What you should know about Chinese schools in Malaysia

Schools considered as ‘Chinese schools’ in Malaysia share a common history but have different features. — Picture by KE Ooi

Schools considered as ‘Chinese schools’ in Malaysia share a common history but have different features. — Picture by KE OoiKUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — Not all Chinese schools in Malaysia use Mandarin as the medium of instruction. Surprised? Why are they called Chinese schools then?

That is because the term “Chinese schools” has been used indiscriminately to group together disparate types of schools with a common historical background under a very wide umbrella.

In reality, there are two broad categories for Chinese schools here: those that are private and those that are government-aided. Some of their key distinctions revolve around funding, medium of instruction and syllabus used.

According to the Education Ministry, the self-funded Chinese independent high schools are private schools while those called national-type Chinese primary schools (SJKC) or national-type secondary schools (SMJK) are public schools that receive either full or partial financial assistance from the government.

Chinese independent high schools

Chinese independent high schools may sound like an odd moniker but it can be traced back to the history of local Chinese-medium schools, which United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) chairman Datuk Vincent Lau told Malay Mail Online were first established by the migrants originating from China to provide education for their children.

Surviving a push for English-medium schools during British colonial rule as they insisted on using their mother tongue for lessons, the Chinese-medium secondary schools that refused to switch to using Bahasa Malaysia in exchange for government funding became known as Chinese independent high schools.

These schools do not receive funding from the federal government, except for one-off contributions.

However, Dong Zong confirmed that state governments such as Penang, Sabah, Sarawak and Selangor do provide financial assistance. The respective school boards otherwise continue to rely on school fees and donations from the community for all expenses including teachers’ salaries and infrastructure.

SJKC and SMJK: Government-aided schools

There are also primary schools where Mandarin is used to teach all subjects. These existed before Malaysia was formed in 1963 and are now known as SJKC, where the vernacular language is allowed to continue to be used as the medium of instruction as an alternative to the Bahasa Malaysia-medium national primary schools (SK).

SK schools are located on public land and accorded the status of “government schools” which the ministry fully maintains and funds.

SJKC schools adopt the same national syllabus used by SK schools and offer the same school-leaving UPSR examination. But because they are built on private donated land, they are given the status of “government-aided schools” and receive less government funding compared to SK schools.

While the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 states that the ministry allocates teachers for both government and government-aided schools and fully pays for their salaries, funding in other aspects for these two subsets of public schools differ slightly.

Both receive government support for operational expenditure in the form of grants-in-aid based on the same criteria of individual school’s needs, but there is a limit on funding for government-aided schools’ utilities bill.

And while the government fully funds the development costs for SK schools, SJKC schools may get 80 per cent funding, sometimes more, for their renovation and construction.

Similarly for SMJK schools which were once Chinese-medium schools that opted to conform by using BM and the national syllabus in return for government aid, the amount of government funding received also depends on ownership of school land.

While SMJK schools have told Putrajaya that they should be granted full financial assistance regardless of their land status, they are currently only considered fully-aided schools if the school boards surrendered the land titles to the government. Otherwise they only receive partial financial assistance with teachers’ salaries and per capita grants paid by the government.

Syllabus and examinations

SMJK students follow the same syllabus and sit for the same examinations as their counterparts in national secondary schools (SMK) during Form Three (PT3), Form Five (SPM) and Form Six (STPM).

But SJMK schools also allocate more time for Mandarin classes with five periods per week to instil deeper awareness of the language and its roots among their majority ethnic Chinese students. In comparison, SMK schools offer only three periods of Mandarin classes a week.

At Chinese independent schools, the syllabus and textbooks are prepared by Dong Zong, which also prepares and conducts the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) for their students.

While students typically sit for the UEC examination during their Junior Three and Senior Three years — or the equivalent of Form Three and Form Six in national schools — there are also some Chinese independent schools which offer the SPM to their students too though Lau said it is not compulsory for Chinese independent schools.

Dong Zong’s records showed that 8,574 students at the Chinese independent schools registered as SPM candidates last year.

Lau said some Chinese independent school students may not take the UEC Senior Three exam after sitting for their SPM as a Senior Two student, opting instead for other pre-university courses.

The STPM exam is not offered however, as the UEC Senior Three exam is its equivalent and is widely-accepted abroad and in local private institutions as a pre-university qualifier.

The UEC examination for Junior Three is in Chinese for most schools, but some schools are also given examination papers in both Mandarin and English. UEC Senior Three candidates are given examination papers set in both Mandarin and English.

While not part of Dong Zong’s tally of Chinese independent schools, Kuantan’s SM Chong Hwa has the unique arrangement of being a private secondary school where students can sit for both the UEC examination and examinations under the national syllabus.

Dong Zong chairman Datuk Vincent Lau said the shrinking fresh intake of students is also tied to lack of space and the non-approval for new Chinese independent schools to cope with demand. — Picture by Choo Choy May

Dong Zong chairman Datuk Vincent Lau said the shrinking fresh intake of students is also tied to lack of space and the non-approval for new Chinese independent schools to cope with demand. — Picture by Choo Choy MayChinese education in numbers

There are currently 81 SMJK, including three branch schools. The branch campus of Kajang’s SMJK Yu Hua, which received government approval last December after the 3,500-capacity main campus had to turn down students, will be the latest addition when completed.

Based on Dong Zong’s data sourced from the Education Ministry, the number of SJKC schools has been shrinking while BM-medium national primary schools have been growing.

