Barking up another wrong tree, yet again?
Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Opinion - The New Strait Time
May 3, 2019
Education should not be seen from a ‘divisive context’ between private and public universities.
THIS column of a similar title last week got a tremendous response, thanks to many who saw where the disconnect is. It is not about a particular named university which has been made a “target” — it illustrated more explicitly by making its facade as the “headline” photo drawn from among the 20 public universities.
Regardless, the previous column was not focused on the said university as the staff and alumni are quite capable of speaking up for themselves. In fact some of the world-class debaters come from the university’s vibrant international community. Debates and dissent are, therefore, second nature to them. They can easily differentiate the wheat from the chaff.
The issue, however, is the indiscriminate allegation directed towards public universities and how they were inappropriately portrayed by an individual. This is by all counts unethical — hitting below the belt so to speak. Decorum entails that one must be above board and transparent before attempting to “stigmatise” others to avoid any possible conflict of interest. Otherwise it could lend to a myriad of “sour grapes” speculation towards the person concerned. Consequently, the arguments presented are at once tainted with “intellectual dishonesty” as others have highlighted.
What’s worse is the attempt to be “divisive” between “public” and “private” universities. This is even more unethical, especially when education is about bridging understanding, not creating animosity fired up by sheer emotions. After all, if all “public” universities must be closed down, arguably all “private” ones could also follow suit with the profit-making think tanks that support the latter — and eventually destroying the public-private complementary roles, educationally speaking, by making over-extended claims with no substantive evidence to hold on to. It only reflects poorly on the institutions, as well on the associates. This plays into the hands of any sinister intent that arises as one reads between the lines.
Since the education system in this country has been “divisive” for some time, the said article would only make it worse the way it was crafted, possibly because the number of “private” universities and university colleges are more than three-fold that of their “public” counterparts. When education is literally regarded as a business, then anything goes, facilitated by pseudo-academic-like renderings.
The previous column was also emphatic, not only about the banning of books, but also censorship and manipulation of all kinds, by being selective. This writer is categorical and consistent about this, and there is evidence to show. Not just to suit any argument for some dubious cause. Thus, the slightest hint (real or imagined) to close down a library, let alone universities that house all the books, is preposterous to start off with, as it achieves a far worse overall impact. I can only note from my limited experience that the “public” universities have better ban and restricted book collections than most existing “private” institutions (which number more than 70).
In such a case, if only we knew where the author was attached to when the suggestion was made, one could put some weightage on how valid the intention was for making such a call. Keeping this a “secret” will only give rise to many unhealthy guesses that can academically drive both the public and private universities apart, and add pressure to the tendency now emerging. No thanks to short-sighted articles loaded with questionable motives.
Lastly, the question of “ranking” was not even broached in the last column. It is worth reiterating that “ranking” is deemed as a money-raking and time-wasting activity, in particular the ones that are market-driven and increasingly making its presence in this country. Moreover, it is losing steam and will soon be out of sync with how the future world of education is conceived.
But that it is another story for another day — aptly when we are ready to close down all such dubious activities disguised as education. Thus to pander to this is as good as throwing education to the wind, no different from barking up another wrong tree.
The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector