The Malaysian National Higher Education Blueprint: Stopping the Rot ?


July 8, 2015

The National Higher Education Strategic Plan 2 : Malaysia’s global reach : a new dimension

Abdullah, Nur Anisah and Abdul Rahman, Shukran (2011) The National HIgher Education Strategic Plan 2 : Malaysia’s global reach : a new dimension. Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. ISBN 9789833663927
[img] PDF ( The National HIgher Education Strategic Plan 2020 ) – Published Version
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Abstract

Phase II of the National Higher Education Strategic Plan to continue tis agenda to strengthen its foundation and effectively strategize to ensure the successful implementation of planned agenda. PSPTN II Malaysia’s Global Reaach: A New Dimension is an additional policy document to PSPTN Phase II (2011-2015) aims to explore the global engagement reach through specific strategy, that is the use of soft power.

Item Type: Book
Uncontrolled Keywords: Higher education, strategic plan, Malaysia
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Kulliyyahs/Centres/Divisions/Institutes: Kulliyyah of Economics and Management Sciences > Department of Business Administration
Depositing User: Dr Nur Anisah Abdullah
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2013 17:38
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2013 17:39
URI: http://irep.iium.edu.my/id/eprint/6854

The Malaysian National Higher Education Blueprint: Stopping the Rot ?

by  Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Some months earlier when asked about the state of higher education in the country, I had used black humour to emphasize the point that one of the main causes was our “constipated academics” who should be the first to raise the red flag on the many problems besetting the sector, in particular that of low standards of teaching and research, but who have failed to do so.

“They cannot or will not get it out” was my explanation. Perhaps I was too unkind as the National Education Blueprint is now finally out. This report is the outcome of several years of work apparently involving over 8,000 to 10,000 people.

Among those intimately engaged in the Blueprint were over 90 Higher Learning Institutions (HLI) chairmen, vice-chancellors, and chief executives; 450 HLI staff; more than 25 members of national education councils and over 50 senior “thought” leaders and professors.

National_Higher_Education.pdf

So what has this eminent body of higher education professionals come up with? Has there been an honest and critical appraisal of the state of our higher education with realistic strategies and reforms put in place to rectify the problems? Or are our academicians caught in a web of denial and setting up false hopes and unachievable targets, thus setting the stage for a massive let-down.

Here’s a reminder of some of the major problems in our universities today. They include:

– the low standard in English language proficiency.

– the deficiency in thinking and problem solving skills.

– mindsets and value systems that are closed and are not exposed to challenge or high standards, and unable to cope with diversity.

– poor communication skills; and low mastery of rigorous discipline and socially relevant or market-driven knowledge.

These problems are found in both public and private sector higher learning institutions.

The Ministry of Education’s data show that 27% of private university graduates cannot find employment after graduation with a lower figure for public sector graduates.

Unemployment for private university graduates is higher than for public universities where the unemployment rate is 25%. By comparison nationally unemployment is around 3%.

Also when employed, the return on both private and public investment is low as shown by the finding in the Blueprint that 45% of all graduates in employment earn salaries of less than RM1,500 per month.

External validation of the dismal state of our higher education comes from a number of international ranking systems of universities. For example, the Universitas 21 Report ranks higher education in 50 countries across four categories: resources, environment, connectivity, and output.

Despite the country’s significant investments in higher education – we ranked 12 out of 50 in terms of resources invested – we were almost at the bottom of the list in terms of outputs (44 out of 50).

Low academic ranking amongst world universities

 It is not just the products of our universities that are scraping the bottom of the international barrel. The lecturers and researchers are similarly of poor standard.

Almost every year now, various international ranking systems – the QS World University Rankings, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities – find our universities unlisted in the top highly regarded universities – whether in terms of research output, quality of teaching and learning, or with other key indicators of academic excellence.

As an example, no local university made it to the list of 100 top universities in The Times Higher Education University Ranking for the Asian region in 2014.  And the trend overall appears to be going backwards rather than forward.

What makes it doubly distressing is that a disproportionate share of public resources has been deployed to support and maintain a system that is sliding in standard.

According to the Blueprint, the annual total expenditure on higher education is equivalent to 7.7% of annual government expenditure while the ministry’s expenditure on higher education alone is 5.5% of annual government expenditure. This is, according to UNESCO benchmarking, the highest among Malaysia’s peers – developed Asian economies (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Japan), ASEAN neighbours (Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore), and countries with comparable GDP per capita (Chile, Mexico).

Blueprint– Transformation?

The blueprint is touted as the road map for higher educational development for the next ten years, leading to a higher education system that aspires to “rank amongst the world’s leading educational systems and that enables Malaysia to compete in the global economy.”

Brave rhetoric; even braver objectives.The answer to this question will not be known for some time. But in a sector where leadership is in the hands of a craven group in both public and private sector; where the driving force is about saying little, doing less and placing self-interest and personal benefit above all else; where it is impossible to remove the deadwood and non-performing teachers and researchers that populate the universities; and where the policy making and implementing agencies place racial or profit-making concerns uppermost in theirs and the national agenda; the public is right to be seriously skeptical that the Blueprint will have made any difference to our higher education system when we review its outcome several years from now.

Malay Language Nationalists defend Bahasa Malaysia as Medium of Instruction


June 26, 2015

COMMENT: Both GAPENA and Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka have a vested interest to preserve Bahasa Malaysia as the sole medium of instruction in our schools and universities. At least the Dewan has now acknowledged the importance of the English. In doing so, they realize that English is the language of diplomacy and commerce. GEPENA remains adamant.

I do not understand the need to have a law to enforce the use of Bahasa Malaysia and why make English a second language on the  false assumption that by using English, we will make Malaysians less Malaysian and the Malays less Malay. It has again to do with UMNO politics of xenophobia .We want Malaysians with a global mindset and multilingual proficiency to compete and excel in the 2st century world.

Ghazali_Shafie_(crop)I remember in the 60’s (Tun) Ghazalie Shafie, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs saying to my colleagues and I at one of our Friday prayer meetings that as  far as he was concerned English would remain the language of Malaysian diplomacy and in his Ministry we should read, write and speak English. He ,however, insisted that we use Bahasa Malaysia in our official dealings with our counterparts in the civil service and government agencies.

When I joined Bank Negara after leaving the Foreign Ministry in 1965, Governor (Tun) Ismail Tun Ismail Mohd Ali-2nd BNM GovernorMohamed Ali decided that we could use English internally but we had a duty to observe the ruling from the Government to use Bahasa Malaysia as the national language for official communication with the civil service.

