Call on the Dr. Mahathir government to ‘Look and Follow Japan’ in greatly expanding local university places and allowing the establishment of private universities

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling , Lim Kit Siang, at the Thousand-People Dinner organised by the Batu Pahat DAP Branch held on Saturday, 20th March 1982 at 7.30 pm.

Call on the Dr. Mahathir government to ‘Look and Follow Japan’ in greatly expanding local university places and allowing the establishment of private universities

The Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, has asked Malaysians to ‘Look East’ and to emulate the work ethics of the Japanese, which had enabled Japan to rise from the ashes of destruction in 1945 to become the modern economic miracle.

One of the important reasons for Japan’s economic success is her education system, which created a system of meritocracy where knowledge, ability and talents replaced birth and status.

Japan, which has population about ten times that of Malaysia, has a university population of two million. If Malaysia is to follow Japan, in particular in Japan’s emphasis on education, then we should have one-tenth of Japan’s university students as we are one-tenth of Japan’s populations. This works out to 200,000 university students in Malaysia. But what we have in Malaysia today is only some 20,000 university students – a far cry from the 200,000 we should have by Japanese standards.

Furthermore, in Japan, the majority of the universities are private universities. In fact, some 80 per cent of the 2 million university students are studying in the private Japanese universities.

If Malaysia is too emulate the Japanese secret to success, than we in Malaysia should allow the establishment of private universities to help meet the growing needs of more and more Malaysians students for higher education.

The ever larger number of Malaysian students having to go aboard for higher studies is the result of the insensitivity and unresponsiveness of the Barisan Nasional government to this basic aspiration of Malaysians, both the parents and their children.

As higher studies aboard are now becoming more and more restrictive, both because of the ever-escalating costs of higher education aboard as well as the reduction of places in foreign universities of repute, the Malaysian Government must completely change its higher education policy by taking leaf from the Japan in expanding local university places from 20,000 immediately, both by the establishment of more government universities, and the approval for the establishment of private universities.

If the Malaysian Government is not prepared to learn from the Japanese emphasis on education, then what else do the government want Malaysian to learn from the Japanese?

One important reason for the Japanese work ethics is the profound sense of national common purpose of the Japanese. In Japan, Japanese professionals do not emigrate with their family because they could not get due recognition for their children, or where there is a division of the people into Japanese bumiputras and Japanese non-bumiputras.

Obviously, it is the Malaysian Government which must first learn from the Japanese example, and to adjust and modify its nation-building policies to create a profound sense of national oneness among the people of all races in the country, so as to enable every Malaysian to give their maximum best for the development and progress of the country.