What ails our Malaysian universities ?


 

Recent discourses about revamping our higher education system have included the following: critical thinking, empowerment, humanistic values, future proof graduates and improvising teaching methods.

Many Malaysians understand “critical thinking” as the ability to criticise something, and “future proof” as being immune from the future. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Politicians, civil servants, parents and civil society activists have uttered these concepts too often. They lament that our education system has failed.

Our leaders say we are a society devoid of critical thinkers. They swear blindly that Malaysians are left behind due to our inability to improvise in this age of rapid technological innovations.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that the developed world uses English to their advantage, but we have not.

Critics also claim that developed nations are more scientific and technologically minded, because they have the ability to think critically.

Innovation, improvisation and critical thinking have always been used in discourses of scientific, technological, technical and vocational education.

A “future proof” graduate with “humanistic values” would have acquired adequate and sustainable mental, spiritual and practical skills by now. Yet it seems the narrative we are familiar with does not tally with the reality, due to our misunderstanding of the fundamentals.

Malaysians can be globally competitive and widely respected if we decide to be consistent in the fundamentals. These fundamentals have not been mentioned as openly, but they are crucial to whether we surge ahead or fall further behind.

First, higher education should not be part of a political football game. Render quality education accessible to all. Do not confine it to a race-based quota system, with respect to student intake or hiring of lecturers and top university administrators.

Second, hire and retain academic staff in universities, based on their intellectual merit. Deans and senior university administrators must be constantly aware of any lecturer who publishes inane works, even though such nonsense may be in the form of 30 journal articles per annum.

For instance, how can research about whether the supernatural can be scientifically proven or not, be beneficial to solving our post-GE14 socio-political and religious problems?

The deans and deputy vice-chancellors must be tuned into the quality of their academic staff. They must have a basic knowledge of their contribution in their respective fields.

A dean in a social science faculty, for instance, must make it a point to have a general knowledge of all the social science fields under their charge. If not, he or she should not be a dean.

Third, heads of departments should have a collegial relationship with their fellow lecturers. There is no room for hierarchy, pulling rank or bullying.

Lecturers within a department must work as a team, within an atmosphere of mutual deference and respect. The head must provide motivation and encouragement, rather than react with jealousy and insecurity.

Academics must be encouraged to speak, deliver public lectures, engage in national and international debates, and be commended for it. Unfortunately, there is an unhealthy and counterproductive culture of egoism, selfishness, jealousy and arrogance in the corridors of our public universities.

Most, if not all, academics in a university have a doctorate. So why should there be a sense of insecurity or superiority?

Fourth, university lecturers must take pride in their teaching and writing. Whether they do so in English, Malay, Mandarin or Tamil is irrelevant.

While one must be practical, what is more important is the positive attitude these academics possess when they engage in honest research.

What they choose as a research agenda and how relevant it is in the Malaysian context should be the decisive factors in academic teaching, writing and research.

Fifth, a lot more effort must go into how syllabuses are devised for various courses. Individual lecturers must take pride in the uniqueness and relevance of their syllabus.

It is my experience that such an important exercise of creating one’s syllabus is actually considered the least important of activities leading up to every semester.

Sixth, publications and research projects must be based on quality, not quantity. In the social sciences, for example, it is ineffectual to expect a new research topic to emerge every year or two, for the sake of satisfying annual KPI requirements of the research universities.

Due to our obsession with chasing KPIs and benchmarking global ranking systems, lecturers have resorted to mass production of publications and research projects. The majority are useless, and reports merely collect dust on dingy shelves.

It seems our university leadership is unaware that academic publishing has become a lucrative global business, with annual revenues exceeding billions of dollars.

This business is closely associated with the world university ranking system. Unsuspecting academics in countries like Malaysia race to publish in journals produced by these publishers, without realising that they are held at economic ransom, regardless of quality or research relevance to individual countries or regions.

It is time that Malaysian universities decide for themselves what research and publications are relevant for our own society, based on the current problems and national unity complications we face.

The high rate of unemployed university graduates is proof that there is a disconnect between what they learn in the universities and what employers want. This is due to a skewed view of the objectives of our higher education, and the quality of our educators.

We also have to be more obsessed with merit and substance, rather than what is politically expedient. For example, the appointment of a non-Malay vice chancellor of any public university in Malaysia should no longer be questioned or considered a sensitive issue.

There should be no hesitation, provided one is qualified academically, and has the right attitude towards teaching, research and intellectual development for national progress.

There is one area of higher education that has never been discussed, even though we constantly address the lack of critical thinkers and intellectuals in Malaysia.

The “Socratic Method” is a method of educational instruction that should be employed in university classrooms, in all fields. It is a method of hypothesis elimination, in that better suppositions are found during a debate or discussion.

The process of discussion involves asking a series of questions formulated as tests of logic. Instead of answering questions directly, questions are answered in the form of another question, which prompts the person or group to discover their beliefs about a topic, on their own. In this situation, the active participation of the lecturer is paramount.

Therefore, the Socratic Method encourages constant dialogue in the classroom, and sharpens the mind in logic, reason and arguments. In the process, students develop self confidence and a desire to read widely so they can engage more in classroom discussion. A silent student would feel embarrassed in a class full of chatty, logical peers.

While it is good to incorporate audio-visual techniques and other forms of innovative technology into teaching, university lecturers should not neglect the power of dialogue.

The Socratic Method would generate a cohort of graduates who will perform well in a job interview, show confidence and display a wide range of knowledge in the field. It also keeps lecturers on their toes and forces them to be updated in their respective fields. This is genuine educational empowerment, not mere rhetoric, based on fancy global terminology.
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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

 

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Mobile coverage snag as uers in many areas face connectivity issue while Malaysia moves into 5G era!