Not just that. Governor Ismail set up a Bahasa Malaysia unit to oversea the implementation of  this directive. He did it in compliance with a directive, not  with a language law because he felt it was the right thing. to do. It was also the time when Bank Negara started to issue the Bahasa and English language versions of its Annual Report and Quarterly Economic Report. That tradition has continued to this day. I am proud to say that Bank Negara officers of the present generation are among the most proficient in the use of English and Bahasa Malaysia.

samdech-hun-senLet me say something about the Cambodian approach on the teaching of  Khmer language and English in their schools and universities. Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen is a champion of Khmer Language,  arts,  and culture. When he was growing up, Cambodia was still under France and French was the official language. But he was educated in a Buddhist temple and served as a pagoda boy. He learned to read, write and speak Khmer. There were French schools which catered for the elite.

With the formation of the Royal Government in the early 1990’s, Samdech Hun Sen saw the value of English if Cambodia were to network in ASEAN and engage with the rest of the world. He decided to use English in public schools with Khmer as a medium of instruction. At the same time, he allowed private schools to use English as medium of instruction. and encouraged enterprising Cambodians to set up language schools to teach Mandarin, Korean, Japanese. French and other languages. At university level, courses are taught in  Khmer and English.

UC PresidentAt the University of Cambodia, its President Dr. Kao Kim Hourn(left) made a far sighted decision to offer courses at undergraduate and graduate levels in both languages. At the Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, courses will mainly be in English at the postgraduate level The university’s Language Development Center offers programmes for enhancing English language writing and speaking skills  to all students.

In short, because Cambodia practises multilingualism, parents are given  freedom of choice in their free market driven economy.  By adopting this open education policy, Samdech Hun Sen  who himself speaks Khmer, English and Vietnamese, is encouraging his people to be internationalists, without making them less Cambodian and less patriotic. –Din Merican

Malay Language Nationalists defend Bahasa Malaysia as Medium of Instruction

by Bernama @www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Latiff-Bakar2The Federation of National Writers’ Association (GAPENA) Chief 1, Abdul Latiff Bakar said that the time has come for the government to have a law which could act against agencies, departments and local councils which fail to uphold the national language in their official affairs.

“We have brought this matter up many times, but there has been no development. For now we can only comment but if there is a law, any party which refuses to obey it (upholding the national language) can be punished,” he said.

He also urged the Education Ministry to make it compulsory for the senates of institutes of higher learning to observe the regulation to uphold the national language in their administrations.

“As educational institutes, they have a big responsibility to uphold the Malay language and not just chase rankings,” he said as a panelist at the forum “Challenges of the National Language in the Era of Globalisation” here today.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), Awang Sariyan said that the DBP would conduct a language audit on six public universities in a move to ensure that universities in the country abide by the regulations. He added that the DBP had so far audited 37 of the 149 local councils in the country in a move to award star ratings for councils that used Bahasa Melayu in their official dealings.

“From the audit we conducted, the usage of Bahasa Melayu in official matters including advertisements is still unsatisfactory. However, there are some local councils which we give five stars, including the Shah Alam City Council,” he said in the forum.

He said the ranking was one of the initiatives taken by the government to encourage local councils to uphold Bahasa Melayu.

DBP chairman Dr Md Salleh Yaapar said the education system should retain Bahasa Melayu as its medium of instruction and its usage was not the reason for the weak command of the English language among students.

“We acknowledge the importance of English and are not opposing it…other languages can be used including English, but this is not an excuse for replacing Bahasa Melayu as the medium of instruction in schools,” he said.

Portrait of a Beautiful Mind: George Fitzgerald


June 22, 2015

Portrait of a Beautiful Mind: George Fitzgerald

by J J O’Connor and E F Robertson

George_Francis_FitzGeraldThe function of the University is primarily to teach mankind. .. at all times the greatest men have always held that their primary duty was the discovery of new knowledge, the creation of new ideas for all mankind, and not the instruction of the few who found it convenient to reside in their immediate neighbourhoodGeorge Francis FitzGerald

George Francis FitzGerald was a brilliant mathematical physicist who today is known by most scientists as one of the proposers of the FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction in the theory of relativity. However, this suggestion by FitzGerald, as we shall see below, was not in the area in which he undertook most of his research, and he would certainly not have rated this his greatest contribution.

George FitzGerald’s parents were William FitzGerald and Anne Frances Stoney. His father William was a minister in the Irish Protestant Church and rector of St Ann’s Dublin at the time of George’s birth. William, although having no scientific interests himself, was an intellectual who went on to become Bishop of Cork and later Bishop of Killaloe. It seems that George’s later interest in metaphysics came from his father’s side of the family. George’s mother was the daughter of George Stoney from Birr in King’s County and she was also from an intellectual family. George Johnstone Stoney, who was Anne’s brother, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and George FitzGerald’s liking for mathematics and physics seems to have come mainly from his mother’s side of the family.

William and Anne had three sons, George being the middle of the three. Maurice FitzGerald, one of George’s two brothers, also went on to achieve academic success in the sciences, becoming Professor of Engineering at Queen’s College Belfast. George’s schooling was at home where, together with his brothers and sisters, he was tutored by M A Boole, who was George Boole‘s sister. It is doubtful whether Miss Boole realised what enormous potential her pupil George had, for although he showed himself to be an excellent student of arithmetic and algebra, he was no better than an average pupil at languages and had rather a poor verbal memory. However, when the tutoring progressed to a study of Euclid‘s Elements then George showed himself very able indeed, and he also exhibited a great inventiveness for mechanical constructions, having great dexterity. He was also an athletic boy yet he had no great liking for games.

Miss Boole prepared her pupils very well for their university studies. She noticed one remarkable talent in her pupil George, that was his skill as an observer. Many years later FitzGerald, clearly thinking of his own youth, wrote:-

The cultivation and training of the practical ability to do things and to learn from observation, experiment and measurement, is a part of education which the clergyman and the lawyer can maybe neglect, because they have to deal with emotions and words, but which the doctor and the engineer can only neglect at their own peril and that of those who employ them. These habits should be carefully cultivated from the earliest years while a child’s character is being developed. As the twig is bent so the tree inclines.

FitzGerald certainly showed that he had acquired the ability to learn from observation, experiment and measurement. He entered Trinity College Dublin at the young age of 16 to study his two best subjects which were mathematics and experimental science, and he was soon putting the training he had received at home to good use. At Trinity College, FitzGerald [8]:-

… attained all the distinctions that lay in his path with an ease, and wore them with a grace, that endeared him to his rivals and contemporaries.

It was not an undergraduate career devoted entirely to study, however, for FitzGerald played a full part in literary clubs and social clubs. He also continued his athletic interests, taking to gymnastics and to racquet sports. In 1871 he graduated as the best student in both mathematics and experimental science. He won a University Studentship and two First Senior Moderatorships in his chosen topics.

