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.

lant-pritchett_pelajar_6001

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)

The Feynman Technique: Learn and understand better

by: MD

Richard Feynman is a Nobel Prize Winning Physicist and creator of the learning technique that we are discussing in this post.

Learning is often equated with memorization and although I believe memorization is necessary in some areas such as mathematical multiplication or historical dates and names, but memorization to me in general is not an effective learning method.

The Feynman technique is all about simplifying whatever you’ve learned into simple terms and being able to explained it without any doubt. If there is doubt in your explanation, it means you’ve not mastered the knowledge well. So one has to re-study and re-explain to oneself until it becomes crystal clear.

I have personally used this technique since high school although I wasn’t really aware of it at that time. It was something that came naturally to me after trying various other methods without any success. I’m happy to have bump into this learning method and would highly recommend people to give it a try if not already, because this is certainly an effective tool.