February 26th, 2015

Anwar not a coward for seeking royal pardon, ex-minister tells Umno

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — Coming again to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s defence, former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim disagreed today with an Umno man’s claim that the Opposition Leader was being a coward by seeking royal pardon for his Sodomy II conviction.

Instead, Zaid, a former Umno man himself, pointed out that Anwar was merely exercising his last remaining legal option to regain his freedom.

“Fuad Zakarshi called Anwar a coward. No he is not a coward, just seeking a remedy available to him. Mat organise Pardon Anwar drive,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

In a statement carried by news portal Malaysiakini this afternoon, Umno supreme council member Datuk Dr Puad Zarkashi labelled Anwar a coward for applying for pardon and claimed that the attempt would set a bad precedent.


Datuk Zaid Ibrahim urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to support the application for pardon filed by Anwar’s family, claiming it would help the government gain international favour. — Picture by Choo Choy May

“How can a peliwat (sodomite) request for a pardon?” asked Puad Zarkashi.

“This will set a bad precedent, especially if he is pardoned. Imagine, after this, many sodomites and rapists will also request a royal pardon as well,” he was quoted saying.

Disagreeing, Zaid attacked Puad and ruling party Umno, saying the party’s leaders were incapable of understanding the concept of pardon.

“Hard for Umno fellas to understand the concept of pardon. They are more in tune when putting shame on others,” he wrote.

Yesterday on the microblogging site, Zaid urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to support the application for pardon filed by Anwar’s family, claiming it would help the government gain international favour.

He cited other cases in the past where similar pardons were granted, such as those of former Culture, Youth and Sports minister Datuk Mokhtar Hashim and former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Harun Idris.

Mokhtar was given a death sentence after he was found guilty of shooting his political rival Datuk Mohd Taha Talib in 1982. The sentence was subsequently reduced to life imprisonment.

According to past reports, Harun was charged with corruption and sentenced to six years in jail in 1976.

In comparison, Zaid said Anwar’s sodomy case was a “walk in the park”.

“In fact Prime Minister should support the application. It will get him good marks at home and abroad,” he wrote in a series of postings on the social media network.

He also challenged PAS’ conservative Ulama wing to support the pardon for Anwar, pointing out that “compassion” is a core Islamic principle.

Anwar’s family members submitted an application for royal pardon yesterday evening in hopes of freeing the leader from his Sungai Buloh cell and allowing him to retain his Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat.

“By virtue of Article 42 of the Federal Constitution, we hope that the Royal institution would in the name of justice based on all the facts grant an appeal,” Anwar’s daughter Nurul Nuha said in a statement, adding that the family would continue to pursue and exhaust all available legal means to free Anwar.

Monday was the deadline for Anwar to file a petition for a royal pardon, which would have delayed his disqualification resulting from his five-year sentence on February 10 that is effective today.

Parliament Speaker Pandikar previously said Anwar will only be barred from being a federal lawmaker 14 days from February 10, based on Article 48 Clause 4 (a) of the Federal Constitution.

On February 10, the Federal Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s 2014 ruling that reversed Anwar’s acquittal of sodomising former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, and sentenced the Permatang Pauh lawmaker to five years’ jail.

Input on Malaysia’s education plan

The Education Ministry has called on the public to provide input for the National Higher Education Strategic Plan. The blueprint, which is expected to be announced in March, will help set the direction of education at tertiary level in the country.

The plan would essentially prepare the type of graduates produced by the education system, including critical aspects of realising the full potential of talented students, and empowering governance among universities, lifelong learning and global learning.

theSun highlights the views of Unitar International University vice chancellor Assoc Prof Dr Sakina Sofia Baharom, Taylor's University vice chancellor and president, Prof Datuk Dr Hassan Said, SEGi University vice chancellor Emeritus Prof Dr Muhamad bin Awang, and SEGi University and Colleges chief marketing officer Datuk Bruce Lim.

How can Malaysian universities and colleges improve in terms of R&D? How can the government help here?

Muhamad: Addressing issues of institutional legal framework, policy, rules and regulations between universities (private versus public) will encourage a high mobility of the brains to work for a common goal, especially in providing solutions to society through R&D collaborations. These cross-border collaborations need to be extended at local global settings.

Special incentives should be given to universities and colleges for strengthening their partnerships with special reference to public-private partnership initiatives. This will provide or lead to high-end job opportunities in the areas of security, health and other related services in trying to improve middle-class income. These are in line with economic growth and other national goals.

Special preference should be given to industries that are committed to their Human Resource Development programmes through postgraduate studies related to R&D.

Stringent legal instruments must be in place in order to ensure that the interest of both parties (universities and industries) is well protected. Clear guidelines on awarding research grant and contract (should) cover not only investment in infrastructures, but also intellectual properties, commercialisation processes, especially when the university or college is dealing with regional or cross-institutional partnership.

The establishment of public research universities over the last six years proves to the world that we can do it. Not only do we surpass the countries in the region in terms of publications and other related output as stipulated in MyRA (Malaysian Research Assessment) criteria and standards but also in terms return of investment (ROI) that our government put in.

How do Malaysian public and private institutions fare in terms of helping our students realise their full potential? How do we create youths who are analytical, entrepreneurial and confident?

Sakina: Educational institutions should not only believe learning happens in the four walls of the classrooms. Potential of students can be developed through the design of various learning environment, in and also out of classroom learning.

Thus, academicians should strategically develop learning activities within classroom time and spread out to industry or community engagement. The different types of industry or community engagements should not only prepare students for the world of work, but also build their confidence.

Hassan: In today's job market, having a university degree is no longer the sole criteria to succeed in career or even to secure a job upon graduation. Multiple surveys have uncovered that employers want top graduates who possess five critical skills, namely communication, collaboration, cultural adaptation, critical thinking and problem-solving, and creativity and innovation.

In order to develop and nurture students to help them realise their full potential and possess these critical skills that employers look for, the curriculum we deliver must be structured in such a way that it encourages students to be more creative, innovative, and critical in their learning. One way to do this is via problem-based learning, which is widely implemented here at Taylor's University.

In addition to the curriculum (classroom learning), extra-curricular activities (ECA) must be given equal emphasis in order for students to develop themselves holistically.

How can Malaysian institutions ensure they figure among the top institutions globally?

Sakina: It is exciting particularly in Malaysia as the aspiration for the country is to be an education hub for the Asian region. Educational institutions can support this aspiration by providing quality and well-recognised programmes that meet the needs of 21st century manpower requirements. Students must be ready for the job of tomorrow. Recognised programmes are those that can also be recognised by international professional bodies such as ACCA for professional accounting.

Hassan: It is critical for us to change the perception of the international community about the quality of the education we offer in Malaysia. I personally believe that besides enhancing our academic excellence and the ability to produce high impact research, another yardstick that Malaysian institutions should focus on is to provide the best learning experience to their students.

By offering an exceptional educational experience in Malaysia, which can be at par with our Western counterparts, word of mouth can be amplified to increase the visibility of our institutions in the global arena. This will be able to assist with improving our rankings globally.

How can universities play a part to help the government achieve 50% of the population with access to tertiary education and having 33% of the workforce with tertiary qualification?

Sakina: Access to learning has always been one of Unitar's priorities. It is achievable with the diversification of the education institution's offerings.
Access to learning is essential for this purpose. Access of learning means access to different types of programmes, access to affordable programme fees and various funding options, access to places of learning, access to different modes of learning—that is, modular programmes—and access to entry requirements, thus recognition of prior learning.

Lim: The plan has to be read in sync with the National Education Blueprint to ensure fair balance of graduates in the workforce, tertiary education graduates and vocational training graduates.

It is achievable but not at the expense of quality. Statistics can be achieved sometimes with compromise of other factors. We need to realise this target and at the same time raise the standards of higher education. We already have international benchmarks with QS global rankings and the local Setara, so we know the standards required. Overall quality statistics should also be raised.

Universities can play a part to help the government by making sure education is accessible without compromising on quality. Having higher education institutions within the locality of students (such as East Coast, Sabah and Sarawak instead of focusing only in the Klang Valley) can help, and so does offering a flexible payment scheme or education loan besides PTPTN.

The plan wants to intensify internationalisation with an average 10% of overall enrolment consisting of international students. The intention also is to have 15% foreign teaching staff for research universities. What are your thoughts here?

Hassan: We fully support the government's effort in achieving this target, which I feel is of paramount importance to produce graduates who are able to compete globally. At some point during their undergraduate studies, students must be exposed to an international outlook which can be acquired by immersing themselves in a campus life bursting with a rich cultural diversity—through a healthy composition of international students and lecturers.

Taylor's University has set a target of having 30% of our overall student population be made of international students and 20% of our academic staff consist of expatriate lecturers.

Our students come from 81 countries worldwide, allowing our local students to enhance their ability of cultural adaptation and collaboration while also promoting a healthy mix of students on campus. Foreign lecturers on the other hand, will be able to provide a global perspective to a student's learning experience.

Lim: The average of 10% of overall enrolment to be international students is achievable. But then again serving international students is a different ballgame. Higher educational institutions need to be prepared, and have expertise and resources to deal with international support systems, immigration and visas, student residence, student affairs and networking, among others.

On the other hand, we have to have the discipline to only admit the qualified and determined. Higher education institutions have to know what programmes or qualification these students want, and because international students have different needs than local students, these institutions have to know how to enforce student management, immigration and accommodation, among others.

But as a concept, international students are encouraged to study in Malaysia because not only are they required to pay higher tuition fees, but they provide fellow students with valuable global exposure.

As for the 15% target for foreign teaching staff for research universities, we do not look at nationality when getting teaching staff. The most important criteria is that they need to be qualified and able to impart their knowledge to students.

But having foreign teaching staff adds depth to global exposure for students as they can share their life and working experience in their country of origin to students and fellow colleagues, and this creates an avenue to enhance wealth of knowledge. The SUN Daily News 17 Feb 2015

Big Yang Theory: Chinese year of the sheep or the goat?

SHEEP or goat?

China's coming lunar new year has stirred a debate over which zodiac creature is the correct one -- but Chinese folklorists dismiss the fixation on animals as missing the point.

Traditional astrology in China attaches different animal signs to each lunar year in a cycle of 12 years.

The symbol for the new year starting on Feb 19 is the "yang", which can refer to any member of the caprinae subfamily -- or even beyond -- depending on what additional Chinese character it is paired up with.

For example, a goat is a "mountain yang", a sheep is a "soft yang" and a Mongolian gazelle is a "yellow yang".

Both goats and sheep appear in Chinese new year paintings, paper-cuts and other festival decorations.



A man installs decorations for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations at Taoranting park in Beijing, Feb 9, 2015. REUTERS

Folklorists say it does not matter which one is used since the zodiac sign was chosen for the Chinese character's auspicious connotation rather than the specific animal -- at least in the beginning.

"This 'yang' is fictional. It does not refer to any specific kind (of sheep or goat)," Zhao Shu, a researcher with the Beijing Research Institute of Culture and History, told AFP.

Much ado about mutton

"Yang" is a component of the written Chinese character "xiang", which means auspiciousness, and the two were interchangeable in ancient Chinese, experts say.

It is also a part of the character "shan", which counts kindness and benevolence as among its meanings.

"Therefore 'yang' is a symbol of... blessing and fortune and represents good things," said Yin Hubin, an ethnology researcher with the China Academy of Social Sciences, a government think-tank.

"It is connected to the original implication of the Chinese character as an ideogram and reflects the world view of the Chinese people in primitive times," he said.

That said, the zodiac sign is being shunned by some Chinese parents-to-be, with expectant mothers scheduling Caesarean sections to give birth before the current year of the horse ends, according to media reports.

The rush apparently stems from a Chinese superstition held by some that nine out of 10 sheep will be unhappy in life -- a belief Yin dismissed as "ridiculous".

More often, the animal plays a positive role in Chinese folklore, experts say.

A fable that can be traced back to more than 1,500 years ago depicts five goats carrying crops in their mouth to save people suffering from years of drought in Guangzhou.

The southern boom town, today the capital of Guangdong province and dubbed the City of Goats, has enjoyed timely wind and rain ever since, according to the story.

Bleat generation

While the loose concept of "yang" comes naturally to Chinese people, in the West the term can often be a source of frustration for those seeking an equivalent in their own language.

A Google search suggests that in English, "year of the sheep" is the most common phrasing.

In French, however, the reverse is true, with convention and an overwhelming Google ratio in favour of "chevre", or goat.

Zhao thinks the translation is "open to interpretation".

"Sheep, goat, Mongolian gazelle -- whatever is fine. This is the fun of Chinese characters," he said.

But some scholars argue goat is a better option for the traditional Han Chinese holiday, as it is a more commonly kept farm animal for the dominant ethnic group in China, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Many Chinese people appear to be unfazed by the debate.

"The year of the yang, 2015, is neither a sheep nor a goat. It is a beautiful and elegant milk yang! Abundant milk, clothes and food. It will be a halcyon year," wrote one user on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Eschewing the lexical debate, some users have simply opted for the animal that they see as possessing their own favoured qualities.

"In the year of the yang, I want to be a strong-willed and energetic goat, not a weak sheep," another Sina Weibo user wrote. – AFP

Wiser to review PhD targets

I REFER to "PhD numbers to fulfil national goals" (Letters, July 22). Under the MyBrain15 human capital development programme, the government wishes to create a pool of brilliant human resources among Malaysians and aims to have 60,000 PhD holders by 2023 to enhance national competitiveness, innovation system and wealth creation.

The goals are noble but what should be of upper-most importance is that we don't produce watered-down or half-baked PhD holders. In the letter, there is a terse sentence: "Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education will not compromise on the quality aspects of the doctorate programmes offered by universities in the country".

Unfortunately nothing is mentioned in terms of how quality will be ensured, maintained or even upgraded.

I'm not sure what the passing rate is like here in Malaysia – I would definitely like to know. Assuming the graduation rate is 50 %, then a total of 120,000 graduates would have to enrol by 2023 or 12,000 entrants a year. This is a tall order and indeed a daunting challenge for the Ministry of Education. The world-wide trend shows that fewer and fewer people are interested in pursuing their doctorate degrees.

Take for instance my experience in the US. There were six of us who enrolled for the doctorate degree in marketing. Only three of us graduated – all foreigners –the locals dropped out as they could not stand the gruelling pace and were not able to allocate enough time and effort to their studies.

