Thursday, April 17, 2008

Malaysia's Sub-Standard Education System & Racial Discrimination in Varsities

Finally, all in one day, a key issue that we have highlighted for Malaysia - Sub Standard Education, has come to light - not in one, but two articles as quoted in the Star. Written by a Malay man and one other, these articles summarise the level to which the Malaysian Education system has degraded to and what happens with the non-Malays when they are not accepted into local universities because of the quota system - driven mainly by the BN government's view of "Ketuanan Melayu".

A recent article quoted in the international media regarding some silly remarks made by the Kelantan Crown Price, further highlights the need to eradicate race based politics and to clearly enforce the Sedition Act, even on those who are so called playing to "right wing" politics.

Many in UMNO have also made derogatory remarks about other races and their desire for equality and their rights to be uplifted. But today, they sing a different tune, but do not be fooled dear citizen, they say what they say because they need to - for now. History shows where their loyalties lie and hence the sincerity of their word - beware the wolf in sheep's "clothes"...

For your reading pleasure and thoughts:

Article #1: Under threat? What threat?


Since the recent general election, voices have risen up in a shrill warning cry that the Malays are now ‘under threat’. But perhaps the real threat is the threat to Umno hegemony.

AND so it begins. Race-based rhetoric has raised its ugly little head in response to a democratic process. Over 49% of the people of Malaysia have voted for parties that have rejected race-based affirmative action in favour of a needs-based platform.

It did not take very long for voices, both common and royal, to rise up in a shrill warning cry that the Malays are now “under threat”.

“Under threat” from what, may I ask? Let’s take a bit of time to look at this so-called “threat”. Firstly, Malays are given special protection under Article 153 of the Constitution.

Article 153 is titled “Reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc, for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak”. Article 152 states that Malay is the National Language. The Supreme Head of the Federation, according to Article 32, is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a Malay ruler.

This is the foundation of Malay “special privileges”.

None of the Pakatan Rakyat component parties, including the DAP, have said anything about removing Articles 153, 152 and 32. They remain safe and secure with no sign whatsoever of any sort of threat.

Besides, in order to change it, you would need a two-thirds majority in the lower and upper houses of Parliament plus the support of the Conference of Rulers. The last time I checked, no one has a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

Secondly, due to simple demographics, it is unlikely that a totally non-Malay party is ever going to win absolute control of the government. Of the five state governments in the hands of the Pakatan, four are led by a Malay Mentri Besar.

Penang is an exception, but Penang has been led by non-Malays since the 60s. Why was there was no outcry before this?

Thirdly, the proposed doing-away with the NEP (or whatever it is called nowadays), I suppose, can be seen as a threat to the Malays.

But how it can be a threat is beyond me, because the replacement suggested by the Pakatan is not some sort of laissez-faire capitalist economy. Instead, it is an economic system with affirmative action promised to those in need.

If the Malays are the largest group of people in Malaysia who are in the most need, then they will get the most help. If they are not in the most need, then why on earth do they need help then?

This is the point where I will get angry letters about how the NEP is needed; because in the business world – the real world which I know nothing about because I am just a lowly-academic trapped in my ivory tower – Malays are discriminated against by the Chinese. So we need a policy like the NEP to provide some balance.

I disagree.

If there are racist business policies being conducted against the Malays, then you face it head on with anti-discrimination laws.

If some person feels he is being discriminated against, no matter what his race, then let there be a law to help him, and let us punish the racists with a hefty fine or jail term.

You do not meet racism with racism; you challenge it by destroying all traces of it.

The problem with the NEP, as I see it, is that it breeds a mentality of entitlement based on race and not merit. This mentality seeps into governance, and it creates an atmosphere of mediocrity. One example of this is how the Constitution has been disregarded in relation to employment issues.

The Federal Constitution states that you can set quotas at the entry points of government services, for example, the civil service and public universities. However, this is counter-balanced by Article 136 that says all federal employees must be treated fairly regardless of race.

This means that once inside a service, everyone is to be treated equally based on merit. In such a situation, only the cream will rise to the top.

However, since the introduction of the NEP, the practice in government services has been to promote Malays mainly. This has in turn led to a drop in the number of non-Malay actors in the service of the public.

Taking my profession for example, the closeted unrealistic world of academia, I look down south and I see that 30% of the staff in the National University of Singapore Law School are Malaysians.

How come these clever fellows who are good enough to teach in a university that is among the top 20 in the world are not here in the land of their birth? Why are the blinking Singaporeans enjoying our talent? Is it because that talent is all non-Malay and they feel they have better opportunities there than here?

This is a complete waste, and in the end this loss of talent means a loss for the university, the country and the people of this country, including the Malay students who miss out on the best possible teachers.

Perhaps the real threat is the threat to Umno hegemony, in which case my answer to that is this: clean up your act, live up to your promises and listen to what the people are saying.
Make yourself electable by proving that you can create good government.

That is called democracy.

Dr Azmi Sharom is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Article #1: Engineers of poor quality

I AM a manager in a chemical manufacturing firm in Malaysia. We often have vacancies for mechanical and chemical engineers, and occasionally electrical engineers. We do take in fresh graduates to train and develop for the future of our company.

In recent years, I have noticed a marked reduction in the quality of the engineering graduates. I would like to suggest that our local universities work with professional bodies such as Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) and Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) to address the weaknesses.

Some of the courses should be tailored to suit industrial requirements. BEM and IEM would be in the right position to work with the many universities we have here. Alternatively, they could come up with modules to be included in the engineering curriculum at our local universities.

With the advent of computers and simulation packages, another new problem is that fresh engineers seem at a loss to conduct design calculations from basic principles. They are over reliant on such computer packages.

When they start work, they are at a loss to do design work because some companies may not have such computer packages. Hence, even basic engineering calculations to determine the optimum pipe sizing and pump selection are beyond them.

These are basic engineering calculations, and without the necessary skills, we are left with design works that are sub-optimal, resulting in high operating costs for the users.

Alternatively, everyone would be running to consultants to get even the most basic of engineering work done for them.

In many of the plants I have been to, there is much that could be done to improve efficiency by just going back to good basic engineering practice. And in some cases, it’s just using good common sense.

I think there is a need to teach and emphasise on such basics. We should ensure that our young engineers are provided with good foundation knowledge for the future of our country.

After all, it is upon solid foundations that skyscrapers are built.

In this aspect, I must take my hat off to University Technology Petronas (UTP), which has formed an Industry Advisory Panel (IAP), and invites professionals from the industry to review their curriculum and suggest areas for improvement. UTP is serious about this and has implemented many of the suggestions introduced by its IAP.

UTP also has an adjunct lectures series where professionals are called in to give lectures to the undergraduates. I think these are good initiatives that other universities would do well to emulate.


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