KUALA LUMPUR: The Higher Education Ministry should be done away as a stand--alone ministry and merged with the Education Ministry to effectively oversee the entire education system.
That was the general consensus reached by both an opposition lawmaker and a federal lawmaker during a forum on higher education held here last Thursday.
The suggestion was first mooted by Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar during the forum, themed Vision For Higher Education, when presenting on issues plaguing higher education in the country.
"In my opinion, the two ministries should be merged. Needless to say, that will also save us a lot of money because we all know the cost of operations involved (in running a ministry)," she said.
Unexpectedly, she found an ally in Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, the other presenter during the forum.
Saifuddin said he agreed in principle with Nurul Izzah's opinion that merging the ministries would allow for a more comprehensive governance of the Malaysian education system.
Saifuddin, who is also an Umno Supreme Council member, also agreed with the PKR vice president that the current education system needed a revamp.
Nurul Izzah also called attention to the student affairs' department in public universities, deeming them to be akin to a "home ministry" as they do not provide students with administrative freedom.
"The (Higher Education Ministry) cannot babysit 65 higher education institutes that are in this country.
These places should be finally allowed to run by themselves," she said.
She also stated the profitoriented practice of local private universities was the cause of unemployability among the current generation of graduates.
"We have over 2,000 nursing graduates a year, but with only 1,500 placements to fill up. So there is an oversupply of nurses and the cost of education for these students is almost RM 50,000 per person," she said.
Saifuddin said the current young generation were facing a host of social problems, which, if not dealt with accordingly, could put the ruling Barisan Nasional at risk of losing youth support and maybe even the forthcoming general election.
"What we need is more empowerment for students and also lecturers and teachers," he said.
"We need to understand that empowerment is not about maximising rules, but it's rather about minimum rules and regulations, so that students and lecturers can interact on their own."
He said that in internationally renowned universities, more space and importance is given to extra--curricular activities as compared to academic achievements alone, which is often the case in the local education system.
The forum was organised by alumni of the Chevening scholarship programme, which offers Malaysian students the chance to enrol in a one--year masters or PhD programme in British uniden loss, it was their hope versities.