13 May 2014

With a Sigh ( Pt 20 ) – Katak dibawah tempurung

Now we will mass-produce Ph D's for a song

 Good news - how to save billions!

That came out last Sunday in the Star. A high-powered government spokesman said that “research universities which produced PhD had saved almost RM2 bil so far.” So why should we spend money sending our candidates to universities overseas?  When referred to the absence of Malaysian public universities in the prestigious Times Higher Education 100 Under 50 2014, the answer was, “Rankings do not mean everything ……”. Of course all such spokesmen talk about our universities as nothing less than ‘taraf antara bangsa’ ! But, sad to say, industries in Malaysia find our graduates badly lacking, resulting in increasing number of jobless graduates. Now our politicians are mass-producing Ph D holders to sell kacang puteh.

Living in Terengganu and seeing the marvel of this kotaraya dipersisiran pantai, I wonder why we started and still continue with the great ‘Monsoon Cup’ event every year. What does the annual expenditure of that few days’ event mean to our local fishermen when the weather is often too rough to go to sea to earn the few ringgits for their families?  I also question why we spent billions on building miniature mosques of the world – but none, I understand, qualifies to have Friday prayers? How I wish those beautiful islands in the picturesque large estuary of Terengganu River were to be the home of some medical specialists, with five-start medical centres and accommodations to become a unique centre for medical tourism; the way our small neighbour down south ( lacking spokesmen!) has been flourishing over the years without songs and gongs (or should I say song and dance?). 

So we are now starting to produce locally Malaysian PhD ‘tab - taraf antara bangsa’ and save money. (But do we really need money? I understand 1Malaysia has plenty to hand out cash. ) I am not surprised a holder of our locally produced PhD, named Abu, will have the pride of writing on his business card :  Dr Abu bin Adam, PhD-tab.

Not having a PhD myself, I read what those clever spokesmen say, and I sit back heaving a long sigh, and tell myself I am not qualified to comment and am behind time. Only ‘katak dibawah tempurung’ does not need to see the outside world and get thrilled to hear whatever is sung is lauded without question.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


ninotaziz said...

Katak bawah tempering - once, the MOST derogatory insult one can receive.

Your post should be in the newspaper. Won't you send it as a Letter To Editor, Pakcik?

I have come to appreciate the beauty of 'priceless' things which often comes without a price tag. Top of the list is surely wisdom, quickly followed by joy.

And from Terengganu, wisdom can be found camouflaged by toothless grins and joy, in kite-flying, ship sailing, cloud gazing.

A visit is due very soon. I will be enlisting Ayoh Wang's help - he does not know it yet. But I have a deep yearning to talk to our master ship-builders who create things of beauty that come at a 'priceless' price tag. Duly justified.

When will we learn? Surely, the answer is - when we seek answers, and I pray for Allah's blessing that I will be so guided.

Al-Manar said...

Dear Ninot,

Panjang umur. Just yesterday Makcik excitedly shouted at me, 'Look babah. No Ninot!' pointing to your 'Rituals of motherhood'. Well done.

No, newspaper cannot take my remarks ; far too sarcastic. It was a long time ago when I felt so disheartened to see the abuse of Bahasa Melayu I wrote 'DBP merojakkan BM' p[ointing out at their dictionary, now consisting of 'bastardised' English words, the like of produk, institusi, member (meaning kawan!) etc - distansing bahasa Quran.

You just go on doing what you are truly good at. It is a pleasure to read, greater it is when you know the charming writer.

ngasobahseliman said...

I like what you wrote, Pak AlManar. But who would listen to old timer like us? They probably say we are the katak bawah tempurung because with IT, Pak Sheikh GOOGLE will tell you every thing.
Whatever the case I believe in hands on- experience. What you get from just reading is never enough. So personally I believe that if you have enough resources, why confine yourself to producing PHDs at home. Just thinking of saving money and later using the money for less socially profitable or beneficial course is never a wise idea. Why do they want to put all the eggs in one basket any away? But Pak AlManar, whatever ideas we have, it may not be good enough for them to listen. But as long as we have said it, May Allah do justice to it. He is All Knowing, All Wise and Most Beneficient. In HIM we put our trust.

Al-Manar said...


Your views are very supportive. If we did not possess those high sounding qualifications during our earier days we have been adequately compensated with experience through our working life. I need to voice my feeling somehow, and this blog is what I have. Seeing comments like yours makes it worth spending a few minutes rallying my thoughts together for a posting. Thank you and salaam to you and family.

kaykuala said...

Dear Pakcik,
Am not really sure on how to read the spokesman's remarks.

