Shafie Salleh Is Urged To Clarify On The Reported Proposal To License Students Who Study Abroad As This Policy Is Out Of Touch With K-Economy Reality

Media Statement
by Teresa Kok Suh Sim

(Kuala Lumpur,  Monday): I urge the Minister of Higher Education, Shafie Salleh, to publicly clarify whether his ministry will implement a policy that requires Malaysian students who study abroad to apply for a "non-objection certificate" from education ministry before they leave Malaysia as reported in the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary of his ministry, Adnam Baba yesterday (New Sunday Times, 13-3-2005).

In a follow-up report today, The NST quoted an anonymous source from the Ministry who said the move to license students is not enforceable.

According to Higher Education parliamentary-secretary, Dr Adham Baba, the proposed certificate will help the government to "track" the whereabouts of Malaysian students when they are abroad. It will also supposedly allow the Government to help students to get into the "right" universities, which are recognized by the Government. Students who insist on studying at non-scheduled universities will not be issued the certificate. Students without good academic records would not be issued the certificate (NST 13/3/2005)

The DAP opposes this proposal as it goes against the basic human rights of movement and association. Students and parents, being end-users, must have the prerogative to decide on their choice of education institutions.

Many Malaysians travel abroad for higher education precisely because the Government has failed in its obligation to provide enough access to higher education, regardless of race and class.

Many students choose to attend medical faculties in Ukraine and Russia, or courses in other countries, simply because they could not get a place to study in local universities or could not get the courses that they want. Some of them could not afford the expensive fees charged by local private universities and colleges. When studying in a foreign country is cheaper than at home, there must be something very wrong with the system.

Many students, especially those who choose to pursue their studies in Chinese and Taiwanese universities, are well aware that these universities are not recognized by our government. Many of these graduates from these universities, despite not being recognised by our government, have excelled in their career/business in the country. The

government should, thus, respect the choice of our students in picking the universities and colleges that they want. The government must not exert control on personal choice and deny students and their parents the right to decide their fate.

The "non-objection certificate" is but another red tape and it is not beyond reasonable doubts that this could open officials in the higher education ministry to bribery. Instead of having an archaic mindset of wanting to assert control on everything, it is better for the higher education ministry to ensure accessibility of Malaysian students to local universities as well as to uplift the quality of education in local universities. It should also set a timetable to ensure at least a Malaysian university is ranked among the top 10 in Asia, if not the world.

The Malaysian economy is trapped in a middle-income dilemma where our labour cost is increasingly higher than neighbouring countries but our skill level remains low, as oppose to the countries like Taiwan and Singapore. There is a dire need for Malaysia to improve its competitiveness in every area and this is a real challenge for the Higher Education Ministry and the Government. As such, the contributions of overseas graduates to the improvement of our general skill level should be warmly welcomed, regardless of whether the government recognises their university.


* Teresa Kok Suh Sim, DAP National Publicity Secretary and Member of Parliament for Seputeh