Pix for representational purpose only.

While Malaysia strives to move into the 5G era, the current 4G mobile network connectivity is still found wanting in many areas in the country, including the Klang Valley.

Mobile users in areas such as Taman TAR in Ampang, Jalan Damai Jasa in Alam Damai, Cheras Hartamas and certain areas in Subang, Selangor, face connectivity issues.

Wong Sew Kin, a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering, Multimedia University, said there are areas within the Klang Valley that face a drop in network signals.

“Even places near my house in Bukit Beruntung, Rawang, have no signal at all let alone the internet,” he said, adding that more needs to be done for telecommunications infrastructure in Malaysia if it is to be on par with nations such as Singapore and China.

“We are venturing into 5G now but there are still problems with connectivity. We should address this to solidify our mobile network infrastructure so that we are able to make quick and steady advancement without having to worry about minor issues. It is important that we iron out the kinks.”

He added the lack of network signals can be attributed to the lack of base stations, or simply known as telco towers, in certain areas.

“As far as I know, the building of base stations has nothing to do with the government as it’s usually up to the telcos and they prioritise providing network connectivity in highly populated and commercial areas.

“However, the government can play its part by providing incentives for telcos to set up more base stations to ensure that we are fully connected,” he said.

Anusha Ravi, a resident of Alam Damai in Kuala Lumpur, told theSun she often has to direct her e-hailing drivers through the phone to her residence as the drivers are unable to use navigation apps due to the poor network signal.

A resident of Taman Billion in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, said he has faced poor network coverage for years despite being close to commercial areas.

“I have complained about this many times but nothing has been done,” he said, adding that he has to walk some distance away from his house just to make a call.

However, another expert who declined to be named, specialising in base station construction and installation, said the government is already doing all it can to ensure connectivity.

“The government, through the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s Universal Service Provision fund, provides contractors and telcos opportunities to develop network infrastructure and connectivity in under-served areas, especially rural places.

“To my knowledge, sometimes we face issues such as a drop in network signals due to lack of base stations within a certain range. Sometimes there is no land to build base stations in between.”

Telcos sometimes face problems when planning to build base stations due to protests by residents in the area.

For instance, residents in Taman Sri Puteri, Bayan Lepas in Penang, successfully lobbied for the removal of telco towers in their area recently.

Among their reasons was that the towers were too close to their homes and thus were a health hazard.

Tutela, an independent crowdsourced data company, noted in its “State of mobile Networks 2019: Southeast Asia” report last year that Thailand beat Malaysia in a test where a mobile connection was good enough for basic internet usage.

The Philippines and Indonesia came out third and fourth.

“All four countries in the report are relatively close when it comes to basic quality. Thailand takes first place, with users able to make a voice over internet protocol call – a technology that allows you to make voice calls using a broadband internet connection or check emails at least 92.5% of the time when connected to one of the country’s networks.”

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New decade, new Malaysian education: For the sake of our children and our future, Mazlee’s replacement should be a
qualified and capable

Time for real change for Malaysian education as glory stuck in the past and the delusion of Vision 2020


New decade, new Malaysian education: For the sake of our children and our future, Mazlee’s replacement should be a qualified and capable Malaysian – irrespective of race or religion.

Dr Maszlee forced to resign for failing to heed Cabinet orders

We need a new Education Minister with the right qualifications, a scientific mindset and a technocratic iron will to implement the critical changes.

I HAVE been a big critic of and objector to Maszlee Malik as Education Minister from day one.

I took no pleasure in it then nor do I take pleasure in it now. It just is. The wrong person must go and the right person must come in.

Education is far too important for a nation to be entrusted to those not competent in moulding the minds of our most precious resource, our youth. Education is where we develop this resource for either the success or the failure of our nation.

We do not have to look far to see success. A country with no natural resources, with a tenth of our population, can be a developed nation by sheer power of its human resources.

In 1965, Malaysia and Singapore went separate ways in more ways than one. Look at where they are and look where we are now. The lessons to be learned are abundant. Have the humility to know when we are wrong and they have been right all along. There is no need to look East. Look South.

“A nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people and the quality of its leaders which ensure it an honourable place in history, ” said its architect, Lee Kuan Yew in 1963.

The education ministership is the leader in ensuring that our children and our youths are able to take the nation to the next level. It is just not at the very top have we got it wrong, again and again. We must have the humility to admit when we are wrong and have been wrong for more than 30 years. We must have the decency, discipline and courage to want to change so our future can be assured.

What did Singapore do right in education? When one looks at massive differences in results, one need not look at many things. One need only look at the fundamental deviation at the root.

One: Singaporean education is in English.

Despite more than 76% of its population being ethnic Chinese, the medium of instruction for its public schools is English. Have you ever heard the Singaporean government or its leaders talk about “memartabatkan” (to give dignity to) the Mandarin language? They have no time for such foolish ethnic pride.

They may find ways to conserve Chinese heritage but they have no interest or inclination to play to racial sentiments that would sacrifice the very essence that will ensure their children have the easiest access to the widest and latest conservatory of human knowledge since the late 19th century.

As such, accessibility of critical knowledge for their children and subsequent generations are assured from young and is continuous throughout their lives. It is so easy to do for those who have the best interest at heart and yet so difficult to do for those with foolish pride and Machiavellian political ambitions.

No mandatory Chinese calligraphy is needed to ensure Chinese heritage continues. No shouting of slogans of Ketuanan Cina and its preservation. That is confidence in your own ability to shape destiny. To hell with all that. Learn in English.

