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Why is Malaysia trailing Singapore, Taiwan, Korea

A lot of people ask why Malaysian has fallen behind countries like Korea, Taiwan or Singapore in terms of our economic development. The answer most politicians give is corruption–but there’s hardly any data to suggest that’s a big issue–at most corruption can account for the ‘loss of income’. There’s no guarantee that the money we saved by eliminating corruption would be spent wisely on good projects, there’s no guarantee we’d be where Korea, Taiwan or Singapore is even if we had no corruption. Do you think there’s corruption in Kelantan, yet they seem to be trailing behind everyone in terms of development? Low corruption is not a guarantee of good education.

So what do Singapore, Korea and Taiwan have in common, that may explain their leap-frogging us economically?

They have great people–now don’t get me wrong, Malaysians are great people–but we’re not good at science, or maths, or engineering–or anything technical for that matter.

The two things that Singapore, Korea and Taiwan have in common are high scoring TIMSS students and top notch quality universities in their borders.

Firstly, they score extremely high on the TIMSS for Science and Maths. Their high-school students, kick our high school students ASS!

Secondly they have world class universities in their borders. In fact Singapore have two prime Universities (NUS and Nanyang) both of which feature in the Top 10 Universities in Asia–in fact they’re the Top 50 schools for engineering in the WORLD!! Korea and Taiwan have entire swaths of world ranking universities within their borders, which translates to a lower expenditure on education for high performing students and their scholarship sponsors, but also high quality fresh graduates rolling out into the job market every year.

In comparison, Malaysia has just one University in the top 100 Universities in World (UKM is ranked 87) and we rank at the BOTTOM third in the TIMSS for Science and Maths. So basically at some point it becomes garbage in, garbage out–how do you expect to grow a world class University when you’re sending the bottom 3rd of the world to study in that University.

And that’s my problem with Pakatan’s free tertiary education–if you give away crap for free–it’s still crap! However, my biggest gripe is still with Barisan, because it’s on their watch that we experience such a sharp decline in our education standards–particular during the time of TSMY tenure as education minister.

What makes matters worse is that we’re slowly trailing Thailand, not just in TIMSS but in our university rankings as well, yet no politician has made this the cornerstone of their campaign, no single politician thinks that the future of our country is more important than lower car prices, Rosmah’s ring or the virtues of a caretaker government. This is the future of Malaysia–and no one seems to be bothered.

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