Away from Politics (though not entirely) for a while, this Letter to the Editor was first published on 13th August 2001 in The New Straits Times. It was also published in the Sun newspaper at around the same time.
Over the last three years, much has been said and written about the conduct and performance of undergraduates of local universities.
The recent statements by leaders especially both the Prime Minister and his deputy reflects their seriousness in wanting to correct the situation in the campusses in Malaysia.
Undergraduates have to realise that they are grateful lot. They should realise that there are many other students out there who, although with reasonably good qualification but missed the boat to be enrolled in the universities.
Many of these students comes from poor families who can't afford to send their children for higher education at private higher institution of learning.
Just look around us and we will not be suprised that there are many students who works during the day and goes for part time classes to complete their courses at private colleges. Quite a number of students goes the other way, taking full times courses and works at night.
It is not easy to work and study at the same time. I am also one of them. There are times that the work pressure is just too much that on many occasions I have contemplated to give up my studies.
The situation, I was told, is totally different at the university campus. The students are provided with the necessary environment for them to excell in their choice of courses. They have access to library, frequent contact with lecturers, surrounded by coursemates and seniors, even additional lectures when necessary.
This is considered luxury compared to the situation faced by students who work and study at the same time. One hardly has any time to go to libarary, contacts with course mates and lecturers are rare and finally time is always limited due to work committment.
The undergraduates have only themselves to blame if the fail at the university. They have to count their blessings for gaining admission to university. They have to thank the government for providing such an opportunity to many students every other year without fail.The government also looking into building more public universities and colleges which will benefit more students in years to come.
Among developing countries, Malaysia is said to have the best universities, in terms of facilities as well as quality.
Many foreign students enrolled in local universities such as the International Islamic University had many times revealed in press interviews that they are grateful that Malaysian University gave them the opportunity since there aren't such facilities in their own country.
Unfortunately increasing number of undergraduates has become ungrateful and bit the hands that feed them. Their indulgence in activities unrelated to their studies reflects their poor attitude towards gaining knowledge and improving themself.
The undergraduates have this thinking that they are matured and ready to talk about politics, human rights and ISA. The fact is many have never experienced live outside their homes, former schools and now the universities. They have long way to go before becoming a fully matured person. They have yet to face the reality of working, getting married, having children and also building a career hindered by many obstacles. Only then they will know how hard life is and how working adults toil to earn money to support their family. Only then they will realise how hard it is to raise a family.
They do not know how hard life is because almost everything is provided by the government and also their parents to the extend that there are also many that complains that government has gone overboard in helping students, especially the bumiputras.
Political parties has known to take advantage of vulnerability of undergraduates and slowly they brainwash the students to become subscibe to their narrow minded and selfish agenda.
This had resulted in some students taking to the streets protesting government policies and actions. They are also asking for repeal of Universities and Colleges act, in move they call to provide them more freedom.
The undergraduates are admitted to universities to study and nothing else. They should ask themselves, why are they in universities for? What is the society and they parents expecting from them. What would their brothers and sisters think of them? They should always remember that their parents has worked hard to bring them up to where they are today. The undergraduates don't have to excell in their studies to please the government, do it for your parents, society and the nation.
They should be focused on their studies and justify their places. They, especially the bumiputras should prove to public that they are capable of gaining good results despite many gaining admission with the help of quota system. They also should prove that they are just as good as those who were denied of places in the university due to the same quota system. Only then no one can dispute their entry to the universities.
The realisation period will come when they start working but for many it will be too late.
Recap : Almost 8 years have passed. See how much had things changed.
The goverment now claims that the entry to Universities are now based on meritocracy. Local universities are nowehere near world class while quality of graduates continue to be poor and often criticised.
There is also talk of repeal or amendment of the Universities & Colleges Act which would provide more freedom to both students and staff to enggage in other activities.
If this happens, the quality of our graduates would suffer further. With the current brain drain all the way to the top, yes the very top, don't expect the relaxation of rules to result in birth and surge of creativity among the undergraduates. There would be a gap before that happens, a gap where students get all excited with the freedom leading them to be irresponsible with their acts to the time when they actually realise their follies, appreciate the freedom and finally translate those freedom to creativity. The gap would, however, result in some casualties.
This would also mean that more political activities by students and we may see more and more University and College professors appearing on Television ala CNN as analyst giving their opinion on almost anything and everything.
Having never been to a University, difficult for me to comment on the environment. But having worked with large number of fresh graduates for many years, a great deal of change is required in our universities and colleges before we can proudly proclaim that we produce world class graduates.