Tuesday, 31 January 2017

BUKIT LANJAN: Are we preparing for such a massive demographic change and growth?

BUKIT LANJAN: Are we preparing for such a massive demographic change and growth?

It is envisaged that 80% of Malaysia will be urban by 2030 and that federal capital Kuala Lumpur will have a population of almost 10 million.

Some will see that as economic progress while others will ask if it really means positive progress for Malaysians.

“Whatever you opine, there is one very major concern. Is Malaysia prepared to face the socio-political revolution and changes that come along with such a domestic demographic transformation?” Gerakan Deputy Speaker Syed Abdul Razak Alsagoff said.

He said such a demographic growth and changes in communities and societies would certainly affect the socio-political sphere of Malaysians and Malaysia.

“Are our education policies adequate to cope with the needs of such a massive growth? Are the socio-economic policies of the government of the day competent to cope with such a transformation?

“There are certainly many questions to ask with such a massive transformation that will naturally and generally affect Malaysians and Malaysia.

“The point is the government of the day must lead and prepare the rakyat (people) with socio-economic policies that promote national unity and nation-building activities.

“This is crucial for a country that wants to increase productivity and raise quality human capital capacity. That can only come with a solid national unity policy,” he added.

Syed Razak, who is Gerakan’s nominee to contest N.37 Bukit Lanjan in the coming 14th General Election (GE14), said: “I had in my previous blog postings stressed the need for Malaysians, especially politicians and elected representatives from both sides of the political divide, to stop excessive politicking after a general election.

“We have arguably been politicking non-stop since GE12 in 2008 until today. That’s utterly unproductive and certainly not what governance is about.

“After a general election, Malaysians should set aside their political differences, put on their thinking caps and think out of the box to propose and discuss policies that can promote productive results.

“Malaysians and Malaysia certainly need to change their mindset to help forward the nation to progress and prosperity,” he added.

Here are two Free Malaysia Today articles related to the above issues:

"Report: 80% of Malaysia will be urban by 2030

FMT Reporters

| January 19, 2017

Kuala Lumpur, with RM765 million in total economic output, generates more than half of Malaysia’s GDP and is a bigger economy than Stuttgart or Stockholm, says study by the Martin Prosperity Institute.

KUALA LUMPUR: A new study shows that by 2030, Malaysia will be as urbanised as today’s Canada and the United States.

The report by the Martin Prosperity Institute, housed at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, also says that Kuala Lumpur will have a population of almost 10 million by 2030.

The study examines the intersection of urbanisation and the rise of the middle class, or what it calls the “new creative” class, in Southeast Asia.

The report notes that Southeast Asia is at the centre of significant economic transformation and rapid urbanisation, and that by 2030, Southeast Asia’s urban population will swell by an estimated 100 million people, growing from 280 million people today to 373 million people.

However, it says, the level of economic development across the region and its cities is highly uneven.

It says: “By 2030, Malaysia is projected to have an urban share of more than 80%, similar to the current level or urbanisation in Canada and the United States.”

Saying that Southeast Asian nations fall into four tiers of economic development, the report puts Malaysia on the second tier, together with the Philippines.

“The creative class makes up a quarter of Malaysia’s workforce and a fifth of that of the Philippines, approaching the levels of advanced nations.

“They rank among the top 50 or so of the world’s nations both in terms of their share of creative class workers and their performance on the global creativity index.

“Malaysia has a level of economic output per capita (US$9,748 or RM43,393) which places it among the world’s “upper-middle income” nations. Roughly three-quarters of its population is urbanised, not far off from that of the United States and other advanced nations.”

The report says Singapore occupies the first tier.

“Singapore generates US$51,149 in economic output per person, making it one of the richest and most developed nations in the world — ahead of Canada and the United States.”

Thailand and Vietnam are placed in the third tier of development, while Indonesia and Cambodia occupy the fourth tier.

Saying Southeast Asia’s cities and metros reflect the region’s tiered development pattern, the report places Singapore on the top tier.

“It ranks as the fourth most advanced global city in the world behind only New York, London and Tokyo and one of the most prosperous and advanced cities on the planet, ranking just below New York City with more than US$66,000 in economic output per capita, greater than Tokyo, Toronto, Seoul and Hong Kong.”

Kuala Lumpur, the report says, occupies the second tier with economic output per capita of US$28,000, considerably greater than either Shanghai or Beijing.

“With US$172 million in total economic output, it generates more than half of Malaysia’s GDP and is a bigger economy than Stuttgart or Stockholm.”

World class politicians needed on both sides

Robin Augustin

| January 26, 2017

When it comes to excessive politicking, the government is as guilty as the opposition, says an official of Ideas.

PETALING JAYA: The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) has urged politicians on both sides of the fence to raise the standard of their work to a level worthy of being called “world class”.

The think tank’s external relations manager, Azrul Mohd Khalib, said too much politicking interfered with the discussion of real issues.

Commenting on federal minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan’s call on the opposition to discuss policies instead of politicking, he said both the opposition and the establishment were guilty of excessive politicking.

“The portrayal of the opposition parties as being unconstructive and detrimental to the country must stop,” he said in an interview with FMT.

“What must also cease is the portrayal of the government as the source of all things gone wrong.”

He said debate on any policy needed to be based on evidence and clear rules of accountability and transparency.

“There are always two sides to an argument and it is necessary for this to be understood and accepted. The practice of debate and argumentation is not negative, and is the bedrock of our democracy.”

Both opposition and ruling politicians must meet the challenge of being world class in their arguments, politics and policies, he said.

“They are, after all, both serving the people. Let’s not forget that. We must hold them to that standard.”

Political analyst James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute said it wasn’t possible to change the nature of political discourse because race and religion were still the main issues in Malaysian politics.

“It’s talk about race and religion that make headlines,” he told FMT. “For the Malay community, you have to talk about Islam. For the Chinese, it is vernacular education.

“Everything in Malaysia, sooner or later, will be tied to race and religion.”

On Tuesday, Rahman called on the opposition to clearly state its stand on the economy, foreign policy and various other issues. He said political discourse in the country left “much to be desired”."


Monday, 30 January 2017

BUKIT LANJAN: Singapore revolutionising its education strategy, what about Malaysia?

BUKIT LANJAN: Singapore revolutionising its education strategy, what about Malaysia?

Singapore appears to be revolutionising its education policy and strategy to ensure it produces even more employable graduates who are creative and innovative.

It wants school children to focus less on grades and more on ideas.

“It will do well for Malaysia’s Education Ministry to also do the same and not be left behind. Although Singapore’s education is already world standard and highly successful, why is it trying to revolutionise it?” Gerakan Deputy Speaker Syed Abdul Razak Alsagoff asked.

“That’s because Singapore’s administrators are able to think out of the box and adapt to global changes and technological needs,” he added.

He said global economic and technological competitiveness had narrowed tremendously in the cyber-driven 21st Century.

“China, South Korea and India have shown the way to catch up with traditional developed nations like Japan and the West. There is no way for Malaysia to catch up if there is no quality and effective human capital and skills development,” he added.

Syed Razak, who is Gerakan’s nominee to contest N.37 Bukit Lanjan in the coming 14th General Election, said “the only way for Malaysia to keep abreast with global progress is to ensure a competent, innovative and creative workforce”.

“Only with such a workforce can Malaysia attract investors, both local and foreign,” he added.

Here’s what was posted by The Star Online recently:


Singapore students have always been focused on grades, but are there other skills they could pay attention to? Photos: Reuters

Singapore wants kids to focus less on grades, and more on ideas



Singapore’s global rankings in maths and science have made its schools the envy of the developed world, but a new push to drive grassroots innovation is prompting local teachers to do the previously unthinkable: go easier on the exams.

The city-state’s schools now have courses with no grades, at least a tenth of admissions to universities are now based on aptitudes rather than results, and the public service is scrapping a long-held practice of classifying officers by their educational qualifications.

Singapore is not about to ditch its obsession with academic excellence and discipline, but a new focus on entrepreneurship – and notions of challenging convention – marks an admission by educators that exams alone can’t produce one ingredient needed for economic success: new ideas.

“For a long time, graduates became entrepreneurs despite the school system not because of it,” said Patrice Choong, a professor at Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

At Ngee Ann, students have to develop a business, or design products, as part of their curriculum. Reaching self-imposed targets such as funding or bringing the 100th customer is key to pass, but there are no courses or grades. All they get are time and advice.

Since independence 51 years ago, Singapore’s schools and universities have had to produce the skilled labour needed by strongly-incentivised multinationals to build what is mostly a service economy.

And it worked: 15-year-olds from Singapore topped the ranks in the OECD’s triennial survey on international education in a remarkable showcase of the city-state’s social and economic progress.

