Malaysian Atheist

An avowed atheist living in Malaysia.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Backman bites back (education in Malaysia)

Michael Backman is back, with a follow-up to his first article on government wastage in Malaysia. This second article though, in my opinion isn't as good as the first one. In it, he touched briefly on Rafidah Aziz' (the Minister of International Trade and Industry) callous reply, which myself and many other Malaysians have ridiculed. Michael Backman also wrote in this article that the money would be better spent improving the standard of education in Malaysia.

I fully agree with him, that education in Malaysia is in an awful state, and needs to be addressed seriously. But I doubt throwing money at the problem will make any difference at all. Sure, you could always spend money to improve school buildings and learning facilities especially in rural areas, but the main problem I think is the system itself. To get a better picture of this, do read Richard Feynman's experience with education in Brazil, in the book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" Education in Malaysia is not very different from how Richard Feynman described Brazilian education: Rote learning, spoon-feeding, memorizing, exams and regurgitation. That is already bad enough, but over here, there's more. Cheating, plagiarism, copying, leaked exams, it's a wonder anyone can learn anything here at all!

As a result of this, for the past few decades, we have seen the gradual decline in the quality of Malaysian universities in global university rankings. Every year, Malaysian universities are churning out tens of thousands of academic zombies, many of whom are totally unhirable. Many of them can't speak proper English, can't write a grammatically correct English sentence and worst of all, do not know how to think critically and independently.

I worry about the future of this country. How will Malaysia compete globally if its workforce is of such poor quality? For me, this must surely be the most important problem to tackle, instead of squabbling over racial and religious rights.

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