Two: Their education is secular. Because that is the essence of education

One of the greatest physicists and teachers of the 20th century, the late Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman, famously said, “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes an education.

Singapore does not impose belief on its citizens. And that starts in education. Question everything and everyone. Anything that cannot be questioned has no place in the classroom of public education. That is called indoctrination.

You want to indoctrinate your children that the sky is filled with butterflies and angels in the morning, go ahead, but not on our time or our dime.

It is abhorrent the amount of taxpayers money and children’s time that have been wasted on indoctrination of belief. Indoctrination stops you from thinking, it is the complete acceptance of belief.

As Einstein said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think”. Religion is not about thinking, its about accepting.

Religion – any religious indoctrination – has no place in public education. You do not find that in Singapore and you do not find that in any other developed nation. If you want to include religion in public education, do it as part of comparative religion in the social sciences context. Otherwise it is indoctrination. It is useless as education.

Belief, religion and its indoctrination must be the domain of parents, if they so choose, and not government. Otherwise the result is imposition, persecution and finally tyranny of belief upon the citizenry. And no nation will survive such tyranny.

There is a reason great men of history have warned us against such wanton imposition of religious beliefs and indoctrination of the masses. Thomas Jefferson once said, “In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to liberty.”

We need to heed this warning.

Three: One word – Science.

I have said this again and again. Science is the salvation of a nation, especially today in the 21st century.

The triumph of human civilisation is the triumph of science. The ascendancy of humankind, each empire, each nation and people has been through their grasp of the “science” of their time and its application in their minds and lives.

Our education must be science-centric. No ifs or buts. There must be more basic science taught, learned, experimented with and exposed to our children from the day they start school until they leave it. In depth and breadth and in the number of hours spent on it. We must have truly competent and passionate teachers to carry out this duty.

Even as a lawyer, I have learned that the human mind and senses are limited. Nothing fools humans more than their minds and their own senses.

In just the last decade, more convictions of innocents due to so-called eye-witness testimonies, even multiple ones, have been overturned as a result of DNA evidence to the contrary. Why? Science has proven that human senses and minds can be easily fooled, especially by emotion and herd mentality. But science is objective, evidentiary knowledge.

We need to build a science-centric society and that starts with our primary and secondary education. From the beginning, Lee realised the importance of establishing Singapore as a leader in the field of science and technology in Asia. He did not care what your ethnicity or religion was, that was the priority. And look at the society he built. Modern in outlook and progressive in thought, to the point he could no longer really control the people.

Maybe that is what our leaders are afraid of. A questioning, educated, critical thinking masses.

We must halt this downward slide of epic proportions in Malaysian education.

A new education minister with the right qualifications, a scientific or science-centric mindset and a technocratic iron will to implement critical changes must be appointed. Nothing less can be acceptable to Malaysians. This must be our demand.

I believe the next appointment will be a critical test whether this Pakatan government is worthy of our consideration in the next elections or an alternative must be considered and pursued vigorously by the right-minded citizenry.

We need the new education minister to implement what is needed. Go back to the basics and have the will, courage and ingenuity to make tough changes against what I expect to be conservative political opposition, both racial and religious.

If the person is more interested in putting colleagues in religious brotherhoods ahead of qualified intellectual professionals in positions of authority in education, then we are all doomed.

If the person is more interested in telling and allowing teachers to carry on dakwah (Islamic preaching) instead of closing down separate canteens in schools, then our quagmire will continue.

Black shoes and hotel swimming pools. That is the legacy we have been left with.

We need to see the closing down of worthless tax-payer funded universities that carry the word science but are based on beliefs and scriptures. They make a mockery of our nation and society. They promote the dumbing down of our population and produce graduates that will have nothing to contribute but further destruction of the Malaysian civilisation. We need a shake down of epic proportions for Malaysian education to return it to its past glory and make future progress.

As such, unlike a certain racist and bigoted MP from PAS, who insists on a Malay Muslim candidate only for the post, we need a minister who is qualified, irrespective of race or religion. We just need a Malaysian who is capable, for the sake of our children and our future.

We need an education minister who understands what is essential education. It is not rocket science.

But like all things in Malaysian politics, I have stopped believing in the capabilities or integrity of most of our politicians and political leadership. How I hope that I am proven wrong.

I close with this quote from Carl Sagan, one of the foremost teachers of science: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

That could very well describe our Malaysian education system and administration.

But 2020 has arrived, so it’s time for real change to happen.

Activist lawyer Siti Kasim is the founder of the Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (Maju). The views expressed here are solely her own.

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Comment: Tough times for Chinese education


A glimpse of glory 

 We once had a vision of a future, but now that it’s here, we still seem stuck in the past.

Cutting edge: Schools in China have begun to emphasise the teaching of coding, robotics and AI in the great push to produce the best engineers and digital experts. — AFP

WE are already into 2020 and it’s the dawn of a new decade. But if we buy into the endless narrative of race and religion, it’s as if we haven’t moved.

Six decades after Malaysia’s independence, and we are still trapped in this blinding obsession with ethnicity, which has done nothing but consume so much of our time and energy.

When rationale flies out the window, and reasoning fails, some politicians and self-declared communal champions resort to bigotry ways.

And of course, the most unscrupulous sometimes tell our citizens they should leave the country if they are unhappy, although incredulously, some of these characters conveniently overlook how their forefathers came to Malaya nearly the same time as the rest.

If Malaysia is caught in the middle income trap now, with our inability to reach a higher level of income, that’s down to not having changed in how we’ve functioned economically for the past 40-odd years.

The middle-income trap concept refers to the transition of low income to a middle income economy.