There are downsides, however. Like other Asian societies, Singapore has its own “tiger mums”, who push their children to be the best in school to help set them up for the job market.

Experts say lack of play time chokes creativity. Many students attend after-school activities in the afternoon and tuition in the evening. By the time they finish homework, it’s past midnight.

Singapore has its own ‘tiger mums’, who push their children to be the best in school to help set them up for the job market.

This pressure has created an education arms race with the private tuition industry one of the main beneficiaries.

Parents can pay as much as S$700 (RM2,178) for four-session courses and some tutors have even become millionaires from their trade.

One such millionaire tutor, Phang Yu Hon, has taught high school physics for the past 20 years but says few of his pupils end up in related fields. Rather, his clients’ main priority is to get the grades needed to get into university law or medicine.

Some of the most unhappy customers, however, are the Singapore-based multinationals the schools were originally designed to provide talent for. A survey of over 100 US businesses in the city by the US Chamber of Commerce saw the local workforce score well on technical skills, but fare worst among Southeast Asian nations on creativity and innovation.

More than a third complained about unwillingness to take risks and a lack of entrepreneurial spirit, compared with the Southeast Asian average of 25 per cent.

A student looks on as a teacher demonstrates spray painting during a model aeroplane assembly enrichment class at a secondary school in Singapore.

Taking risks

Cindy Khoo, a director with the Ministry of Education’s Planning Division, says while a historic focus on performance has kept standards high, the overemphasis on exam results detracts students from the broader purpose of learning: discovery and exploration.

“Society’s mindset also needs to shift over time, to celebrate a multitude of talent and the successes achieved via varied paths,” Khoo said.

The changes in schools are part of a broader government effort to boost innovation and technology, which also includes a commitment to invest S$19bil (RM59bil) over five years in those areas.

A student assembles a model aeroplane during an enrichment class at a secondary school in Singapore.

In its first such project, Chongzheng Primary School asked a group of its pupils to spend time in an elderly home and come up with life-improving, marketable solutions. They noticed the elderly often got lost and suggested GPS walking sticks.

The imperative to change has led to the development of “sandbox” frameworks within the public space, which allow for business and policy experimentation without systemic risks in case of failure. Singapore’s central bank, for example, also has a “regulatory sandbox” for financial technology startups.

But critics say barriers to Singapore’s culture of innovation exist not only in schools but also more widely in a political society that places restrictions on freedom of speech and rewards deference to authority.

Authorities in Singapore, a haven of stability in a politically and economically volatile region, believe such restrictions are needed to preserve harmony in a multi-racial society and have contributed to its success.

Lee Quane, Asia director at HR consultancy ECA International, says this is partly why companies complain more about the lack of innovation in Singapore than they do in Hong Kong.

“One difference between Singapore and Hong Kong is that the government is always somewhere close to you … People have been skewed away from critical thinking,” Quane said. – Reuters/Marius Zaharia and Fathin Ungku - The Star Online"


Sunday, 29 January 2017

BUKIT LANJAN: Why is Malaysia’s education standard perceived as weak?

BUKIT LANJAN: Why is Malaysia’s education standard perceived as weak?

Is weak policy implementation the reason for Malaysia’s perceived poor education standards?

Is Malaysia’s education woes the same as other issues? Great launches but lacks maintenance and sustainability?

Gerakan Deputy Speaker Syed Abdul Razak Alsagoff said it would do well for both the Education and Higher Education Ministries to take note of some of the views of the Harvard professors at a recent forum.

“It is heartening to note that the Education Ministry has responded positively to the views of the professors. There is no harm in conducting a major review and try to add value or make changes to try and do better or achieve better results.

“There is a glaring weakness that we must all admit. The majority of our graduates cannot even string one decent sentence in English,” he added.

Syed Razak, who is Gerakan’s nominee to contest N.37 Bukit Lanjan in the coming 14th General Election (GE14), said online news portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) quoted Harvard University Professor Michael Woolcock as saying Malaysia’s education worked well for the middle class and the rich but the bottom half of the population was unable to catch up.

“The needs of the rich, middle (class) and the poor in Malaysia are wide (ranging). The different layers and gaps need to be enriched to close the gap,” Woolcock said.

“Is that an accurate observation and comment on why many of our graduates are unemployable? The federal government is urged to treat Woolcock’s views positively and seriously.

"In the case of rural communities, more expenditure should be allocated to build schools with 'Asrama' or hostel facilities with qualified wardens and qualified teachers of excellent quality to ensure rural, as well as disadvantaged or marginalised families are given entrance into these schools and taught well to catch up with urban kids so that there will be quality when they are given opportunities in tertiary education at local universities.