The aim of FitzGerald was now to win a Trinity College Fellowship but at this time these were few and far between. He was to spend six years studying before he obtained the Fellowship he wanted, but during these years he laid the foundation of his research career. He studied the works of Lagrange, Laplace, Franz Neumann, and those of his own countrymen Hamilton and MacCullagh. In addition he absorbed the theories put forward by Cauchy and Green. Then, in 1873, a publication appeared which would play a major role in his future. This was Electricity and Magnetism by Maxwell which, for the first time, contained the four partial differential equations, now known as Maxwell‘s equations. FitzGerald immediately saw Maxwell‘s work as providing the framework for further development and he began to work on pushing forward the theory.

It is worth noting that FitzGerald’s reaction to Maxwell‘s fundamental paper was not that of most scientists. Very few seemed to see the theory as a starting point, rather most saw it only as a means to produce Maxwell‘s own results. It is a tribute to FitzGerald’s insight as a scientist that he saw clearly from the beginning the importance of Electricity and Magnetism. Maxwell‘s theory was for many years, in the words of Heaviside, “considerably underdeveloped and little understood” but a few others were to see it in the same light as FitzGerald including Heaviside, Hertz and Lorentz. FitzGerald would exchange ideas over the following years with all three of these scientists.

During the six years he spent working for the Fellowship, FitzGerald also studied metaphysics, a topic which he had not formally studied as an undergraduate, and he was particularly attracted to Berkeley‘s philosophy. His liking for metaphysics and his deep understanding of the topic combined with his other great talents in his future career. He won his Fellowship and became a tutor at Trinity College Dublin in 1877. This was not his first attempt at winning a Fellowship, rather it was his second since he failed to win a Fellowship at his first attempt. At Trinity College he was attached to the Department of Experimental Physics and soon he was exerting the greatest influence on the teaching of the physical sciences in the College.

In 1881 John R Leslie, the professor of natural philosophy at Dublin, died and FitzGerald succeeded him to the Erasmus Smith Chair of Natural and Experimental Philosophy. At the time of his appointment he gave up his duties as College tutor, a role in which he had been extremely successful, to concentrate on his duties as a professor. One of FitzGerald’s long running battles at Trinity College Dublin was to increase the amount of teaching of experimental physics. He soon set up classes in an old chemical laboratory that he was able to obtain for his use, and he gathered round him colleagues who would help in the practical aspects of the subject. As is so often the case in universities, however, he was restricted in the progress he could make from a lack of funds.

In a lecture which he gave to the Irish Industrial League in 1896 FitzGerald emphasised his lifelong belief in practical studies:-

The fault of our present system is in supposing that learning to use words teaches us to use things. This is at its best. It really does not even teach children to use words, it only teaches them to learn words, to stuff their memories with phrases, to be a pack of parrots, to suffocate thought with indigestible verbiage. Take the case of experimenting. How can you teach children to make careful experiments with words? Yet it is great importance that they should be able to learn from experiments.

However, practical applications are built on theoretical foundations and FitzGerald fully understood this. In his inaugural lecture on 22 February 1900 as President of the Dublin Section of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, he spoke of how electricity had been applied to the benefit of mankind during the nineteenth century. Behind a practical invention such as telegraphy there was a wealth of theoretical work:-

… telegraphy owes a great deal to Euclid and other pure geometers, to the Greek and Arabian mathematicians who invented our scale of numeration and algebra, to Galileo and Newton who founded dynamics, to Newton and Leibniz who invented the calculus, to Volta who discovered the galvanic coil, to Oersted who discovered the magnetic actions of currents, to Ampère who found out the laws of their action, to Ohm who discovered the law of resistance of wires, to Wheatstone, to Faraday, to Lord Kelvin, to Clerk Maxwell, to Hertz. Without the discoveries, inventions, and theories of these abstract scientific men telegraphy, as it now is, would be impossible.

We should also look at FitzGerald’s idea of the purpose of a university since it was, like his other educational beliefs, the driving force in how he carried out his professorial duties. He believed that the primary purpose of a university was not to teach the few students who attended but, through research, to teach everyone. He wrote in 1892:-

The function of the University is primarily to teach mankind. .. at all times the greatest men have always held that their primary duty was the discovery of new knowledge, the creation of new ideas for all mankind, and not the instruction of the few who found it convenient to reside in their immediate neighbourhood. … Are the Universities to devote the energies of the most advanced intellects of the age to the instruction of the whole nation, or to the instruction of the few whose parents can afford them an – in some places fancy – education that can in the nature of things be only attainable by the rich?

As can be seen from the quotations we have given from FitzGerald’s writing, his interest in education went well beyond the narrow confines of his own department. It was not merely a theoretical interest for, true to his own beliefs, he took a very practical role in education. He was an examiner in physics at the University of London beginning in 1888 and he served as a Commissioner of National Education in Ireland in 1898 being concerned with reforming primary education in Ireland. As part of this task he travelled to the United States on a fact finding tour in the autumn of 1898. As one might have expected, his aim was to bring far more practical topics into the syllabus of primary schools. At the time of his death he was involved in the reform of intermediate education in Ireland and he also served on the Board which was considering technical education.

In 1883 FitzGerald married Harriette Mary Jellett. She was the daughter of the Rev J H Jellett, the Provost of Trinity College and an outstanding scientist who had been awarded the Royal Medal by the Royal Society. It was through his personal friendship with Jellett, and also their joint scientific studies, that FitzGerald got to know Harriette. Although the couple had been married just under eight years at the time of FitzGerald’s death, they had eight children during this time; three sons and five daughters. FitzGerald was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1883 and, like his father-in-law, he was to receive its Royal medal. This was in 1899 when the prestigious award was made to FitzGerald for his contributions to theoretical physics, especially to optics and electrodynamics. Lord Lister, presenting the medal, said [3]:-

His critical activity pervades an unbounded field, enlivened and enriched throughout by the fruits of a luxuriant imagination.

We should now examine the research for which FitzGerald received these honours.

Beginning in 1876, before he obtained his Fellowship, FitzGerald began to publish the results of his research. His first work On the equations of equilibrium of an elastic surface filled in cases of a problem studied by Lagrange. His second paper in the same year was on magnetism and he then, still in the year 1876, published On the rotation of the plane of polarisation of light by reflection from the pole of a magnet in the Proceeding of the Royal Society. He had already begun to contribute to Maxwell‘s theory and, as well as theoretical contributions, he was conducting experiments in electromagnetic theory. His first major theoretical contribution was On the electromagnetic theory of the reflection and refraction of light which he sent to the Royal Society in October 1878. Maxwell, in reviewing the paper, noted that FitzGerald was developing his ideas in much the same general direction as was Lorentz.

