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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Towards A Competitive Malaysia #109

Chapter 16: Critique of Current Strategies

The Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP)

According to the accompanying blurb, which was meant to be complimentary, it took over a year to plan for the 9MP. Meaning, the entire 2005—the last year of the 8MP—was taken up with the chore. With personnel consumed with planning for the 9MP, no wonder many of the 8MP’s projects were not completed.

The 9MP document is hefty, nearly 600 pages and covers nearly everything. There are even plans for developing culture and sports champions. How presumptuous! It is billed as the “National Mission” towards that glorified goal of Vision 2020, and to “excellence, glory and distinction,” theme of the earlier election campaign.

In trying to cover everything, the Plan covers nothing in depth. The problems of grooming sports champions get the same billing as improving the government machinery and the education system. There is little attempt at setting priorities. The Plan is long on wish lists (improving this and enhancing that) but does not indicate how to achieve them. It is woefully short on the details of execution, the bane of previous Plans.

It reminds me of my days in the 1970s teaching medical students and young doctors in Malaysia. The best that my colleagues could tell their students and trainees were simply, “Study hard!” “Go to the libraries,” and “Read the books and journals.” Nothing beyond endless exhortations!

When I took over, I did not tell the students and trainees to hit the books, instead I made them do that by instituting regular seminars and teaching rounds where they would have to make the presentations. In order to do an effective job, they would have to read the books and journals as well as organize and prepare their materials. I also had mandatory reviews of our major clinical cases. My students and trainees thus took their studying in stride; it was part of their daily work. Consequently they did well at external examinations; a few even published in international refereed journals.

It was not easy. I had to personally supervise and guide them on how to conduct library searches, write articles, and prepare seminars. I did more than simply tell them; I showed them. All too often our leaders are good only at making speeches and lecturing: “Be efficient!” Don’t be corrupt!” “Be creative!” They never show their followers how to be so. The reason of course is that those leaders are themselves clueless.

Likewise with the 9MP; it would make national schools the school of choice, but offers no idea on how to achieve that goal except to make Mandarin and Tamil available as electives. The planners forget that parents are abandoning national schools because of their declining quality and ever increasing influence of religion. The Plan does not address both important issues let alone come up with ideas on overcoming them.

To improve rural schools, the Plan would post experienced teachers there, with again no mention on how to entice them. The Plan would provide for teachers’ quarters in rural schools, but there was no assurance that such houses would be reserved for teachers of critical subjects like English, mathematics, and science. At present such houses are occupied by religious teachers, of which there is a glut. In my An Education System Worthy of Malaysia, I suggested that teachers of those critical subjects be given special allowances, and if they agree to be posted to rural schools, they would get an additional allowance. Both allowances would effectively double their income.

The 9MP would designate the five oldest public universities as “research universities.” Simply designating does not make it so; more difficult is how to inculcate the research culture. The objective of ensuring that 60 percent of the universities’ academic staff should have terminal qualifications is laudable, but how to achieve that goal is not addressed. The universities are not attracting talent simply because the pay is lousy, especially in the professions, sciences, and technology. In my Education book I suggested paying professors in specialized and much needed disciplines additional “market allowances” to attract and retain them.

One of the biggest problems facing the nation is pervasive corruption. It is the root cause of the decline in the quality and effectiveness of institutions and government machinery. Corruption is responsible for the massive leakages of otherwise sound programs.

The government’s solution was to set up the National Integrity Institute, staffed by personnel drawn from the very same corrupt civil service. The obvious and most effective solution, one recommended by experts, is to have the Anti Corruption Agency be independent and answerable only to Parliament instead of to the Prime Minister and thus subject to political considerations. Unlike establishing the National Integrity Institute, the administrative change of making the ACA report directly to Parliament would incur no additional costs.

There are 27 chapters in the thick 9MP document. The one chapter that is missing and badly needed would be one titled: “The Lessons From Past Plans.” Every Plan had a backlog of incomplete projects, and of projects later proven to be useless or inadequate. At the beginning of the last year of the 8MP (2005), nearly 80 percent of the allocated funds had yet to be disbursed.

My solution to the Malaysia Plan is simple: get rid of it.


Next: Islam Hadhari (Civilizational Islam)

1 Comments:

OpenID drloysz said...

dear dr bakri,
i agree with you about the lack of the 'how to do it' culture in teaching in our local universities. the students almost always got the advices you mentioned but not the ways to excell. from my point of views and experiences, i think it also has something to do with the recruitment of lecturers (in my experience, the appointment of medical lecturers). i've had and seen lecturers who are themselves clueless about the teaching of the subjects. it was as if they were appointed just to fill up the post, and they themselves came to teach because they were paid to do it. i've seen people with not much teaching skilss and enthusiasm applied and be accepted as trainee lecturers for our universities. i really pity the students who will be taught by them. i have no objection when people mentioned that our students don't have the enthusiasm and passion for their studies because the 'teachers' also don't have the enthusiasm to teach. like the saying 'cikgu kencing berdiri, murid kencing berlari' or the other way around.. i'm not sure

10:00 PM  

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