"Thus the emphasis for more meritocracy will achieve the desired results for our beloved nation," he added.

“To achieve real academic excellence, we must always be flexible in our education policies and adapt to global changes and needs in education.

“This is the only way to produce quality graduates and a quality workforce to help Malaysia forward socially and economically,” Syed Razak said.

Here’s the NST Online news report that Free Malaysia Today had misquoted the Harvard professors’ remarks:

"Education Ministry upset over news portal's misquotation of Harvard professor's remarks on M'sian higher learning


New Straits Times

January 21, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry has expressed regret over how the opinions of Harvard researcher Prof Lant Pritchett, on the state of higher education in Malaysia, was wrongly characterised in the headline of a news portal recently.

In a statement yesterday, the ministry said the headline had misquoted Pritchett’s remarks, which seemed to characterise the state of higher education in the country as poor.

“What is even more unfortunate is that Prof Pritchett himself has openly chided the headline, resulting in an apology from the portal,” Education Director-General Datuk Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said yesterday.

In the statement, Khair said the ministry is always open to different views to further strengthen and develop the national education policy, and that it values any differing opinions on the implementation of education programmes and initiatives.

“The ministry also values the opinions given by Pritchett, that a learning process that is too focused on rote memorisation and intensive exercises for examinations in school will not help students and pupils at the tertiary level,” he added.

The statement centred on a recent report by the portal, which carried a headline quoting Pritchett as saying: “Local grads only as good as Danish high school dropouts”.

Pritchett has since clarified that he had said nothing of the sort at the Asia Public Policy Forum 2017, organised by the Harvard Kennedy School and the Jeffrey Cheah Institute of Southeast Asia.

In the report, published in the independent news portal, Pritchett was quoted as citing research in Indonesia, which found that the level of literacy among Indonesian adults could be compared to that of junior high school dropouts in Denmark.

He had therefore been misquoted about Malaysian local graduates.

The portal had cited Pritchett as saying he feared the same could be true with Malaysian graduates, if their schools fail to prepare them for university-level education.

The portal has apologised for its error.

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

"Local grads only as good as Danish high school dropouts

Minderjeet Kaur

| January 18, 2017

Harvard professors say Malaysia has great education policies that however fail to be filtered down to students who need them most.
Professor Lant Pritchett

SUBANG JAYA: Malaysian graduates have been equated to Danish high school dropouts, despite the government having invested sufficient funds in education and impressive teaching tools in schools.

Harvard professor Lant Pritchett said he had carried out research in Indonesia and found the Indonesian situation to be similar to Malaysia’s.

“Research was done on graduates in Indonesia on literacy, creative thinking and on other aspects and the results were the same as junior high school dropouts in Denmark. The same features appear in Malaysia.

“The reason is because students leave primary school without mastering the subjects and the same with secondary (school students). By the time they reach the tertiary (level), they are left far behind. There is no deep understanding of the materials. Instead, it is rote memorisation, applying theory and regurgitating it during exams,” he told FMT.

Pritchett was in Malaysia for the Asia Public Policy Forum 2016 co-hosted by Harvard Kennedy School and the Jeffrey Cheah Institute of Southeast Asia here.

He said the real measure of education should be mastery of the subject with practical application, and which was not confined to rote memorisation of the subject.
Professor Michael Woolcock

Redefine role of education

He added the system should redefine the role of education “to not just schooling that focuses on butts and seats but on ideas and hats so that children emerging out of the schooling system were adequate for the 21st century.”

Another Harvard University professor, Michael Woolcock, said the big challenge for Malaysia was making sure the system worked for everybody.

“(Take) the European system (for example). They have been doing it for 200 years and it has worked very well for them. They have developed a good traditional practice and a strong sense from the community and parents to help students learn critical thinking skills and apply what they learn.”

Gaps between the rich and poor

He said in Malaysia, the system worked well for the middle class and the rich but the bottom half of the population was unable to catch up.

“The needs of the rich, middle (class) and the poor in Malaysia are wide (ranging). The different layers and gaps need to be enriched to close the gap.”

Woolcock will return to Washington today after 18 months of researching the Malaysian education system.

He said a study showed that 51% of those from the lower classes, who work in factories, were unable to read manuals or perform basic procedures.

