Monday, September 14, 2009

A minor observation on the Treasury Sec-Gen's column

Tan Sri Dr Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Abdullah, who is the secretary-general of Treasury, Ministry of Finance said this, among other things, in his column today. The emphasis are mine:

Human capital is the key ingredient in the new growth model. As we progress in the new economy, there will be a greater demand for high skilled jobs and if the supply is not available domestically we have to source and pay for such talents elsewhere.

This is the challenge for the education institutions in Malaysia. Our schools, skills centres, polytechnics and universities must play a proactive role and expose our students to the state of the art technologies. In addition, our students should be inculcated with good working habits, suitable soft skills and the yearn for continuous improvement. This long-standing issue must be addressed immediately.


Having said all these, the architecture of the new model must be structured on the two pillars of Malaysia’s inherent strengths, namely political stability and racial unity. The political stability that we continue to enjoy enables us to plan ahead with greater certainty and enhances investors’ confidence, both domestic and foreign. We must also continue to build on something that is very dear to us, and that is racial unity.

To move beyond platitudes, the Tan Sri needs to get his colleagues in the Higher Education Ministry and the Education Ministry to seriously apply academic meritocracy.

First, reward only those students who actually provide the correct answers. Do not fiddle around with the passing marks.

Second, promote good academics who have consistently produced good students and produced good academic papers. Get rid of the the kaki ampu sycophants who are more interested in non-academic things like developing vacant land in the campus, building a surau in the school compound (at the expense of teachers' carparks and students' outdoor tempat perhimpunan) and arranging the next VVIP visit and, of course, getting promoted by ampu instead of merit or seniority.

That is the fundamental matter to address the HUMAN CAPITAL pipeline in Malaysia.

As for POLITICAL STABILITY and RACIAL UNITY, I don't know why that should be raised at all by the Tan Sri because Malaysia has always had these two assets, even after March 8, 2008. We still have the same coalition running the Federal Government.

So, Tan Sri, we love the words and, we accept the points wholeheartedly But, let's see some serious bootstrapping action on improving the Human Capital i.e. education. Otherwise, these are mere words to sooth those Malaysians that suffer from temporary amnesia. For those with long memories, it may be painful to be reminded of these words when Vietnam's economy exceeds ours in all respects.


walla said...

He should have co-authored the piece with his counterpart in education. Then both can put in more bite. Not the same old that concerned but less titled rakyat have already known long before these fine officials were appointed to their posts.

The time for apparatchiks to be politically correct is long over. If they want to write a piece to spur real action, they have to write painful issues, make painful suggestions and do painful tasks at a level and to an impact equal to where they sit. Otherwise, what is the point? Freshies with a keyboard can do more in half the time and at quarter the cost to the national coffer.

What's happening now in the human capital sector in this country? People are spending their life savings just to show that the government really doesn't know best. And they are showing it by putting their charges into private sector education. This means an equal and growing alternative to the mainstream education system.

However it is a mismatch of scale, funds and resources. The best will gravitate to the private sector but this sector will not have the scale, funds or resources to match the public sector in areas which matter the most for institution-generated nation-building through training in research, science, engineering and technology. At best they will only provide rudimentary capture of the 101's in those areas, and because of that, the next stage of creating intelligent alliancing networks to build our own or to lure other global corporations will be minimal which means all will remain clueless on the dictates and demands of what are needed to make for the world, whether it be product or service. Unless we are saying it's enough to just make for our own domestic market of shrinking income earners and self-recycled wannabes.

If we keep doing the same thing, the best minds of the country will be open to the world only through the funnel of individual private sector efforts in such general areas as business studies and social science. Which means we are going to be short of real technocrats and business designers at exactly the time when these are the people needed the most to evaluate methods and products that embed in real money-spinning services, and wearing only local aprons, they will also not be able to negotiate with finesse because the governmental mainstream education pipeline is incapable of fashioning such human capital and those it sends overseas less those who won't be coming back are too few in number on top of not getting suitable placements which will deliver massive impacts in energized organizations free from the excesses and stupifying dumbfoundedness(*) of third world mentalities, all at immense funds-draining cost to boot.

Given the government's entrenched inertia to make real changes where they count, one can only conclude there will be dual tracks to everything. For low standards and irrelevance, go to the public sector corner. For fledgling higher standards subject to available individual private sector funds and capabilities, go to the other corner, whatever that stands for.

walla said...

If the government is wise enough to understand what it is failing to do which it has failed to do since this country started, then the least it can do from now on is to grow the second corner until it engulfs the first. Of course this is impossible to ask in direct proportion to planning myopia and political considerations. Which means the second corner will only grow a bit more each year. Which means all the fine national planning for this and that national thrust into the rest of this century will falter. Because we don't have the right people in sufficient numbers to spark changes, catalyze ideas and make global success a malaysian story.

Having said that, one needs to be also mindful of the private sector initiatives to-date. There are many poorly set up by opportunistic leftovers and running on shoestring budgets while promising the moon. They don't have standards too. And those which do have standards have to suffer all sorts of weakly-assembled process requirements put together by the usual accreditation bodies which show the essence behind accreditation has been reduced to filing forms and making ridiculous demands unequal to operational capabilities in local settings.

A key foundation to 1Malaysia is diversity. Given the current in-situ set-ups, the diversification process is thus going to molecularize everything. The private sector and most of the rakyat who know what is going on in the real world will do their own thrusts. They will create their own tracks of human capital development. Soon enough the others who have all along been thinking government knows best will be drawn to the relevance success factor in the second corner. They will start to see the cobwebs in theirs. Then what? Another politically-correct column piece to provide feel-good palliatives to the rakyat?

The situation is not healthy. Both sectors will be unequal to the task of creating really useful and relevant human capital. The public sector suffers from self-imposed myopia and sheer cowardice born of self-survival and indifference; the private sector from profit motivation and corner-cutting which will crimp scale, funding and resources devoted to real training in all the important areas. There will be a giant lacuna right in the centre of the issue which forfeits the power of critical mass. Notwithstanding all future attempts at highly-paid spin, the lacuna will suck and cave in all national development programs in the future.

By a stroke of excellent luck, many of us who are reading this won't be living long enough to see it happen. Because all the life-giving savings for what they may still be worth at declining exchange rates would have to be spent by then to launch the young ones to go elsewhere to avert the impending catastrophe.

But what will the millions who have not enough savings to do so to do?

Perhaps fifty years later an intelligent alien being will accidentally land here. It telepathizes back to its mothership: 'beam me up quick, there ain't no life here.'

(*): on the matter of human capital, i exercise no mercy but that, you already know.