1.By having PhD's at home grown varsities, this would be helpful for the varsities to aspire to higher rungs (enhancement of research helps) But we have as yet to see substantial improvements to higher positions or increase in absolute numbers within the 100
2.And in the same breath somewhat a contradiction the spokesman reiterated that to be within the 100 is not everything

If the intention is to produce more PHDs at home to save, then it is not really a plus point as PhDs acquired overseas would expose scholars to myriads of sciences absent at home. Exposure ensures better knowledge so savings would not be that much good to be lauded about


Amos said...

Salam Pakcik

Oh dear, the article really made it sounds like the good minister made a poor conclusion from the figures and is nonchalance about ranking.

I hope they know that the oft cited rankings are only applicable to undergraduate programs, so the minister is partially correct when he said rankings don't matter. PhD programs depend mostly on supervisors who can guide, challenge and open doors to more ideas and possibilities, and we have plenty of those in Malaysia. Local or abroad, a PhD is only useful when the original contribution to knowledge is made use of (I pray that will be the same for mine). Of course, it's silly to say that all PhD study be confined locally as we do not have experts in all possible subject fields.

As you rightly said Pakcik, there are other types of government spending that should be monitored and reduced. Education must be one of the last places to cut corners but I guess it is easy to look at it as an expense not investment, given prevalent short term thinking. Someone needs to revisit the reason why they needed so many PhDs in the first place and specifically look into how PhD holders fit into the nation's bigger picture. It's ironic for me to be saying this, but only then they can decide whether they should continue with the moaning.

I feel I should make an argument about going abroad for PhD, but here's a rough and incomplete list of differences instead between local and foreign approaches based on my observation: attitude towards research, prerequisite to application, learning culture, university-wide effort to pursue research excellence, support of admins, openness of communications, industry linkages, and most importantly university's respect for candidate's time (we've all heard of that 3rd year MRes candidate or that 8th year PhD candidate in local U).

As you can see I'm sharpening up my writing skills so I shall stop here haha.

Take care Pakcik, and please convey my Salam to Makcik.
- Aimi

Aziela said...

Salam Pakcik.

I love your sarcasm in the article. You have hit the target. Bull eye! But who would listen? Not those 'wise' people, but the rakyat marhaen like us is thankful for your thoughts. At least you translate our thoughts into a properly written words. I wish I can circulate your opinions. Can I share it in my blog? I promise I will write the credits to you, Pakcik. Though I am not competent to write something as precise as you did, but at least I could 'educate' some brains out there.

Al-Manar said...


We are disorganised, too many departments and too many job holders not altogether experienced to perform. The successor to Mahathir wished to show his organisation skill by splitting education into two ministries. I thought at that time how stupid that move was. Everyone treid to be clever - the lower education on one hand and the higher education on another. It was the beginning of Malaysia having greater number of ministries than most developed countries.

We have been en route to 'taraf antara bangsa' since then. And last week I read about the change back to one ministry of education.

If you cannot read what he spokesman meant, do not worry. He has no clue what good education and good universities are.

We just watch, Hank, and hope for some changes to take place. Perhaps, they need to introduce Kaiku as a disscipline starting from primary school to PhD.

Al-Manar said...


Well done. You made your point - with tact. In your position now you can efford to learn to be blunt. Call a spade a spade.

We know the saying,"No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main." Our people think we can create things all by ourselves, make our own standard of education, produce own PhDs etc. In the meantime our neighbours have left us way behind - katak bawah tempurung.

It is as good time as any to start your own blog. I wish I had started during my younger years. As I said in your blog, drop me an email so that I can give personal comments - if you wish. Any way, do call on us again.

Al-Manar said...


I would not think of you responding to sarcastic remarks, you the gentle HR specialist. It is good to let off some steam at times. But do not do that to your other half. You may not ffind the crock of gold at the end of your rainbow.

Materials I post have no patent right. Copy and do whatever as you please. I do not need the 'credits'. Just email me. Then I will go and leave my comments.

Hope all is well at home - no more nightmares.

sot said...

When will we learn? When given a choice to tone down on the spending and avoid economics leaking or implement GST, to save cost and increase government income --> They choose to implement GST.

Suddenly I read the government need to pay China USD1 mil per year for 10 yrs to borrow the two big giant Panda arriving yesterday at Zoo Negara. Hmmm...thats RM32.1 juta of our hard cash...for what??

I rather use the money for RM20k scholarship for free education to our 1,640 students entering IPTA.

When will we learn??

Al-Manar said...


You are forthright as you always are in your postings. But as you say there are wiser ways of spending public fund. I notice the show of public resistance against GST was strong. Hope all the pulic outcry is being heard.