The demands on a doctoral student are overwhelming; not only does he need plenty of drive and initiative, he also needs to develop the capacity to think, ponder and reflect on what he reads (which our education system falls short), relate to concepts and establish relationships. He will be subject to rigorous rules of academic research (and not adopt the "cut-and-paste"practice) before his theory and findings become "facts".

The imagery that conveys the determination that is required in undertaking a doctorate degree is that the candidate is willing to beat his or her head against a brick wall until the wall gives way. All PhD holders will know what I mean by this.

The government encouraged serving PTD officers (the elite administrative and diplomatic officers) to pursue their PhD but there were few takers as the officers know what a rough and tough time they would have to undergo for the next four years. In fact many officers have asked "What is it in for me should I accept the scholarship." Mind you these officers will also get their full pay and maintain their seniority.

The challenging task will be how to persuade more to do their PhDs and how to motivate them to complete the task at hand until they graduate.

In our haste to churn out more PhDs, there is a tendency to be more sympathetic and lenient so that the national targets can be met. The problem does not end there. These PhD holders – after a number of years – will be supervising new doctorate students and they too will be equally if not more sympathetic and extra "nice" to their students. So with each batch, quality is compromised.

I have met many local PhDs who definitely do not measure up to their qualifications.

So let's not be too ambitious as not everybody can be a suitable doctoral candidate. Only a few can take the stress and strain of pursuing such a degree. So let's be realistic and review our targets.

After all the PhD is the highest academic qualification one can aim for.

To my mind, the ministry should aim for a core group of highly qualified, brilliant and articulate PhD holders.

In the academic line, quality is the essence and much more important than mere numbers. P. Singh PhD Kuala Lumpur The SUN Daily 27 Jul 2014

PhD targets – Don't rush matters

I AM glad that the Ministry of Education responded promptly to my letter "PhD targets worrying" (Letters, July 22). Further, the letter attracted another sympathetic response from Dr P. Singh (Letters, July 28) and even a commentary "Don't sacrifice quality" (Citizen Nades, July 30).

Despite the length of the response, the ministry skirted around the key questions I raised. First, what is the basis of the number? Why not another bigger or smaller number?

The ministry harped on the supply side strategies, but ignored the demand side, which is the gist of the question.

Granted that governments may have to do some "social engineering" to nurture a trend, still there needs to be objective reasons for targeted figures, especially if it involves large sums of taxpayers' money. Every PhD student receives a stipend of about RM30,000 a year, and typically for three to four years. That is about RM100,000 per student. This excludes all expenses related to the research. In reality, the passing rate is very high in local universities, so an optimistic estimate is that all the 60,000 PhD candidates will pass. That is still at least RM6 billion over five years! Should there not be a more convincing case for setting this target?

This brings us to the other question. I asserted that a majority of these PhD candidates are foreigners, who are obliged to leave the country on completion of their studies.

The ministry tacitly acknowledged this point without rebuttal. So, what is the spillover effect to Malaysia after spending the money and chasing the talent away? Why promulgate such a policy? Perhaps this matter is not within their jurisdiction? Why not have a joint response with the other relevant ministries, or let the Economic Planning Unit or the Prime Minister's Office handle this?

I have heard of the Knowledge Transfer Programme (KTP) as espoused by the ministry, to benefit the community.

Compared to grants, that receives perhaps the least interest among academics. The no-nonsense approach by industries frightens many academics who are in an exploratory rather than a performance-guarantee mindset. Moreover, publishing anything from such ventures is unlikely. Even industries remain wary of academics, first to protect their trade secrets; second they are doubtful of the benefits.

There remains a lot of groundwork and confidence-building for KTP to flourish.

On my concern about the dilution of quality, which both other authors also worry very much, the ministry answered in just one sentence: "Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education will not compromise on the quality aspects of the doctorate programmes offered by universities in the country." So much for quality assurance! How do we measure quality? The number of scientific papers published in so-called top-tier journals? Is more the merrier, irrespective of the discipline and the nature of the research?

Readers will be shocked to see how easily some candidates churned out papers, and I truly doubt that is quality. Unless they stay in the academia, most doctorate holders do not occupy themselves with publishing papers. They may have to supervise or coordinate others, deal with customers, write internal reports, file patents, etc all without paid copy-editors to enhance their atrocious writing. Are we preparing our PhD candidates to excel and contribute in such environments?

Related to quality, the more worrying is the target group of the MyBrain15 programme: "Unemployed graduates without fixed income, non-permanent/temporary government staff", among others. In the first place, why are those graduates unemployed, why did they fail to secure permanent employment? Are they employable? Are their high CGPAs reflective of their capabilities? Do we want such graduates to educate our next generation? Or, are we already over-producing graduates? Why is MyBrain15 not tussling with the market to attract the highly-sought-after top students instead? Therein lays the crux of the matter.

