There must be a change of attitude and
cultivation of research culture to create universities that produce global
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw
We have called for a Royal Commission instead of a Review Committee on
education to enable the Chairman Dato' Seri Dr Mahathir to overcome
multitudinous hindrances. We have proposed the creation of at least 35
public universities of international standard with credible admission
Today, we discuss attitudinal change and research culture, the lack of which
hampers the efforts to achieve excellence in education. Even if we accept
the need to change, it will take years before we can see the results.
On 19 December, 2002, Dr Mahahtir repeated his change of attitude on
assimilation, saying: "initially there were thoughts of assimilating
Malaysians into one race, but this was not carried out as Malaysians of
various racial, cultural and religious backgrounds did not accept the idea.
"Because we allow for this (people having their own language and schools),
there is no bitterness and anger between different races. We don't intend to
assimilate anybody. What we want is integrate the different races and tribal
groups into one society, each playing its own role and no one is higher than
the other," he added.
Dr Mahahtir has changed his attitude to deal with the reality. We hope that
he uses similar attitude in the educational review. While making national
schools more attractive to all races, he should genuinely assuage the fear
among educationists about Chinese and Tamil schools. He should instill
integration into the Education Ministry, universities and schools.
We should practise integration by having credible admission criteria, and
motley composition of administrative and academic staff members, realizing
the policy of merits and needs.
The atmosphere in the universities must be conducive to academic excellence.
The Government must recognize this. This attitude goes from the Government,
the academic and administrative staff members down to the students.
If a Vice-Chancellor is a voracious reader, caring for meritocracy and free
from political shackles, then the deans, the professors and the lecturers
are likely to follow suit. If the whole teaching and administrative staff
members are that way inclined, then the students are in the right milieu.
As the Education Ministry truly practices integration reiterated by Dr
Mahathir, the people can see the example. Should the ministry be strictly
mono-ethnic, it would be difficult to persuade others to do otherwise.
If a lecturer is not promoted on merits and there is no research atmosphere,
then he or she may be frustrated. A lecturer who is promoted on grounds
other than merits stifles academia. A brilliant person may find other
Some people such as the Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad argue that
even under trying circumstances like the former Soviet Union, there were
creative scientists. (Albert Einstein saw persecution in Germany before he
emigrated to USA.). Others insist that we don't need Nobel Prize winners.
Instead, we concentrate on producing the majority of graduates who are
competent in doing their work in their chosen fields. (We wonder whether the
minister prefers a conducive or an oppressive atmosphere to encourage
There is an urgent need for the change of attitude from the Education
Ministry, the Vice-Chancellors to the academic and administrative staff
RESEARCH AND LECTURE
We do not know the actual amount spent on research and the findings.
Research is very expensive and many findings are not of commercial value.
The types of research to be conducted may be controversial especially basic
research. The deciding authority often changes from time to time. Certain
types of research may not be allowed now. They may be approved in the
Nevertheless, research and development are very important. They determine
partly whether a university has a high standing internationally. A professor
or lecturer must do meaningful research. There must not be plagiarism. Apart
from inclination to research, he or she must also learn how to teach unless
the job is full-time research. Public universities should have modules on
effective teaching for lecturers. They should encourage lecturers to do an
appropriate module or modules and, on completion, he or she is awarded a
diploma or a master degree.
Industrial research takes on a different basis. It is equally important.
Occasional scientists may be tyrants, being determined to etch their names
in the hall of fame. As they are adamant about their beliefs, they may
stifle researchers holding different views at the expense of science.
The Government says that it conducts biennial surveys on R & D. during the
Seventh Malaysia Plan, it allocated RM3.587 billion for science and
technology, S & T, but only RM2.611 billion were used. Between 2001 and
2005, the Eighth Malaysia Plan allocates RM4.708 billion for S & T.
In 1996, the amount spent on R & D was RM549.1 million. In 1998, it was
RM1.1 billion, increasing from 0.2% Gross Domestic Product, GDP, to 0.4%.
This should be increased to 1% GDP or more. The private sector spent RM400.1
million and RM746.1 million on R & D in 1996 and 1998 respectively.
As expected, R & D are mainly in manufacturing, information and
communications technology (ICT) services, plant production, primary products
and energy resources. Under the Intensification of Research in Priority
Areas (IRPA), a total of 3,705 projects valued at RM698.3 million was
approved. But, in 1996, the number of protection of intellectual property or
patents was 141 in Malaysia compared to 335,061 in Japan and 124,476 in USA.
Basic research in universities is lacking. Between 2001 and 2005, only RM100
million will be provided for it.
Although the Government prattles about various programmes and schemes in
research in S & T including the Malaysia-MIT Biotechnology Partnership
Programme (MMBPP) and Industrial Research and Development Scheme (IGS), it
needs to review comprehensively all aspects of R & D in the country. We
require the Royal Commission.
Malaysia does not have the culture of R & D. Even those research
establishments left by the British such as the Medical Research Institute (MRI)
and the Rubber Research Institute (RRI) do not have many researchers of
international standing and the organization and funding of research have to
be improved. The Government talks about a national biotechnology programme
and the biotechnology cooperative centres (BBCs). Yet, it has not grasped
fully the implications of these, the amount of allocations, the number of
true experts and the need for a drastic change in the mentality of
decision-makers on R & D.
As the Government wants to increase enrolment at least to 20,000 per
university and the number of private IHLs mushrooms, the ratio of lecturers
to students has increased from 1:15 in 1990 to 1:20 in 2000. It intends to
have more attractive and comprehensive training schemes.
We need more and better professors and lecturers so that the ratio can be
reduced to 1:10 or even 1:5. We have to attract teaching staff from within
and outside the country.
Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice-Chairman and MP for Kepong