Side Views

As video goes viral, should education policy be scrutinised? — M. Lee

January 15, 2013

JAN 15 — I was extremely disappointed with the conduct of Sharifah Zohra Jabeen as seen in the video at the UUM forum that has gone viral.

As a labour market and development economist, I agreed with Bawani’s statement implying that the economic impacts of educational funding have to be properly analysed to make the right policy directions. 

Many countries around the world such as Australia and United States have constantly studied the best educational strategies that will develop and educate the nation. Albeit they are already developed nations.

It is not to my intent to say that the Malaysian government is not trying to adjust and design optimal education policies. However, Sharifah Zohra Jabeen has seemingly assumed the role of a government representative by replying “if you equate Malaysia to other countries, what are you doing in Malaysia? Go to Cuba, go to Argentina, go to Libra, go everywhere.”

My question is: has she been elected as a representative of the government? Is this the stand and belief of the government and the university?

What is more appalling is for an academically trained person to provide such a statement in an academic institution. Academics provide scholastic argument by providing rigorous empirical studies and findings before deriving a conclusion. In the instance of this video, I applaud Bawani for providing relevant statistics and policy questions that should be assessed by the government. Although she is only an undergraduate student, she has demonstrated a scholarly attitude in approaching real issues.

Not only was the reply by Sharifah Zohra Jabeen condescending, it was not an intelligent answer. It is akin to sweeping problems under the carpet — presenting an attitude of superiority towards a student by claiming she has a degree and implying that government policies are perfectly fine.

I believe that education policies in Malaysia should be debated further. So many statistics have shown high unemployment among local undergraduates, students are subjected to large fees and there is an absence of effective universal student study loan and repayment schemes to ensure access to higher education by all eligible students.

It is not an issue to be shunned nor should the current education policy be treated as the “best policy”. There are issues to be debated in this arena and again I applaud Bawani for raising them.

* M. Lee is an economist in Australia. He reads The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.