Thursday, September 4, 2008

Our Varsities: Good, Bad & Ugly

I'm not going to copy and paste the entire article here. But I thought its worth highlighting that one of our resident commentator on this blog, Shawn Tan has put together a group of young Malaysians at Cambridge University to discuss burning issues, the first being the state of our universities published in Malaysiakini.

It's unapologetic, it's critical but it's not new. The fact that the points raised aren't new isn't a criticism of the article but that of our Ministry and Government for they have not addressed these issues with the necessary determination and political will despite these problems having been raised many times over the last decade or more.

35% of Science and Math teachers lack English proficiency

Is it a surprise that the MOE is considering getting rid of teaching Science and Math in English when 35% of its teachers have a poor command of English? Again, this is one in a long line of bad implementation projects in the education system in Malaysia. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read this line:

The Government, he said, had provided all types of assistance to these teachers to improve their command of English, including monetary facilities to reference books and tuition classes. "We found that teachers used these monetary aids provided by the Ministry for other unrelated purposes," he added.

USM - the new Apex university

USM has been named the Apex University, beating out UM. Among other things, being named as the Apex university will allow USM to have more 'autonomy in finance, service scheme, management, student intake, study fees and determining the top leadership'. I've always had more positive things to say about USM compared to UM partly because I think that the VC there - Dzulkifli Abdul Razak - is more progressive and visionary compared to the VC at UM. Hopefully this will give another boost to USM in its efforts to improve and upgrade itself.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Not sure if I want to receive this Honorary PhD

Found this NST advertorial from Lim Kit Siang's blog. I'll reproduce it below and let our readers judge for themselves. Whoever wrote this advertorial should be fired!

D.K.II, S.P.M.J., S.P.C.M.

Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith Sofiah binti Almarhum Sultan Idris Al-Mutawakil Alallahi Shah has born on 14th of August 1959 in Hospital Batu Gajah, Perak. Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith is a third son to Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Sultan Perak Darul Ridzwan and Duli Yang Maha Mulia Raja Mazuwin binti almarhum Raja Arif Shah.

Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith Sofiah get early education in Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Datin Khadijah Kuala Kangsar in the state his birthplace namely in Perak. After end of the education in primary school, Yang Amat Mulia continue the education to form one at Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Raja Perempuan Kalsom Kuala Kangsar, Perak.

In the month of September 1972, Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith Sofiah have set forth to England for further education in Chaltenham Ladies College, Gloucestershire to form six. Then, Yang Amat Mulia continue learning it in Davies College London in September 1977 and his following year in receive enter to Somerville College, London after having passed Oxford Entrance Examination.

After graduated at Oxford University with Bachelor of Art in June 1983 and follow the traditional University of Oxford, Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith will receive Master of Art after three years in 1986. Yang Amat Mulia also is a linguist follow several courses including language Mandarin at the tertiary level, French and Italy language.

As his father, Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith Sofiah is a person that talented in picture arts. Refinement of soul, Yang Amat Mulia always watching natural beauty environment immortalize in the form photograph and painting to make look and reference. Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith performance become guide to deliver the message education to general public. Yang Amat Mulia concern on women and natural world and it custody aspect in become deep theme in painting.

Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith Sofiah comply have interest profoundest field documentation. Apart from producing book, Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith doubled up guest writer in the The New Straits Times newspapers and in personal column it “Mind Matters” in The Star newspaper. Besides writing, Yang Amat Mulia comply active presenting a working paper at the conference national level and international.

Education from her father and mother over concern to the people, make Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith Sofiah likes engaged in voluntary activities about as Deputy President of Majlis Wanita Johor (ROSE), Chief of Persatuan Pandu Puteri Malaysia Johor branch, Chairman of Nationalistic Community Service Red Crescent Malaysia, Patron of Spastic Children School in Johor Bahru, Patron Rotary Club of Tebrau Foundation, Advisor of Traditional Arts School International in London and become Pro Chancellor University Technology Malaysia (UTM) and becomen Royal Felllow Faculty of Language and Linguistic University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

As the appreciation towards her contributions of ideas and efforts in the development of education in Malaysia, Chancellor of University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, Duli Yang Amat Mulia Tunku lbrahim lsmail lbni Sultan lskandar, Tunku Mahkota Johor, has approbation to presented the awards to Yang Amat Mulia Raja Zarith Sofiah binti Almarhum Sultan Idris Al-Mutawakil Alallahi Shah the Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy in Education at 7th Convocation Ceremony of University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia in this year. Congratulation from us, University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia members.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Congrats Prof Khalid!

Congrats to Prof Khalid Abdul Kadir for being the recipient of the first Merdeka award for Health, Science and Technology. Prof Khalid is the head of the Johor Baru Monash University Clinical School and his area of specialty is the treatment of diabetes. With so much depressing news of politicians seeking bogus PhDs and VCs having lousy CVs, it is good to read about a genuine academic who cares about his area of research. I don't know much about the research of diabetes but I do know that a simple google search reveals that Prof Khalid has quite a few publications in refereed journals. I'm guessing that Monash would not have made him the head of their clinical school in JB if he was a sub par academic.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Two years at Harvard Business School

Just read a book written by a journalist, Philip Delves Broughton, who attended Harvard Business School or HBS, as it is popularly known, and wrote about his experiences there. It's a much cheaper way to get a sense of what studying at HBS is like and definitely less stressful!

There is no doubt that HBS is the most powerful brand name in terms of business schools (sorry Wharton). What I found interesting about this book is that the author is very unlike the type A, super intense and incredibly driven individuals that one typically finds at HBS. He doesn't have any background in finance, he didn't even know how to use excel when he first attended HBS and didn't know the management speak that is common currency in these circles.

Although he finds himself being critical of some of the attitudes adopted by some of his colleagues - those type A people - he also writes very fondly of some of them. Some of them are actually nice people who don't want to work in the two industries most associated with HBS graduates - investment banking and management consultancy. (Not to say that ibankers and management consultants are not nice people :))

And I think through his journey at HBS, he actually slowly finds himself being more comfortable in the world of balance sheets, financial ratios and management jargon. He begins to write more sympathetically about the kind of stuff which you learn at HBS and even some of his experiences. He goes for that mandatory interview with Mckinsey (he didn't get the job), he pitches an idea to a venture capitalist, he visits the HQ of Google in California.

In the end, his path was not the same taken by most of his fellow graduates. He was the only one from his class that did not have a job when he graduated. I think he spent some time writing this book and doing some small consultancy projects here and there. For those of you who want to get a sense of the academic and career challenges that one faces in a place like HBS, I definitely recommend this book. There are some parts in which he discusses some of the details of what he learned at HBS which some might find boring but these snippets, in my opinion, are still instructive. While this is not as exciting as Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker, I found it to be well written and an instructive read.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

UM and possibly USM to become Apex Universities?

Looks like UM is likely to get designated to be an Apex university which will allow it to get more funding and autonomy and perhaps USM as well. UKM and UPM will not be happy. My sense is that it probably makes more sense to have 2 universities designated as Apex universities so that there will be some level of competition. But without a radical restructuring of how research and teaching and admissions are conducted and without a qualified and politically independent VC in place, I cannot imagine UM and USM breaking into the ranks of the top 100 universities in the world.