Academic reforms that collapsed when Pakatan govt fell

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Pakatan Harapan’s education minister Maszlee Malik had mooted several high-profile initiatives but all of them fell through with the ouster of the government.

The initiatives included efforts to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), abolish the Universities and University Colleges Act (AUKU) and the merger of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA).

Recognising the UEC and abolishing AUKU were among PH’s pledges in its Buku Harapan manifesto.

In his book titled “Memori Bukan Memoir”, Maszlee said a task force had been formed to gather views on recognising the UEC, as the ministry felt that a decision on the hotly-debated issue should not be made in a hurry but should be considered holistically.

Led by sociologist Eddin Khoo, the task force also included the then Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim) president Raimi Abdul Rahim and Chinese education group Dong Zong deputy president Tan Yew Sing.

“The task force was preparing to present the findings of its studies to the education ministry, before bringing it to MPs. Among the ministry’s commitment to the task force was also for the report’s findings to be made public.

“In deciding on the UEC, the ministry would ensure the issue did not affect the position and importance of Bahasa Melayu nor the unity and harmony between the races.

Bernama

“However, after the government changed, we have not seen any effort by the education ministry on the issue, while the task force was also not contacted by the ministry anymore,” he said.

Similarly, a working committee for the abolishment of AUKU had been formed and was to prepare the draft of a new act to combine both AUKU and the Private Higher Education Institution Act (Act 555).

This initiative met its end with the change of government in March 2020, as higher education minister Noraini Ahmad later confirmed that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government saw no need to replace the two acts.

The controversial merger of UMT and UniSZA had also fizzled out with the change in Putrajaya, although Mazlee maintained that merger was justified and had the backing of his Cabinet colleagues.

The Simpang Renggam MP said the attorney-general’s chambers (AGC) was of the view that the merger could be implemented if the King was satisfied that the new university’s establishment was in the nation’s interests.

“Based on the advice of the AGC and the prime minister, I was granted an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and also the Sultan of Terengganu over the matter. As education minister, I presented the views of the Cabinet and education ministry.

“However, after the change of government, the merger proposal was cancelled and efforts toward merging the two new universities have been stopped, especially since the issue became a serious political polemic.”

Maszlee also said he had plans to address the issue of sexual harassment and misconduct, although he admitted that this was among the ministry’s agenda that got delayed during his tenure.

While he and his officers had been working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), NGOs and other agencies on the matter, a joint effort to address the issue could not proceed after he was asked by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to resign.

“What’s important is that on Dec 13, 2019, about a month before I left the ministry, I issued a memo to the top management of the ministry to do something about the issue.

“Whether or not my instructions were implemented I do not know, and I do not see it happening until this moment,” he said. – FMT