Zahid Higher Education Study Committee should be revamped with a new Chairman if it is not to be another futile exercise just wasting more public funds without making any contribution to education revolution or reform to put Malaysia on the international map for educational excellence
Media Statementby Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Friday): The 12-member Higher Education Study Committee headed by Tan Sri Dr. Wan Mohd Zahid bin Mohd Noordin, former Director-General of Education and currently Chairman of the Board of Directors, University Teknologi MARA (UiTM), should be revamped with a new Chairman if it is not be another futile exercise just wasting more public funds without making any contribution to education revolution or reform to put Malaysia on the international map for educational excellence.
The Higher Education Study Committee is top-heavy with bureaucrats and ex-bureaucrats who have not only failed to distinguish themselves in the past or present careers in ensuring that Malaysia establishes itself as an international centre of educational excellence, but must bear responsibility for the continued and protracted crisis of higher education in the country characterized by the decline in tertiary academic standards, quality and excellence and the production of unemployed and unemployable graduates.
The two most important persons on the Higher Education Study Committee are the Chairman Zahid and his No. 2, Tan Sri Dr. Haji Zainul Ariff bin Haji Hussain, Chairman of Board of Directors, University Putra Malaysia (UPM), who had plunged UPM into a crisis with his botched attempt to force the resignation of UPM Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Mohamad Zohadie Bardaie on behalf of the Minister for Higher Education, Datuk Dr. Shafie Salleh.
What is the attitude of Zahid and Zainul to the Dr. Terence Gomez debacle in the University of Malaya, where the country is losing another member of an endangered species in Malaysia - “towering Malaysian academics” - in the refusal of the University of Malaya administration to approve the secondment application of the eminent Malaysian social scientist to take up a prestigious research appointment at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) in Geneva?
There has been a most impressive letter by a foreign academic testifying not only to Dr. Terence Gomez’s scholarship but his patriotism, love and loyalty to the country in yesterday’s Malaysiakini.
Jeffrey Henderson, Professor of International Economic Sociology at the Manchester Business School and School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, revealed that he had previously tried to persuade Gomez, who was then attached to the University of Leeds, not to return to Malaysia on the ground that Gomez would easily get a permanent post in a British university and would be promoted more rapidly than if he returned home.
Gomez acknowledged that Jeffrey was probably right but he insisted that his place was in Malaysia and he was committed to his students back home and his research on Malaysia’s economic and political development.
In his letter, Jeffrey revealed the publicly unknown fact that Gomez had earlier been subject to the unfair treatment by the University of Malaya administration when his application for promotion to a full Professor in early 2003 was rejected – although Jeffrey described Gomez as “one of Malaysia’s three most internationally eminent social scientists”. The other two are Professor K.S. Jomo and Professor Rajah Rasiah.
Are the attitude of Zahid and Zainul on the Terence Gomez case one which is typical of bureaucrats and ex-bureaucrats, summed up as “Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish” or that of intellectuals and academics who would want to do everything possible to retain Gomez’s services with the University of Malaya because they value and cherish scholarship and high intellect?
If the attitude of Zahid and Zainul to the Terence Gomez debacle is one of “Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish”, what hopes can the Malaysian people place in the Zahid Higher Education Study Committee to come out with a blueprint for the tertiary institutions in the country to take the quantum leap from mediocrity to excellence?
Furthermore, it could legitimately be asked whether the Chairman of the Board of Directors of a public university which is not regarded as among the top three public universities in the country – which in turn have not won international acclaim as among the World’s Best 80 universities – can produce a blueprint to transform all the 17 public universities into world-class universities!
If the Zahid Higher Education Study Committee cannot prevent the higher education crisis from spinning out of control by immediately using its influence to bear on the Higher Education Minister to ensure a satisfactory and decent solution to the Terence Gomez debacle which has made Malaysian universities a laughing-stock in international academic circles, how can Malaysians have confidence in its study and report?
* Lim Kit Siang,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman