Our universities must produce world champions
“WHAT is a university?” (My View, Oct 5) provides food for thought for policy planners.
If we use the definition cited in the article as a measure of what a university should be, ours fall short. Our public universities are not “above politics”. They are not above business, either. For example, all public universities have established holding companies to bring in extra cash. While the intention is noble, its consequence is not always straightforward.
The government cannot shirk primary responsibility of educating the rakyat under the pretext of giving financial autonomy to universities.
As a citizen, I am concerned with the quality of education in our public universities. None of our 20 public universities appear in the top 100 in the World University rankings for 2015 and earlier. The low rating speaks volumes of the quality of education in the universities. With the financial support (RM41.3 billion; about 20% of allocations in 2016), there are no excuses for poor performance.
The scholastic performance of our 15year-old students in maths, science, and reading as assessed by the Programme for International Student Assessment (managed by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development since 2000) is equally embarrassing. In 2012, while Malaysia was ahead of Indonesia and Mexico, it was many notches down from the performance of students in Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China. The PISA performance of Malaysian students for 2016 is expected to be the same, if not worse.
The 15-year-old students who end up in universities are likely to show the same traits and the cycle of accumulating deficits in quality education will be entrenched further. The deficits will surely show in future rankings. And, worldwide, people will continue to judge our education system negatively.
The authorities must acknowledge that something is wrong with the quality of education. Can we blame the teachers? Should we blame the education-ecosystem that emphasises access at the expense of quality? Or does it have to do with the politicisation of the education system and management that has left a few hundred graduates without jobs for years? Or, has the decline in academic scholarship in our universities to do with politicians’ obsession with the physical assets of building ivory towers, at the expense of quality education? Or, could it be the medium of instruction, where the corpus of advanced knowledge in science, mathematics and literature is still under-developed?
Most Malaysians have a clear purpose of formal education. For them, knowledge is acquired through formal education in schools and universities. They expect their universities to produce world champions.
BA Hamzah Kuala Lumpur