Tags: academic

Put your stand: Academic or Co-Curricular

In most writings, many would be undecided whether to go for academics or for sports and games or extra-curricular activities.
Balancing between academics and extra-curricular activities can be a tough decision.

Parents and teachers will want you to excel in academics; while coaches and trainers want you in extra-curricular activities.

Should you, who love both scholastics and additional curricular exercises, you are likely thinking about how to adjust the two.

Your definitive inquiries perpetually are in what capacity would you be able to adjust scholastics and additional curricular exercises?

Even in Malaysia, there are many forms of extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, governance, music, art, and drama. One may wonder if they are really essential.

Many would say, academic comes first. The reason for going to school is to attend classes and do well and get good grades and learning all you can from your classes, though it is not enough to just do well on the tests; you must learn the material in order to be able to apply.

This having been said, the next important venture is to excel in extracurricular activities.

Cocurricular activities are sponsored or recognized by a school or college which are not part of the academic curriculum but are acknowledged to be an essential part of the life of an educational institution. Co-curricular activities include sports, school bands, student newspaper etc.

Whereas various social and other types of activities like literary, dramatic, social services etc. which attracted the attention of the child were considered as extracurricular activities.

Can be almost anything that isn’t required for high school credit or paid employment. These activities will become very important later, such as when you are applying to colleges, because they help you develop your talents, interests, and passions. The can also teach you practical skills like time management.

Though extra-curricular activities contribute 10%-25% of your school based assessment scores, they certainly play an important role in your education, complementing what you learn in class.

You will definitely feel motivated to balance both in knowing you had done a great job in your studies as well as being excellent in an extracurricular activity. This will help you keep from getting stressed out and stay on focused.

Students known to participate in extracurricular activities have less behaviour problems.

They show discipline in drills, practices, and routines. They are responsible enough to perform those tasks correctly, whether it is sports and games, dance routines, or debates.

Students performing these things correctly are rewarded for their good behaviour and they take pride in their accomplishments.

Because of the pride they achieve, they gain self-respect, self-esteem, and self-confidence.

Students will not be doing anything between 3.00pm and 7.00pm and this is the dangerous time for bad behaviour, as working parents will also not be at home.

This is the time when they are at the most risk at doing funny, undesirable acts and unsafe behaviours plus this is a crucial time for students to be in extracurricular activities because they are under supervision and guidance.

Self-esteem can be a predictor of academic performance. Getting good grades and positive attitude toward school is another benefit that extracurricular activities give to students.

Students who dislike schooling won’t do as well as the students that do like school because they are not motivated to succeed.

Participation in extracurricular activities provides students with a chance to make a positive association with their school.

Participating in extracurricular activities students learn lessons in leadership, teamwork, organization, analytical thinking, problem solving, time management, multi-tasking and it allows them to discover their talents.

Most educational institutions look to see if students participate in activities before they are accepted and given scholarships.

Students involved in extracurricular activities from different club or sport meet many new different people in all different groups.

In different extracurricular activities students learn about group work, and learn to mix with gender stereotypes. This is an important social aspect.

To strike up a balance, you must first make a list of your priorities. You have to plan on your course schedule and base your involvement in extracurricular activities accordingly.

Organize your interests and guide your life in the right course, with the goal that you get a balanced training as well as build up your expert aptitudes and meet new people.

You can create a lot of skills and gain experiences by partaking enjoyable extra-curricular activities and it's never too soon to begin! It's an awesome approach to upgrade your applications while having a ton of fun. Besides, in additional curricular can give a feeling of your identity to a generally dry resume.

Azizi Ahmad Majalah Pendidik English Section Bilangan 133 12 March 2019

Importance of academic writing

As I was clicking the e-portal on the Curriculum Topic to share with my students, few of them stopped me and asked me to slow down on the scrolling.

One of them was asking me to pause at the ‘assessment block’, and asking me on why they had different assessment on their program. Some had 50:40:10 (written exam: written assignment: quiz); some had 40:30:20:10 (written exam: writing assignment: presentation: quiz) and etc.

They were voicing out how on tired and exhausted they are in preparing and doing all those paper work called for. All those writing, cracking heads, printing and bindings do takes a lot out of them.

I smiled and them and answered, “As much as you don’t like writing, we educators do not like grading either” that makes us even. But then it’s our job and responsibilities as a student and/or educator to face reading and writing.

Reading and writing will even out to discriminate (it’s an assessment term actually) about the person who knows and the people who don’t.

Looking at the given ratio, academic writing contributes positively to the assessment of learning.

