by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 28th March 1994:
DAP calls for full and not half-hearted liberalisation of the higher education policy in the country which will allow at least 85 per cent of Malaysian students to pursue tertiary studies at home by year 2000
While the announcement by the Deputy Education Minister, Dr. Fong Chan Onn, that three more universities would be set up by the year 2,000 is welcome, a close examination of the announcement shows that such higher education liberalisation is not enough or adequate to Malaysia’s needs or Vision 2020 for Malaysia to become a fully developed nation by the year 2020.
DAP calls on the Barisan Nasional Government to be bold and courageous, and embark on full and not half-hearted liberalisation of the higher education policy in the country which will allow at least 85 per cent of Malaysian students to pursue tertiary studies at home.
The timing of the announcement by Dr, Fong Chan Onn on the proposed Open University is significant, Last Thursday was the last day for MPs to submit questions for next month’s Parlia-mentary meeting.
One of the oral questions which I had submitted for Parliament which, would be officially opened by the Yang di Per-tuan Agong on April 11 is to ask the Minister of Education “to state what plans had been made for the launching of the Open University in Malaysia, its costs and system and when it would begin to be operational.”
The Government had been talking about the Open University concept since the 1980s, and it had been specifically mentioned as one of the projects to be launched under the Second Perspective Plan 1991-2000.
However, up to now, not a single sen had been allocated for the Open University – in fact, it is dubious whether the Open University concept has been placed on the drawing board.
As a result of the notice that I had given last Thursday that I would be raising the subject of the Open University in the next Parliamentary meeting, Dr. Fong Chan Onn yesterday has tried to pre-empt my parliamentary question by talking about the Open University as a Seventh Malaysia Plan project.
If 1 had not given notice to that I would be raising a parliamentary question on the Open University, Chan Onn would not have spoken about the Open University at all.
This is another example that if the DAP does not play vigilant role in Parliament and the country, the Barisan National Government would have forgotten about the Open University-proposal and it would be revived only for the Third Perspective Plan 2001 – 2100.
The details given by Chan Onn yesterday that there would be three new universities by 2,000 are however most disappointing and unsatisfactory for the following reasons:
One of the three is not a university in its full sense, but an upgraded Teachers’ Training College, to produce trained and qualified teachers and principals;
Another one is the proposed university in Sabah, which was more of a political promise rather than a full recognition of the need for a full-fledged university in Sabah and for more universities in the country;
The emphasis of the proposed Open University again appears to be more political than educational. Thus, Chan Onn said that the Open University would resolve the problem of quota entry into the local universities, as anyone with minimum STPM qualification, regardless of age, would, be allowed to enrol at the open university and given seven years to get their degrees through radio, video arid television. The quota entry problem for local universities cannot be solved so long as it remains in force for all the normal local universi¬ties.
Barisan National’s proposal to establish an Open University, a Teachers’ University and an University in Sabah is mere half-hearted liberalisation of the country’s higher education policy, and is grossly inadequate to meet the nation’s needs and demands.
Even when all these three proposals are implemented by the year 2,000, they are still a far cry from the DAP’s proposal in Parliament in the 1970s that Malaysia should have a university in every state.
Such half-hearted liberalisation measures would not succeed in making Malaysia the centre of excellence for higher education in the region, as Malaysia would not be able to cater to the needs of Malaysian youths themselves!