We have failed to achieve the Vision 2020 objective of becoming a developed nation, and the architect of that plan, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has blamed his successors for the failure.

Now, the Pakatan Harapan government – also led by Dr Mahathir – has unveiled the Shared Prosperity Plan for 2035. It remains to be seen if we will reach that goal, either.

But at the rate we are moving, it’s hard to ignore how the voice of hope has somehow hushed.

In fact, Vision 2020 set off bigger expectations and optimism, but now there seems to be a lack of purpose and leadership.

If Malaysia is facing a middle income trap, then we are also snagged in a political status snare because we are heading nowhere as a nation, as we recklessly hand racial and religious hardliners the wheel of the nation.

Unelected religious activists seem to be speaking more boldly than many elected representatives, who seem content to let these fringe personalities hog the headlines.

In the digital age, the decibel level has been cranked in social media, and comments posted by their fans to support these hawks have become more seditious and disturbing.

It’s hard to break free from that gnawing sense that they are allowed to continue because the government fears putting a leash on them.

Our Pakatan Harapan leaders, especially those from Bersatu, seem to lack the will to take on a centrist role, and worse, have attempted to compete with those playing the race and religion cards.

While these political shenanigans may gain domestic mileage, it doesn’t help Malaysia one bit because many see it as part of the inability to get our act together.

They see the vibrance and innovations of Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, and want a slice of that pie. But anyone who has been to the cities of these three Asean countries will understand why they are selling their stories much better to investors.

Let’s be blunt – they are telling investors to forget Malaysia as they highlight our continuing basket case political mentality and actions, with its cyclical scripts in tow.

Who can take us seriously if we believe a group of retired communists in wheelchairs can threaten national security over a reunion, which looked more like their farewell dinner?

Even the communists in China and Vietnam – countries which have good diplomatic ties with Malaysia – have embraced capitalism unlike those in other established free markets. The only thing communist is their political structure, that’s all.

And we still hear some small-minded chauvinists calling for the closure of vernacular schools, claiming they are the root to disunity.

The cause of our fragmentation isn’t these schools (which have produced many great talents), but the resident bigots and extremists.

Framed against this backdrop, it has become even more pertinent for those in significant positions of influence to speak up against these tyrants.

In November, Singapore launched its National AI Strategy, with three objectives to ensure it becomes a global hub for developing, test-bedding, deploying and scaling AI solutions, as well as learning how to govern and manage the impact of AI.

Schools in China have begun to emphasise the teaching of coding, robotics and AI in the great push to produce the best engineers and digital experts.

But our school system continues to be weighed down by politics, religion and language.

For just awhile, can we ask ourselves why we have been so preoccupied and emotional over so many superfluous issues that do nothing to propel Malaysia to become a developed nation?

It’s a small world after all, and in 2020, the world has become increasingly inclusive and is culturally more open and dynamic. But if we continue the way we are, we will remain in the lower tiers of national progress.

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Vision without execution is delusion

Few countries peer far into the future, but in 1991, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir  Mohamad(filepic) declared Vision or Wawasan 2020. … Looking back, was it possible to achieve this breathtaking vision? In my humble opinion, definitely. How much of it has Malaysia achieved? The answer depends on who you talk to.
 

The ideal eyesight is 20-20 vision when we can see everything clearly and know exactly where to go.

Given that 2018 and 2019 have been years of great populist upheaval, geopolitical tensions, massive climate change and technology transformations, it is not surprising that our first year of the third decade of the 21st century is masked by the fog of uncertainty.

Few countries peer far into the future, but in 1991, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared Vision or Wawasan 2020, “the ultimate objective that we should aim for is a Malaysia that is, by the year 2020, a fully developed country in our own mould, according to the standards that we ourselves set”.

To set a five-year plan is common place; to lay out a vision 30 years to the future was breathtaking in audacity. Dr Mahathir himself laid out nine challenges to achieve by 2020: first, establishing a united Malaysian nation made up of one bangsa (race); second, creating a psychologically liberated, secure and developed Malaysian society; third, fostering and developing a mature democratic society; fourth, establishing a fully moral and ethical society; fifth, establishing a matured liberal and tolerant society; sixth, establishing a scientific and progressive society; seventh, establishing a fully caring society; eighth, ensuring an economically just society, in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation; and ninth, establishing a prosperous society with an economy that is fully competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.

Looking back, was it possible to achieve this breathtaking vision? In my humble opinion, definitely. How much of it has Malaysia achieved? The answer depends on who you talk to. On the issue of advanced country status, Malaysia is one class below in the upper middle income bracket with a gross national income (GNI) range of US$3,996 to US$12,375 per year. High-income economies are defined by the World Bank as those with a GNI per capita of US$12,376 or more. The IMF estimates Malaysia’s 2019 GNI per capita at US$11,140, pretty near the top end of the upper middle-income range, so it is certainly within striking distance. Indeed, if the exchange rate goes back to roughly RM3.80 to US$1, Malaysia would attain high income status. On the issue of national competitiveness, Malaysia ranks 27th out of 141 nations surveyed by the WEF Global Competitiveness Index (2019). This is no mean achievement, as her financial markets are ranked 15th.

But with Malaysia’s Gini Coefficient about the same as the United States (41st), social equality is nothing to be proud of, but at least advanced countries have not also achieved fairness in income and wealth that they vaunt.

Malaysia is a country blessed with large natural resources relative to the population, located in the high growth zone of East Asia and an important contributor to the global supply chain. She faces the same difficulties and challenges of most emerging markets in how to position oneself in a global situation that is fraught with new and somewhat daunting problems of geopolitical tension, climate change and massive technology transformation.

