Sunday, September 02, 2007
In Kuala Lumpur and reading about Malaysia's PhD debate
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia- This is my second time to visit Malaysia and still I am not on holiday but on a business trip in environment management. But now being a Sunday I have more time to see the sights. I took the Cebu Pacific budget flight to KL. The only irritating thing is during check-in at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila where the lack of check-in counters made a few impatient people fume (These people should note that good behaviour and a sense of decency and cheer goes a long way in these situations.) . Obviously the NAIA is run down and needs to be replaced. We have a mothballed terminal whose ceiling is collapsing.
Cebu Pacific's planes are brand new and being a budget airline, the inflight service and amenities are infinitely better than that of budget airlines in the USA. At least you don't sit in for a 4 hour flight in a 12 seater jet. What Cebu Pacific has to improve is its ground handling
Cebu Pacific pulled out of the gate at exactly 8:50 PM Sept 1 and landed at 12:35 AM on Sept 2 exactly as what my ticket says.
The KL budget terminal is basic in its amenities but is efficient enough. Notwithstanding the queue at the immigration counters (there were two other budget flights coming in minutes of each other), I was out of the airport in less than 20 minutes after coming out of immigration and customs. You don't need a fancy airport these days. Time is an important commodity and going down the stairs from the plane gives a feeling that I have landed!
Scanning the papers this morning over my morning cuppa, the Sunday Times has a whole section on Malaysia's debate on its higher education system. The government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi plans to invest more in PhD scholarships. Malaysia according to the higher education minister needs 21,000 PhDs to man its research universities and higher education system. Now the vice-chancellors of the universities are concerned about the quality of the PhDs that will be produced.
The vice-chancellors are concerned about the problem that many of the PhDs may not have enough lab spaces and also may not be able to publish their results. One vice-chancellor of a leading university here says that a PhD is not really needed if one just intends to embark on a purely teaching career. The PhDs should be geared towards doing research and publishing their work.
What seems to differentiate what Malaysians think about improving their higher education capacity from that we have in the Philippines is that they want to strengthen the idea of Malaysians being a nation in a competitive but global economy and this goes beyond the usual science and economics mantra of President Arroyo, the Chancellors of the University of the Philippines, Presidents of Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle, CHED commissioners, the DepEd etc.
I am beginning to suspect that the major reason why our higher education system is totally screwed up is that the system has jettisoned the idea of Filipinos being a nation. A nation must have connection with its geography. A nation in diaspora as what our government is proud about is in citing a 7.2% economic growth, is in fact shackled.
This sense of being a nation is the most competitive value a people can have in a globalised economy.
Malaysia just celebrated 50 years of Merdeka or Independence. I told my grad student that they started out in a worse state than the Philippines. Look where they are now? Malaysia and its neighbours Indonesia and Thailand are our "kapatid na bansa" or sibling countries.
Mabuhay Malaysia! Maligayang bati sa kanyang araw ng kalayaan.