PPAU backs Gerak’s second call for higher education reforms

Classroom. — DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

KUCHING, June 14: Persatuan Pegawai Akademik Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (PPAU) strongly supports Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak)’s proposal on higher education reforms in the country.

In a statement yesterday, PPAU, also known as Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Academic Staff Association, expressed its belief that Gerak’s 10 key proposals that were presented to the Minister of Education on Tuesday were important and necessary in ensuring that institutions of higher education in the country would be more vibrant, excellent and progressive.

“Gerak is a national organisation that protects the rights and interests of academics in institutions of higher education, and it champions academic freedom and autonomy of institutions of higher education.

“The 10-point proposal to the Minister of Education, Dr Maszlee Malik, is Gerak’s second call for higher education reforms. Their first call submitted on May 21, 2018, contained eight points,” it said.

The 10 key proposals submitted by Gerak to Maszlee are as follows:

1. Restructuring of university administration;
2. Repealing/amending laws that stifle academic freedom;
3. Widening access to higher education institutions by increasing student intake in higher education (especially for TVET);
4. Upholding meritocracy over ‘kulitocracy’;
5. Introducing creative pedagogy and alternative assessment practices;
6. Reviewing academics’ key performance index (KPI);
7. Dissolution of Majlis Professor Negara (MPN);
8. Providing a safe and inclusive working environment;
9. Ending unethical academic practices – plagiarism, cheating and academic bullying; and
10. Establishing a Committee on Institutional Reforms of Higher Education.

Among the points reiterated by Gerak and supported by PPAU was the restructuring of university administration to reset their relationship from the current overt hierarchy and political subordination to one of mutual respect and critical engagement.

PPAU said Gerak proposed a review of the current practice of appointments at all levels, from faculty deans to the university Board of Directors and Senate members, as well as the status of top administrative posts such as the registrar, chief librarian, bursar, director of assets and chief information officer.

PPAU pointed out that another key proposal concerned the abolishment or amendment of laws and administrative requirements (e.g. circulars) that stifle academic freedom, among which was the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), which contradicts the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“UUCA is tainted by virtue of it being used, since its inception, to punish dissent and defuse protests. PPAU joins Gerak in urging the government to replace UUCA with legislation that efficiently regulates the autonomous functioning of universities and protects the freedom of university students and staff in their academic pursuits.

“This would ensure Malaysian universities function according to recognised international standards and norms,” it said.

One of the new proposals raised in Gerak’s second call for higher education reform was the widening of access to higher education institutions, PPAU said.

It said some of the proposed strategies included the increase of student intake, particularly more places for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and ensuring that student enrolment would be based on merit along with an affirmative preference to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“PPAU stands by Gerak and believes that these measures are vital in reclaiming autonomy and freedom for universities and academia in pursuit of a better public tertiary education system in Malaysia,” it said. — DayakDaily