“They are unable to apply theory or understand English. It is not a geography issue. In Malaysia, it is a class issue. For a system to work really well, it has to work for everybody.

“The education system works fine for the top half but the big challenge is to make it work for everybody, including rural villagers and isolated communities.”

English a big barrier

One of the biggest barriers was proficiency in the English language. Woolcock said that just like in European countries, debates raged on whether using English would compromise use of the mother tongue.

“These debates always happen but they have figured out how to do both. They teach English very well. So much so Europeans are good at both (English and their native language).”

For instance, in Iceland, they take their mother tongue seriously. But they recognise that they are from a small country and if they could only speak Icelandic, their economy might not be functional and meet the needs of the world economy.

“Everyone (there) speaks Icelandic and English. They learn English to do deals with the Italians, Spaniards and others.”

He said in Malaysia, those who spoke English were from the upper and middle classes, and were the ones who attracted foreign investors into the country.

However, Woolcock said an education system should find ways to benefit all.

For instance, he said his study in Palestine showed that a school in the middle of a war zone, and located in a desert, scored high marks of international standard.

“That was a phenomenon. We later found out the community was coaching students to apply what they learnt. It worked for them.”

Better tracking system

He said Malaysia needed a system to track the reasons why a school performed better or worse than others so as to close the gap between schools.

He added Malaysia had all the right ingredients for an efficient education system but that the problem lay with policy implementation.

Woolcock added it was good that Malaysia spent large sums of money on education and on tools like the blackboard and smart boards. “All the raw materials and money are there but the implementation is not there.”

Teachers need space to work well

He pointed out that the state of education in the country was not the fault of individual teachers. “It is not that they are not smart or capable or diligent in doing their job. The problem is the system they are part of. If we want to change the system, you got to change the rules and practices.”

He said teachers needed space to try something different. This was because in some countries like India, a teacher was only considered good when he or she completed all the chapters of a textbook. They were not judged on whether the child had learnt anything.

“If a teacher has to show that all the subjects are completed to get a salary increase, then that is what the teacher will do. The prioritising is crucial.”

He praised the government for implementing higher order thinking skills as well as the dual language programmes in national schools and hoped these would be filtered down to the system.

“Because again, there may be variations with the top half class taking off well. Some schools might pull through and others might be diabolically off."


Saturday, 28 January 2017

BUKIT LANJAN: The kurang ajar (rude) Malaysian species

BUKIT LANJAN: The kurang ajar (rude) Malaysian species

There is now a certain species of Malaysians who are born kurang ajar (rude).

Even during festivities, be it Chinese New Year, Christmas or Hari Raya, they are unable to set aside their political hostility and hatred across the divide.

These Malaysian species practice political extremism. Festival greetings are not only rejected or criticised, but also tainted with curse and hatred.

“What is becoming of such Malaysians. Is there no life but only political hostility for them?” Gerakan Deputy Speaker Syed Abdul Razak said.

Syed Razak lamented that “this growing number of Malaysian species can only bring doom to national unity and harmony”.

“If there is no national unity, there is no socio-economic future and prosperity for Malaysia,” he added.

“Are you wondering who are those Malaysians I am talking about? Siapa makan lada, dia lah rasa pedas! (Whoever eats pepper, he or she will taste the hot spice!).

“There is no need for me to pin point the culprits. You can find the uncouth remarks, visuals and video clips all over social media, especially Facebook and WhatsApp,” Syed Razak said.

He said Open Houses were a unique Malaysian feature during festivities.

“The occasions should be used totally to forge national unity among all Malaysians, irrespective of race or religion,” he added.
Syed Razak greeting Sunbeams orphans who were specially invited by Gerakan for the Open House
Syed Razak, who is Gerakan’s nominee to contest N.37 Bukit Lanjan in the coming 14th General Election (GE14), said caring Malaysians, especially politicians, must behave civilly and maturely.

“There is a time for politicking and there is a time for indulging in activities that promote the country’s productivity, creativity and innovative ideas.

“As I have said many times before in this blog, arguably, Malaysians, especially politicians, have been politicking non-stop since 2008 or GE12.

“Politicians are elected to lead and govern. Not just play politics and contribute nothing to community development and nation-building,” he said, adding that politicking should stop after a general election.

He also said politics should not be just about hostility and criticisms, “it is also about coming up with creative and innovative ideas and proposals for good governance that require everyone to think out of the box”.

Syed Razak spoke at the Gerakan Chinese New Year 2017 Open House at his party headquarters today (Jan 28, 2017):