As the example of high income, sophisticated Hong Kong economy has shown, no one can take economic freedoms and competitiveness for granted, because politics can change the game almost overnight. What most governments struggle with is how to prepare the population, both the working class and the young, to adapt to the emerging technologies through education and re-skilling.

So it is not surprising in this age of digital divide that the most contentious area of politics is often in education.

Actually, there is not so much a digital divide as a knowledge divide – we are divided by our ignorances of each other and our inability to appreciate that what is about to kill or marginalise us is global climate change, conflicts and disruptive technology.

But what separates us from working together is ideology, religion and ultimately identity, turbo-charged by fake news that says the other side is always the bad guy.

In other words, polarisation can be reduced from working together to deal with external threats, but internally recognizing that there are common, shared interests and objectives.

Personally, climate change is the existential threat, whilst there is little that small countries can do about Great Power politics.

But technology is what each country can adopt to deal with climate change and keeping up with competition. Small countries like Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland carry much more clout than their size because of their willingness to invest in technology. The real threat of artificial intelligence and Big Data is that only the few that have scale and willingness to invest in knowledge will be the big winners.

This explains why the US and China have the leading tech platforms, because they not only have scale, speed and scope, but also the focus to work on the AI breakthroughs.

But recognising the threats and opportunities is only half of the Vision thing.

Vision without execution is delusion.

Getting the execution right is then all about politics and the bureaucracy.

Boris Johnson’s election victory on Brexit showed that he had the correct vision that the British were tired of European bureaucracy that stifled their freedom of action.

But whether he can change the British business model means that he has to radically transform a British civil service that has followed EU laws and mindset. This is exactly what Carrie Lam has to do with the Hong Kong civil service that is operating behind the times.

MIT economist Cesar Hidalgo quotes the essence of the modern problem by citing top football coach Josef Guardiola as saying that “the main challenge of coaching a team is not figuring out a game plan but getting that game plan into the heads of the players.”

Any plan or vision must be internalised by the players, because only they can execute the plan in the game that is ever changing and uncertain. In short, no vision in 2020 can work until the political leadership understands that only by internalizing the diversity of the team can the team be a winner or at least not a loser.

Happy 2020.

The views expressed are the writer’s own.

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Jawi, a simple education matter is threatening to morph into a serious political issue?


Dong Zong president Tan (seated second from right) with other Dong Jiao Zong leaders at a press conference on Dec 12.

CHINESE educationists and guild leaders are going to display solid unity on Dec 28 – thanks to the Education Ministry’s move to marginalise the board of directors (BOD) in vernacular schools over a Jawi teaching issue.

Dong Jong and Jiao Zong, collectively referred to as Dong Jiao Zong, have championed the cause of Chinese education since the 1950s.

This coming Saturday, heads of Dong Jiao Zong from 13 states, as well as top leaders of 30 other national Chinese associations will be congregating at Dong Jong Building in Kajang to take a stand against a set of new guidelines on the teaching of Jawi issued by the Education Ministry to non-Malay schools.

Leading Chinese groups Huazong and Hoklian have declared their support promptly.

Hua Zong president Tan Sri Goh Tian Chuan said Chinese guilds need to unite in opposing the government’s move.

“The position of the Chinese community on Chinese language education, especially on this subject, needs to be consistent,” he said.

The bone of contention lies in the new guidelines issued by the Education Ministry on the teaching of Jawi scripts for Standard Four pupils in Chinese and Tamil primary schools.

In the guidelines issued earlier this month, the teaching of Jawi scripts will be optional. But if 51% of parents vote in favour of it in a survey conducted by Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), then schools will have to teach Jawi.

In this PTA survey and voting process, the school BOD is totally left out.

Responding to Dong Jiao Zong’s Dec 12 press conference, deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching told Bernama the ministry prioritised the opinion of the PTAs as well as the parents and students themselves.

Heng: ‘We are concerned that once the precedent (of sidelining the school board) is set, school boards will lose their voice in future policies affecting Chinese primary schools.

– Datuk Eddie Heng Hong Chai

“We will let the PTAs make the decision because it’s about their children’s learning. Parents are the guardians, so you should get their consent if you want to do anything,” she said on Dec 13.

But to the Chinese community, the BODs are the dragon heads of schools. Hence, they cannot be sidelined in any decision-making.

In a Chinese school, BOD members – who could include businessmen, parents, alumni and trustees — are expected to donate money, raise funds and formulate policies.

As government funding for Chinese primary schools is often lacking, raising funds for development and repairs of schools often rest on the shoulders of the BOD.

Dong Jiao Zong has argued that this new guidelines not only “defies the decision made by the cabinet”, but also “goes against Article 53 of the Education Act 1996” in which authority is vested in the BOD in schools.

“By allowing the parents to have the final say on this matter, the harmonious and amicable relationship among parents and students from different races will be undermined. This will also marginalise the school board as well as PTA,” Dong Jong chairman Tan Tai Kim said in a statement last weekend.

Dong Jiao Zong’s statement also noted that in the new Bahasa Malaysia (BM) textbook for Standard Four, the appreciation of Chinese caligraphy and Tamil writing are left out.

In the past, pages on Jawi, Tamil and Chinese writings appeared in the Standard Five BM text book; and Dong Jiao Zong was happy with the multi-racial content.

The new BM text book for Standard Four contains three pages on Jawi scripts, without Chinese and Tamil writings.

“The key point to note here is: we are not anti-Jawi or anti-Malay or anti-Islam. There is no issue if students are asked to learn all cultures. But we don’t want to see the gradual Islamisation of Chinese schools and the marginalisation of BODs,” says a Chinese educationist, who declines to be named.

