Government’s Role in Managing Unemployment

This is illuminating – the essayist argues that government policy can do much to reduce unemployment; among other things, the essayist argues for protection of infant or threatened industries. Sebenarnya even Americans know that trade protections are necessary to protect jobs, even as they preach to developing nations to dismantle theirs. The hypocrisy of it all!

The Secret Political Life of Corporations

This is an interesting analysis of politics-related activities of corporations, using the notorious now-bankrupt Enron as an example. I wonder what the analogous datasets would be for Malaysian corporation. What is definitely true is that our political financing realities in Malaysia are still definitely mired in Third World norms.

The Malaysian University System, and the Urgent Need for Reform

This is an interesting take on the college diploma/degree as a means for signalling academic/professional aptitude and capability. Certainly, a system that has evolved over the latter part of the last millenium is becoming increasingly anachronistic in its ability to be a reliable indicator of a graduate’s ability to perform in the workplace. (Of equal or even greater concern, of course, is the ability of the university system to become a transmitter of culture, erudition and civilisation across generations, but that is a whole other debate.)

Especially for Malaysia, situated as we are within a burgeoning Asia-Pacific region where the competition for talent will become more fierce in the coming decades, the university system requires deep and critical scrutiny. Clearly we are producing too many graduates, a significant number of whom seem to be unsuited for the demands of the modern global economy, if statistics on graduate unemployment are any indication.

At some point, when we are ready to cast our collective critical eye over the reforms required for tertiary education in Malaysia, some things need special attention:

  1. Imbuing graduates with the necessary language and communication skills. Too many employers today lament our graduates’ ability to communicate in English, that global lingua franca of business and knowledge. But even more so than the facility with language per se, our universities seem to be churning scores of graduates who do not have the personality and confidence to assert themselves in the workplace. Perhaps it is the preponderance of rote learning; perhaps it is the fact that Malaysian universities treat their students as if they were schoolchildren, mollycoddled and chastised in equal terms; perhaps our schools do not prepare their students well enough to become good graduates, and in turn, good workers and citizens. But certainly our universities are not doing enough, or simply not doing the right things. Creating capable and confident graduates must involve institutions taking the risk to allow their students to give full force and flight to their thoughts and convictions.
  2. Inculcating curiosity and the continuous desire to learn. Many policymakers insist that universities need to partner with industry to ensure that their curricula are relevant to industry’s needs. But the reality is that no amount of curricula changes can be adequate to catch up with the rapidly evolving nature of the real world. Rather than feeding their students the fish of contemporary knowledge, universities need to teach their students to fish for knowledge, constantly and desirously. Curiosity and a compulsion to learn are the only way that graduates can ensure they are truly future-proof, and able to evolve and learn as their professionals develop and grow over time.
  3. Injecting a sense of ethics and values. The term “white collar crime” was fashioned for criminal acts of theft, corruption and other malfeasances committed by those exemplary members of society who typically have had the benefit of a good education and upbringing. In the wake of Enron, Madoff, Tyco and other egregious instances of crimes committed by highly-educated professionals, many top-tier MBA schools have begun to increase the emphasis on ethics and values in their curricula. This is all well and good. If anything, I would argue that a more comprehensive approach to ethics and values need to be introduced, especially at the university level when such abstract concepts can and should be debated. And I don’t mean the dry “Pendidikan Moral”-type motherhood statements that often fill the moral education textbooks in the Malaysian education system. Rather, I would have students review the moral teachings of the great religions, and debate the morality of protagonists in great works of literature. There is much that Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, can teach our students about morality, ethics and the human condition.

The university system has a unique role to play, as a “finishing school” of sorts for those destined to be the leaders and professionals of our nation. We ignore the great need for reform, at our own collective peril.

1374778814-crimeandpunishment heart-of-darkness_joseph-conrad

Leading the Charge for Malaysia

This is a good take on the recent controversy surrounding the TPPA negotiations. Many complain that “Tok Pa” is too cautious, that he is not the right person to be leading the Ministry in charge of leading Malaysia’s interests in the negotiations. But I think that he is an earnest and sincere man, and I believe that he is as good as any man to go up to bat for Malaysia, and to defend our interests with wisdom and calm confidence.TPPAAustraliaBridge

The Age of Design

This is a good review of the new Apple iOS7. Proof, if any was needed, that we are truly entering an Age of Design, where refinements in aesthetics become a key differentiator in saturated and competitive markets such as smartphones. Expect this to cascade into many other unrelated industries where design sensibilities become the main distinguishing point for products and services…