Monday, December 15, 2008

More On The Young & Restless Graduates


to me
show details 12:49 PM (6 minutes ago)

Jaxartesad has left a new comment on your post "Problem With Today's Young Graduates":

Excepting the obvious difference of time and place of the Malaysia context, you are describing students I taught 15 years ago at one of the UK’s top 3 universities. Included in my comment would also be postgraduate level students.

Such was my state of disillusionment I left after 3 years and went full time into international business. Prior to the University work I worked for a few years in senior Government posts. Now I work in investment banking.

The most depressing aspect of it is, despite living in what should be a world of global access, thus fostering a wide perspective and range of inputs, in fact, events, decisions, and interpretation of such is done in a narrow mono dimensional sense. Summarised by your comment on exam questions – they are taught there is one answer to every question. Give the rehearsed, template answer – question answered. Simple. That was the case in the UK even 15 years ago.

In fact it is often a stage worse. For each topic the same parrot answer is often trotted out almost regardless of the question. That outcome is merely another version of your lack of analytical ability point. This is the most telling and limiting factor; brain dead graduates working for brain dead senior managers. It’s a rot that set in many years back. And its a self-reinforcing cycle.

Until about 1973, when fiscal types started taking over Uni management, the Uni where I taught (international politics) insisted that all students regardless of faculty must for the first 2 years of Uni take compulsory courses in logic and philosophy. The reasons why this was “policy” and deemed essential are, I would have thought, self-evident.

Today I too interview people. But only when I can rouse myself from my boredom. Probably about 8 weeks ago I interviewed the absolutely typical mid-level manager from one of the Big 4. Usual “impressive reading” CV. Substance? Value-add? – virtually nil. Another individual hopelessly adrift from reality as well as lacking an ability to make sensible conversation if we were not talking about audit, accounts or reporting. When asked e.g. about whether the assumptions that were underwriting the audit made sense – the response was one of puzzlement, not so much that there were no assumptions (very few of course) but that someone should question whether the assumptions made sense. Regardless of how many times and from how many different angles I asked about what should be considered when looking at an M&A or “a deal” the answer was always the same – an audit will tell us how the company works, the true value of the asset, whether the management know what they are doing and the potential for the deal to succeed in the market.

This I should add was a conversation about deals in (Asian) emerging markets – where essentially I have been involved for 20+ years in one way or another.

And that was a fairly typical interview. Nothing special or unexpected.

I wonder, would there be any point giving my interviewee a copy of Studwell’s “Asian Godfathers”? Probably not; 90% of the facts, names and places in it would be completely unknown to the reader; the historical context would be a black hole (as we deal with people who live in a world where if something didn’t happen in the last 3-5 years, it didn’t happen); and the structural analysis of intangibles as presented by Studwell would be an exercise in hopelessness as we deal with people who struggle vainly to envisage, let alone explain and anticipate, something they cannot see or touch.

A UK-based friend who works at the top levels of an important UK institution summed up similar things the other day to me in an email as pertains to the senior management of his workplace: “There is no requirement for expertise or for command of foreign languages, we have the Internet”.

Little Bear

to me
show details 12:48 PM (17 minutes ago)

Little Bear has left a new comment on your post "Problem With Today's Young Graduates":

10-20 years ago, our education system was in much better shape. Teachers in school were trained in proper colleges setup under the old british regime. Most of them have since retired or are already retiring. The new bunch of teachers are poorly trained and consist of those who didn't quite make it into the universities. Without good qualified teachers, how do we get good students?

10 years ago there was very limited space available in universities. Only the top students got in. Now university entrance is a foregone conclusion as long as you are not mentally challenged.

Most of the people who get into universities today, do not deserve to be there. People who score ~20 points (adjust that for how easy it is to score nowadays, and you'll see how poor some of them can be) in SPM can easily get into degree programs nowadays. University entrance is a joke.

Once they get in, universities pander to the "customers". Faculty members aren't allowed to fail students because that would
a. make the school look bad,
b. parents will blame in on bad teaching anyway, despite their children not working on their studies at all
c. they are paying customers, lets keep them happy.

So add that all up together what do you get? Graduates that never should possess a degree. Degrees just ain't worth shit anymore. Any Ali, Chong and Ravi can get it easily.

p/s photos: Cerina de Graca (Ka Bik Yee)


Jasonred79 said...

I would like to add to this post:

I know a university lecturer/ exam writer who was working in University Malaysia in 2008.

He failed 40% of his class because their exams answers were atrocious. Showed no knowledge of the subject and sounded as if they were written by a high schooler. (we must strive to achive Wawasan 2020! Semua pihak perlu bekerjasama untuk menjayakan matlamat Malaysia!) ... these were MASTERS students IIRC.

So... guess what the outcome was.

Yeah. This lecturer was sacked. The end.

You are NOT allowed to fail your students in local uni. Sad.

KP said...

Now, isn't this current global financial crisis created by some of the world's most intellectual graduates? Harvard, Yale etc etc?

For me, let's have more basic honesty and integrity first. Now who is going to teach that?

Jomaropol said...

The "coddling" is symptomatic of a typical family dysfunctionality that is prevalent in many rich families.

Rich parents are usually those who slogged a lot in the early part of their lives, and think that they have a right to indulge in a comfortable lifestyle later on in their lives. Problem is, their children is usually born into this kind of self-indulgent lifestyle.

