Why many opt to study abroad

SENDING students to study overseas is “not getting a good return on an investment”, so says a lecturer in a local university who asked what a typical overseas institution offered that we could not? (The Star, May 31).

This parochial view is not shared by many parents who, at great cost to themselves, send their children abroad to study. Even politicians choose that path for their children.

The reasons are obvious if we just look closely at the environment in which local graduates are trained. Here are just five of many considerations.

First, critical thinking is what university education is about. Yet for the past 40 years, local graduates go through an educational system unheard of in developed nations – it was illegal for a student at a local university to question or criticise any lecture or tutorial.

This is the effect of section 3 of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971. Several generations of local students graduated under this regime of university education.

Even after the 2009 amendments to this legislation, a student is still not allowed to join, deal with or express support for or sympathy with any political group or any other organisation that the Education Minister regards as “unsuitable to the interests and well-being” of the student.

Failure to comply may cause the student to be suspended from further university studies at any university without the Minister’s permission.

Second, Malaysian universities are apparently run like a huge government department. Lack of academic freedom may be seen in the fact that any university staff may be transferred to some other university so long as the Minister directs it.

Third, in local universities strict dress codes are imposed and enforced from time to time. It is indicative of how much freedom of expression is allowed in university campuses.

Fourth, English is the premier international language. It is used in global communication, science, aviation, business, entertainment, diplomacy and the Internet. Yet local graduates can hardly speak or write the language properly.

Fifth, leading employers seriously take into account which university a job applicant graduates from. Graduates from ivy league universities overseas are preferred.

Kuala Lumpur.

Source: The Star

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