Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Improving our Nation's Higher Education

According to an article in TheStar today, our Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapa Mohamed has issued a statement that they will be announcing the National Higher Education Strategic Plan and the National Higher Education Action next week. The details are sketchy at the moment, but the article has provided some general overviews:

A. Introducing greater transparency in the selection of senior management in public universities.
Hopefully, this will encourage the promotion of staff with the necessary academic credentials and not merely political affiliations. So, I think that this is a good thing as I have always been a fan of greater transparency. The top people running a university should be people who can gain the respect of all their staff members.

B. The development of a national lifelong learning policy through the formation of a national committee.
I'm not sure what any of this means. There are too many ill defined buzzwords in this statement. But if it inculcates a culture of continuous learning for our senior academics, I am all for it. The worst thing that can happen is for a senior professor to not keep up to date with latest developments.

C. Exchange programmes where top students will be given the opportunity to spend at least one semester in selected top foreign universities to enrich their learning experience.
I would recommend setting the exchange period to one academic year as one semester won't do much good. There are already many such programmes running world wide and it shouldn't be too difficult for us to attach ourselves to one of these programmes, such as TIME.

D. Industry attachment of lecturers to enable the secondment of academics to private sector organisations and vice versa.
This would be useful as it would allow academics to gain insight on how knowledge is applied in the real world. I have always found pure academics as bad lecturers as they cannot relate how theory is applied in any real world examples. As engineers, it is extremely important for us to know how to apply things.

So, all in all, I'm quite happy that our Government is taking steps to improve the quality of higher education in Malaysia. However, this alone is not enough as we would also need changes in the primary and secondary education level in order to provide quality students who are ready for the challenges of tertiary education. Good job, Tok Pa! At least we've got one minister who is capable of doing his job.

No comments: