivity would enable us to contribute to rather than depend on the state. Apart from benefiting the economy, that would also dignify our values and culture, quite apart from reducing our envy for the achievements of others. We would also be less likely to be swayed by the demagogues amongst us.

It is too late and would do little good to focus on the old, rigid, or senile. Besides, they are the not the future of our race or country. Likewise the Mat Rempits; their die is already cast. As per our ancient wisdom, melentur buloh biarlah dari rebung nya (if you wish to bend bamboos, begin with the shoots). Not just any sapling but those promising ones, the ones at our Sekolah Berasrama Penuh (SBP, fully residential schools).

How good a job are we doing at shaping those vigorous saplings? SBPs get the top students, best teachers, and more than their fair share of resources. However, visit the top universities and the Malaysians there are from other than our supposedly elite SBPs. This sorry state should alarm those champions of Ketuanan Melayu.

Consider the oldest SBP, Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK). It only recently started its InternationalHisham_Keris Baccalaureate (IB) program. Prior to that the school, like most SBPs, was but a glorified middle school; its students had to go elsewhere to matriculate. Despite the luminaries on its board (with Raja Muda of Perak, now Sultan, chairing it), MCKK took over a decade to implement its IB program. Imagine the pace at lesser institutions! MCKK’s female counterpart, Tunku Kurshiah College, remains an expensive middle school.

IB is a rigorous academic program, and recognized as such worldwide. Despite or perhaps because of that, few of MCKK students enroll in the program. That speaks volumes of them, and their perception of the school after spending five years there.

It may surprise many but the two schools that regularly send the most students to elite universities are not in Britain or America but South Korea (Daewon, established in 1984; and Minjok, 1997). Both may be new and in a non-English speaking country, with their students non-native English speakers to boot, but they bested the Etons and Exeters.

It is a sad commentary that in over a century MCKK managed to send only a very few to the Ivy League, fewer than peas in a pod. If Malaysia aspires to have a Nobel laureate by 2020, as expressed often by many, then may I suggest that it first try a less lofty goal, as with sending a student or two to Harvard or Yale? This should be SBP’s yardstick. There is no point in having these expensive SBPs if their students were to end up at UiTM, Creekville State U, or the University of Ulu Britain.

Our SBPs do not lack for potential Ivy League candidates. Fulfilling their aspirations would require strong effort not just from them but also the entire community, from teachers and governing boards to parents and policy makers. Failure to do that would provide potential recruits for future Mat Rempits and latter-day Hang Tuahs.

SBP students must and should end up at top universities. There must be acceptance of and striving towards this singular goal. The scarce and expensive resources of SBPs should not be expended on those with lesser expectations. If the students do not share such high aspirations, then they should not be at a SBP. The students at Minjok and Daewon are very much aware of this high expectation when they apply for admission.

There should not be any equivocation, or the adding of extraneous fuzzy themes like loyalty to “bangsa, bahasa, agama, negara.” Those are nebulous and not readily measurable anyway. The cause of our bangsa, bahasa, negara, agama is best served with these students attending elite institutions.

By “elite” I mean the top dozen in Britain, the half a dozen in Australasia and Canada, and a hundred or so in the US (University of California level and above). You do not need expensive SBPs to prepare for the rest.

Mahathir and his wardsSBPs are expensive, so we must explore innovations to reduce the cost so many more could benefit. These include dispensing with the boarding component, inviting private sector participation, and making those who could afford pay their way.

Take the last item. To non-Malays, the billions spent on SBPs are for Malays; there is no denying that. However, visit any SBP on weekends; the parking lots and beyond are filled with expensive late-model cars of wealthy parents.

If I had been spared my children’s educational expenses I could have a new Lamborghini and more every year. If those rich Malay parents had been made to pay the full freight, they would not send their children to SBPs, thus opening more slots for deserving poor kampong kids. That would truly be helping Malays.

When I went to Malay College in the early 1960s, there was a quantum leap in my living standards. I studied under the cool comfort of the fluorescent lamp instead of the searing heat of a kerosene one, and enjoyed piped water instead of having to haul it from a well. I was also spared endless hours waiting for the erratic village school bus. For my sons and grandsons however, sending them to Malay College would be a significant downgrade. Besides, that would deprive other young Bakris now in the kampongs of their opportunity.

Contrary to popular perception, making SBP free does not “help” Malays. Far from it! As well-to-do parents do not factor in the costs of their children’s education, they do not save. In the aggregate that contributes to the declining savings rate; and with that, capital formation that is so essential to economic growth. Worse, we corrupt the values and mindset of those wealthy Malays, turning them into welfare recipients. They in turn transmit those values to their children; the subsidy mentality and culture of dependency ingrained for generations. That is the most destructive part.

Next Week – Second of Three Parts: Molding Our Students