Due to the sensitivity of this matter which could be racially or religiously distorted, Dong Jiao Zong — the organiser of the Dec 28 meeting – has advised invited community leaders to register early.

In the latest statement on Wednesday (Dec 18), Dong Jiao Zong said to ensure the meeting could be effectual and held smoothly, no one is allowed to bring banners and other publicity materials to display slogans.

Provocation is the last thing Dong Jiao Zong wants to see, given that there are already two Malay groups challenging the constitutionality of Chinese and Tamil schools in the country.

The congress is likely to adopt a resolution urging the Jawi Scripts Learning Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education to be withdrawn, and the text book be amended to reflect multi-culturism in the country.

Apart from Dong Jiao Zong, there are other independent groups and political parties voicing similar concerns.

One group that recently sprang up is the one led by Datuk Eddie Heng Hong Chai, who heads the school board of SJK(C) Sentul KL.

At a recent press conference, the businessman opined the teaching of Jawi calligraphy in vernacular schools should be a co-curricular activity.

His group, consisting of representatives from vernacular school BODs and PTAs around Kuala Lumpur, has called for a dialogue with Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik.

“I wish to emphasise that we are not against the teaching of Jawi in schools. We are only opposing the ministry’s decision to include it in the Bahasa Melayu syllabus, ” he told a joint press conference with an Indian group.

“We are concerned that once the precedent (of sidelining school board) is set, school boards will lose their voice in future policies affecting Chinese primary schools, ” Heng said.

With school boards being the founder and pioneer for Chinese primary schools for over 200 years, Heng said school boards always had the authority in deciding school policies.

Gerakan, a political party in the former government, last week announced its plan to appeal against an earlier high court ruling that the court has no authority to interfere with Government decision on introducing Jawi into vernacular schools.

From the education point of view, many academics – irrespective of race – do not see the need for students to learn Jawi.

They have asked: What could students learn from three pages of Jawi in a year? Is there any benefit to their future career? Shouldn’t there be more emphasis on the teaching of English, Science and Maths to prepare Malaysians to be competitive internationally?

Indeed, this current education issue is not the first to stir up an uproar this year.

The first controversy erupted several months ago when the Education Ministry attempted to introduce khat (Arabic calligraphy) into vernacular schools. This decision was later withdrawn after many quarters opposed it.

But the new set of guidelines on Jawi writing is creating another unwarranted chaos.

There is suspicion in the Chinese community that there are elements within the Education Ministry scheming to gradually change the character of Chinese schools.

This deep-rooted mistrust against the Ministry cannot be easily erased because Chinese education has often come under different forms of suppression since the 1950s.

From the political perspective, there is talk that the ruling parties are pandering to ultra Malay politics to gain Malay support.

As the controversy escalates, the DAP – a major Chinese-based party in the ruling Pakatan coalition – appears to be the one feeling the most heat.

This is because the DAP drew most of its political support from the Chinese and Indians in the last general election.

The DAP leaders in Cabinet are expected to reflect the fear and sentiment of the non-Malays to the Education Ministry and the Prime Minister on the Jawi issue.

But so far, only Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow – also a DAP national leader – has openly voiced concern over this baffling issue and said it should be resolved speedily.

If the voice of non-Malays is not taken seriously, and the government continues to ignore inclusive politics, the ruling Pakatan coalition risks being rejected by the people.

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Read more:

 

Chinese educationist group has democratic right to organise congress

 

Dec 28 gathering a consultative meeting, not racial stand-off, says NGO 

Wee: Dong Jiao Zong gathering about vernacular education, not race
Dr M: Any rally protesting teaching of Jawi calligraphy will split country further

Jawi issue: Anwar urges all parties to call off gatherings

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Dr M’s old ideas clash with new realities in KL Summit

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Top spammers and scammers in Malaysia by anti-spam mobile app Truecaller


If you’ve been getting a flood of automated phone calls lately about outstanding traffic summonses or a parcel delivery you know nothing about, here’s the likely reason.

Statistics from an anti-spam mobile application show that over the past 12 months, Macau, parcel and other scam syndicates have been making more calls to trick Malaysians into handing over money.

Truecaller – which claims to have 150 million daily active users worldwide – said there has been a 24% jump in the average number of spam calls received by its one million users in Malaysia this year compared to 2018.

The mobile app, which has offices in Sweden, the United States and India, said it has helped users in Malaysia identify and block 90 million spam calls so far this year, typically from telemarketers offering telecommunications, insurance and credit card products and services.

Scam calls are a form of fraudulent activity with the goal of stealing the victim’s money.

Last year, scam calls – including those by Macau Scam syndicates – made up a mere 1% of spam calls received by the app’s Malaysian users.

This year, the figure has ballooned to a whopping 63%, according to the Truecaller Insights 2019 report.

The Macau, parcel and “Astro” scams are among the top scams in the country over the past year, the report noted.
The modus operandi of a Macau Scam is by impersonating someone with authority, such as a policeman or a bank officer, and convince the victims over the phone that they need to pay money to avoid trouble.

For parcel scams (which are also sometimes referred to in Malaysia as love scams), the scammer would strike up a relationship with the victims online, and then convince them to send money so that a parcel said to contain a valuable gift for the victim can be “released by authorities”.

In the Astro scam, someone impersonating a representative from the satellite TV provider would call a potential victim to deliver a warning.

“Input we’ve gotten is that they would say you have an unpaid bill and that needs to be paid right away, otherwise you’ll be reported for it, ” a Truecaller representative said.

The report’s findings are reflected in official figures on losses suffered by the victims.

