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Had the Zahid Higher Education Report and its 138 recommendations to spearhead “an education revolution” been such a total flop and utter waste of time and money that it has been cast aside and a new committee formed to draw up another new blueprint for higher education in Malaysia?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Petaling Jaya, Sunday) :  Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamed should explain whether the Zahid Higher Education Report and its 138 recommendations to spearhead “an education revolution”  had been such a total flop and  utter waste of time and money  that it has been cast  aside and  a new committee  formed to draw up another  new blueprint for higher education in Malaysia.


The first inkling that the Zahid Higher Education Report has been abandoned is from Mustapha’s  interview with The Sun on Thursday, when he was asked about the direction his ministry will take to achieve Vision 2020.


Mustapha disclosed that there is a high-level committee in his Ministry which is coming up with a comprehensive blueprint on higher education, “to transform higher education in Malaysia”, and which will be coming out with a draft report.


He said he had asked for “as comprehensive a report as possible which addresses all the major issues so that the government will have the best return on its huge investments” in higher education. 


When asked whether this new blueprint is different from the Zahid Higher Education Report, Mustapha replied:


“Yes. Wan Zahid’s report was completed last year and I presented it to Parliament in May this year.  This (new) report is more comprehensive and will address future challenges till 2015.”


Mustapha’s announcement of yet another “high-level committee” to come out with a comprehensive blueprint for higher education in Malaysia, which is  as good as discarding the Zahid Report and its 138 recommendations is a most extraordinary development, as  Parliament and the nation had no idea of such a development in the past three months. Mustapha said this high-level committee had started work more than three months ago.


I had asked about the status of the  Zahid Higher Education Report and its 138 recommendations to spearhead “an education revolution” during my speech on the 2007 Budget in early September and when Mustapha was winding-up  for his Ministry’s debate on Sept. 21.


In Parliament two weeks ago, Mustapha continued to give the stock reply that a committee in his Ministry was studying the implementation aspects of the  Zahid Report – raising the question why his Ministry was taking 14 months to study the 138 recommendations made by the Zahid Higher Education Review Committee which had taken  six months to come out with the 138 proposals.


Now MPs, like the Malaysian public, are learning for the first time that the Ministry’s  new “high-level committee” is not studying the feasibility of implementing the 138 recommendations of the Zahid Report, which  had been cast aside after it was presented to Parliament in April, but preparing a new blueprint which will be “more comprehensive and will address future challenges till 2015” as compared to the Zahid Report. 


Mustapha had been guilty of violating the principle of transparency in keeping from Parliament and the nation the important policy decision to cast aside the Zahid Report and the  true nature of the new high-level committee he set up more than three months ago – to prepare a second blueprint for higher education under the Abdullah premiership in a matter of less than two years.


The Zahid Higher Education Committee was set up by the previous Higher Education Minister, Datuk Dr. Shafie Salleh in January 2005 “to study, review and make recommendations concerning the development and direction of higher education in Malaysia” to initiate a “sea-change” in higher education in response to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s call for “an education revolution”.  The Zahid Committee was given a six-month deadline to complete its project, which it complied submitting its report and 138 recommendations in July 2005.


Who are the members of this new “high level committee” in the Higher Education  Ministry who have been  entrusted with the task of drafting a new blueprint for a higher education revolution in Malaysia?  Why have their identities been kept secret as even MPs are also kept in the dark. 


Is it wise, proper and desirable for the blueprint for higher education revolution be entrusted to an in-house committee of the Higher Education Ministry, when such a committee should comprise eminent educationists – even if the Zahid Report and its 138 recommendations are found wanting?


Why are they operating in a vacuum without interaction and consultation with all stakeholders concerned and interested about the development and future of higher education in the country?


Mustapha should come clean.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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