Home Civil Society Voices Time for serious reforms in academia

Time for serious reforms in academia

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Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) fully supports Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s call in not renewing the tenures of vice-chancellors and deputy vice-chancellors who seem more to please the leadership of the previous corrupt administration than bringing up the standard of education in their universities.

Patriot joins others in a belated praise for Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government in deciding to do away with the National Professors Council.

Generally we have nothing to be proud of in the performance of our highly politicised public universities. To those in the education field, it is common knowledge that plagiarism is rife in academia even though it is not publicly acknowledged. In some cases, it is even condoned.

A number of factors contribute to plagiarism in academia. A common and convenient excuse is the availability of modern information technology where cut-and-paste becomes easy and done without attribution to the original author.

The mushrooming of our institutions of higher learning into an education hub to attract thousands of students from the Middle Eastern countries, Africa and other third world countries does not help but lower the standard of English which is necessary for writing essays and academic papers.

A lacklustre attitude towards teaching among academics, plus a failure to instil integrity and honesty early in students – all these led to a standard of education much to be desired.

Patriot still holds to the maxim that there are no bad soldiers but only bad generals. Trained early in our military careers in the principles of good leadership, we learned there was no room for any mistakes as casualties would be inflicted and lives would be lost.

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In academia, if students are not doing well, the blame should be on the vice-chancellor, lecturers, and those in top management. When vice-chancellors work towards pleasing their political bosses, so do their heads of department, lecturers, and management staff. Promotions are not based on merit, but on the strength of their obsequiousness to the vice-chancellor.

The Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak), which is Patriot’s esteemed collaborator, has submitted a comprehensive paper, Higher Education Reform in Malaysia, to the education minister. Patriot fully endorses the suggested reforms by Gerak. Among the highlights are:

  • Restructure university administration. A university has no place for those only good at singing praises to the government. Membership of the board of directors and the university senate, and the selection of faculty heads needs to be reviewed.
  • Abolish/amend laws that stifle academic freedom. The University and University Colleges Act needs to be repealed. In its place, the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act is necessary.
  • Widen access to higher education institutions.
  • Uphold meritocracy.
  • Introduce creative pedagogy and alternative assessment practices.
  • Review academics’ key performance index (KPI).
  • Dissolve the National Professors Council.
  • Provide a safe and inclusive working environment. This is to prevent sexual harassment and savage ragging, which could cause harm and even death.
  • Stop unethical academic practices – plagiarism, cheating, and academic bullying.

BG Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji (rtd) is president of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

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