by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Malacca on Tuesday, Sept. 10.1985:
DAP calls for the establishment of a new university each year for the next five years under the fifth Malaysia Plan to meet demands for higher education by Malaysians
In the Ungku Omar memorial lecture on ‘Education and development’ at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) last weekend, the University of Malaya Vice Chancellor Royal Prof. Ungku Aziz said an increase in the number of universities in the country will lead to a decline in academic standards, and advocated that it was better to have a few universities which emphasized on quality in education.
The Royal Professor’s view cannot stand unchallenged, as unrebutted and accepted as government policy, it would deny tens of thousands of Malaysians the opportunity for higher education opportunities locally each year.
There are at present some 60,000 Malaysians students pursuing higher studies abroad, which is more than the total number of Malaysian students in the local universities. This is a scandalous situation, where the majority of Malaysians in university students are overseas, which is not only a great strain of Malaysia’s foreign exchange, which is estimated to exceed $1 billion annually but a crushing burden on the parents who have to spend more sending their children for higher studies overseas than to local universities.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, had been calling on Malaysians to ‘Look to Japan’ to emulate the example of the Japanese in making Japan into a great economic power in the world. One of the reasons for Japan’s economic miracle and success is because of the emphasis the Japanese government and people place on education, in particular higher education.
In Japan, 30 per cent of the youth between 20 and 24 are in institutions of higher learning, while in Malaysian students studying in institutions of higher learning overseas. Malaysia should be able to provide university education to at least 80 per cent of Malaysian students, instead of the present less than 50 per cent!
The DAP would in fact call on the Cabinet to adopt a new higher education policy to establish one new university each year for the next five years under the Fifth Malaysia Plan 1986-1990. If the government finds its difficult to find the funds to set up a university each year for the next five year, then it should extend the ‘privatisation’ concept to the fields of higher education by inviting and encouraging the setting up of private universities. The five universities could be set up in a ration of two by government and three by private; or three by government and two private.
The question of decline in university academic standards is a separate question from the provision of adequate university places locally to meet the needs of Malaysians.
In fact, as of now, there are widespread complaints of decline of academic standards in the existing local universities. In the recent controversy over the ‘brain drain’ at the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, there is a crisis of confidence over the university administration with the lecturers and academic staff up in arms against the Vice Chancellor of the Universiti Sains Malaysia. We read about the erosion of academic professionalism in the university, fall in academic excellence in the university, biased marking of scripts by lecturers and even leaking of examination questions to favour certain groups; etc. If Prof. Ungku Aziz is concerned about falling university standards, what is he doing to the present decline in university standards taking place in our universities, including University of Malaya?
The question of falling university academic standards should not be an excuse to shut out local higher education opportunities to new generation of Malaysians. It is a separate problem which must be tackled separately, and for this purpose, the ministry of Education should not shirk from its responsibility to ensure that remedial measures are immediately taken to check and reverse the dropping university academic standards in our country.
DAP calls for the ban on weedkiller Paraguat
The DAP calls for the immediate ban on the weedkiller Paraquat, with the number icreasing, as in the report of three more people dying of paraquat poisoning in today’s press. This brings the death toll of Paraquat to six within a week.
The manufacturers of Paraquat, like ICT Agriculture (M) Sdn. Bhd. must also act as responsible ‘corporate’ citizens of Malaysia for they cannot disclaim responsibility for the loss of the lives of over 1,200 Malaysians since 1980 for the sale of their product.
The Ministers of Health and Agriculture should stop their foot- dragging in taking positive steps to stop Paraquat from taking more Malaysian lives. How many Malaysian must be poisoned and killed by Paraquat before the Minister of Health and Agriculture would wake up to their responsibility to protect human lives?