As at last December, the number of SJKC schools numbered 1,298 compared to 1,346 in 1970. In contrast, SK schools boasted 5,877 in 2016 compared to 4,277 in 1970.

The dwindling trend for vernacular schools is also reflected in the decreasing number of Tamil-language primary schools (SJKT) that recorded just 524 last year compared to 657 in 1970.

As for secondary schools, there are currently 61 Chinese independent schools, inclusive of Johor’s Foon Yew High School and its branch which both collectively have over 10,000 students. Foon Yew is set to open yet another branch in 2021.

But Lau of Dong Zong said demand remains high for enrolment in Chinese independent schools, especially in cities, where some of these schools have around 3,000 students and cannot take in more due to limited land, facilities and classrooms.

“The other thing is we cannot get the permission to build more Chinese independent schools, the government does not allow, they limit you to 60. We applied but they don’t give permission,” he said, comparing this with the boom in the number of international schools approved by the government.

As such, some Chinese independent schools have resorted to demolishing some of their buildings to rebuild additional storeys to cater to demand.

How big a pie?

While the overall number of students at Chinese independent schools continued its uninterrupted upward trend of 15 years and hit a historic peak this year with 85,304 students, it accounts for only four per cent of the total recorded number of secondary school students, which is 2,099,603 as of January 2017.

SMJK schools account for over 108,000 students, and even when combined with Chinese independent schools amount to less than 10 per cent.

The number of new intakes at Chinese independent schools has however been going down in the past four years.

After a record high at 17,620 in 2013, this year saw only 14,481 enrolments, which Lau attributed to a cocktail of factors: the rural to urban migration, the subsequent imbalance between overcrowded urban schools and under-enrolled rural schools, and lower birth rates especially among the ethnic Chinese community.

According to an Education Ministry parliamentary reply in the March-April session, the number of primary school students as of January 2017 is 2,674,327. A separate reply in the same session shows that the bulk of the student are enrolled in SK schools at 2,065,279, while almost one-fifth are in SJKC schools at 527,453 and SJKT schools account for 81,483.

Based on the Department of Statistics Malaysia’s data of live births in the 2000-2015 period, the annual number of babies born in some of the preceding seven years before primary school enrolment from 2000 to 2017 are also among the lowest of the entire 15-year period.

The SK, SJKC and SJKT overall student numbers have generally been on a downward trend during the 2010-2017 period (except for a rebound for SK schools in the past two years).

Beyond the flocking of locals to international schools since the federal government removed limits in 2012 on intake of Malaysians, the Department Statistics Malaysia’s 2000-2015 data of live births may also give a hint on the explanation for the student numbers in national and national-type primary schools.

Malaysians typically enter primary schools at age seven, so students freshly enrolled in the 2010-2017 batch would generally be those born during the 2003-2010 period. The annual number of babies born during the latter period are among the lowest in the 2000-2015 period — 481,800 in 2004, 474,473 in 2005, 472,698 in 2006, 479,647 in 2007.

Future goals

Dong Zong has long been pushing Putrajaya to recognise the UEC for entry into the civil service and local public universities, with Lau saying that further discussions are required to pursue this recognition.

The government had in parliamentary replies said it is maintaining the status quo by letting the 60 Chinese independent schools here continue their operations as provided for under the Education Act 1996.

The replies indicate that the government’s steadfast refusal to recognise the UEC is because of the differing national syllabus standards and alleged contradiction with the National Education Policy which envisions a uniform syllabus and examinations delivered in BM.

The Higher Education Ministry had in a March 2016 parliamentary reply highlighted that it will deny public university entry to UEC graduates owing to several reasons including entry requirements of an SPM pass with credits in the BM subject; UEC’s BM levels not being on par with SPM standards; as well as alleged inadequate coverage of national history in the UEC syllabus.

Lau said the BM levels may differ in the two examinations, adding that Dong Zong is agreeable to having UEC students sit for the Bahasa Malaysia subject under SPM as a single subject and would want to be able to waive sitting for the entire examination.

“Maybe they have misconception about what we study, they are thinking we are studying Chinese history textbook from China or Taiwan, which is not true,” he said.

He claimed that Chinese independent schools cover a wider scope in history lessons on Europe, China and South-east Asia compared to the syllabus taught in national schools, but that they also cover Malaysian history.

The UEC is currently recognised by the Sarawak state government for entry into the state’s civil service and is recognised by local private universities such as the Selangor-owned Unisel, but is not accepted by the public universities such as Universiti Malaysia Sarawak which is under the federal government, Lau said. The Penang state government also accepts UEC graduates at its subsidiary companies.

As for Chinese primary schools, Lau said the federal government should adopt a systematic policy by either relocating under-enrolled schools or build new schools in high-demand areas such as urban areas and new townships that have predominantly ethnic Chinese population.

“Sometimes this becomes political, when it’s closer to election, the place there requests a school, the government [says] OK and they will build the school,” he said of the current ad-hoc approach.

Chinese education groups had in two memoranda in 2011 and 2012 to the prime minister said an additional 45 SJKC schools in six states needs to be built. The government has yet to approve the construction of these schools as of a December 2016 statement by Dong Zong.

Source: The Malay Mail Online (3rd July 2017)

Bukan mudah dapat PhD

Oleh: Dr. Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil

Tulisan Adam Kadir berjudul Pemakaian ‘Dr.’ Perlu Pengiktirafan Rasmi dalam Utusan Malaysia (8 April 2008) ada kebenarannya. Dalam usaha Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi yang meletakkan sasaran 100 ribu pemegang PhD menjelang 2015, maka ramai yang secara tiba-tiba menggunakan gelaran tersebut.

PhD atau Doktor Falsafah mengikut kamus Oxford Advanced Learner‘s Dictionary ialah ijazah tertinggi yang dianugerah oleh sesebuah universiti. Penganugerahan tersebut dibuat setelah calon berjaya membuat penyelidikan yang mencapai standard PhD dalam sesuatu bidang.

Pendek kata, ijazah PhD bukanlah suatu ijazah yang mudah diperoleh. Ia melalui satu proses pembelajaran dan penyelidikan yang tinggi mutunya sesuai dengan status ketinggian ijazah tersebut.

Kebanyakan universiti di Malaysia dan United Kingdom misalnya, tempoh minimum pengajian PhD mengambil masa tiga tahun, dan tempoh maksimum enam tahun sekiranya dibuat secara sepenuh masa. Bagi pengajian separuh masa tempoh yang diberi adalah sehingga lapan tahun bagi sesetengah universiti.

Manakala pengajian PhD secara jarak jauh banyak membawa perdebatan yang bersetuju dan ada yang menentang. Ada yang mendakwa mendapat Ijazah PhD dari sebuah universiti terkemuka di luar negara tetapi malangnya, universiti itu tidak diberi pengiktirafan Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA).

Ini kerana, peranan JPA adalah untuk menjaga ‘taraf dan mutu’ sesuatu ijazah yang dianugerahkan oleh sesebuah universiti. Maka tidak hairanlah JPA tidak mengiktiraf sesetengah ijazah walaupun di peringkat Sarjana Muda dengan alasan ia tidak mencapai mutu dan standard yang dikehendaki dalam satu-satu bidang berkenaan.

Dalam menyahut cabaran Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi yang mahukan ramai pemegang PhD di kalangan pensyarah, sudah tentulah ramai di kalangan kakitangan akademik ‘terpaksa’ menyambung pengajian mereka ke peringkat PhD. Sebagai seorang pensyarah, penulis berpendapat pensyarah yang tidak memiliki Ijazah PhD ‘belum sempurna keilmuannya’ kerana dengan melalui pengajian di peringkat tersebut, seseorang akan didedahkan method pengajian dan penyelidikan yang cukup tinggi nilai, mutu dan standardnya.

Sesebuah tesis yang dihasilkan dalam masa pengajian tiga hingga empat tahun misalnya, akan membuahkan satu teori atau penemuan baru dalam satu-satu bidang. Malah, kalau ia tidak membuahkan satu teori baru, ia tidak dianggap tesis PhD. Begitu juga, kalau ia tidak membuktikan satu hasil penyelidikan yang tidak ada tolok bandingnya.

Sesebuah tesis PhD akan melalui banyak proses – daripada cadangan (proposal) dan mempertahankan cadangan tersebut (defend proposal) di peringkat universiti yang akan dinilai oleh pakar-pakar dalam bidang tersebut, baik dari segi kandungan dan juga pendekatan methodologi.

Seseorang yang telah melalui pengalaman ini, sudah tentu merasai pahit maung dikritik dan ‘dibelasah’ dalam sesi defend proposal.

Terdapat juga pendekatan upgrading dari M. Phil ke PhD yang diamalkan terutama mereka yang membuat pengajian di United Kingdom. Bagi mereka ini, tempoh setahun hingga setahun setengah merupakan tahun getir kerana tanpa berjaya melalui upgrading ke PhD, seseorang itu dianggap gagal memperolehi ijazah PhD.

Dalam melihat keaslian dan kesahihan penyelidikan yang dibuat, kebanyakan universiti di Malaysia mahupun luar negara mensyaratkan pemeriksaan melalui viva secara oral. Ini bagi memastikan penyelidik tersebut benar-benar ‘mendalami’ hasil kajian yang dibuat dalam tesis PhDnya.

Ia juga bertujuan untuk melihat kesahihan penyelidik tersebut. Maka tohmahan bahawa sesebuah tesis PhD boleh diperolehi melalui upahan akan terjawab dalam proses viva. Ini kerana, kadang-kadang pemeriksa akan bertanya soalan-soalan sampingan yang tiada kaitan dengan kajian tesis PhD tersebut.

Dalam hal ini, penulis banyak melihat kawan-kawan yang sama-sama berjaya memperolehi PhD dan tidak ketinggalan, ramai juga yang gagal. Kalau diambil tempoh pengajian tiga hingga empat tahun untuk tamat pengajian, agak sedikit mereka yang lulus dalam tempoh ini. Ada yang mengambil sehingga 10 tahun untuk tamat pengajian.

Bagi mereka yang gagal, mungkin kerana nasib tidak menyebelahi mereka. Dalam pengamatan penulis, terdapat kawan-kawan yang rajin dan tekun serta berdisiplin semasa pengajian, tetapi nasib tidak menyebelahi mereka di mana penyelia meninggal dunia atau bertukar tempat. Maka pengajian PhD itu terbengkalai akibat keadaan itu kerana tiada pensyarah lain yang boleh menyelia tesis tersebut justeru kerana bukan bidang kepakaran atau kemahiran mereka.

Maka, persoalannya, bagaimana tergamak seseorang insan itu sanggup menggelarkan dirinya seorang ‘Dr.’ seandainya beliau tidak melalui proses ‘kepenatan’ dan ‘kesengsaraan’ mental, emosi dan fizikal dalam menyiapkan penyelidikan PhD tersebut.

Seperti yang dinukilkan oleh Prof. Dr. Kamil Ibrahim dalam bukunya PhD Kecil Tapi Signifikan, UPENA, UiTM (2005), ijazah PhD ialah suatu keperluan akademik yang sangat perlu di universiti seandainya seseorang itu mahu dianggap sebagai seorang scholar.

Beliau menambah, “PhD merupakan suatu proses unik. Ramai yang mencuba untuk mendapatkannya, tetapi ramai yang kecundang. Mereka yang berjaya pula melalui pelbagai halangan. Ada orang mengatakan ia suatu proses yang cukup perit dan meletihkan.”

Tambahan pula, “terlalu sedikit yang dapat menyiapkan pengajian mereka tepat mengikut jadual. Apatah lagi untuk mencari mereka yang tamat kurang dari tiga tahun. Ia boleh dibilang dengan jari.”

Demi menjaga mutu dan standard sesebuah ijazah PhD yang dianugerahkan oleh sesebuah universiti, sudah tentulah tesis itu akan dinilai oleh peers dalam bidang berkenaan terlebih dahulu sebelum dinilai oleh pihak pemeriksa luar.

Bagi Universiti Malaya sebagai contohnya, amalan sekarang ialah pemeriksa luar bagi tesis PhD mestilah seorang profesor yang memiliki PhD dan disyaratkan mesti dari luar negara. Sudah tentulah proses untuk mendapat ijazah PhD bukannya mudah tetapi semakin susah.

Mengambil kira faktor-faktor di atas, amat wajar saranan Adam Kadir supaya pihak JPA memainkan peranan pengiktirafan sesebuah ijazah PhD walaupun ia datang dari Barat. Ia hendaklah melalui proses pengajian PhD sebenar walaupun ia dibuat secara jarak jauh. Bagi mereka yang suka memakai gelaran ‘Dr.’ walaupun gagal kerana terkandas di tengah jalan, pertanyaan ikhlas penulis ialah, apakah mereka ini tidak merasa malu dan dipandang serong oleh kawan dan orang awam.

Sebagai contoh, memang terdapat mereka yang membuat pengajian PhD di luar negara secara jarak jauh dan tiba-tiba meletakkan nama ‘Dr.’ Apakah mereka ini memang melalui pengajian PhD dalam erti kata sebenar?

Terdapat pensyarah yang gagal memperoleh PhD setelah melalui pengajian sepenuh masa dan kemudian berusaha lagi dengan membuatnya secara jarak jauh. Namun ia tidak diiktiraf oleh universiti berkenaan, maka dengan sendirinya dia rela menerima ‘pelucutan’ penggunaan gelaran ‘Dr.’

Maka penulis mencadangkan supaya pengiktirafan penggunaan gelaran ‘Dr.’ hendaklah diperketatkan. Pihak JPA hendaklah diberi peranan dalam memberi pengiktirafan tersebut.

Bagi pensyarah di universiti, pengiktirafan ini boleh diturun kuasa oleh JPA kepada Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi yang kemudian akan memberi pengiktirafan tersebut.

Masalahnya ialah bagi mereka yang bekerja sendiri atau di sektor swasta, gelaran ‘Dr.’ juga mesti dibuat pengiktirafan oleh pihak JPA. Selagi mana pengiktirafan tersebut tidak diperoleh, seseorang individu dilarang sama sekali mengguna gelaran tersebut.

Bagi mereka yang mendapat ijazah PhD dari universiti bagus dan menggunakan gelaran tersebut tanpa pengiktirafan oleh pihak JPA, adalah dicadangkan supaya satu undang-undang mengenai salah laku penggunaan gelaran ‘Dr.’ hendaklah dibuat demi menjaga kemurnian dan kesarjanaan seseorang yang bergelar ‘Dr.’

Sumber: Dr. Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil

Why we need ‘useless’ knowledge

by: Mohamad Firdaus Raih

The research Nur Adlyka Annuar (sitting from left) and her colleagues are doing is curiosity driven and therefore, it is considered as basic research

ON April 4, Nur Adlyka Annuar, an astronomy PhD candidate at Durham University, received a congratulatory letter from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for her part in the discovery of a supermassive black hole. Like many other Malaysians, I take pride in her achievement and wish her the best for the future. I am not going to elaborate on the subject of black holes, but I would like to centre our discussion on the nature of Adlyka’s topic of study.

In Malaysia, research being carried out in the universities and research institutes can generally be divided into fundamental or basic research, and applied research. So what are the differences between these two streams of research?

Basic research, as the name implies, is the acquisition of knowledge about the fundamental workings of our natural world. It aims to answer questions that are usually curiosity driven, such as, “Why is our sky blue?; How do we get a disease?; What are those twinkling lights we see in the night sky?; Why/How does a firefly flash/glow?; How does the body turn food into energy?” and others like it. The questions that can stem from our curiosity are perhaps endless and there will always be new questions as we understand new things.

Applied research on the other hand takes on the knowledge that is acquired from basic research and develops that knowledge into a useful application such as a technology or a technique. But let’s not dwell on definitions and instead look at some real-world examples.

Nur Adlyka’s research into black holes appears to have no apparent use except in terms of knowledge value — so now you know that there is a huge black hole a few million light years away. Many of us are not even concerned with what goes on in our own neighbourhoods, this makes a place that is not even reachable within our lifetime as hardly something that would spark our interest. The research Adlyka and her colleagues are doing is curiosity driven and therefore it is considered as basic research. Nevertheless, such knowledge may have uses that we may not yet be aware of.

The most expensive scientific infrastructure (I dare not call it an instrument) ever constructed, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), basically just accelerates very, very small objects of matter called particles and crashes them into each other in order to see what happens. Again, there appears to be nothing that can be gained commercially in return for the tens of billions of dollars invested in the LHC except furthering our understanding of the world around us. But yet, developed nations and funding agencies are spending millions and billions of dollars to support fundamental research that has no apparent use.

One of my favourite stories on basic research and applied research is the one about the discovery of antibiotics. Sir Alexander Fleming, the biologist who is credited with the discovery of antibiotics, observed that bacteria he was trying to culture were not able to grow near a mould that had contaminated his culture plates. He translated this to mean that the mould was producing something that was preventing bacterial growth. However, it was Lord Howard Florey and Sir Ernst Chain who took that knowledge and developed it into the application of antibiotics that we know of today. All three were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945.

Another story that has had a large impact on humankind is the discovery of Röntgen radiation. Wilhelm Röntgen was the first winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1901. He was experimenting with vacuum tubes when he chanced upon the discovery of the rays named after him. A few weeks after his discovery of the mysterious rays emanating from the vacuum tubes, he was able to take a photograph using them. The photograph was that of his wife’s hand, or specifically, an image of the bones in his wife’s hand. Not knowing what these rays were, he had named them X-rays, the X in reference to it being something unknown. X-rays and antibiotics have probably saved hundreds of millions of lives since their first use in medicine until the present day.

Basic research contributes to the foundation of our collective knowledge as a species.

Despite what may seem like a waste of funds, knowledge from basic research is the cornerstone that has enabled numerous disruptive innovations that we use in our daily lives. However, is our approach to science and research funding in Malaysia duly considering the impact that fundamental research can bring forth? Or are we arrogant enough to think that we can know which knowledge is going to be useless and which ones will be useful and thus only fund those that will be of perceived future use?

I do not disagree that applied research is necessary. The story about the discovery and following deployment of antibiotics for treating bacterial infections clearly demonstrates how applied research is necessary to capitalise on the fundamental knowledge gained from basic research. But are we just focusing too much on applied research for what we think are quick return of investments for R&D?

Malaysia is definitely not lacking in the talent to carry out world class research, even in areas of basic research that are at the boundaries and forefront of human knowledge. Adlyka and many others like her are testament to this fact. It is our responsibility as Malaysians to support such endeavours, be it in the financial sense or in the form of infrastructure and moral support. Basic research has the potential to bring pride and riches to the nation. But we must first have the humility to accept how little we know and as a result, strive to understand more.

The Nobel laureate and physicist Richard Feynman once wrote on a blackboard: “What I cannot create, I do not understand”. It is time for us to want to understand, and from there we can hope to create great and wonderful things. It is from basic research that we can bring about revolutionary innovation. We must aim to create new machines and applications, and not forever be doomed to incrementally make improvements to an old machine.

The writer is a bioinformatician and molecular biologist with the Faculty of Science and Technology and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Systems Biology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Source: NSTonline (12th April 2017)

Graduate on time!

Oleh: Roshlawaty Raieh

Dr Othman Talib

BELIAU merupakan pencetus awal saranan Graduate on Time (GOT) sebelum diuar-uarkan Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi (KPT) serta IPTA/S seluruh negara. Beliau juga pencetus fenomena ‘Tulis Tesis Cepat’ serta perintis perisian MENDELEY dalam kalangan pascasiswazah Malaysia dalam dan luar negara.

Berikut adalah hasil wawancara bersama Pensyarah Kanan Fakulti Pengajian Pendidikan, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Dr Othman Talib, yang slogan GOT cetusannya dilihat telah menimbulkan pelbagai reaksi dalam kalangan pascasiswazah.

Apakah sebenarnya yang dimaksudkan dengan GOT?

GOT adalah satu sasaran supaya pelajar pascasiswazah yang mengambil program sarjana dan kedoktoran (PhD, DBA dan setaraf) dapat menamatkan pengajian mereka dalam tempoh yang ditetapkan. Pengajian peringkat sarjana biasanya mengambil masa dua dan tiga tahun manakala peringkat kedoktoran pula antara tiga dan empat tahun, bergantung kepada institusi pengajian tinggi yang menawarkan program yang diambil.

 Kenapa GOT kini menjadi satu yang digembar-gemburkan?

Pembiaya biasiswa seperti JPA dan MARA telah mula mengetatkan syarat supaya calon yang mereka biayai menamatkan pengajian dalam tempoh yang ditetapkan.

Calon tidak akan diberikan pembiayaan tambahan malah boleh ditamatkan kontrak dengan institusi yang menghantar mereka jika gagal menamatkan pengajian dalam tempoh yang ditetapkan.

Semua ini adalah langkah berjimat di samping sebagai satu ‘amaran’ supaya pelajar pascasiswazah serius dan fokus menamatkan pengajian masing-masing tanpa alasan yang wajar untuk melengah-lengahkannya.

 Adakah terdapat isu yang menjadi perbahasan dalam kalangan pascasiswazah?

Terdapat beberapa isu. Calon PhD sepenuh masa misalnya hanya boleh membentangkan proposal pada peringkat jabatan pada Semester Ketiga dan tentulah sesuatu yang sukar untuk calon menghabiskan pengajian dalam tempoh tiga semester yang berbaki. Berikut adalah isu-isu yang sempat saya senaraikan berkaitan GOT yang menjadi perbahasan dalam kalangan calon program ijazah sarjana dan mahupun kedoktoran.

a. Terdapat universiti terutama di luar negara yang menawarkan program kedoktoran untuk empat tahun seperti yang dinyatakan dalam surat tawaran sedang biasiswa hanya ditawarkan kepada calon untuk tempoh tiga tahun. Sudah tentulah calon akan menghadapi kesulitan dan mungkin bekerja untuk menampung perbelanjaan. Situasi ini akan menyulitkan lagi mereka untuk GOT.

b. Wujud ruang penantian viva yang memakan masa berbulan-bulan sehingga calon yang berjaya menghantar tesis lebih awal untuk GOT akhirnya hanya mendapat keputusan untuk graduate di luar tempoh pengajian. Bukan itu sahaja, ada kes calon menerima laporan viva selepas beberapa bulan viva berlangsung.

c. Terdapat hal-hal luar kawal yang tidak memungkinkan calon menamatkan pengajian dalam tempohnya seperti proses menjalankan eksperimen di makmal yang lama, calon jatuh sakit, pertukaran penyelia, kesukaran mendapat sampel kajian, sampel yang tercemar dan masalah melibatkan instrumentasi.

 Apakah yang boleh dicadangkan bagi mengurangkan isu berkaitan GOT?

Terdapat banyak isu yang perlu diteliti oleh pelbagai pihak, antaranya:

a. Universiti tempatan dan pihak KPT perlu menjadikan GOT satu proses melibatkan semua pihak di semua peringkat, bermula pusat pengajian siswazah atau sekolah siswazah, fakulti, jabatan, institut hinggalah kepada penyelia. GOT bukan saranan yang semata-mata diletakkan ke atas usaha calon sahaja. Dalam lain perkataan, perlu ada perubahan menyeluruh dalam sistem yang dapat membantu melancarkan pengajian peringkat pascasiswazah.

b. Jawatankuasa penyeliaan tidak boleh mengenakan apa-apa syarat tambahan tanpa sebarang alasan kukuh seperti menetapkan proposal mesti mencapai ratusan muka surat atau meminta calon membaca dahulu ratusan artikel tanpa tujuan jelas dan munasabah.

c. Perlu diwujudkan saluran untuk calon merujuk jika wujud sebarang isu atau masalah berbangkit yang melibatkan hubungan penyelia-pascasiswazah.

d. Menilai semula definisi GOT yang dirujuk kepada tarikh penerimaan surat pengesahan dari Senat. Namun, GOT pada hemat saya lebih wajar diberikan pada tarikh calon lulus viva!

e. Perlunya usaha meningkatkan keberkesanan penyelia sepanjang penyeliaan calon serta menangani isu-isu mengeksploitasi masa dan tenaga calon untuk kepentingan penyelia. Ini termasuklah penyelia menggunakan dapatan kajian calon sebagai dapatan kajiannya sendiri untuk memasuki pertandingan atau pameran malah penyelia meminta namanya diletakkan sebagai pengarang utama artikel yang ditulis oleh calon hasil dari kajian sarjana mahupun PhD.

f. Wujud pendapat yang menganggap GOT bukan satu idea yang baik. Bagi mereka, pengajian yang baik mestilah memakan masa yang lama supaya mematangkan calon. Ada pelajar yang diminta menyiapkan proposal sehingga ratusan muka surat dengan harapan calon akan lebih matang. Maka berlarutanlah sehingga 3, 4 semester calon menghabiskan masa hanya tertumpu kepada ‘menyempurnakan’ proposal sedang proposal hanyalah satu ‘blue print’ yang ringkas tetapi lengkap yang boleh sahaja disiapkan dalam satu semester.

g. Penyeliaan adalah satu keperluan sebagai panduan kepada calon. Kecanggihan komunikasi membolehkan penyeliaan berlaku tanpa perlu kerap bersemuka. Medium seperti e-mel, WhatsApp dan Facebook, memberikan ruang tambahan komunikasi dua hala antara penyelia dan calon.

 Apakah harapan Dr dalam isu GOT ini?

GOT perlu dilihat sebagai pemangkin kepada calon untuk fokus dan berusaha menamatkan pengajian dengan menghasilkan penulisan, penerbitan dan kajian yang berkualiti. Namun, saranan yang baik ini bukan hanya terletak di bahu calon, sedang kejayaannya juga bergantung secara signifikan kepada sistem di peringkat pengurusan dan penyeliaan.

Ikuti ulasan lanjut beliau di http://www.facebook.com/othman.talib atau http://www.drotspss.blogpot.com kerana isu-isu di atas adalah isu bersama yang perlu diteliti dan dilakukan penambahbaikan oleh semua pihak termasuk Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi dan pengurusan universiti supaya GOT tidak menjadi hanya satu mitos!

Source: Sinar Harian (28th December 2016)

Rote learning a bane in tertiary education, Harvard professor warns

by: Minderjeet Kaur

Malaysia has great education policies but these could be hampered by rote learning and a lack of emphasis on critical thinking.

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SUBANG JAYA: The Malaysian government may have invested sufficient funds in education, but there is still a lot to be done to raise the quality of graduates from its tertiary institutions, according to a US academic.

Citing a recent research on literacy among Indonesian students, which among others found their level to be similar to junior high school dropouts in Denmark, Harvard professor Lant Pritchett said he feared the same could be true with Malaysia if its schools failed to prepare students for university-level education.

“The reason is because students leave primary school without mastering the subjects and the same with secondary (school students). By the time they reach the tertiary (level), they are left far behind,” he told FMT.

“There is no deep understanding of the materials. Instead, it is rote memorisation, applying theory and regurgitating it during exams,” he told FMT.

Pritchett was in Malaysia for the Asia Public Policy Forum 2017 co-hosted by Harvard Kennedy School and the Jeffrey Cheah Institute of Southeast Asia here.

He said the real measure of education should be mastery of the subject with practical application, and which was not confined to rote memorisation of the subject.

Redefine role of education

He added the system should redefine the role of education “to not just schooling that focuses on butts and seats but on ideas and hats so that children emerging out of the schooling system were adequate for the 21st century.”

Another Harvard University professor, Michael Woolcock, said the big challenge for Malaysia was making sure the system worked for everybody.

“(Take) the European system (for example). They have been doing it for 200 years and it has worked very well for them. They have developed a good traditional practice and a strong sense from the community and parents to help students learn critical thinking skills and apply what they learn.”

Gaps between the rich and poor

He said in Malaysia, the system worked well for the middle class and the rich but the bottom half of the population was unable to catch up.

“The needs of the rich, middle (class) and the poor in Malaysia are wide (ranging). The different layers and gaps need to be enriched to close the gap.”

Woolcock will return to Washington today after 18 months of researching the Malaysian education system.

He said a study showed that 51% of those from the lower classes, who work in factories, were unable to read manuals or perform basic procedures.

“They are unable to apply theory or understand English. It is not a geography issue. In Malaysia, it is a class issue. For a system to work really well, it has to work for everybody.

“The education system works fine for the top half but the big challenge is to make it work for everybody, including rural villagers and isolated communities.”

English a big barrier

One of the biggest barriers was proficiency in the English language. Woolcock said that just like in European countries, debates raged on whether using English would compromise use of the mother tongue.

“These debates always happen but they have figured out how to do both. They teach English very well. So much so Europeans are good at both (English and their native language).”

For instance, in Iceland, they take their mother tongue seriously. But they recognise that they are from a small country and if they could only speak Icelandic, their economy might not be functional and meet the needs of the world economy.

“Everyone (there) speaks Icelandic and English. They learn English to do deals with the Italians, Spaniards and others.”

He said in Malaysia, those who spoke English were from the upper and middle classes, and were the ones who attracted foreign investors into the country.

However, Woolcock said an education system should find ways to benefit all.

For instance, he said his study in Palestine showed that a school in the middle of a war zone, and located in a desert, scored high marks of international standard.

“That was a phenomenon. We later found out the community was coaching students to apply what they learnt. It worked for them.”

Better tracking system

He said Malaysia needed a system to track the reasons why a school performed better or worse than others so as to close the gap between schools.

He added Malaysia had all the right ingredients for an efficient education system but that the problem lay with policy implementation.

Woolcock added it was good that Malaysia spent large sums of money on education and on tools like the blackboard and smart boards. “All the raw materials and money are there but the implementation is not there.”

Teachers need space to work well

He pointed out that the state of education in the country was not the fault of individual teachers. “It is not that they are not smart or capable or diligent in doing their job. The problem is the system they are part of. If we want to change the system, you got to change the rules and practices.”

He said teachers needed space to try something different. This was because in some countries like India, a teacher was only considered good when he or she completed all the chapters of a textbook. They were not judged on whether the child had learnt anything.

“If a teacher has to show that all the subjects are completed to get a salary increase, then that is what the teacher will do. The prioritising is crucial.”

He praised the government for implementing higher order thinking skills as well as the dual language programmes in national schools and hoped these would be filtered down to the system.

“Because again, there may be variations with the top half class taking off well. Some schools might pull through and others might be diabolically off.”

Source: FMT (18th January 2017)

10 things about Malaysia’s research & development landscape you need to know

By: Danial Rahman

I was speaking to some friends at the Ministry of Higher Education a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised to find out various interesting things about Malaysia’s research & development (R&D) landscape – many we can be proud of and probably didn’t know about. Inspired, I’ve up come with this list.

1. Malaysia has five (5) research universities.

In 2007, the Malaysian government initiated the Research Universities (RU) project. Four (4) public universities were granted with RU status, namely Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) joining the fray in 2010.

The RU project, which was modelled after similar initiatives in South Korea and Singapore, aimed to enculture R&D in Malaysia, enhance commercialisation, increase post-graduate and post-doctoral student intake, and improve Malaysia’s global standing.

Nearly 10 years since initiation, it certainly has.

2. Malaysia surpassed Singapore and Thailand in publication output.

In 2010, Malaysia’s knowledge output in total number of publications surpassed Singapore and Thailand. By 2014, Malaysian researchers produced 47,000 articles curated by Elsevier, the world’s largest databased of intellectual material. This was nearly twice as many as Thailand, while Singapore has about 34,000 articles registered in Elsevier. Michiel Kolman, Elsevier Vice President, was quoted by Thai Newspaper ‘The Nation’ as saying this was a ‘surprise’, but goes on to credit the Malaysian government’s investment in R&D. However, Malaysia still has some way to go to match Singapore and Thailand  in terms of the number of RSEs (Researcher, Scientist, and Engineer) and to match Singapore in terms of GERD (Gross Expenditure on Research and Development).

3. Malaysian university researchers have been recognised as ‘World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds’.

Quantity comes with quality. The increase in publication numbers has led to impressive citation numbers. Between 2014 and 2015, six university professors from UM, USM and UKM were recognised by Thomson Reuters (now known as Clarivate Analytics) as World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds. The recognition comes for being the top 1% most cited researchers in their fields. Among the areas in which our researchers excelled in include fuel cell technology, hydrogen energy, membrane technology, micro fuel cells, and mathematics.

4. Collaborations with 179 nations, producing over 27,000 publications.

Between 2013 and 2015, Malaysian researchers collaborated with researchers from 179 countries and produced 27,891 co-authored publications in indexed journals. Researchers from the United Kingdom and Australia form the top 2 collaborators with Malaysia, accounting for more than 10,000 co-authored publications. Interestingly, co-authored publications with Swedish and Brazilian researchers have the highest citation impact scores (source: Scopus, May 2016).

5. It’s about Translational Research. Ensuring that research is translated into ways meaningful to the society.

Beyond the numbers, Malaysian universities have impacted local and international communities in various ways.

USM researchers have successfully assisted fisherman in setting up commercially viable oyster farming projects for the local market in Merbok, Kedah. The fishermen have been able to supplement their income by approximately RM1,600 a month with an estimated income of RM10,000 during oyster-selling season.

Since 2009, UKM has been able to equip approximately 1,500 unemployed women and single mothers with IT and e-commerce skills through a research project which aims to empower women with ICT skills. UKM had also reached out to rural communities in Melaka, Johor, Terengganu, Sabah and the Klang Valley in hopes of bridging the digital divide in the community.

UM has embarked child leukaemia research, focusing on holistic and consistent care which involves not just curative but also harm reduction stemming from potential chemotherapy side effects.

UPM, ranked no.1 in Southeast Asia and 48 in the world in agricultural science, has contributed in many ways to the agricultural industry, including palm oil harvesting.

USM has pioneered membrane technology which helps keep rivers clean and this technology has been applied locally for Orang Asli communities and in other developing nations.

(For additional stories: http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/online-exclusive/whats-your-status/2015/02/05/many-higher-education-success-stories-are-overlooked/)

6. Malaysia is no.1 in Islamic Banking & Finance publications.

The International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) and the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF) both contributed 11% of total publications in the field, according to international indexing organisations Elsevier and ISI. Also, many Malaysian academicians sit on international banks’ Shariah advisory boards.

7. RM 7.17bil in revenue has been generated by our 20 public universities.

Between 2007 and 2015, Malaysia’s 20 public universities have been able to generate RM 7.17 billion in revenue, representing a 28.5% Return of Research Investment (RoRI) from RM 5.58 billion invested by the Malaysian government into R&D. The revenue comes from various sources including international research grants, product commercialisation, industry funding, the providing of consultancy and professional services to industry, book publications and trainings, and endowments.

8. Industry and R&D go hand in hand.

Just last week, the ‘Ericsson-UTM Innovation Centre for 5G’ was launched. It was the outcome of an R&D partnership between Ericsson and UTM on 5th Generation (5G) mobile communication technology. The centre is expected to benefit some 2000 students yearly through exposure to the latest 5G technologies and innovation and is an example of the vital role industry plays in spurring R&D in Malaysia. Other examples include a Knowledge Transfer Centre (KTC) set up by Toray Industries, Japan (the textile technology company behind Uniqlo) with USM, and the CIMB-UUM Chair of Banking and Finance.

On the other hand, the Public-Private Research Network (PPRN) initiative launched by the Ministry of Higher Education in 2014 enables Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to leverage on university expertise to solve their industry problems. As of October 2016, PPRN has facilitated 582 project matchings.

9. R&D has contributed to university rankings.

Over the last few years, Malaysian universities have risen in various university rankings such as those published by QS and Times Higher Education. Our universities improvement in R&D has certainly contributed to this. According to the QS World University Rankings 2016, UM is 133rd in the world (2016 marked its 3rd consecutive annual rise) and UPM 270th (rising 61 spots). UM is also ranked 32nd in the world for development studies and 37th in electrical and electronic engineering, while chemical engineering in USM is ranked 46th according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2016. UPM, UTM and Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) were recently ranked top 100 in the world in the Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies University Rankings 2017.

(I had written a piece on rankings which can be accessed here: http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/online-exclusive/whats-your-status/2016/09/30/universities-and-honest-expectations-ultimately-a-ranking-number-is-merely-a-guide-not-an-absolute-w/ )

10. A long but continuous journey, the next phase is about ‘Translational Research’.

Malaysia’s R&D landscape has grown tremendously over the last decade. Moving forward, the focus will be on translational research, i.e. research that brings positive impact to local and international communities. Ghandi once said ‘Education can certainly change the world’. I believe R&D is a vital part of that education.

*Credit to Datin Paduka Ir. Dr. Siti Hamisah Tapsir, Deputy Director General of Higher Education and Prof. Dr Raha Abdul Rahim, Director of Higher Education Excellence, Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia for providing input and assistance for this article

Source: The Star Online (23rd December 2016)