Hence the bratty and self-serving behavior which you would see in many students in the Sri KLs and Cempakas of Malaysia. (no offense to alumnis of those schools, your schools are still the best and still rock with your in-house swimming pools and squash courts!)

This psychological analysis might seem out of place here, but i think it's relevant...

clk said...

I recently attended a seminar in which one participant remarked that "our education system was designed by the british decades ago for only one purpose, to create workers/followers".

It was never designed to create thinkers + leaders.

This system today fits our politicians' ambition nicely but ain't going to bring the country anywhere.

In our modern world, where we aspire to leave the factory floor system, such education system is also not going to help us.

I can only pray for a future when Philosophy is taught in school as a subject. I however doubt it will ever happen in my lifetime.

random said...

woh luckily i slept through most of my school days

UltimaSquare said...

I sort of think these are symptoms of a capitalist society that has lost its way.
We live in a society with an overemphasis of short term results and short term goals.

In education, students are measured by how many As' they score. Schools are measured by their passing rate.
Shouldn't it be more important for schools to produce individuals with the ability to think and solve problems, as well as have a strong moral compass.

In business and economy, ceos', companies, and even entire countries are measured by increased revenues, increased profits, and increased growth/GDP. Analysts put out quarterly, bi-quarterly or yearly forecasts, and CEOs',COO's and VP scramble to meet them by either cutting cost, moving jobs to third world countries, creating new products/services and sometimes some creative accounting helps too.

Sometimes I think we have become mindless zombies in a constant chase to meet goals, forgetting to question if the goals were realistic or even worthwhile in the first place.

I think we need a Capitalism 2.0 to strike a better balance between profit and social stability and preservation of our environment.

Butt said...

Education is screwed...economy is what's the future for the next generation?

Maybe the current generation thinks that everything is so screwed why bother?

Any thoughts on this?

easystar said...

Hi Butt,

No, neither are screwed. It is some players in the education system (and economic system) supplier/recipient) who are screwed. Some companies (like debt restructuring) are doing prefectly nicely at the moment.

Creative descruction of capitaliism simply mean that the survivor/or those who rise from the ashses will bring us a better tomorrow...

It is just sad to see that there are so many casulties from today education/economic conditions today.

sapekuluk said...


I totally agree with what the author & others comment.

But, with our current reality capabilities (read : with no power in hand or with no right to influence or with nothing basically,.. perhaps none of is like this, but i must admit, I am nothing basically), What you guys suggesting to improve the youth education environment?

You guys, must directly mentioned as well, most slack are malays (like me) in current youth growth so that malays (again like me) realize it.


Little Bear said...

the current generation is just not inquisitive enough. They don't want to understand, they just want to know. They can't reason things out and have no urge to do so.

Everytime a lecturer opens himself up to questions to the floor, instead of barrage of questions, he gets deafly silence. Everyone is just waiting for tips/solutions. Give and explain to them the solution, and ask them to work the question 10 minutes later, 90% of them will fail. But when you ask if everyone understands the solution, nobody replies.

Our education system has created a bunch of people that do not ask enough questions. It is because the teachers in our schools are so poor, they try as much as possible to discourage students to ask question so as to hide their own inabilities. It is because our politicians want to create a nation of zombies, in case we ask too much and burst their bubble.

Next time your child asks you, daddy/mommy, why superman can fly? Don't ask him/her to shut up and pay attention to the movie. Explain to him that there are other people in the cinema that want to watch the movie and he is disturbing the others. And then proceed to explain to him after the movie why superman flies. If the teachers can't grow out children's minds, at least we should try ourselves.

Free our young!

Sisuahlai said...

To extract the most from formal education, parents/guardians need to arm the child with the right attitude and approach first. They don't really teach these things in schools.

S_Dali, I like to know your take on the consistent good performance seen in ASNB unit trusts, they do VERY well regardless of market conditions.

People used to rush to get into Madoff's funds because of their consistent "star performance".

Implosion said...

I hear you and echo your sentiments. That's why I, Malaysian born and bred, am a product of the Australian (and some French) tertiary education system. Now, as an Australian, I pay exorbitant (40 cents in a dollar) taxes to the Australian government- BUT at least I know that when my kids grow up, they'll have an education system that my tax dollars helped fund. That's providing the universities here are not overrun by full-fee paying Asian overseas students from countries just like Malaysia who are (rightly so) seeking a better education.

And let's face it, the education status quo won't change in our lifetime just because we're blogging and discussing it.

Can there ever be change without revolution? I hope so.

easystar said...

You received contribution to the Australian Education system is misguided.

2006 figures: [Education/Defence as % of GDP]

Somalia 0.4% 0.9%
Nigeria 0.7% 0.8%
Australia 4.7% 2.7%
UK 5.3% 2.4%
USA 5.4% 4%
Singapore 6.3% 9%
Japan 7.5% 1%

and Singapore effective tax rate for most people is around 10% and yet they spend more on education, produces higher % of the students who can read and write after going through the system.

Malaysian education failure is not due to lack of money to spend (and the public tend to donate enthusiastically for education related appeal), but rather endless meddling by the power to be in order to achieve some silly "Hang Tuah" agenda.

Ivan said...

It is nice and seem to have a great respond for this article. Well done, Dali :D

brotherlone said...

The less successful are not less worthy, they're just less lucky.

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