Police statistics show that of the five currently active syndicated commercial crime cases this year, investment scams took the number one spot, recording the biggest losses at RM200.78mil, with Macau Scam in second and parcel scams third.

On Nov 12, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Mohd Azis Jamman said 1,911 Malaysians lost RM94.04mil to Macau Scam this year, while 1,303 lost RM67.74mil to parcel scams.

According to the Truecaller report, Malaysia is the mobile app’s 19th most spammed country. In first place is Brazil, where Truecaller users receive an average of 45.6 unsolicited calls a month, followed by Peru (30.9), Indonesia (27.9), Mexico (25.7) and India (25.6).

While Malaysia may not be the most spammed country it does hold another unsavoury record.

“Analysing this year’s data, we can see that Malaysia is the market that receives the biggest percentage of scam calls in the world, ” the report said.

Malaysia is trailed by Australia (60%), Lebanon (49%), Canada (48%), and South Africa (39%).

The police have a Facebook account, Cyber Crime Alert Royal Malaysia Police (https://www.facebook.com/CyberCrimeAlertRMP/) to warn the public about scams.

A web portal set up by the police, http://ccid.rmp.gov.my/semakmule, allows people to verify telephone numbers and bank accounts that could be used for scamming.

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Spam calls up by nearly a quarter in Malaysia: anti-spam mobile app Truecaller

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has seen a 24% rise in the number of unsolicited (spam) calls this year which includes those from Macau Scam syndicates, according to anti-spam mobile application Truecaller.

Truecaller – which claims to have 150 million users worldwide – said its one million daily active users in Malaysia received more than 90 million spam calls so far this year that the app managed to block.

“Over the past 12 months Malaysia has seen a 24% increase of spam calls, going from 6.7 spam calls per month to 8.3,” the Truecaller Insights 2019 report said.

The report said Malaysia ranked 19th among Truecaller market countries in terms of the number of spam calls.
Brazil tops the list, with Truecaller users in the country getting an average of 45.6 spam calls this year.

In second place is Peru (30.9), followed by Indonesia (27.9), Mexico (25.7) and India (25.6).

Spam calls are divided into several categories which include scam calls such as those by the Macau, parcel and “Astro scam” syndicates.

Other types of spam calls include those by telemarketers offering telecommunications, insurance and credit card products and services.

The MO for a Macau scam is that the scammer would impersonate someone with authority such as a policeman or a bank officer over the phone and convince the victim that they need to pay money to avoid trouble.

For parcel scams (which are also sometimes referred to in Malaysia as love scams), the scammer would strike up a friendship or relationship with the victim online and then convinces them to send money or entice the victim with a parcel delivery.

In the “Astro scam”, someone impersonating a representative from the satellite tv provider would call to warn the potential victim of a supposedly unpaid bill which needs to be settled immediately to prevent a report from being lodged.

The Truecaller report noted that Malaysia is the top country where the biggest percentage of unsolicited phone calls comprises of scam calls.

“Analysing this year’s data, we can see that Malaysia is the market that receives the biggest percentage of scam calls in the world.

On Nov 12, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Azis Jamman said 1,911 Malaysians lost RM94.04mil to Macau scams this year while another 1,303 lost RM67.74mil to parcel scammers.

The Truecaller report said that other than Malaysia, other top countries with the highest percentages of scam calls include Australia (60%), Lebanon (49%), Canada (48%) and South Africa (39%).

The police have a Facebook account, Cyber Crime Alert Royal Malaysia Police to warn the public about scams, as well as a portal for people to verify telephone numbers and bank account numbers that could be used by syndicates carrying out such scams.
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More heartaches than happiness


Many investors get their fingers burned in dubious money-making schemes

M Mall in Penang where MBI investors can exchange their virtual coins is now almost deserted.

IT may seem like it was not so long ago that money-game was practically on everybody’s lips especially here in Penang,

My close friend even invested in MBI Group International which was one of the most popular investment schemes then.

At its peak, one would be considered the odd one out for not investing in the scheme.

How times have changed. Now, my friend is telling me that he has not heard from his upline for months.

It was a far cry from the time when the upline would tell him how good the scheme was, and even spell out a time frame to cash in on the investments.

Most investors have now resigned to the fact that their investments are as good as gone. They feel ashamed to lodge police reports and many just suffer in silence for fear of people teasing them.

However, their counterparts from China were less forgiving.

In October, hundreds of them staged a peaceful protest near the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Wailing and sobbing, they urged the Chinese government to help them recover the hundreds of million ringgit they had invested in the Penang-based company.

In Penang, several groups of Chinese investors also vented their frustration at a hotel and the jetty of an island resort here, where both properties are said to be associated with the company.

The last we heard, three of them even went to the extent of dropping fake bombs at a house in Bukit Gambier out of desperation.

The house belongs to the son of MBI Group International founder Tedy Teow. Luckily, no untoward incidents took place.

Another friend of mine told me that he started believing in karma after putting faith in the money- game.

He is now convinced that what goes around, comes around. This is his story.

He put in a sum of money in BTC I-system, a scheme which claimed to invest in bitcoin digital currency.

Without even knowing how the investment works, he managed to get back his capital within two months, plus a few thousand of ringgits extra in the next few months. Then the scheme collapsed.

He then took the plunge again in another scheme. He was confident of easy money again, especially after being told he was among the first few to join the investment. He was not so lucky this time.

The profit that he got in the first investment ended up paying for the second scheme that went bust.

I have seen many people whose relationship with family members had become strained all because of these dubious schemes.

Direct Selling Association of Malaysia (DSAM) president Datuk Tan Chong Guan reminded the public that there is no free lunch in this world.