At a meeting of the British Association in Southport in 1883, FitzGerald gave a lecture discussing electromagnetic theory. He suggested a method of producing electromagnetic disturbances of comparatively short wavelengths:-

… by utilising the alternating currents produced when an accumulator is discharged through a small resistance. It would be possible to produce waves of as little as 10 metres wavelength or less.

So FitzGerald, using his own studies of electrodynamics, suggested in 1883 that an oscillating electric current would produce electromagnetic waves. However, as he later wrote:-

… I did not see any feasible way of detecting the induced resonance.

In 1888 FitzGerald addressed the Mathematical and Physical Section of the British Association in Bath as its President. He was able to report to British Association that Heinrich Hertz had, earlier that year, verified this experimentally. Hertz had verified that the vibration, reflection and refraction of electromagnetic waves were the same as those of light. In this brilliant lecture, given to a general audience, FitzGerald described how Hertz:-

… has observed the interference of electromagnetic waves quite analogous to those of light.

After his appointment to the chair, FitzGerald had continued to produce many innovative ideas but no major theories. For example despite his ideas on electromagnetic waves he had not followed through the research and the final experimental verification had been achieved by Hertz. The reason for this is perhaps best understood with a quotation from a letter which FitzGerald sent to Heaviside on 4 February 1889 (see for example [1]):-

I admire from a distance those who contain themselves till they worked to the bottom of their results but as I am not in the very least sensitive to having made mistakes I rush out with all sorts of crude notions in hope that they may set others thinking and lead to some advance.

Although FitzGerald is modestly talking down his contributions in this quotation, the comment he made about himself is essentially correct. O J Lodge [9] gives a similar, but fairer, analysis of FitzGerald’s work:-

… the leisure of long patient analysis was not his, nor did his genius altogether lie in this direction: he was at his best when, under the stimulus of discussion, his mind teemed with brilliant suggestions, some of which he at once proceeded to test by rough quantitative calculation, for which he was an adept in discerning the necessary data. The power of grasping instantly all the bearings of a difficult problem was his to an extraordinary degree …

Again Heaviside wrote (see for example [8]):-

He had, undoubtedly, the quickest and most original brain of anybody. That was a great distinction; but it was, I think, a misfortune as regards his scientific fame. He saw too many openings. His brain was too fertile and inventive. I think it would have been better for him if he had been a little stupid — I mean not so quick and versatile, but more plodding. He would have been better appreciated, save by a few.

Finally we should examine the contribution for which FitzGerald is universally known today. There had been many attempts to detect the motion of the Earth relative to the aether, a medium in space postulated to carry light waves. A A Michelson and E W Morley conducted an accurate experiment to compare the speed of light in the direction of the Earth’s motion and the speed of light at right angles to the Earth’s motion. Despite the difference in relative motion to the aether, the velocity of light was found to be the same. In 1889, two years after the Michelson-Morley experiment, FitzGerald suggested that the shrinking of a body due to motion at speeds close to that of light would account for the result of that experiment. Lodge [9] writes that the idea:-

… flashed on him in the writer’s study at Liverpool as he was discussing the meaning of the Michelson-Morley experiment.

Lorentz, independently in 1895, gave a much more detailed description of the same kind. It was typical of these two great men that both were more than ready to acknowledge the contribution of the other, but there is little doubt that each had the idea independently of the other. The FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction now plays an important role in relativity.

Sadly FitzGerald died at the age of only 49 years. Maxwell, whose work had proved so fundamental for FitzGerald, had died at the age of 48 while Hertz died at the age of 36. In fact in 1896 FitzGerald had reviewed the publication of Hertz’s Miscellaneous Papers for Nature after Hertz‘s death. Four years later, in September 1900, FitzGerald began to complain of indigestion and began to have to be careful what he ate. A few weeks later he complained that he was finding it difficult to concentrate on a problem. His health rapidly deteriorated and despite having an operation the end came quickly.

W Ramsay, on hearing of FitzGerald’s death wrote (see [8]):

We should also look at FitzGerald’s idea of the purpose of a university since it was, like his other educational beliefs, the driving force in how he carried out his professorial duties. He believed that the primary purpose of a university was not to teach the few students who attended but, through research, to teach everyone. He wrote in 1892:-

The function of the University is primarily to teach mankind. .. at all times the greatest men have always held that their primary duty was the discovery of new knowledge, the creation of new ideas for all mankind, and not the instruction of the few who found it convenient to reside in their immediate neighbourhood. … Are the Universities to devote the energies of the most advanced intellects of the age to the instruction of the whole nation, or to the instruction of the few whose parents can afford them an – in some places fancy – education that can in the nature of things be only attainable by the rich?

As can be seen from the quotations we have given from FitzGerald’s writing, his interest in education went well beyond the narrow confines of his own department. It was not merely a theoretical interest for, true to his own beliefs, he took a very practical role in education. He was an examiner in physics at the University of London beginning in 1888 and he served as a Commissioner of National Education in Ireland in 1898 being concerned with reforming primary education in Ireland. As part of this task he travelled to the United States on a fact-finding tour in the autumn of 1898. As one might have expected, his aim was to bring far more practical topics into the syllabus of primary schools. At the time of his death he was involved in the reform of intermediate education in Ireland and he also served on the Board which was considering technical education.

In 1883 FitzGerald married Harriette Mary Jellett. She was the daughter of the Rev J H Jellett, the Provost of Trinity College and an outstanding scientist who had been awarded the Royal Medal by the Royal Society. It was through his personal friendship with Jellett, and also their joint scientific studies, that FitzGerald got to know Harriette. Although the couple had been married just under eight years at the time of FitzGerald’s death, they had eight children during this time; three sons and five daughters. FitzGerald was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1883 and, like his father-in-law, he was to receive its Royal medal. This was in 1899 when the prestigious award was made to FitzGerald for his contributions to theoretical physics, especially to optics and electrodynamics. Lord Lister, presenting the medal, said [3]:

His critical activity pervades an unbounded field, enlivened and enriched throughout by the fruits of a luxuriant imagination.

We should now examine the research for which FitzGerald received these honours.

Beginning in 1876, before he obtained his Fellowship, FitzGerald began to publish the results of his research. His first work On the equations of equilibrium of an elastic surface filled in cases of a problem studied by Lagrange. His second paper in the same year was on magnetism and he then, still in the year 1876, published On the rotation of the plane of polarisation of light by reflection from the pole of a magnet in the Proceeding of the Royal Society. He had already begun to contribute to Maxwell‘s theory and, as well as theoretical contributions, he was conducting experiments in electromagnetic theory. His first major theoretical contribution was On the electromagnetic theory of the reflection and refraction of light which he sent to the Royal Society in October 1878. Maxwell, in reviewing the paper, noted that FitzGerald was developing his ideas in much the same general direction as was Lorentz.

At a meeting of the British Association in Southport in 1883, FitzGerald gave a lecture discussing electromagnetic theory. He suggested a method of producing electromagnetic disturbances of comparatively short wavelengths:-

… by utilising the alternating currents produced when an accumulator is discharged through a small resistance. It would be possible to produce waves of as little as 10 metres wavelength or less.

So FitzGerald, using his own studies of electrodynamics, suggested in 1883 that an oscillating electric current would produce electromagnetic waves. However, as he later wrote:-

… I did not see any feasible way of detecting the induced resonance.

In 1888 FitzGerald addressed the Mathematical and Physical Section of the British Association in Bath as its President. He was able to report to British Association that Heinrich Hertz had, earlier that year, verified this experimentally. Hertz had verified that the vibration, reflection and refraction of electromagnetic waves were the same as those of light. In this brilliant lecture, given to a general audience, FitzGerald described how Hertz:-

… has observed the interference of electromagnetic waves quite analogous to those of light.

After his appointment to the chair, FitzGerald had continued to produce many innovative ideas but no major theories. For example despite his ideas on electromagnetic waves he had not followed through the research and the final experimental verification had been achieved by Hertz. The reason for this is perhaps best understood with a quotation from a letter which FitzGerald sent to Heaviside on 4 February 1889 (see for example [1]):-

I admire from a distance those who contain themselves till they worked to the bottom of their results but as I am not in the very least sensitive to having made mistakes I rush out with all sorts of crude notions in hope that they may set others thinking and lead to some advance.

Although FitzGerald is modestly talking down his contributions in this quotation, the comment he made about himself is essentially correct. O J Lodge [9] gives a similar, but fairer, analysis of FitzGerald’s work:-

… the leisure of long patient analysis was not his, nor did his genius altogether lie in this direction: he was at his best when, under the stimulus of discussion, his mind teemed with brilliant suggestions, some of which he at once proceeded to test by rough quantitative calculation, for which he was an adept in discerning the necessary data. The power of grasping instantly all the bearings of a difficult problem was his to an extraordinary degree …

Again Heaviside wrote (see for example [8]):

He had, undoubtedly, the quickest and most original brain of anybody. That was a great distinction; but it was, I think, a misfortune as regards his scientific fame. He saw too many openings. His brain was too fertile and inventive. I think it would have been better for him if he had been a little stupid — I mean not so quick and versatile, but more plodding. He would have been better appreciated, save by a few.

Finally we should examine the contribution for which FitzGerald is universally known today. There had been many attempts to detect the motion of the Earth relative to the aether, a medium in space postulated to carry light waves. A A Michelson and E W Morley conducted an accurate experiment to compare the speed of light in the direction of the Earth’s motion and the speed of light at right angles to the Earth’s motion. Despite the difference in relative motion to the aether, the velocity of light was found to be the same. In 1889, two years after the Michelson-Morley experiment, FitzGerald suggested that the shrinking of a body due to motion at speeds close to that of light would account for the result of that experiment. Lodge [9] writes that the idea:-

… flashed on him in the writer’s study at Liverpool as he was discussing the meaning of the Michelson-Morley experiment.

Lorentz, independently in 1895, gave a much more detailed description of the same kind. It was typical of these two great men that both were more than ready to acknowledge the contribution of the other, but there is little doubt that each had the idea independently of the other. The FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction now plays an important role in relativity.

Sadly FitzGerald died at the age of only 49 years. Maxwell, whose work had proved so fundamental for FitzGerald, had died at the age of 48 while Hertz died at the age of 36. In fact in 1896 FitzGerald had reviewed the publication of Hertz’s Miscellaneous Papers for Nature after Hertz‘s death. Four years later, in September 1900, FitzGerald began to complain of indigestion and began to have to be careful what he ate. A few weeks later he complained that he was finding it difficult to concentrate on a problem. His health rapidly deteriorated and despite having an operation the end came quickly.

W Ramsay, on hearing of FitzGerald’s death wrote (see [8]):

… to me, as to many others, FitzGerald was the truest of true friends; always interested, always sympathetic, always encouraging, whether the matter discussed was a personal one, or one connected with science or with education. And yet I doubt if it were these qualities alone which made his presence so attractive and so inspiring. I think it was the feeling that one was able to converse on equal terms with a man who was so much above the level of one’s self, not merely in intellectual qualities of mind, but in every respect. … he had no trace of intellectual pride; he never put himself forward, and had no desire for fame; he was content to do his duty. And he took this to be the task of helping others to do theirs.

FitzGerald was described by Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) as (see [10]):-

… living in an atmosphere of the highest scientific and intellectual quality, but always a comrade with every fellow-worker of however humble quality…. My scientific sympathy and alliance with him have greatly ripened during the last six or seven years over the undulatory theory of light and the aether theory of electricity and magnetism.

On his death the Faculty of Science of the University of London adopted the resolution [3]:

That this meeting … having heard with profound sorrow of the premature death of the late Professor George Francis FitzGerald, desires to place on record its high appreciation of his brilliant qualities as a man, as a teacher, as an investigator, and as a leader of scientific thought …

Article by: J J O’Connor and E F Robertson

List of References (11 books/articles)

http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/FitzGerald.html

Transformation Blues Minister rebutts Bloomberg’s William Pesek


June 20, 2015

COMMENT:I am very skeptical about whatever Mr.dato-din-merican Transformation Blues  says on the state of our economy. He uses statistics with amazing ease  in  his rebuttal to Mr Pesek’s article. We know that statistics can be massaged for purposes for which they are intended. Malaysians are familiar with this kind of public relations exercise.

Minister Jala has been spinning too often and now has a serious credibility problem. Throwing statistics  around  will not  change public perception about the Prime Minister’s mismanagement of the economy.

Let us face reality. The 1MD debt problem is like an albatross around our national neck.  It has been badly handled by  company and Treasury officials and the Prime Minister himself. Minister Jala should be providing the answer to what happened to the RM42 billion debt? Why has he not commented on it in his rebuttal?  He must know that the issue has undermined public trust and investor confidence.

What transformation is he talking about when we know that our economy is up against some very  serious challenges in the years ahead. For example, we are in the middle-income trap and I have not seen any attempts on the part of the Najib administration to deal with this major challenge. We are still a commodity export economy, dependent on palm oil and oil and gas.

We have been talking about a knowledge economy for as long as I can remember, yet we are unable to fix our standard of education from primary to tertiary level. Our Research and Development policy is shrouded in mystery.

We know that the Prime Minister is not providing the leadership the country badly needs since he is pre-occupied with his own political survival.

Minister Jala should be talking to ordinary people to get a better understanding of their situation and  listening to economists who have contrarian views on our government’s  fiscal policy, and development strategy as  outlined in the 11th Malaysian Plan (2015-2020).

What is Minister Jala’s intention in making this point:

Because of our achievements, I was invited to share our experience at both Harvard and Oxford universities this year. At the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, I had the privilege to share Malaysia’s success story with government ministers from many countries. Last month, I was invited to share our experience with Russian ministers in Moscow.”

What success story is he telling his audience at Oxford and Harvard and the Russian Ministers in Moscow?  Are they gullible? My readers and I on this blog are not.–Din Merican

In addition to the above, I wish to add my good friend Dr. Bakri Musa’s  rebuttal to our Tranformation Blues Minister’s response to Mr. Pesek’s article as follows::

“The facts, however, are these. Between 2009 and 2014, Malaysian Gross National Income grew by 47.7 percent …”

Facts and figures by themselves mean nothing. What is the comparable figures for our peers – Taiwan, South Korea or even Vietnam. Not to mention Singapore or China. To quote the man, let me repeat again (… and one more time!), facts and figures must be put in proper perspective!

Oops! I forgot that our peers are now Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in which case Jala’s figures are indeed impressive.Yes, our growth rate is higher than Japan, Western Europe and other advanced countries but those countries are already there, cruising at high altitude. Malaysia is still trying to take off and ascending. It cannot afford a low growth rate without risking a stall.

As for our devalued ringgit, Jala seems impressed by Zeti’s confidence rather than what the market is telling us. It is pathetic that Jala would consider his invitation to Harvard as an endorsement of the government’s policies. Jala should instead visit our universities and schools and discover how pathetic they are.

More important than what Jala tells those Harvard folks or how honored he was to be invited, what did Jala learn when he visited Boston and what lessons can he impart onto our local institutions. Or was Jala, like so many ministers on their “study” visits abroad impressed only with the glitz and ceremonies?–M. Bakri Musa

Transformation Blues Minister rebutts Bloomberg’s William Pesek

by Dato Seri Idris Jala@www.themalaysianinsider.com

Guitar Playing Singer Idris JalaRebutting with Pemandu Statistics

When I read William Pesek’s latest commentary on Bloomberg View, I barely recognised the country he was writing about.

He starts by referring to Malaysia’s “underlying economic distress” and “prolonged slow growth”, which he says are caused by “race-based policies that strangle innovation, feed cronyism and repel multinational companies”.

The facts, however, are these:

1. Between 2009 and 2014, Malaysian gross national income grew by 47.7%.

2. Growth last year was 6%, and over the next four years the OECD predicts Malaysia will enjoy annual growth of 5.6%.

It would be perverse to characterise this as “slow”. By contrast, the Economist reported last month that “The European Commission is forecasting growth in 2015 of 1.5%, which would be the euro area’s best outcome since 2011.” A growth rate nearly four times that of some of the most advanced economies in the world hardly suggests “distress”.

3. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme in 2010. Let me highlight some key achievements:

  • Third, as detailed in the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report 2014, Malaysia’s efforts at reducing poverty have been a great success, virtually eliminating absolute poverty to less than 1%. Since 2009, the income of the bottom 40 per cent households has increased by a compound annual growth rate of 12%, even higher than the national average of 8%. Inflation has been kept in check at only 2.4%. And through the implementation of minimum wage legislation, we have lifted 2.9 million people immediately out of absolute poverty.
  •  First, in the last five years, annual investment growth has been 2.5 times more than in the preceding years. Each year, total investment reached a new record for Malaysia. The bulk of this investment is from the private sector. If the private sector has no confidence in Malaysia as alleged by Pesek, why would they put in record investment year on year under the Najib administration?
  •  Second,‎ the country’s fiscal reforms are being successfully implemented, cutting Malaysia’s fiscal deficit for the past five years, while keeping public debt at only 53% of GDP.This level of public debt level is far lower than in many countries, such as the US, UK, France, Japan and Singapore.

4. We touched the lives of five million people through rural roads, electricity and water projects. This represents possibly the biggest government expenditure over a five-year period in the history of Malaysia. All of these were done in the name of inclusive economic development.

That should be enough to dispel the suspiciously negative picture Pesek paints. But let me address some of his other inaccurate accusations, too.

5 As for the alleged failure to “dismantle race-based policies that strangle innovation”, let me quote from a report in a respected international news organisation:

  • “Malaysia eased rules governing overseas investors, initial public offerings and property purchases, peeling back decades of benefits to ethnic Malays. Foreign companies investing in Malaysia and locally listed businesses will no longer need to set aside 30% of their equity to so-called Bumiputera investors, Prime Minister Najib Razak said today. He also raised overseas ownership thresholds in the fund management industry and at local stockbrokers.” At Initial Public Offerings, “Publicly traded companies will no longer have to meet any Bumiputera equity requirement under today’s liberalisation measures.” If Pesek disagrees with any of the above, perhaps he might discuss it with his editors. The report was published, after all, by none other than Bloomberg.
  •  At another point, he writes that Najib has “deepened the economy’s reliance on oil and gas production”. The International Monetary Fund believes otherwise. The headline on its “Economic Health Check” report this March was: “Favourable Prospects for Malaysia’s Diversified Economy”.

6. Pesek rounds off his imaginative piece of writing by declaring that “the ringgit’s fluctuations are a decent summary of the country’s wayward course in recent years”.

Perhaps he would like to discuss this with Malaysia’s Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, one of the most admired central bank governors in the world. She has repeatedly said that the ringgit is undervalued. Here is what she said recently: “When the oil price plummeted, the wrong perception of the degree of dependence of the Malaysian economy on the oil and gas sector led markets to think that we would be more affected than others. Of course, the ringgit is undervalued. It doesn’t reflect our underlying values, which are solid and strong.”

7. Pesek’s opinions do not seem to have a strong connection to the facts. He gives away his true agenda when writes that “Asia-based journalists have missed (Tun Dr) Mahathir Mohamad since he left office in 2003” and suggests “a return to old political leadership” is “urgent”.

It may be that nostalgia for the past and his distance from Malaysia have clouded his judgment, and led him to write an unsubstantiated hatchet job on the current prime minister in order to please a former Prime Minister about whom he gushes, his “mercurial governing style and fiery rhetoric made for great copy”.

He certainly seems to have changed his mind about Dr Mahathir. Only last year he wrote: “The insular and jury-rigged system of affirmative action, national champions and fat subsidies over which Mahathir presided now holds the economy back. The Malaysian leader also had a tendency to embarrass his nation on the international stage with his nutty anti-Semitic tirades.”

He concluded: “Malaysians must find fresh inspiration by looking forward, not back to 1990.” We agree. Why does Pesek now think we should look back to a system he described in such a derogatory manner last year?

