Thursday, November 22, 2007

Letter to the Editor by Mansor Puteh

Mansor Puteh, an alumni from Columbia University attended the 3rd Cornell Club of Malaysia Dinner Talk Series. He wrote an article to be submitted to NST for Letters to the Editor. This is re-published here with Mansor Puteh's consent.


By Mansor Puteh

I was invited to attend the Cornell Club of Malaysia dinner held at the Putrajaya Convention Center (PJCC) on 10 November, with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and wife, Datin Jeanne Abdullah as the honored guests, where Pak Lah was invited to deliver a speech and answer some questions from the floor.

I was proud to be the only person from the local film industry to be able to attend such a function, for having studied at Columbia University in New York City.

It was a good opportunity for me to be able to be in such an exclusive group of Malaysians and to be able to share views with them, not only on education but also, many other things of national and international interests.

Unfortunately, the main gist of what Pak Lah had spoken in the function was sadly omitted by the media that had come to cover the event, where they mostly concentrated on other minor issues that he had also touched which had nothing to do with education.

I thought the main gist of the comments that he had made was in answer to a question posed by a member of the Club, Yeoh Chen Chow who had stood up to ask what could the Ivy Leaguers and Oxbridge graduates and scholars in the country could contribute to the development of the country, and in particular relation to the new economic corridors that the government had announced.

This sort of question should rightly not have been asked by an Ivy Leaguer but a senior official in the ministries of education and higher education or top political parties in the government, especially when the deliberate in their annual conventions, if they indeed have the nation's well-being at heart, instead of partaking in it for personal glory and to get a laugh and crack some silly jokes.

Earlier, the president of the Harvard Club of Malaysia, Tan Sri Lin had asked a question on how the government intends to source for labor, meaning qualified and highly skilled labor in order to meet with the new demands posed by the creation of the various corridors.

The answer to this question had already been stated by Pak Lah in his earlier speeches elsewhere, and he took the opportunity to make further clarifications on what he had earlier explained to a different crowd, although Pak Lah only talked about the laborers and not the experts and other qualified personnel.

And for the answer to the other question, he said that Ivy Leaguers and Oxbridge graduates and scholars could be appointed adjunct professors at the various public universities in the country.

Unfortunately, there was no one from the ministries of education or higher education who was around to take note of it, so that they can act on such a suggestion.

This is with the hope that they could share their experience working in the private sector and having studied at the top universities in the world.

It was also a sheer coincidence that this matter had been raised, when two days earlier, when the Times Higher Education Supplement had released their new list of top ranking unversities in the world, where for the first time no Malaysian university had made it to the top 200.

An unfortunate incident like this had caused some consterantion amongst the vice-chancellors of all the public universities and the minister of higher education, Mustapha Mohammed and other well-meaning individuals who had started to offer their two-sen's worth of opinions and other unsolicited views on the matter.

Unfortunately, no one had bothered to seek the views of those who had already made it there to study at any of the top ranking unversities for their views, which will mostly be totally different than those that had been offered or wildly guessed by those who did not study in any of these universities.

This had also prompted me to suggest to the president of the Cornell Club of Malaysia, Dr Mohd Yusof Ismail to organize a forum to discuss this issue of pressing concern so the government and Malaysian public can find out what ails the local public universities and how despite that they are still able to produce graduates who are capable of being accepted to further their studies there, despite them not being in the top ranking universities list.

Our universities may not be ranked at the top of the world class universities, but this does not mean our students or graduates are not of high caliber, to be able to gain admission into any of the top universities worldwide.

And there are now thousands of them who had the opportunity to study at such universities, but unfortunately, their expertise and talent and other academic achievements have not been fully exploited and utilized.

It is therefore, relevant now than ever before, that Pak Lah had brought out the issue of appointing some of the Ivy Leaguers and Oxbridge graduates and scholars who are in the private sector including those who had retired to be enlisted so that they can still offer themselves towards the enhancement of the stature of some of our private unversities and other institutes of higher learning, and allow them to share their knowledge with the younger generation.

If this cannot be done, then the private sector stands to gain the most from them, instead of the universities where they, too, can be of some use.

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