“Where there is no sales but a return is promised on investments, this is a sign that it is a money-game, or a pyramid scheme, ” he was quoted then.

If you still could not figure out or get a clear explanation on how the investment will make money, then you better opt out.

If it involves any chain-recruitment that offers commissions for bringing in new affiliates, or sophisticated or complicated investment schemes that sound too alien, then you better avoid it.

Always remember that one has to work hard to earn one’s keep.

But believe me, money-game would always re-emerge in other forms, just like the online scams as long as there is human greed.

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The ‘deep state’ is hard to dismantle


In the United States, President Donald Trump alleges that the “deep state” was in play to undermine his presidency. Towards this end, he blamed the “deep state” for the scandal involving Ukraine where he supposedly told his counterpart to step up the investigation into the affairs of his political rival Joe Biden and his son in that country

THE term “deep state” is new to many. However, one thing is becoming clear – it is a tool that politicians are increasingly using as an excuse to camouflage their short-comings.

In the United States, President Donald Trump alleges that the “deep state” was in play to undermine his presidency. Towards this end, he blamed the “deep state” for the scandal involving Ukraine where he supposedly told his counterpart to step up the investigation into the affairs of his political rival Joe Biden and his son in that country.

In Malaysia, politicians of Pakatan Harapan contend that the “deep state” is in play and was sabotaging the efforts of the government to carry out its plans and promises.

For all the negativity that the “deep state” has invoked in Malaysia, this informal group of senior diplomats, military officers and civil servants have earned the praises of the masses in the United States. This comes hot under the heels of the testimonies of Trump’s former advisor on Russian affairs, Fiona Hill and Ukraine embassy political counsellor David Holmes in the impeachment hearing of Trump for his role in Ukraingate.

In many ways, Malaysia has its own hero in Nor Salwani Muhammad, one of the officers who worked for former Auditor General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang.

Nor Salwani told a court hearing how she secretly left a tape recorder to capture the conversation of Malaysia’s top civil servants, in a meeting called by former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, on doctoring the audit report of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

The audit report deleted four important points before it was tabled to the parliamentary Pubic Accounts Committee (PAC).

People such as Nor Salwani, Hill and Holmes are part of the executive who have played a pivotal role in checking the wrongs of politicians when they run the country. Trump has described the testimonies of Hill and Holmes as the workings of the “deep state”.

In Malaysia, Nor Salwani is regarded as a hero. However, she comes from the executive wing of the government that some politicians regard as the “deep state”. In the United States, Trump feels that the military, diplomats and some from the private sector were working together to undermine him and has labelled them as the “deep state”.

But does the “deep state” really exist as a formal structure or is it just some loose alliances of some segments of unhappy people serving the government?

Nobody can really pinpoint what or who actually are the “deep state” in Malaysia. It is not an official grouping with a formal structure. It generally is seen as a movement that is a “government within a government” pursuing its own agenda that runs in contrary to what the ruling party aspires.

It is said to largely comprise the civil service working well with the police and the different arms of the judiciary. Some contend that the “deep state” is closely aligned to Barisan Nasional.

The term “deep state” was coined in Turkey in the 1970s and it primarily comprised the military and its sympathisers who are against the Islamic radicals. In recent times, even the powerful President Recce Tayyip Erdogan complained that the “deep state” was working against him.

Which raises the question – if the “deep state” was so influential, how did the Turkish president get himself re-elected in 2018?

In Malaysia, the ruling Pakatan Harapan party has blamed the “deep state” for some of the incidences such as the arrest of several people, including two DAP state assemblymen, under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma). Deputy Rural Development Minister R. Sivarasa contended that the “deep state” was responsible for the arrest and it was done without the consent of the top leadership.

Other ministers have blamed the movement as sabotaging their efforts to deliver on their promises to the government. Towards this end, speculation is rife that there would be a round of changes in the civil service to dismantle the “deep state”.

Some have even pinned the commando style abduction of pastor Raymond Koh and the disappearance of social activist Amri Che Mat on the “deep state”.

If the “deep state” was really in the works, it seems like the government would be facing a humongous task to dismantle it.

Firstly, nobody is able to pinpoint who these people are except that they apparently have tentacles at every level of the executive and in the police and probably military. Secondly, if the so-called `deep state’ is essentially made of the civil service, then they have done some good work to help uncover the cover up work of senior members of the executive wanting to hide the 1MDB scandal.

In reality, it will be hard to dismantle the much talked about `deep state’ in Malaysia. Many do not look out for riches or fame. It is likely that they are more driven to seeing what is best for the executive branch of the government.

A more practical approach would be to work together with this movement of individuals, if they can be identified, and find out the root cost of them being unhappy with the government.

Only 18 months ago, the “deep state” was very much against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his efforts to cover up the massive debt that 1MDB accumulated. The money was largely raised outside Malaysia and diverted to entities under the control of fugitive, Low Taek Jho better known as Jho Low.

There were countless reports on 1MDB that were leaked through the social media. From banking transactions of money going into the account of Najib to pictures of him on holiday with his family and Jho Low were made available on the social media.

Isn’t this also the work of some clandestine movement within the executive that some deem as the “deep state”’?

Consider this – even in Turkey, where the word “deep state” was coined, many believe it is still in works, protecting the country’s interest. In the United States, there is a view that the “deep state” is the gem in the government.

The government can make as many changes as it wants on the civil service or agencies under its watch. However, it is not likely to wipe out the “deep state” movement.

The views expressed are the writer’s own.  Source link

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Deep state – Wikipedia

 

Deep state in the United States  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_state_in_the_United_States

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