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Bubble of “Strategic Plan for Higher Education Beyond 2020”launched by Prime Minister punctured by irresponsible denial syndrome of Higher Education Minister in Parliament the same day

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Tuesday): The bubble of the “Strategic Plan for Higher Education: Laying the Foundation Beyond 2020” launched by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday was punctured by the irresponsible denial syndrome of the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad in Parliament the very same day. 

Abdullah announced a three-prong strategy to turn Malaysia into a world education hub, viz: 

  • Apex University: where only the best brains – academic staff and students – will be admitted;

  • Autonomy:  public universities to be self-governing in funding and research & development;

  • Audit Panels:  Standard of all universities to be assessed by independent committee comprising only experts.

The Malaysian Government has honed to a fine art the preparation of grandiloquent plans (which is why every Minister wants to have a Masterplan of his own rejecting that drawn up by his predecessor and which is what happened in the short history of the Higher Education Ministry) although there is no political will to implement them – best example being the National Integrity Plan which has seen  the country plagued with more rampant and uncontrolled corruption since its launch by the Prime Minister three years ago. 

The “Strategic Plan for Higher Education: Laying the Foundation Beyond 2020” however must take the cake for being the first of such grandiloquent plans to have its bubbles punctured on the very same day of its launch, exposing the lack of political will to take all the necessary decisions and actions to restore Malaysia’s former international standing in terms of academic excellence and quality.  

When I stood up in Parliament during question time yesterday to ask a supplementary query on unhappiness among lecturers in public universities over promotion to higher academic grades including professorship, I pointed out that Malaysia was again left out for the fifth consecutive year in the recent Shanghai Jiao Dong University’s Ranking of World Top 500 Universities. 

I asked Mustapha how Malaysia could get back on track to university excellence and quality when academic appointments and promotions are still not based on merit and colour-blind. 

I asked why non-Malay academicians can only find recognition overseas like Prof Eric Tan who became Chancellor of Curtin University in Australia, Dr. Danny Quah who rose to become the head of the most prestigious Economics department of the London School of Economics, recognized as one of the world’s leading institutions of higher learning with many Nobel Prize laureates to its credit or previously Dr. Wang Gung Wu as Vice Chancellor of Hong Kong University. 

The reply by Mustapha did not inspire confidence that there is the political will to promote a culture of excellence and meritocracy which is colour-blind, without which the “Strategic Plan for Higher Education: Laying the Foundation Beyond 2020” would just remain empty words. 

Mustapha just issued a bald denial claiming that what I said was untrue and accusing me of being irresponsible and when I protested and demanded that he substantiate his allegation and not make wild and baseless statements, the Minister just sat down in the ensuing din. 

If Mustapha is not prepared to admit to the maladies responsible for the plunge in academic standards in our public universities, what hope is there that the “Strategic Plan for Higher Education: Laying the Foundation Beyond 2020” would be more than empty promises?


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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