I QUITE agree with UMNO supreme council member Datuk Dr Puad Zarkashi that academics do not necessarily make better ministers, especially when taking charge of the education and higher education ministries.
Puad was responding to a recent statement by the former education minister Maszlee Malik that the government should appoint academics as ministers of education and higher education.In a talk at UKM recently, Maszlee, once a lecturer at the Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) said that it was only appropriate to appoint academics to head the education and higher education ministries. Maszlee might have a point in a general sense when she says that academics should be considered for posts as they have an academic leaning, though not exclusively.
I think that rather than saying that academics might not be relevant, it is better to evaluate the potential candidates, whether they are from the academic world or not.Unlike Puad, I would not rule out the possible contribution of the academics. On the same token, it cannot be taken for granted that non-academics or politicians will do a better job heading the education ministries, whether lower or higher education ministries.
Maszlee was a minister of education for a short stint in the government of PH. I am not sure why he was removed by the former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in the first place.Perhaps it had nothing to do with the fact that he was an academic. It could have been a mere coincidence.
Puad is right in the sense that he outlined some basic qualities that a minister should possess: the minister whether academic or not, must have political will, understand the challenges of education, and implement reforms to ensure that the domain of education is in tandem with the progress of the nation.You don’t need an academic to understand the needs of education, all you need is a capable person with zeal and leadership qualities. They could come from many areas of specialisation. There are some excellent academics produced by our local universities, but they are few and far between.
The majority of them tend not to rock the boat to ensure they benefit from the system in terms of promotion and perks.At the end of the day, it does not matter where you come from — the academic or non-academic world — but whether you have the leadership and the political will to transform the educational system to reflect the changing demands of the country. — Dec 31, 2022
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.