Academic writing has always been the central role in academics globally. Schools and educators will share knowledge and experience and train students to write academically (properly and accordingly), as the writing skills will benefit them in the near after.

One of them again asked me, “So what do you want, academic writing, essay, or stories to write?”

“Well, I guess as we are in an educational institution, we have to write academically or the so-called ‘academic writing’ furthermore you guys are ‘linguistic’ students though you do learn literature and others”.  It is also documented in the Course Learning Outline, I added.

“We have to see that you guys know the importance of academic writing, as it serves as tools of communication in conveying acquired knowledge in a specific field of study. Therefore, it features a serious tone and the need of demonstrating theories and facts that you may argue.”

“We need to ensure the enhancing of learning development for use in assessing the course progress, thus it is a mode of academic papers presentation.”

The class is silent and calm, as I finished my statement. “I will add more if you like to know, shall I?”

On learning, we are tied to the Bloom Taxanomy and Higher Order Thinking skills. Writing academically will engage students to analyze, convey understanding, thinking critically and focused on technique and style.

When we write, we will surely look at previous writer’s ideas or works and forming our understanding; we just cannot summarized what they had done, but we do need to think why it was done and look for on how we can use it in the future. We learn to analyze, from our reading and come out with the importance that holds for the subjects.

In higher institution of learning, especially on complex subjects, it can be difficult for students to explain what they know if they are poor in academic writing. Writing and essays will allow students to explain what they understand and know by using the correct phrases and styles and make information understood by others.

We should not write a one-sided paper that leaves no room for argument. Academic writing need students to look at ideas and research from a different perspective, this is call for should students want to get better grades.

Students have to learn to analyze theories from a number of different viewpoints and then write based on what they understand. To think critically and objectively is a useful skill for people to learn early on in life, as the ability to look at things objectively is something that will benefit them in real life.

Academic writing has a strong focuses on technique and how it should be used to best convey ideas. If students learn about style and how to write essays early on in their academic careers, they will find it much easier to write papers throughout university.

Many educators, preferred styles or formatting requirements (or as stated in writing requirements), so academic writing forces students to take these into consideration and create a paper that will impress.

It is usually a good idea for students to ask for guidance, collaboration and assistance in writing if they are having issues with their technique, as this is something that can be solved with a little guidance.

Academic writing is unlike some less formal types of writing.

Azizi Ahmad The STAR Opinion Letters 17 September 2018

Autonomy and academic freedom are tied closely

NOT too long ago, I had the privilege of interviewing a number of academics in Malaysian universities. One of the questions I asked was, in what capacity do you think Malaysian academics have autonomy? Typically, most academics would say that they had autonomy in the teaching methods that they used or in the research topics they chose to pursue, as long as they were not deemed ‘too sensitive’. However, one young academic’s reply struck me. He said “I have full autonomy because I can decide what time I come into office and what time I want to leave.”

Although not quite the answer I expected, I realised that he was not wrong. He was merely stating what he considered was “autonomous” about his job as an academic in a Malaysian public university. The flexible working hours he enjoyed was possibly the only form of freedom he enjoyed.

I left the interview wondering whether my fellow academics in our universities, especially the young ones, understand academic freedom and university autonomy, and how these two concepts relate to our job in the university?

The universal definition of academic freedom is the freedom to conduct research, teach, speak, and publish; subject to the norms and standards of scholarly inquiry without interference or penalty, wherever the search for truth and understanding may lead.

University autonomy, on the other hand, is the degree of self-governance necessary for effective decision-making by universities regarding their academic work, standards, management and related activities. The emphasis for university autonomy should be centred on self-governance with public accountability.

More importantly, these two concepts are interrelated, where university autonomy serves as the ‘guarantor’ for academic freedom. In other words, they are inseparable twins.

In Malaysia, the then Minister of Higher Education in his 2012 New Year address announced that five of the oldest universities in Malaysia (Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia) have been granted autonomous status. He later elaborated that these universities would not be tied down by Government rules and processes once they received the autonomous status.

To date, through a staggered approach, 17 of 20 public universities have received this autonomous status. Yet, if one is to compare the autonomous status granted to Malaysian public universities by the Government and the universal definition of autonomy provided earlier, it is evident that the autonomy enjoyed by Malaysian public universities is merely superficial.

For instance, the power to appoint leaders in public universities remains in the hands of the Minister instead of the governing body of universities. Public universities including those with autonomous status are subjected strictly to the framework that is used to govern civil servants by the Public Service Department. Although in theory, public universities are Federal Statutory Bodies and the staff are not civil servants, lecturers still have to follow the same pay scale as civil servants and universities do not have the autonomy to hire and fire staff. Likewise, public universities have to adhere to the procurement and financial procedures of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

More troubling, in recent months, staff of public universities have to seek permission from not only the Vice Chancellor, but also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the university as well as the principal secretary of the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE), before they can travel abroad to attend conferences or present a paper.

Even though private universities do not receive financial support from the state, they also do not enjoy a high degree of autonomy. Private universities are subject to extensive administrative circulars, directives and instructions from MoHE and have to rely on licence approvals by external bodies such as the Malaysian Qualifications Agency.

Private universities also need ministry approval to set tuition fees.

A common argument is that as long as public universities receive funding from the Government, they cannot be fully autonomous. However, the lack of university autonomy even among private universities has by and large rebutted this argument. Despite not receiving financial support from the Government, private universities are not fully autonomous.

And more interestingly, historical facts have also debunked this misconception between funding and autonomy. Prior to 1975, Universiti Malaya was self-governed and the University Council, which was the main governing body, comprised many opposition figures such as “Mr Opposition” Tan Chee Khoon and M.K. Rajakumar. Yet, between 1962 and 1975, the university was almost fully funded by the Government. For instance in 1969, 82.3% of the annual recurrent expenditure of the university was borne by the Government, amounting to RM17.5mil.

It is important to recognise that the ability for universities in Malaysia to self-govern has been eroded over the years through various legislation.

Until and unless Malaysian universities have regained a true sense of autonomy where institutions can exercise self-governance with public accountability, individual academics in these institutions cannot be assured of real freedom to search for truth and understanding.

The lack of either one or both can be a real stumbling block for our universities to realise their full potential in conserving, understanding and passing on our intellectual, scientific and cultural heritage to the future generation. Dr Wan Chang Da The STAR Opinion Letters Monday, 22 May 2017

Is our academic curriculum rigorous?

JANUARY 21 — Academic rigour is determined not just by what is taught, but how it is taught and how it is assessed.

A demanding curriculum isn’t so demanding if it is taught in a way that students can’t learn it or if, on tests, students aren’t really expected to know it.

A rigorous curriculum is “focused, coherent, and appropriately challenging,” William Schmidt (Michigan State University)

The term rigour is widely used by educators to describe teaching, schoolwork, learning experiences, and educational expectations that are academically, intellectually, and personally challenging.whatyouthink-new-logo_200_200_100.jpg

Rigorous learning experiences, help students understand knowledge and concepts that are complex, ambiguous, or contentious, and they help students acquire skills that can be applied in a variety of educational, career, and civic contexts throughout their lives.

In education, rigour is commonly applied to lessons that encourage students to question their assumptions and think deeply, rather than to lessons that merely demand memorisation and information recall.

For example, a fill-in-the-blank worksheet or multiple-choice test would not be considered rigorous by many educators.

In order to achieve that goal, educators need to analyzed the content of the curriculum classes and then figured out what students would have to learn starting in preschool in order to do well in those classes.

Some schools might meet the definition of rigour by “giving students a curriculum that will prepare them to succeed in college or the world of work.”

But curriculum design is only part of what defines rigour. What actually happens in classrooms is hugely important more is needed in terms of the number of books students should be required to read.

“In academically rigorous classrooms, it is more ideally for students to read at least one book every two to three weeks.”

It is worth noting that many educators equate rigour with pain, rigid thinking, and harshness.

Too often, rigour becomes “Let’s give more homework.”

“Lessons must be ‘rigorous’ if they make kids suffer” and the fears the curriculum becomes narrow, rigid and deadly dull as teachers attempt to cover more topics.

We should restrain in talking about “achievement” and “rigour,” which have no connection to the inquisitiveness, determination, creative thinking and perseverance students need for genuine lifelong learning.

As academic rigour is as “a demanding yet accessible curriculum that engenders critical-thinking skills as well as content knowledge.”

It takes students to “raise questions, think, reason, solve problems and reflect.”

In addition to gaining knowledge about a subject, students “should be asked to comprehend, apply, analyse, synthesise, evaluate and using that knowledge.”

Whatever the definition, making classrooms more intellectually rigorous is no small challenge.

Actually not everyone knows and understands what it means and what it takes for such demand. “Everyone is telling what to do but they can’t tell us how to do it.”

No matter how demanding a state’s standards, nothing will change for students unless teachers change their lessons.

More attention is needed to see what really happens in classrooms.

Learning is not about getting As, Academic excellence not enough

Academic excellence not enough

DOES a perfect Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) score guarantee a student’s future and his/her ability to face the challenges of the world?

Of course, having a good CGPA score is crucial for students to get an award or a scholarship to further their studies or even to get an exemption for study loan, but does it guarantee a place in this competitive world, which demands more than academic excellence?

The short answer is “no” as there are many skills deemed lacking in graduates once they leave universities to find work.

The hard-and-fast technical and theoretical knowledge students learn in the classroom is only a part of what’s necessary to land them a job. Today, employers are becoming more concerned with what they call the “skills gap” in graduates.

They’re concerned that the young generation does not have the necessary “soft skills” to meet demands in the workplace.

Although a strong background in traditional “hard skills”, such as writing, mathematics and science, will always have its place in academic and career worlds, an increasing number of employers are looking for prospective employees with “soft skills”.

Soft skills include the ability to adapt to changing environments and the willingness to learn through experience.

These are applicable across multiple disciplines and careers.

Soft skills cannot be learned through a single subject as many higher education institutions are trying to do; it is something that needs to be exposed at an early age by qualified facilitators, coupled with good parenting.

As such, it is important for our students to develop and master the soft skills in the early years at kindergarten and primary school before they enter secondary school, university or college.

Some of the soft skills that students should have are a pleasant personality, honesty and integrity, teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills, ability and creativity in problem-solving, time management and good leadership qualities.

The new integrated cumulative grading system proposed under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) will assess academic performance, as well as values, community service and leadership qualities.

The integrated grading system is said to be able to create more marketable and competitive graduates. However, the system is new and it may take some time for the effects to be seen.

At the same time, all education sectors and stakeholders need to work together and develop comprehensive and effective plans to produce graduates with enough skills to face the harsh realities and challenges of the working world.

Learning is not about getting As

EXAMINATIONS occupy a central position in Malaysia’s education system. School examinations have been the subject of criticism over the years and the move to reform them has caught the attention of local educators and policymakers.

Pupils see them as a necessary evil — something unpleasant but tolerated — in order to move on to the next stage of their educational journey.

The ability of a young schooler is decided by an examination, where scoring As has long become their only aim, and also of their parents and schools.

Society expects students here to produce a string of As in every examination. The shocker of this year’s UPSR (Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah) results was that the number of As scored by our 12-year-olds dropped greatly when compared with last year’s figures.

Only 4,896 pupils scored straight As, or 1.11 per cent of the 452,721 pupils who sat the exam this year, as opposed to the 38,344 pupils who aced it under the previous format last year.

It was not just parents and their children who were shattered by the outcome, but teachers as well.

And now, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid has announced that the decision on whether UPSR will be abolished and replaced with a school-based assessment system will be announced next year.

The timing of the announcement is surprising. It came right after the UPSR bombshell.

Apparently, the rationale for the reform is that Malaysia’s examination system needs to be on par with that of other countries which have switched to school-based assessments.

The ministry is looking at South Korea, Finland and France for ideas on how to implement it here.

Pupils’ psychometric skills, and co-curricular and academic achievements form the essentials of the school-based assessment approach.

The commotion over the recent UPSR results shows ignorance on the whole purpose of learning.

Collectively, we are responsible for the focus on exams. When a pupil scores As, he gets first-class treatment, but not so when he scores less. But, it is not necessarily true that those with As will be successful in life because no one can predict the harsh realities in the big bad world.

Yet, we choose to ignore this. The essence of education goes beyond performing well in examinations. Suffice to say that education is meant for the all-rounded development of a person.

For that reason, the education system must strive to make learning enjoyable. The present system forces teachers to spend most of their time assessing learning, rather than assisting learning so that the young will appreciate the pursuit of knowledge and understand what they learn.

To abolish UPSR so soon after a new format was introduced will only disrupt the learning process and invite new problems.

What needs to be done is to set realistic goals and move away from stressing straight As. If at all, there is a need to abolish UPSR, do so in stages and allow pupils and teachers time for the adjustment. The impact of a “rushed” decision will do more harm than good.

Hurting academic integrity in haste

The recent research fraud that implicated four researchers from Universiti Malaya (UM) has serious implications that are best encapsulated by a Malay proverb, “Guru kencing berdiri, murid kencing berlari.”

It essentially depicts a situation where the misconduct of a teacher is closely imitated by his/her students to such an extent that the former can no longer claim a moral high ground, which is — or should be — important in an educational setting. After all, a credibility deficit makes a role model a far distant dream for the teacher.

In the context of the above university, research ethics and the integrity of the academics and researchers and of the university as an institution of higher learning have been severely compromised. It gives a wrong signal to students that plagiarism is kosher.

An incident like this obviously doesn’t augur well for UM which, as with most public universities in Malaysia, is said to fervently strive for academic excellence and a better placement in global university rankings.

That the flawed research findings of the four academics had found their way into prestigious international academic journals should ring the alarm bell to those in positions of power at UM and also the Ministry of Higher Education because the country simply cannot afford to be well-known yet for another wrong reason.

This incident should also be of great concern to the university authorities because it is not the first at UM as there was at least one known case of plagiarism and academic dishonesty in the past. In fact, it should be a wake-up call for the entire academic community in the country as the academic deceit is a microcosm of the national academia.

In other words, plagiarism and other forms of intellectual dishonesty also rear their ugly heads in institutions of higher learning other than UM. They may vary from one university to another in terms of degree, but these cases undoubtedly eat into the academic integrity of the academics and institutions to which they are affiliated. It may also demoralise other researchers/academics.

Another practise, which may be considered a lesser “evil” but could well pave the way to more insidious form of academic fraudulence, is the habit of some academics to piggyback on students’ academic work so as to swiftly bolster their CVs and points for promotion.

While proponents of such practise may argue that it is perfectly professional and ethical to have collaborative work between lecturers and their students/supervisees so as to provide the academic leadership and guidance, the often unequal power relations between the two parties would yield a situation where the students easily fall prey to sheer exploitation.

A worst case scenario is that the lecturer concerned would have his/her name mentioned together — if not the first name to appear — with the student in the eventual publication of an academic article even though the former did not even lift a finger. An unholy alliance, this really is.

The major factor that drives many of these academics to go to such great lengths and misdeeds is the KPI, or Key Performance Index, that has caught the imagination of university administrators who feel — or are compelled to think — that counting points leads to much in the very process of attaining academic excellence, no matter how this concept is interpreted by the respective institutions.

This KPI culture, which is a recent phenomenon, can be brought to a ridiculous level. For example, if in the old days, one would attend a seminar or forum that was held on campus purely out of keen interest or curiosity; these days academics are lured to such meetings by being dangled with CPD (Continuing Professional Development) points irrespective of the degree of interest one has in the subject at hand. Indeed, it makes a mockery of something that is integral to the intellectual development of a university.

To be sure, the KPI makes almost all things quantifiable so that some of the advocates of this concept tend to lose sight of the wider meaning of education at the tertiary level, which should include the expansion of knowledge and meaningful contribution to community and society — and not merely serving the interests of the industry, as some academics would have us believe.

Equally worrying is that a more liberal approach to education gets de-emphasised or eclipsed at the tertiary level with political intervention from ruling politicians whose political interests do not sit well with an enlightened notion of university education where conventional wisdom and status quo are necessarily challenged as a matter of fact.

This, in turn, has an impact on the kind of research conducted in universities as well as the mindset of some academics, particularly those who have the penchant to overly “mengikut perintah” as well as the apple polishers.

In an effort to induce, nay compel, academics to do research and publish especially in top-tiered international journals as part of the primary objective to attain academic excellence and better international ranking, financial rewards are offered by the universities concerned to academics who have succeeded in publishing their articles in these journals. Such a practise makes publishing as if it is a novel thing — and not a normal academic obligation. In a sense, this might devalue the noble pursuit of knowledge and truth.

And increasingly pushed by the need to publish and publish fast, and subsequently accumulate points under KPI, some academics desperately resort to a “groupish” strategy in writing a single piece of academic article. This would involve a group of four to six (or even more) individuals who would write an array of articles with the leaders being rotated with each succeeding article.

The scheme is that each individual gets a mention in all of the jointly written articles so as to shore up their individual CVs quantitatively, but it would not help readers to ascertain the academic strength of each writer. There might also be an involvement of piggybacking among the writers. Clearly this is not a clever approach to genuinely build one’s academic strength and credentials.

While there may be many paths to academic excellence, plagiarism and intellectual deceit is certainly not one of them. Neither is an undue push to publish in high-ranking journals necessarily a panacea to a dearth of intellectually challenging academic articles.

A university of excellence should be built on an intellectual tradition that values and encourages critical inquiry and intellectual exchanges that are conducted in an environment that is less tainted with political interference and dictates of the industry. At the end of the day, its academic and intellectual contribution should be for the betterment of the wider society as a whole.

- Dr Mustafa K. Anuar The Malay Mail Online Opinion Friday June 24, 2016 8:30 AM GMT+8

Probe alleged research fraud, our good name at stake, Unrealistic KPIs contribute to research fraud

NGO: Unrealistic university KPIs contribute to research fraud

In light of the recent allegations of fraud in research papers, the Malaysian Social Science Association (MSSA) wants universities to rethink the highly competitive ISI-indexed journal article requirements it is imposing on lecturers.

"With universities putting a high priority on ISI-indexed publications in order to boost their rankings, KPIs on research and publication have sometimes been set at unrealistic levels, thus putting pressure on academic staff and researchers.

"While this does not justify or mitigate the seriousness of such offences, it should serve as a reminder to our universities that setting unrealistic targets will draw desperate responses," MSSA said in a statement.

It said the motivation behind the allegedly fraudulent acts recently reported was the numbers game – getting as many papers published - with little regard for the ethics of research and publication.

MSSA was responding to the recent reports on scientific fraud involving four Universiti Malaya researchers from the Faculty of Medicine, and an earlier report on intellectual property rights infringement by UiTM.

Both, it warned, were causes for concern by the academic community and should lead to reflection on the reasons and causes of such occurrences.

Review research policies

MSSA expressed its deep concern over the matter and hoped that universities would continue to exercise vigilance over such unethical practices, and at the same time review their research and publication policies, which it said could have been instrumental in instigating such unscrupulous acts.

It pounced on Universiti Malaya, for despite having been quick to denounce such breaches of ethical conduct, calling for a retraction of the published articles and taking the mandatory disciplinary measures, there was hardly any attempt to diagnose the motivations for such fraudulent acts.

MSSA lamented that public expenditure on R&D in universities now needs to be justified in terms of the number of patents and ISI-indexed publications, instead of the actual contribution to the community, nation or real knowledge.

"Indeed, such a policy does not contribute towards the expansion of knowledge and learning, but, instead, stresses quantitative output, with little concern for content and quality," the NGO said, adding that misplaced emphasis on recognition in academic performance likely contributed to both the unfortunate Universiti Malaya and UiTM cases.

MSSA argued that while it is not rejecting the call for academic excellence, its pursuit must be realistic and within the bounds of our own resources.

It called for the objectives of the policy to be clear on what meaningful outcomes are expected from public investment in higher education, including R&D, instead of it denigrating into a pure numbers game.

"In this regard, the Malaysian Social Science Association calls for a re-instatement of the primacy of integrity and ethics in research and scholarship, over that of coerced performance, and for our universities to re-examine and revise their research and publication policies towards more meaningful and realistic demands," the NGO said.

UM staff: Probe alleged research fraud, our good name at stake

The Universiti Malaya Academic Staff Association (PKAUM) has urged Universiti Malaya to conduct a thorough investigation after allegations of research fraud was levelled against its academics.

“PKAUM urges the management of Universiti Malaya (UM) to investigate the allegations thoroughly and without bias.

“The good names of any innocent parties must be restored. Any guilty ones should be exposed and punished.

“Hopefully this action would restore justice and brings back some credibility to the blessed and beloved Universiti Malaya,” said PKAUM secretary Aznijar Ahmad Yazid.

He was referring to claims made by the international research community against a research paper by authors are associated with UM.

It has been alleged that figures in the research paper were fabricated through duplication.

The paper titled ‘Novel piperazine core compound induces death in human liver cancer cells: possible pharmacological properties’ was published in Scientific Reports in April.

“If the allegations are proven true, it would mean a great shame, not only limited to the authors but also impacts Universiti Malaya.

“Manipulation of result is considered a major academic offence, a travesty in the noble profession.

“However, if the allegations are proven false, action need to be initiated against the accuser,” he said.

Idris to probe ‘falsified research data’ claims at UM, Four researchers falsified science data

Four researchers falsified science data, says UM

PETALING JAYA: A probe has revealed that the four researchers from Universiti Malaya (UM) had indeed falsified their research data.

UM vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Mohd Amin Jalaludin said the findings from the investigation suggested that all four articles were prepared with a single set of data.

A committee set up by the university to conduct an in-depth investigation into the allegations that the group had allegedly falsified research data found that there were duplication and/or manipulation of almost all the figures (images and graphs) within the original Scientific Reports paper and across three other papers.

“As UM adheres to a strict policy of integrity and ethical practices in research, the authors have been asked to retract all published articles in Scientific Reports, PeerJ and Recent Patents on Anti-Cancer Drug Discovery immediately,” he said in a statement.

In addition, Dr Mohd Amin said the author and co-authors have also been interviewed by the committee.

“As a research university, UM does not condone any form of research misconduct and allegations of malpractice in research are taken seriously by the university’s management,” he said.

Dr Mohd Amin said the committee consisted of senior members from the Faculty of Medicine.

He said a complete report has been submitted to the university’s Research Integrity and Ethics Committee for further deliberation, including appropriate disciplinary action to be taken on the researchers.

The committee, which was chaired by Faculty of Medicine dean Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, said the university will be taking disciplinary action after investigations are completed.

She believed this was the first time this had happened in the university. The STAR Home > News > Nation Friday, 17 June 2016

Idris to probe ‘falsified research data’ claims at UM

PETALING JAYA: The Higher Education Ministry will investigate allegations that a group of researchers from Universiti Malaya’s (UM) Faculty Of Medicine falsified research data.

According to its minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, he will personally look into the matter following wide-ranging postings on social media that questioned the integrity of the researchers, whose paper underwent three rounds of peer reviews.

“We do not compromise on such matters, and we’ll make sure action will be taken against them because we have to uphold the integrity of our education system,” he said on the sidelines of a memorandum signing ceremony between Sunway TES Centre for Accountancy Excellence, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and the ministry’s Polytechnic Education Department here yesterday.

When contacted by The Star, UM’s international and corporate relations director Dr Evelyn Khor said the university was aware of the incident and had formed an ad hoc committee to investigate the alleged wrongdoing.

“We do not condone fraudulent activities and appropriate actions will be taken against the researchers if any evidence of scientific misconduct is found,” she said. The STAR Home > News > Nation Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Ex-students: How did theses end up in UiTM library? Academic cheating in Malaysia?

Academic cheating in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, we might not openly admit the problems of academic cheating, but it does exist and needs to be addressed by those who are in charge of ensuring academic standards in institutions of higher learning.

If a former MBA student of University of Bath had not done a Google search, he would not have discovered that University Technology Mara had illegally deposited in its library 14 academic theses done by students who graduated with MBA from Bath in 1994. (Ex-students: How did theses end up in UiTM library?, FMT April 28)

The authorities are not open or transparent as they prefer to sweep them under the carpet ... TRUE !

How did UiTM come to violate international copyright rules and get away with it?

The question posed by the former student was simply this? How did these theses come to be deposited in UiTM’s library and whether it had sought the permission of University of Bath or the students concerned?

Academic cheating or plagiarism is not uncommon in Malaysia. But most of the time, students, lecturers and even professors get away with this intellectual dishonesty.

The authorities in the institutions of higher learning are not very open or transparent when it comes to acknowledging the problems of academic cheating. Most of the time, they prefer to sweep these ugly episodes under the carpet for fear that it might affect their academic rating.

In the past, there have been cases of academic cheating by students and lecturers in universities and colleges, but very few have been punished.

Many in the academic circles realize the phenomenon of academic cheating is there, but the authorities are too entrapped in the bureaucratic red-tape to address this problem.

Academic cheating is a serious crime in universities. Those who are caught can be prosecuted and jailed or fined.

But unfortunately, the Ministry of Education that oversees academic standards simply does not have the political will to reduce academic cheating in institutions of higher learning.

P Ramasamy is state assemblyman for Prai and deputy chief minister II of Penang

Ex-students: How did theses end up in UiTM library?

PETALING JAYA: Fifteen former students attached to University of Bath in the United Kingdom have accused University Technology Mara (UiTM) of intellectual property theft.

They claimed they discovered their MBA thesis papers linked to UiTM’s “institutional repository” (library), Star Online reported.

They said the theses had been used without their consent.

Google search finds their MBA thesis papers in UiTM’s institutional repository.

The 15 were from four groups of graduates from the 1994 Bath Executive Masters of Business Administration (MBA)-Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM) programme.

The news report quoted Sam Than, who first made the discovery.

He said he found a link to the repository while searching for information on Google. The 58-year-old consultant had completed his group thesis paper for his MBA 22 years ago.

“What was more puzzling was that our thesis had the UiTM logo and copyright on their paper.”

He said this gave the impression that they had somehow collaborated on the thesis with UiTM or under UiTM auspices.

Than claimed that three other groups from his programme had found out that their Bath MBA thesis papers were also in the repository.

He said he e-mailed UiTM demanding why his thesis was uploaded to its repository and they replied that it had now been taken down.

MIM told The Star the intellectual property rights were with the student and the conferring institution – in this case, University of Bath.

The Star said it found that Than’s group paper had been taken down from the UiTM repository but those from the other three groups were still there.

UiTM IR told the newspaper it was currently investigating the matter.

UiTM Vice-Chancellor Prof Emeritus Dr Hassan Said was later reported to have  ordered an immediate inquiry into the allegations.

“UiTM’s repository has a well-known rule on the immediate removal of any plagiarised material. We have instituted an immediate enquiry and will get to the bottom of this serious allegation.

“Academic integrity is a matter of great importance to UiTM. Hence, preventive measures are in place to check abuse and misuse of intellectual property.”

Hassan also said that any student or academic who violates rules against plagiarism was subject to disciplinary proceedings, which can result in severe penalties, including dismissal, suspension, a demotion in the case of lecturers, or civil action by the affected parties against the wrongdoer.

“UiTM will not shield any wrongdoer and will cooperate with legal authorities.”

Bullying happens in academia

I REFER to the letter “Dealing with bullies at work” (The Star, April 15). One such place where bullying often occurs but unknown to most is academia, although university administrators may deny this. The hard truth is bullying in the form of mobbing, camouflaged aggression and harassment exists within academia.

Academics are surprised to experience hazing as those with genuine and good qualifications but from less prestigious universities are continually treated as second-class academics at best by those who graduated from elite universities. Those from lesser-known colleges are often ridiculed even if they can hold their own ideas and defend them. Their fault is the lower rank of their alma mater.

Academics are also bullied by administrators who get them to show support for certain individuals when well-known personalities visit the campus.

Compulsory attendance is a definite method to fill the hall, and a full hall augurs well for the administrators and makes the prominent visitors feel welcomed and comfortable. The postponement of classes to attend these functions doesn’t matter to the administrators. What matters is the acceptable turnout in the hall to please the guests and put the administrators in a good light.

This method is also used to fill the hall to listen to top management outlining the future plan of the university. Attendance is recorded electronically and an academic’s presence or absence will be easily detected. His/her absence is taken to mean that he/she does not have the shared vision of the top management.

This will be used to deny him/her leave, travelling and subsistence allowances when opportunities come to attend and to present papers at a conference.

The difficulty in finding time for replacement classes is the problem of the academics even though it was initiated by the administrators. To solve the problem, academics would do a “speed up” or summary of the lessons or considered the period as cancelled and the topic done.

Presenting papers at conferences abroad is an opportunity for academics to promote their institutions, travel abroad and share their findings and ideas with other academics. But procedures as prescribed by the universities are like invisible barriers discouraging the academics from going.

Attending international conferences locally or abroad is challenging. The acceptance of a paper is testament to its quality as confirmed by a conference’s committee after being scrutinised for its worthiness. Despite this, it is still subjected to approval by the faculty’s or the university’s committees.

A junior academic and those from lesser-known universities may find their papers being rejected perhaps out of envy or jealousy by senior academics who sit on the committees.

To overcome the obstacle and out of fear his/her application may not be approved, he/she may endorse the administrators and/or those seniors as co-writers. Thus, instead of 100% credit as author, he/she has to share it with the “co-authors”. Worse he/she may feel obliged to name the administrators or senior academics as the lead authors. This is tantamount to blackmail and corruption although no money is involved.

Why join the academia? The answer normally centres on love for teaching, writing and research. But over and above these, an academic has to be involved in several activities and hold administrative posts to help his/her faculty.

Though the involvement is voluntary in nature, many academics will admit that they have to comply with the wishes of the administrators. Their high marks in teaching, writing and research will be deemed useless if there is hardly any non-academic contribution.

Those returning with PhDs, hoping that their specialisation will contribute to a university’s academic advancement through research and writing, are also not spared. What surprises them – and is a loss to a university – is their placement as administrators rather than as academics. This defeats the purpose of having a specialist.

In this age of electronic communication, to gain access and quick response, many heads of department set up their own complaint blog online or on Facebook to get feedback from students. Some students have no qualms ganging up on academics. They want excuses to explain their own poor performance and grades and may not hesitate to undermine the genuine efforts of the academics and hold them to ransom. As an analogy, football referees will testify that those who are quick to voice their dissatisfaction are normally from the losing team.

No one deserves to be humiliated, undermined, insulted, shunned, marginalised, ganged up on or even spoken to harshly in any workplace. Academics are no exception.