• Higher Education Reform

    Dear fellow Malaysians, voters, and residents of P102 Serdang,

    I believe that higher education should be accessible and affordable to all Malaysians who want to pursue higher education i.e. post-secondary education. Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has promised that public higher education will be fully funded by the government. This is a policy deserving of support.

    I believe that entry into our public universities should be based on ability and not on race, religion or social background. Quotas for marginalized groups must be decided and implemented transparently: there must be clear targets, timelines and progress reviews.

    I believe higher education must develop minds, and not just skills and knowledge. Students, whether destined for skills-based or desk-jobs, must leave university with the ability to think, critique and solve problems. In this respect, the higher education environment must be unencumbered. The baggage accumulated over the past decades must be cleared.

    Starting from the very top, Vice Chancellors of our public universities must be chosen according to their own internal governance structures. The process must involve search committees comprising respected academics and other learned individuals. Vice Chancellors should certainly not be appointed by the Minister of Higher Education as they are today. These duly-chosen Vice Chancellors must then be empowered to direct and develop their universities as they see fit. The Ministry of Higher Education’s role should be limited to one of setting broad policies and regulations.

    All students in higher education, as future leaders of the country, must be allowed, even encouraged, to participate in political activities and public engagement. Freedom of association, as enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, must be respected if we are to create campus environments which are dynamic, spirited, energetic and animated. As such, clubs representing political parties should be allowed in our public and private universities as is normal practice in vibrant democracies around the world. The university administration should play a pro-active role in creating a dynamic environment of student participation rather than stifling the spirit and energy of our students.

    Our universities should be the engines of knowledge creation and dissemination in our country. In this respect, government, tax-payer funding for research should be allocated in a transparent manner, and be open to academics from both public and private universities.  Private universities and colleges should not be entirely profit-driven. At least some should strive to become research universities in their own right complementing and engaging in healthy competition with public universities. To achieve this objective, the issuance and renewal of licenses for private institutions of higher learning need to be scrutinized carefully.

    I believe that our universities should also be engaged in their local communities by working with resident associations, local NGOs and businesses to create strong local bonds and a more integrated community and also encourage a spirit of service / giving back among students.

    For far too long, our public universities have been stifled by their political masters. At the same time, our private universities have been allowed to operate only as vehicles of profit generation. Vocational and technical higher education has been totally sidelined. Only by freeing up our higher education system and allowing them to compete and to engage in research can we begin to take the step of achieving a world class higher education system.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Election Strategist, Democratic Action Party
    Parliamentary Candidate for P102 Serdang
    Thursday, 18 April 2013

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