There is no market for PhD holders, and smart students are smart enough to shun this route. In South Korea, PhD graduates start as managers in the industry; in US, they are paid much higher too. So there is a tempting incentive. Not here!

While I fully support the efforts of the Malaysian government to avoid the middle-income trap, it is vital that we do not rush things. We are "pulling up the tree shoot to hasten its growth", cautioned a Chinese proverb. Rome was not built in a day, neither can an advanced Malaysia.

Concerned Academic Petaling Jaya The SUn Daily 3 Aug 2014

Negara luar yakini kualiti pendidikan kita

Baru-baru ini kenyataan saya bahawa pendidikan tinggi di Malaysia bertaraf dunia mengundang reaksi banyak pihak. Banyak yang bersifat membina. Tidak kurang yang melatah dan menghina. Saya menghargai setiap pandangan dan kritikan yang dilontarkan.

Ada yang sangat pesimistik dengan kenyataan saya itu kerana bagi mereka, kualiti pendidikan tinggi di Malaysia jauh ke belakang berbanding negara lain. Sehubungan itu, dengan penuh rasa tanggungjawab saya ingin berkongsi bukti betapa saya berpijak di bumi nyata apabila mengeluarkan kenyataan pendidikan tinggi di Malaysia bertaraf dunia.

Kamus Inggeris Oxford menjelaskan kosa kata 'bertaraf dunia' atau world classsebagai 'antara yang terbaik di dunia.' Jadi, persoalannya adakah pendidikan tinggi Malaysia benar-benar bertaraf dunia?

Perkara pertama yang perlu kita faham, tidak ada satu formula atau pengiraan khusus atau mutlak dalam menentukan ranking dan taraf sesebuah universiti. Atas sebab itulah ada banyak bentuk ranking dan penarafan yang dilaporkan. Adalah tidak wajar untuk kita menghukum sesuatu ranking atau teknik penarafan adalah lebih baik berbanding yang lain kerana setiap satunya mempunyai pemberat dan fokus yang tersendiri.

Dalam kenyataan saya di media massa, baru-baru ini, saya hanya menyentuh beberapa aspek seperti pendaftaran pelajar antarabangsa dan ranking universiti. Sebenarnya banyak lagi aspek lain yang belum sempat saya rungkai. Kali ini, saya akan rungkaikan semua perkara tersebut satu persatu dengan lebih terperinci.


Pelajar antarabangsa

Mutakhir ini Malaysia mempunyai lebih kurang 135,000 pelajar antarabangsa, daripada peringkat sekolah kepada pendidikan tinggi. Daripada jumlah ini, 107,383 orang berdaftar sebagai pelajar institusi pengajian tinggi. Pada tahun 2014, Malaysia merekodkan 16.5 peratus peningkatan dalam pendaftaran pelajar antarabangsa. Mengikut UNESCO, kadar peningkatan ini lebih tinggi berbanding negara maju seperti Australia dan United Kingdom (UK).

Namun, saya sedar, peningkatan bilangan pelajar antarabangsa semata-mata tidak menjadikan pendidikan tinggi di Malaysia bertaraf dunia. Ada beberapa perkara lain yang perlu dijelaskan daripada data ini. Perkara paling penting adalah mengapa Malaysia menjadi destinasi pilihan pelajar asing?

Dalam laporan UNESCO bertajuk Higher Education in Asia: Expanding Out, Expanding Up yang diterbitkan pada tahun 2014, ada lima faktor utama yang mempengaruhi pelajar antarabangsa memilih Malaysia sebagai destinasi pilihan mereka. Faktor itu adalah seperti berikut:

* Keselesaan agama dan budaya - Malaysia menyediakan persekitaran yang mesra untuk pelajar beragama Islam. Nilai dan ajaran Islam di negara ini terpelihara dan dihormati.

* Kos - Pada standard kualiti yang sama, kos pengajian bagi program sarjana muda dan sarjana di Malaysia relatifnya murah berbanding dengan negara maju.

* Berbaloi - Kualiti pendidikan tinggi Malaysia sangat berbaloi dengan kos yang dikenakan.

* Bahasa Pengantar - Kebanyakan program yang ditawarkan menggunakan bahasa Inggeris sebagai bahasa pengantar.

* Kualiti Hidup - Malaysia menawarkan kualiti hidup yang baik dan dianggap sebagai tempat yang selesa untuk hidup serta belajar.

Berdasarkan laporan UNESCO, pendidikan di Malaysia bukan sahaja berpatutan, malah mudah diakses dan berkualiti tinggi. Justeru, banyak pelajar antarabangsa tahu mereka boleh mendapatkan pendidikan berkualiti di Malaysia dan banyak negara menghantar pelajar terbaik mereka ke Malaysia dengan tajaan penuh kerajaan masing-masing.

Malaysia sekarang adalah tuan rumah bagi sembilan cawangan kampus antarabangsa dalam kalangan universiti terkemuka antarabangsa seperti Monash, Nottingham, dan Southampton yang tersenarai dalam 100 universiti terbaik dunia. Kita juga mempunyai universiti tempatan yang dibangunkan sendiri seperti Sunway, Taylors, dan Limkokwing yang turut diiktiraf pada peringkat antarabangsa.

Mutakhir ini 27,812 orang (25 peratus) daripada semua pelajar antarabangsa sedang menjalani program pada peringkat pasca siswazah di Malaysia, sama ada sarjana atau PhD. Ini menunjukkan bahawa kita dipercayai dalam menyediakan peluang melanjutkan pengajian ke peringkat tertinggi.

Untuk maklumat, sebelum ini, Malaysia mempunyai Rancangan Colombo yang menyaksikan pelajar Malaysia dihantar ke Australia dan New Zealand untuk melanjutkan pelajaran. Baru-baru ini, Malaysia telah memulakan Rancangan Colombo baharu, iaitu satu program pertukaran pelajar yang menyaksikan pelajar dari New Zealand dan Australia pula datang ke Malaysia.

Saya percaya negara seperti New Zealand dan Australia tidak akan berkompromi dengan kualiti dan pastinya tidak akan bersetuju dengan rancangan ini jika mereka tidak meyakini kualiti pendidikan negara kita.

Sebenarnya Malaysia sekarang turut menampung pelajar asing sepenuh masa dari negara maju seperti Amerika Syarikat, Belanda, Australia, Singapura, United Kingdom, Sepanyol, Jepun, Kanada, Jerman, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Perancis, Russia, Korea Selatan dan lain-lain. Jumlah pelajar dari negara maju ini sekurang-kurangnya 10 peratus daripada keseluruhan pelajar antarabangsa.

Hakikatnya Malaysia bekerja keras menarik pelajar antarabangsa datang ke negara ini. Berdasarkan statistik UNESCO, Malaysia adalah destinasi pilihan kesembilan bagi destinasi pendidikan antarabangsa di dunia, mengalahkan Singapura, Afrika Selatan, Korea Selatan dan Belanda.

Ranking universiti

Kedudukan ranking universiti di negara ini sangat menggalakkan. Universiti Malaya adalah ke-151 terbaik dunia dalam Ranking Universiti Dunia QS 2014/2015 (meningkat dari tangga ke-167). UM turut berada pada kedudukan ke-32 terbaik Asia dan universiti terbaik negara-negara OIC (Pertubuhan Negara Islam). UM memegang tahap lima bintang dari 'QS Intelligence Unit.' Universiti lain yang mendapat tahap lima bintang ini ialah Harvard, Oxford, Duke dan Columbia.

Universiti di negara ini sedang melakukan yang terbaik dan ranking mereka meningkat berbanding tahun lalu. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) di tangga ke-259 dari tangga ke-269 pada tahun 2013 dan Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) di tangga ke-294 berbanding ke-355, 61 tangga peningkatan drastik dari tahun lalu. Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) pula di tangga ke-309 dan Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) di tangga ke-376. UKM juga diletakkan di tempat ke-20 dalam 50 Universiti Terbaik di bawah senarai universiti di bawah usia 50 tahun.

Sebagai perbandingan, universiti terkemuka seperti University of Exeter tersenarai di kedudukan 161, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (162), University of Bath (179), Vanderbit University (182), Michigan State University (198), Tel Aviv University (196), Georgetown University (200), Indian Institute of Technology Mumbai (222), George Washington University (300), RMIT University (304), Curtin University (331), University of South Australia (333) dan Oxford Brookes (379).

Ranking program dan fakulti

Berdasarkan ranking program pengajian dan fakulti pula, 11 fakulti daripada universiti awam kita mempunyai kedudukan dalam 100 terbaik dunia. Mengikut Ranking QS, USM di kedudukan ke-28 dunia untuk Program Sains Alam Sekitar, manakala UPM adalah ke-54 terbaik dunia bagi Program Sains Pertanian (ke-7 di Asia dan terbaik di Asia Tenggara) berdasarkan 'Best Global Universities Ranking.'

UM pula di kedudukan 100 terbaik dalam Program Bahasa Moden, Sains Komputer, Kejuruteraan Kimia dan Elektrik, serta kejuruteraan Mekanikal, Aeronotik dan Pembuatan.

Selain Program Sains Alam Sekitar, USM tersenarai dalam 100 terbaik dunia untuk Program Kejuruteraan Awam dan Struktur, Kejuruteraan Kimia, Farmasi dan Farmakologi, Sains Komputer dan Sistem Informasi. UM, UKM dan UPM tersenarai dalam 100 terbaik bagi Program Pendidikan, manakala UKM tersenarai untuk Program Politik.

