KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 —Parliament has amended a law to allow university students to join social groups but still bans them from political parties, a restriction slammed by critics today.
Lawmakers approved the amendments to the Universities and University College Act late yesterday to allow students to become members of social and other groups outside campus.
But they left untouched a clause that bans students from joining political parties, illegal groups or any other organisations that the government specifies. The law also states that students are not allowed to express support for any political party.
The amendments need to be approved by the Senate and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong before taking effect, but these steps are usually formalities.
"In many ways there is more freedom now, except that they cannot join political parties or express support for them. But they can express their views," said Rozaid Abdul Rahman, an aide to Higher Education Minister Datuk Khaled Nordin.
Ridzuan Mohammad, coordinator of a coalition of eight student groups that campaigned for the act to be repealed, said the ban on political activities leaves students reluctant to speak up for fear of disciplinary action.
"Those changes are cosmetic," said the 22-year-old Universiti Malaya education student. "We want the UUCA to be abolished."
Government officials have argued that the law — introduced in 1971 to quell student unrest — is necessary so students concentrate on their studies and don't get influenced by politicians.
Opposition politicians voted against the amendments to the law, which they say restricts freedom of expression and fundamental human rights.
"It's strange to say this is an improvement," said Tian Chua, a lawmaker with the opposition PKR. — AP
As expected the opposition parties would never agree as they want students to be let loose and indulge in something that they are not supposed to be focusing on in the first place, unless of course if they are enrolled in courses related to politics.
I wonder why this is not an issue with private universities colleges. Why opposition parties are not seen anywhere near these institutions. Maybe because Parents don't want the children to waste their hard earned money, spending time supporting some chameleons and corrupt politicians instead of focusing on their studies.
What about us, the real taxpayers. (By the way, how many members of political parties actually do pay tax?) I am seeing the same rubbish coming out from the local universities, year after year. When debating this issue in the parliament, Datuk Tajuddin Rahman, the controversial MP, for once, spoke of something that strikes a chord.
He characterised graduates as “intellectually weak” and that "They don't go to the libraries and pursue additional knowledge to improve their minds. They are even lazy to read reference books as it is in English. They said it is difficult, gives them a headache. They only went for exams equipped with knowledge obtained from the lecture hall.” He further adds “Many had little general knowledge simply because they did not read enough,".
I had similar personal experience. In my course of work, I have interviewed more than 1,000 fresh graduates (no exaggeration here) in the last 5 years and I would hold similar view. I wrote some of it here.
Many have poor listening skills and can't even answer to the questions posed. I have done my surveys too and found that majority do not read anything other than those related to entertaintment.
Let's focus on improving quality of our universities and education as a whole. Politics can wait. Those who never worked with local graduates in large numbers will never understand the frustration. In fact, I had personally sacked many of them for many reasons including basic discipline (this is probably due to upbringing though). I admit that there are bright ones but they are in the minority.
Let the graduates develop basic skills like communication, interpersonal and leadership while in the universities before they get into something bigger like active politics. Our universities appear not to be helping them in all these crucial areas. This is the biggest headache cited by some of the MNC employers here in Malaysia apart from declining standard of English.
Political parties should focus on large number of Malaysians who has never voted and or even registered as a voter. That's a big number out there that can make a lot of difference to any elections.
Leave the students alone. Let's not send quality of our university and it's students further down the drain.