Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Malaysia lacks quality, innovative human capital



Malaysia lacks quality, innovative human capital
By Chua Jui Meng
Listen! Listen! Listen! Barisan Nasional’s intelligence and the butt of Malaysian jokes.

“As China moves up the curve and adds the uniqueness of its own experience and approach, it may create a new hybrid model that has lessons for other nations, including the United States. Remember, it’s true that the global positioning system is a product of the U.S. Department of Defense. But the Chinese were the ones who gave us the compass in the first place.” - Bhaskar Chakravorti is senior associate dean of International Business and Finance and founding executive director of the Institute for Business in the Global Context  at The Fletcher School at Tufts University

The White House responded to the last Pisa results with President Barack Obama's observation that the nation which "out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow".
 
WE CAN still remember clearly when Malaysia was socio-economically more advanced than China in the 70s and 80s. But where are we in the international standing today?
Mediocre at best and at worse a nation with a huge debt facing possible bankruptcy, much like Spain today.
Where are we in education and innovation? Let’s not kid ourselves on this matter further.
According to BBC News education correspondent Sean Coughlan , Pisa tests - the Programme for International Student Assessment - have become the leading international benchmark.
The findings indicate that China has an education system that is overtaking many Western countries.
Malaysia is not even worth a mention in Pisa.
The Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) has governed Malaysia for more than 55 years without interruption. Our country is blessed with vast and rich natural resources, including oil and gas.
Yet, we are now left far behind many others in Southeast Asia, Asia and the world. It does not need the mind of a rocket scientist to tell us why Malaysians and Malaysia have lagged in intellectual and economic growth.
Of course the BN-Umno federal government’s socio-economic policies have been lacking or inferior for Malaysia to be in such a sorry state.
Quality human capital is the single most important factor in any country’s drive for socio-economic progress. And quality education is the only way to groom innovative brains.

Unfortunately for Malaysians and Malaysia, BN-Umno continues to ignore the need to fast track Malaysia forward with real reforms and transformations in its socio-economic policies via meritocracy.
This has led to a severe brain drain, leaving Malaysia with only a mediocre human resources capacity.
Some two million Malaysians have migrated over the years because they could not tolerate any longer BN-Umno’s racial discrimination policies.
And these Malaysian emigrants are doing extremely well in their new found homes. Imagine what Malaysia has lost.
China has not only overtaken Malaysia, it is today touted by many as the real challenge to superpower USA.
To quote Chakravorti, “As China moves up the curve and adds the uniqueness of its own experience and approach, it may create a new hybrid model that has lessons for other nations, including the United States.”
This is a very powerful statement indeed to mankind and the world. It is not a political statement but about the learning curve, innovation and intellectual progress.
Unlike Umno which continues to tell the Malaysian Chinese to Balik Tong San (Go back to China) whenever they run out of rational arguments or when it wants to drum up Malay support for Umno, especially the rural folks.
In the coming 13th General Election (GE13), Malaysians are undoubtedly in a political crossroad – whether to go for change with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) or remain trapped in BN-Umno’s divide-and-rule political agenda to plunder the nation’s wealth.
Here’s some views for Malaysians to ponder when making their choice in GE13:

By Bhaskar Chakravorti, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bhaskar Chakravorti is senior associate dean of International Business and Finance and founding executive director of the Institute for Business in the Global Context       at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.The views expressed are the author's own.

We now know who will be leading the two most important nations for the global economy – for the next four years in the United States’ case, and for a decade in China’s      . By the time President Obama is ready to leave office, China will have passed the U.S. in GDP terms, at least according to a report       by the OECD. But with GDP no longer Chinese leaders’ top concern, the country has its sights set on catching up with the U.S. in another area – innovation. 

On a recent to visit to speak at the World Economic Forum's Summer Davos in Tianjin, I was struck by the sense of urgency among Chinese leaders to close the gap when it comes to innovation. It was clear to me that it is time for the U.S. to pay close attention, because urgency in China is generally followed by execution. Unfortunately, America has worked itself up over the wrong issues as far as “competitiveness” is concerned: we bemoan the fact that China has taken our jobs (and 42 percent of Americans believe that China is already the world’s largest economy, a Pew survey suggested      ).

 But those worried about the country’s future would be better served focusing on U.S. competitiveness in innovation, something that has the potential to put this country’s growth back on track. The problem is that there is a general (and misplaced) belief that China will always be a loser, that it can only imitate, not innovate. Critics argue that its society is too top-down and that American innovation will always be buoyed by Silicon Valley. More from CNN: U.S. needs an infrastructure bank       But the reality is that it is na├»ve to believe China cannot narrow the gap in innovation, and the second Obama administration would do well to consider that America could actually learn a thing or two from across the Pacific. 

And it could start by grappling with some widely held myths: 1. There is no innovation in China, only piracy and imitation. Most innovation begins with imitation; America got its start by imitating inventions from the Old World. Meanwhile, many Chinese "imitations," such as Alibaba, Tencent or Sina Weibo, have moved far beyond being mere copies of their U.S. counterparts. Each is solving problems uniquely relevant to Chinese businesses and consumers, something that could create platforms for innovations that are propelled into global markets.

2. The Chinese approach to innovation is too top-down and state-led – real innovation only comes from the bottom-up. The Chinese state is committed to bringing China to the ranks of the innovative nations by 2020. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs might shudder at this top-down approach. Yet consider, for example, where the American entrepreneur would be if the U.S. government had not funded the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that gave birth to the Internet. The state must play a role in investing in foundational innovations, such as the Internet and mobile technologies. Once these foundations are laid, then a competitive bottom-up ecosystem will encourage creative destruction. But sadly, U.S. government investment in such foundational innovations has been on a steady decline. 

3. Intellectual property rights protection in China is too weak to encourage innovation. China's weaker intellectual property protection could, arguably, make it easier to foster a climate conducive to open innovation. Of course, a balance needs to be struck between open access to intellectual property and protecting it – with no protection, innovation will stall, because investors need returns on their investment. Unfortunately, in the U.S., intellectual property protections block innovation just as much as they promote it. 

4. In a globalized economy, sustaining innovation requires investment in international markets; China's brand and soft power abroad is weak and dated. Despite several unresolved issues such as territorial disputes       and balance of trade, China's influence in the world's fast-growing regions, including Africa, Latin America and East Asia, is growing more rapidly than that of the United States. When Chinese innovations look for inputs or consumers and they turn to these markets, they are likely to have as many opportunities as well-known U.S. brands – perhaps even a better chance. Indeed, when it comes to ties with Africa and Latin America, China is often one step ahead of the U.S.

5. China's education model emphasizes rote learning; innovation can only flourish in environments that encourage exploration, critical thinking and a broad education in the liberal arts tradition. The danger with the Chinese approach is that if you don’t expose students to other disciplines and encourage critical thinking, they may lack the breadth to blossom into creative problem-solvers and risk takers. However, the U.S. system has some severe deficits of its own      . A recent U.S. Department of Commerce report, for example, highlights a growing gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. Notably, immigrants are the ones filling the education gap – half the start-ups in Silicon Valley were founded by immigrants. Sure, the Chinese model of innovation needs plenty of work, but in many ways China is also learning from the U.S. and following in our early footsteps. 

As China moves up the curve and adds the uniqueness of its own experience and approach, it may create a new hybrid model that has lessons for other nations, including the United States. Remember, it’s true that the global positioning system is a product of the U.S. Department of Defense. But the Chinese were the ones who gave us the compass in the first place. Chakravorti is author of “The Slow Pace of Fast Change: Bringing Innovations to Market in a Connected World      .”

8 May 2012 Last updated at 23:03 GMT
China: The world's cleverest country?
By Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent 
 
This is the most extensive insight into how China's school standards compare with other countries
China's results in international education tests - which have never been published - are "remarkable", says Andreas Schleicher, responsible for the highly-influential Pisa tests.
These tests, held every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, measure pupils' skills in reading, numeracy and science.
Pisa tests - the Programme for International Student Assessment - have become the leading international benchmark.
The findings indicate that China has an education system that is overtaking many Western countries.
While there has been intense interest in China's economic and political development, this provides the most significant insight into how it is teaching the next generation.
'Incredible resilience'
The Pisa 2009 tests showed that Shanghai was top of the international education rankings.
But it was unclear whether Shanghai and another chart-topper, Hong Kong, were unrepresentative regional showcases.

The OECD's Andreas Schleicher: "Fairness and relevance are not the same thing"

Mr Schleicher says the unpublished results reveal that pupils in other parts of China are also performing strongly.
"Even in rural areas and in disadvantaged environments, you see a remarkable performance."
In particular, he said the test results showed the "resilience" of pupils to succeed despite tough backgrounds - and the "high levels of equity" between rich and poor pupils.
"Shanghai is an exceptional case - and the results there are close to what I expected. But what surprised me more were the results from poor provinces that came out really well. The levels of resilience are just incredible.
"In China, the idea is so deeply rooted that education is the key to mobility and success."
Investing in the future
The results for disadvantaged pupils would be the envy of any Western country, he says.
Mr Schleicher is confident of the robustness of this outline view of China's education standards.
In an attempt to get a representative picture, tests were taken in nine provinces, including poor, middle-income and wealthier regions.

 
High school students shout slogans such as "I must go to college" in a pre-exam event in Nanjing 

The Chinese government has so far not allowed the OECD to publish the actual data.
But Mr Schleicher says the results reveal a picture of a society investing individually and collectively in education.
On a recent trip to a poor province in China, he says he saw that schools were often the most impressive buildings.
He says in the West, it is more likely to be a shopping centre.
"You get an image of a society that is investing in its future, rather than in current consumption."
There were also major cultural differences when teenagers were asked about why people succeeded at school.
"North Americans tell you typically it's all luck. 'I'm born talented in mathematics, or I'm born less talented so I'll study something else.'
"In Europe, it's all about social heritage: 'My father was a plumber so I'm going to be a plumber'.
"In China, more than nine out of 10 children tell you: 'It depends on the effort I invest and I can succeed if I study hard.'
"They take on responsibility. They can overcome obstacles and say 'I'm the owner of my own success', rather than blaming it on the system."
Education's World Cup
This year will see another round of Pisa tests - it's like World Cup year for international education. And Mr Schleicher's tips for the next fast-improving countries are Brazil, Turkey and Poland.

GLOBAL EDUCATION RANKINGS
Pisa tests are taken by 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science. Previous leaders in these subjects:
  • 2000: Finland, Japan, South Korea
  • 2003: Finland, Hong Kong, Finland
  • 2006: South Korea, Taipei, Finland
  • 2009: Shanghai, Shanghai, Shanghai
Mr Schleicher, a German based in the OECD's Paris headquarters, has become the godfather of such global education comparisons.
Armed with a spreadsheet and an impeccably polite manner, his opinions receive close attention in the world's education departments.
The White House responded to the last Pisa results with President Barack Obama's observation that the nation which "out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow".
The next round of global league tables will test 500,000 pupils in more than 70 countries - with the results to be published late next year.
Education ministers will be looking nervously at the outcome.
"In the past, politicians could always say we're doing better than last year - everyone could be a success," he says, describing the tendency for national results to rise each year.
The arrival of Pisa tests sent an icy draught through these insulated corridors.
No excuses
Perhaps the biggest discomfort of all was for Germany - where "Pisa shock" described the discovery that their much vaunted education system was distinctly average.

Finland was the education world leader in rankings a decade ago 

And the biggest change in attitude, he says, has been the United States - once with no interest in looking abroad, now enthusiastically borrowing ideas from other countries.
"Education is a field dominated by beliefs and traditions, it's inward looking. As a system you can find all kinds of excuses and explanations for not succeeding.
"The idea of Pisa was to take away all the excuses.
"People say you can only improve an education system over 25 years - but look at Poland and Singapore, which have improved in a very short time, we've seen dramatic changes."
The biggest lesson of the Pisa tests, he says, is showing there is nothing inevitable about how schools perform.
"Poverty is no longer destiny. You can see this at the level of economies, such as South Korea, Singapore."
Fair comparison?
A criticism of such rankings has been that it is unfair. How can an impoverished developing country be compared with the stockpiled multiple advantages of a wealthy Scandinavian nation?
Here Mr Schleicher makes a significant distinction. It might not be fair, but such comparisons are extremely relevant. "Relevance and fairness are not the same thing," he says.

 
South Korea is identified by the OECD as an example how education can drive economic growth
Youngsters in the poorest countries are still competing in a global economy. "It's a terrible thing to take away the global perspective."
He also attacks the idea of accepting lower expectations for poorer children - saying this was the "big trap in the 1970s".
"It was giving the disadvantaged child an excuse - you come from a poor background, so we'll lower the horizon for you, we'll make it easier.
"But that child has still got to compete in a national labour market.
"This concept of 'fairness' is deeply unfair - because by making life easier for children from difficult circumstances, we lower their life chances."
'Sorting mechanism'
So why are the rising stars in Asia proving so successful?
Mr Schleicher says it's a philosophical difference - expecting all pupils to make the grade, rather than a "sorting mechanism" to find a chosen few.
He says anyone can create an education system where a few at the top succeed, the real challenge is to push through the entire cohort.
In China, he says this means using the best teachers in the toughest schools.
The shifting in the balance of power will be measured again with Pisa 2012, with pupils sitting tests from Stockholm to Seoul, London to Los Angeles, Ankara to Adelaide.
"I don't think of Pisa as being about ranking, it tells you what's possible. How well could we be doing?"