I refer to the article Education system all messed up by JJ Ray.
Kudos to Ray for this article about on our local higher education scenario. However, there would be one more issue that cannot be ignored if both the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) are to improve the situation in the long term. MoHE needs to stop placing emphasis on petty subjects that do not increase the employment chances of our undergraduates.
Subjects such as Ethnic Studies should be made optional. Students of medicine or engineering, for example, may find taking these subjects a burden unless they wish to or can consider it as an elective. On the other side of the coin, sociology students may find Ethnic Studies very informative and helpful (if it is not already a requirement to take the subject as part of the sociology major).
I'm not a student at a public university. However, students at private universities are not spared the annoyance that burdens them in the form of so-called National Accreditation Board (LAN) compulsory subjects. Despite having passed History, Moral Studies and Bahasa Melayu with flying colours in my Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), I am being told by the Student Services Department that LAN will not allow me to graduate without having passed its compulsory subjects like Malaysian Studies and Moral Studies.
The excuse given by LAN (according to Student Services staff) is that Malaysian students will not be able to gain employment without passing the said subjects. If this is true, how come Malaysians who have graduated overseas can return and get employed, especially in the private sector which contributes so much to our economy?
Why aren't university students accorded the privilege to choose what they wish to focus on? Of course, it is our responsibility to apply ourselves to the best of our ability in order to obtain our degree. However, the MoHE does not seem to act in order to provide students with the most conducive circumstances when it comes to our studies.
If fostering national unity and social harmony are to be used as an excuse to support the introduction of such compulsory subjects, then the teaching of such subjects in primary and secondary school could be even more effective in achieving the ultimate goal of 'fostering unity'. This is because the shaping of personal values should commence from an age as young as possible and not at the university level where most students already have a mind of their own.
The MoHE may argue that it is important that positive values contributing to national unity be reinforced in universities. It may be true that the MoHE's aspirations flow in this direction, but will burdening students with extra subjects improve their present and future standard of living? I do not see how these subjects can do so if they do not help gain employment.
Please MoHE and MOE, consider getting rid of these unnecessary 'musts' before the brain drain accelerates. Remember that future undergraduates can consider taking up scholarships in other countries if the quality of education here shows no promise.