KUALA LUMPUR, 13 Nov 2008: Datuk Seri Najib Razak has called on universities to focus more on developing the “intellectual infrastructure” and not just physical infrastructure to make them “a centre of learning of the liberated and inquisitive minds”.
Saying that he did not subscribe to the idea of emphasising on physical infrastructures, the deputy prime minister said, universities should move towards an era of intellectual renaissance.
“You got to have not just a university but a quality university, where it is really a centre of learning of the liberated, open and inquisitive minds,” he said.
Speaking at the opening of a one-day seminar on Creating A Blue Ocean in Education and Training Sectors here today, Najib also called for “a whole paradigm shift” in the country’s education system, starting from primary school.
“Our education system must change, the paradigm must change,” said Najib at the seminar which was jointly organised by the Malaysia Productivity Corporation and Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities.
“Malaysians are very good at rote learning; they learn very well and they are studious. They spend long hours learning but they are not inquisitive enough.
“Their minds have not been challenged because our system has not challenged them,” he said.
This was probably due to cultural factors, said Najib, where culturally, being passive was seen as being respectful to someone senior.
But the deputy prime minister said the people should now promote inquisitiveness among children.
“They must be curious about the world,” he said, “they must ask questions”.
Najib also said that universities in Malaysia had plenty to leverage on.
“Malaysia is a strategic gateway between the West and the East, the Christian world and the Islamic world, between China, India and the Malay world. Where else can we get a country that has such a unique advantage?” he said.
Najib noted that the “blue ocean strategy” – a business concept advocated in a book with the same title – could also be adapted into the country’s public and private universities in their quests for competitiveness in education and training.
The book Blue Ocean Strategy is co-authored by Prof W Chan Kim which promotes a systematic approach in creating uncontested market spaces that will make competition irrelevant.
“As an educationist, you should also look at the big picture. We should look at where we are today and where we want to be in the coming years.
“We should ask what are our strengths and weaknesses. Can we leverage on our strength? Can we add value to it and create a real ‘blue ocean’ so that we can grow?” he asked.
The deputy prime minister said that Malaysia had also been attracting foreign students, with many of them coming to the country to learn English before making their way to third countries to further their studies.
“For students from Middle-Eastern countries, after 11 Sept 2001, Malaysia is becoming a popular destination for them. I was told that about 900 Iranian students are studying in UPM (Universiti Putra Malaysia),” he said. — Bernama