Anugerah Minda Saintifik Paling Berpengaruh Dunia - Thomson Reuters

Tahun lalu, empat orang profesor dari universiti awam kita telah disenaraikan dalam Anugerah Thomson Reuters - 'Minda Saintifik Paling Berpengaruh Dunia.'

Mereka ialah Prof Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad dan Prof Dr Bassim H Hameed - kedua-duanya dari Bahagian Kejuruteraan Kimia USM. Dua orang lagi ialah Prof Dr Ishak Hashim dari Bahagian Matematik Sains, Fakulti Sains dan Teknologi UKM dan Prof Dr Saidur Rahman dari Fakulti Kejuruteraan UM.

Mereka mencapai kecemerlangan ini kerana penyelidikan yang diterbitkan mendapat petikan tertinggi di dunia dalam bidang masing-masing dalam tahun penerbitan yang diberi. Penganalisis dari Thomson Reuters menganalisis data sepanjang 11 tahun yang lalu untuk menentukan senarai berkenaan. Sesungguhnya, profesor kita ini bertaraf dunia.

Perbankan dan kewangan Islam

Malaysia telah melakukan penyelidikan terhadap output ilmiah dalam Perbankan Islam. Daripada 422 penerbitan dalam Perbankan Islam antara tahun 2009 dan 2014 di dunia, 178 atau 41 peratus berasal dari Malaysia.

Daripada jumlah ini, 48 penerbitan atau lebih 10 peratus diterbitkan oleh Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIAM). Universiti ini berada di barisan hadapan untuk pembangunan perbankan Islam di Malaysia dan dunia untuk berpuluh-puluh tahun. Pensyarah UIAM terus diburu sebagai penasihat kepada bank dan institusi Islam sama ada tempatan dan antarabangsa.

Kita perlu realistik dengan kekuatan dan kelemahan kita. Selama menjadi Menteri Pendidikan Kedua untuk hampir dua tahun, saya bangga dengan usaha dan pencapaian Kementerian Pendidikan serta institusi pendidikan awam.

Tetapi ini tidak sekali-kali bermakna kita sudah berpuas hati. Perjalanan ini tidak akan berakhir di sini. Kita mahu mencapai taraf dunia dalam semua bidang, dan mengatasi kelemahan yang lain. Kita telah memulakan dua tahun perjalanan untuk mengkaji arah strategik sektor pendidikan tinggi. Pada akhir bulan Mac ini, kita akan melancarkan Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia (Blueprint) (Pendidikan Tinggi).

Marilah kita bersama-sama turun ke padang. Meningkatkan yang baik dan membetulkan yang buruk. Bukan sekadar lantang mengkritik dari kerusi empuk. Sama-samalah kita tingkatkan sistem pendidikan kita.

Idris Jusoh ialah Menteri Pendidikan Kedua Berita Harian Kolumnis 26 Feb 2015

Menjamin keharmonian konsep federalisme

TATKALA Tanah Melayu mahu mencapai kemerdekaan, konsep kenegaraan yang mahu diambil adalah bersifat persekutuan dengan bermotokan ‘Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu’. Perkara ini diperkukuhkan lagi apabila Sabah dan Sarawak membentuk Malaysia dengan di mana terdapat peruntukan khas diberikan kepada Sabah dan Sarawak.

Mengesampingkan Jadual Kesembilan bakal undang keaiban

Dalam sesebuah negara persekutuan ciri utamanya ialah terdapat taburan kuasa perundangan antara Persekutuan dan Wilayah-Wilayah di dalamnya. Ini bermakna ada dua badan perundangan yang mempunyai kuasa membuat undang-undang iaitu Persekutuan dan Wilayah-Wilayah.

Dalam konteks Persekutuan Tanah Melayu atau kini Malaysia, kuasa perundangan ini diberikan kepada Persekutuan (melalui Parlimen) dan Negeri-Negeri (melalui Dewan-Dewan Undangan Negeri). Secara umumnya, bagi memastikan tiada pertelingkahan antara pembuat-pembuat undang-undang ini, Jadual Kesembilan Perlembagaan Persekutuan telah menggariskan bidang perundangan masing-masing.

Terdapat tiga senarai di dalam Jadual Kesembilan tersebut iaitu Senarai I (Kuasa Persekutuan) Senarai II (Kuasa Negeri) dan Senarai III (Kuasa Bersama). Taburan kuasa seperti ini perlu di dalam mana-mana negara yang mengamalkan prinsip federalisme seperti Malaysia, Australia dan Amerika Syarikat.

Bagi memudahkan pemahaman awam, lebih mudah dikatakan bahawa Parlimen mempunyai kuasa membuat undang-undang yang disenaraikan dalam Senarai I dan III manakala Dewan-Dewan Undang Negeri masing-masing mempunyai kuasa membuat undang-undang yang tersenarai di dalam Senarai II dan III. Namun, terdapat beberapa pengecualian yang dibenarkan Perlembagaan Persekutuan untuk tidak terikat secara harfiah senarai butiran yang ada tersebut.

Sebagai contoh kuasa mengenai perbankan adalah disenaraikan di dalam Senarai I, dalam hal yang demikian Dewan Undangan Negeri tidak boleh membuat undang-undang berkaitan dengan perbankan. Begitu juga dalam hal ehwal Islam, melainkan bagi Wilayah-Wilayah Persekutuan, ia terletak di dalam bidang kuasa negeri. Oleh itu Kerajaan Persekutuan tidak boleh mengganggu kuasa Dewan Undangan Negeri ini, apatah lagi setiap negeri mempunyai ketua agama Islamnya sendiri iaitu Sultan ataupun Yang Di Pertuan Agong.

Dalam hal ini jika Kerajaan Persekutuan mencampuri hal ehwal agama Islam atau meletakkan syarat pemakaian undang-undang Islam sebagaimana yang disenaraikan di dalam Senarai II ia mempunyai risiko bertentangan dengan Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Oleh itu, Kerajaan Persekutuan dan segala agensi di bawahnya tidak boleh melangkaui bidang kuasa yang diberikan kepada mereka begitu juga sebaliknya.

KURANG DIHAYATI

Kebelakangan ini penulis dapat merasakan konsep federalisme ini amat kurang dihayati yang menjurus kepada ketidakprihatinan kepada pematuhan senarai-senarai yang diwujudkan di dalam Jadual kesembilan Perlembagaan Persekutuan tersebut. Acapkali kita dengar, sama ada di peringkat ahli politik ataupun agensi kerajaan yang menyarankan perkara-perkara bukan di bawah kuasa perundangan mereka.

Penulis merasakan amat perlu bagi golongan ini melihat dan memperhalusi senarai-senarai yang wujud di dalam jadual Kesembilan Perlembagaan Persekutuan itu bagi menjamin keharmonian konsep federalisme ini. Kegagalan mematuhi Jadual kesembilan tersebut mungkin akan menyebabkan sesuatu undang-undang atau tindakan itu diputuskan tidak berperlembagaan oleh mahkamah kelak.

Sudah pasti apabila perkara tersebut berlaku, ia menzahirkan kejelikan ilmu perundangan yang ada dan akan menyebabkan suatu keaiban kerana gagal mematuhi Jadual Kesembilan tersebut. Walau apapun tujuan atau niat seseorang ingin membuat kebaikan tidak seharusnya Jadual Kesembilan ini dikesampingkan. Ia merupakan jati diri atau ciri asas kepada Perlembagaan Persekutuan itu sendiri.

Dalam perkara berkaitan agama Islam memang sudah jelas bagi selain Wilayah-Wilayah Persekutuan, Negeri mempunyai kuasa penuh mengenainya. Malah di sesebuah negeri Agama Islam itu pula mempunyai ketuanya. Jika pihak persekutuan mencampuri urusan agama sesebuah negeri secara tidak langsungnya ia juga mencampuri urusan ketua agama negeri tersebut.

PRINSIP taburan kuasa antara persekutuan dan negeri ini telah berjalan begitu baik selama ini. Ia janganlah diganggu. Mungkin Malaysia tidak sama dengan negara lain seperti Brunei dan Singapura, tetapi konsep inilah yang telah disepakati di dalam negara.

Walaupun mungkin ada kekhilafan dan ketiadaan persefahaman antara persekutuan dan negeri, tetapi norma ini merupakan formula yang terbaik buat Malaysia sehingga kini. Janganlah menganggap ia sebagai penghalang tetapi sebaliknya sebagai wadah saling hormat menghormati antara satu sama lain di dalam membangunkan negeri dan negara.

Pemusatan kuasa kepada satu badan perundangan sahaja juga mempunyai risiko, di mana ada kebarangkalian ia disalah guna dan tiada suatu badan lain dapat bertindak sebagai pemeriksa.

Mungkin ia sesuai bagi sesetengah negara tetapi tidak sesuai bagi negara yang lain.

Penulis amat yakin apa yang telah digariskan oleh negarawan kita semasa ingin mengecapi kemerdekaan dahulu mempunyai maksud yang tersurat dan tersirat.

Garapan formula tersebut sudah terbukti berjaya membentuk sebuah negara yang berdaulat aman dan makmur.

Jerih payah pemimpin terdahulu di dalam mencapai kemerdekaan hendaklah dijadikan teladan bagi kita dan teruskan kesinambungan negara dengan memegang erat ciri-ciri asas Perlembagaan Persekutuan tersebut.

Apa yang perlu dilakukan sekarang ia menerima Perlembagaan Persekutuan tersebut seadanya.

Tafsiran yang sesuai diberikan di dalam perkara yang masih kabur tetapi di dalam perkara yang telah jelas, ia hendaklah diperakukan dan dilaksanakan.

Dengan cara ini kelangsungan kedaulatan dan jati diri negara akan terus dipertahan.

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