8. Malaysia has undergone an impressive economic transformation under Najib and the country is on course to reach the goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2020 – as the figures and achievements I have mentioned above make clear.

Because of our achievements, I was invited to share our experience at both Harvard and Oxford universities this year. At the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, I had the privilege to share Malaysia’s success story with government ministers from many countries. Last month, I was invited to share our experience with Russian ministers in Moscow.

9. I wonder why it is that many countries and institutions can see the progress we are making, but Pesek chooses not see any of it? His latest outburst is consistent with a series of slanted articles that unfairly run down Malaysia and its leadership.

10. Differing opinions are bound to be expressed on Bloomberg View. The defence of “fair comment”, however, does not apply to getting facts so woefully wrong. We would hope that the editors at Bloomberg agree, and will correct or take down such a disgracefully biased and ill-informed article.

* Datuk Seri Idris Jala is CEO of Pemandu and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Biro Tata Negara: Close it down


June 2o, 2015

COMMENT: Yes, I agree with Azrul that:

” [T]he continued existence of the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) is an affront to Malaysians everywhere. It dishonours the memory of the founders of this country, the women and men who fought and died to gain independence. It besmirches the struggles of all those who believe that there is a place for all under the Malaysian sun. It directly contradicts and works in opposition to the ideals espoused under the Rukun Negara”.

BTN Chief

rani kulup ahmad maslan

Perkasa

Whoever came up with the idea of using public funds to create an institution  which is designed to “indoctrinate” impressionable minds of young Malaysians of the present and future generations and civil service recruits must have been trained by Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister of Hitler’s  Nazi Germany. That person belongs to Tanjung Rambutan’s mental asylum together with the people who run BTN.

The Nazis had a distorted version of German history and culture; they promoted the idea of the superiority of Aryan race. The Third Reich was supposed to last a thousand years. But Hitler was defeated in 1945 after ceasing power in 1933, and Germany was humiliated and practically reduced to rubble  (e.g. The Ruhr Valley, Dresden and Berlin) due to the  Allied invasion and massive aerial bombing.

It is clear to me that BTN has a similar aim which is to perpetuate UMNO’s rule and protect Malay sovereignty. Like Hitler’s, the UMNO of the Mahathir-Badawi -Najib (1981-2015-?) era is about to come to  an ignominious end. Unfortunately, we will be left to pick up the pieces and rebuild on new foundations.Yes, we must and we can.

BTN cannot be allowed  to poison the minds of new generations of Malaysians. It must be disbanded. We can no longer accept UMNO hegemony. Its divide and rule politics of race and religion,  and rent seeking economics are leading us along the path of  economic decline and moral decay. –Din Merican

Biro Tata Negara: Close it down

by Azrul Mohd Khalib@www.themalaymailone.com

Ask anyone who has ever done their undergraduate degree in Malaysian public universities and quite a few of them will tell you how they were forced to attend and endure the Biro Tatanegara courses.

Each year, hundreds of students join civil servants from various departments, ministries and institutions to be indoctrinated or brainwashed into becoming unthinking, obedient and compliant drones whose allegiance is arguably not towards God, King and Country but more likely leaning towards Melayu and of course, UMNO.

BTN LogoWhat they often produce instead each year are groups of people who are often embarrassed, cynical and frustrated listening to a bumbling group of individuals who have no business being instructors of anything other than potty training.

Many former attendees admit to being shocked and mortified at the content of these courses which are often unashamedly racist, bigoted, and ignorant and Malay Muslim supremacist in nature. The thing is  the attendees are often multi-ethnic and reflect the rich diversity of Malaysian society.

Instead of fulfilling its stated aims which are to nurture the spirit of patriotism and commitment to excellence and good values among Malaysians, and to train leaders and future leaders to support the nation’s development efforts, this government agency which exists under the Prime Minister’s Department has for decades promoted racial and religious discrimination and divisiveness.

In its programming, the BTN has cultivated concepts such as “pendatang” and “Ketuanan Melayu” which run contrary to the values and ideals of the Federal Constitution.

It has been used to stir up animosity and hatred towards those who think differently from the government and oppose the status quo. They have promoted belief that if you are not in support of the government, therefore you are being disloyal to the country.

While so many have been picked up for alleged and imagined offenses which are supposedly seditious in nature, this lot have been able to operate and spread their views through the cover of government national civics courses which are anything but.

As can be seen from recent documentation from the BTN itself, they are even trying to justify the practice of racism as something good for the country. Not too long ago, Malaysia stood by Nelson Mandela’s struggle and together with the countries of the world spoke out and condemned the ultimate expression of racism, apartheid. Today, these people are trying to justify and legitimise institutionalized racism in our country. This is how far these people have lost their way.

These are scared and ignorant people who jump at shadows and create enemies where there are none. In their arrogance, they refuse to learn from others. They expect people to obey and not to think and argue. In time-honoured tradition, they even consider writers, book publishers and even books themselves as threats. Tyrants fear the power of the written word.

I can’t believe that such a Bureau continues to exist under the direct aegis of the Prime Minister’s Department and whose staff and activities are paid for in the millions each year by the Malaysian taxpayer.

The continued existence of the BTN is an affront to Malaysians everywhere. It dishonours the memory of the founders of this country, the women and men who fought and died to gain independence. It besmirches the struggles of all those who believe that there is a place for all under the Malaysian sun. It directly contradicts and works in opposition to the ideals espoused under the Rukun Negara. Based on its actions and words, it certainly cannot be said to support Vision 2020 or even 1Malaysia.

One thing that I am glad about though. It is very clear that these people of the BTN do not speak for us. That their bigoted, hateful and prejudicial views are rejected by most Malaysians. The recent outcry against their “programming” is proof enough that there is no place in a modern Malaysia for cultivating such beliefs and views.

Let us end these attempts which work at cross purposes to nation building. Let us call for the dissolution of the BTN. Let not another day go by that the money from the sweat and tears of all Malaysians is used for such purposes.

Shut down the BTN.

Universiti Malaya is not The University of Malaya and Why


June 20, 2015

Universiti Malaya is not The University of Malaya and Why

by *Ooi Kok Hin@www.themalaysianinsider.com

*Ooi Kok Hin graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy.  He is also the author of the book, “Aku Kafir, Kau Siapa” , published by DuBook Press.

1949-logo

UMThe taxi driver dropped me off at the Institute of Graduate Studies. I went in to ask  about the postgraduate programme.

Student Activists Demand Resignation  of Public University Vice Chancellors

The three ladies on duty were friendly and helpful. My interest in Universiti Malaya lies in the special place that this institution occupies in our history. This is the institution that once resided the likes of Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas, Dr. Syed Husin Ali, and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Although it has been said that the university is a pale shadow of its former self, one can still feel the presence of its historic greatness in the campus. I had a two-hour gap before attending a talk, so I walked to Perdana Siswa which houses the university’s bookstore.

Pekan Buku, as it is called, is something like a small shop lot. Though there is a few rare books available in the bookstore, I feel as if the bookstore is not fitting for a premier institution that Universiti Malaya is. There are many academic textbooks and trade paperbacks, but current affairs books are lacking and outdated.

The section which is dedicated to the university’s own publication is a sad embarrassment.Either the university academics do not publish much or the university press has not communicated well with the university bookstore.

The “Malaysiana” section, along with the social sciences and humanities, are relegated to the back of the bookstore. It is not a conducive place in which an avid reader would spend hours browsing and reading books.

I bought a book titled “Dua Wajah: Tahanan Tanpa Bicara”, written by one of the university’s most dedicated scholar, activist, and citizen, Dr. Syed Husin. While he may be more known as the former PKR Deputy President, what I admire about him is his combination of academic rigour and passionate activism.

Dr Syed Husin Ali2He himself studied at the university before returning to serve as a professor for nearly 30 years. Unlike many academicians who separates their academic work and servitude to society, Dr Syed Husin wrote a plenty on Malay society (“Orang Melayu: Masalah dan Masa Depan”; “Poverty and Landlessness in Kelantan”; “Ethnic Relations in Malaysia: Harmony and Conflict”) and was actively involved in bringing about change to his society.

It was his efforts in organising student protests in the early 1970s that resulted in him being detained under the Internal Security Act for six years.

If a well-respected and learned professor can be jailed without trial, I wonder how many others fell victim to the cruelty of power. The likes of Dr Syed Husin, who dared to confront the authority with the truth, are sorely missed in today’s Universiti Malaya.

Gone were the days when scholar-activists were willing to give up the luxury of a comfort life and risked being arrested and treated like a common criminal.

Chung Tat LimIt seems to me that professors today, encouraged by the university administrators, are content to write about society, not changing the society, and doing research in air-conditioned rooms, barricaded by university walls and isolated from the society.

I’m not necessarily saying that all scholars ought to confront the government like Dr. Syed did. There are other types of scholar-activists. Royal Professor Ungku Aziz was able to turn his academic research into actual policies.According to the Merdeka Award, “His (Ungku Aziz’s) work was instrumental in spurring governmental rural development programmes aimed at benefiting the impoverished peasants and fisherfolk.

“Among the initiatives proposed by Ungku Aziz was the creation of monopolies to bypass the middlemen who previously acted as the distribution channel of produce to the retail market.

Ungku Aziz“Ungku Aziz has constantly sought to improve the level of opportunities available to the rural community, and many of his other achievements stem from his work on poverty eradication.”

Regardless of whether our professors are pro-government, pro-opposition, or independent, how many of them actually set out to reform the people around them? To help those in need?

When academicians write about poverty, urban transportation, liberty, Maqasid Shariah, the theory of economic growth, or political issues, do they want to make a change or is it just another research paper to be published?

In the evening, I attended a talk themed “Malaysian Higher Education Blueprint: Role of the Universities”. The panelists include Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Professor Tan Sri Dr. Ghauth Jasmon, Professor Datuk Dr. Ibrahim Bajunid, and Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr. Isahak Haron.

It’s interesting to see how each panelist emphasised different points in their speech. Dr. Ghauth, the former Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Malaya, begun by stressing the need for financial autonomy, competence and publication to get higher ranking, and good governance.

Inevitably, he said, the government will slash funding for the universities, just as they did with PTPTN student loans.

The universities will have to find their own source of funding. I also find it fascinating that the former Vice-Chancellor publicly stated that the government should not appoint board members and vice-chancellors. Rather, the university deserves the best people to lead the institution.

The rest of the panelists subtly and not-so-subtly disagreed with the former Vice-Chancellor’s emphasis on the need to compete.

Dr. Ong warned that the rankings can be “gamed” by temporarily hiring well-known foreign academicians, who are hugely compensated while actually contributing little.

Dr. Ibrahim’s pertinent point on the gap between the policy designers and implementers strike at the reality of practice. Saifuddin touched on the soul of the university and asked “Are we producing good men or good workers?” The former Deputy Minister of Higher Education agreed with the panellists that political appointments must stop to give way to the best people leading the universities. He also said philosophy should be taught at every faculty!

What I find especially enlightening is the speech by Dr Isahak. He methodically approached the subject of the future of education. Tracing it from past to present trajectory, he argued that in the new reality, universities are not driven by scholars anymore.

Rather, corporate demands assume the quintessential focus of the university today. We talk about employability of the graduates, what the industries want, and what the economy needs. It used to be that university is not driven by market, but by the pursue of knowledge. But we are increasingly moving away from that liberal socio-cultural tradition.

“Now we are very proud to announce and showcase cooperation with foreign universities such as Johns Hopkins, Stanford or Harvard. Once upon a time, we were very proud to develop our own courses, tradition, and studies, ranging from history to Malay literature, the social sciences and humanities.”

To me, that is what we should do. Not rushing to get published in journals which are read by very few people in the society, if at all.

Those “research syiok sendiri” are not contributing and helping. A majority of the people do not care if our professors get published in international journals, or some abstract economic theories. They care about bread and butter issues, the cause and effect of inflation and GST. The role of the scholar, other than the noble pursuit of knowledge, is to bring the knowledge back to the ground, to the people.

The scholar knows something the layman doesn’t. It is hoped that he doesn’t keep that knowledge to himself and carries it to the grave, but rather, he teaches it to the layman so that they both become capable of making informed decisions, political and otherwise.

To paraphrase Eugene Debs, I don’t want to rise above the university, I want to rise with the university. I want to help restore the greatness back to the university. I wish to be part of the generation of students, professors, and administrators that will lift UM to the premier institution it used to be.

We are not talking about numbers and rankings here. What attracted me and many others is never because Universiti Malaya made it to the top 100 or not. Not only the university is an important piece of Malaysian history and produces a great many alumni, Universiti Malaya is history.

When we need to ask why we should be bothered to preserve our history, the question itself reflects a genuine lack of appreciation and sense of belonging. When we feel belonged to a bigger community, we will not think about neglecting our history because the history of a community gives meaning to its very identity.

To neglect Universiti Malaya is to neglect history. I sincerely hope that the university will be restored to its glorious days.This can probably only be done by taking the best care of the university community (students, academicians, staff, and administrators) and providing the most conducive learning environment to them.

The best way for the student to learn is also the best way for the university to develop – free, creative, encouraging, dedicated, and hopeful.

The mission to restore to Universiti Malaya to its former glory within this generation will need all the help it can get. And oh, somebody please upgrade the bookstore.