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Abdullah’s call for a “education revolution” to achieve world-class universities will join lengthening queue of “cakap ta serupa bikin” as there are no signs of any political will to amend UUCA to free lecturers and students from fetters strangling academic freedom and student idealism
I am convinced after the briefing that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s call for a “education revolution” to achieve world-class universities in Malaysia will join the lengthening queue of “cakap ta serupa bikin” of the present administration as there are no signs of any political will to amend the UUCA to free lecturers and students from the fetters strangling academic freedom and student idealism.
In his speech at the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) Dialogue Forum on 13th January 2004, Abdullah said he was convinced that “…we will need nothing less than an ‘education revolution’ to ensure that our aspirations to instill a new performance culture in the public and private sectors is not crippled by our inability to nurture a new kind of human capital that is equal to the tasks and challenges ahead”.
It would appear that after more than two years of his call for an “education revolution” to enable higher education in Malaysia to achieve world class status and establish the country as a regional centre of excellence in education, there is just no political will to translate the call for a “education revolution” into action.
Abdullah’s call for an “education revolution” has resulted in the establishment of the Ministry of Higher Education, the Zahid Report on the Development and Direction of Higher Education in Malaysia and now pending amendments to the UUCA and other related higher education legislation to implement the recommendations of the Zahid Report.
However, the pending amendments to the UUCA suffer a basic flaw as the Zahid Report, despite the Prime Minister’s call for an “education revolution” and the Zahid Committee being reminded “in very meeting the Committee convened with various interest groups” of the “urgency and boldness” needed to “regain the glory and excellence we attained in the past”, dared not address the issue of the curtailment and inhibition of student activism and idealism or the academic freedom of lecturers.
Consequent to the recommendations of the Zahid Report, the UUCA and other higher education legislation have to be amended to take into account the establishment of the Ministry of Higher Education as well as to implement various proposals concerning the running of universities, such as the respective powers of the Board of Directors and the Senate of each university.
It will not only be most unfortunate but a calamity to the aspirations of achieving academic excellence and world-class university status if the amendments to the UUCA to be presented to the next meeting of Parliament leaves the repressive and draconian provisions curbing student activism and idealism, inhibiting freedom of speech and expression of university students and lecturers, basically untouched – despite the Ministry of Higher Education initiating a process of consultation. But this appears to be what is in store in the new batch of amendments to the UUCA which are presently in the works.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman