Free Press and Democracy

Here's an example of how democracy will not function without free press. In the wake of the upcoming elections, Second Finance Minister of Malaysia, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, explains in the government controlled media why Malaysians should again put their trust in the Barisan Nasional government led by Prime Minister Badawi: "the country’s per capita income had risen by 40% between 2004 and 2007, from RM15,819 (US$4,163) to RM22,345 (US$6,452). The Barisan Nasional Government is confident that we will get the people’s mandate again, based on the improved economic resilience" A good…Read more …

Authoritarianism or Participation? That’s the Question!

Is China proving that developing countries are better off under an authoritarian regime that focuses on developing the economy, rather than under a democratic regime that gives emphasis to political participation? It's the question posed by Randall Peerenboom from UCLA in his new book China Modernizes: Threat to the West or Model for the Rest? He tries to answer the question by exploring China's economy, its political and legal system, and its record on civil, political and personal rights. Peerenboom's answer is "yes". At the forum of the Far Eastern Economic Review, Nicholas…Read more …

Asian Godfathers: Collusion of Business & Politics

Another book to add to my ‘to-read-list’: Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Newsweek has an article by the author of the book, Joe Studwell. Studwell had expected that the Asian crisis ten years ago would trigger the transition from crony capitalism to a market free of manipulation by bureaucrats and politicians. After the research for his book, he concludes that he was wrong: The architecture of the Southeast Asian economy remains what it was 10 and 50 and 100 years ago. The domestic economies of Hong Kong,…Read more …

Meanwhile in Malaysia…

Meanwhile in Malaysia, 'soft authoritarianism' seems to get tougher. Elections are coming up and since the Malaysian people are not yet ready for open dialogue, voices have to be silenced. So what do you do? First you silence the blogs that cause 'disharmony'. That should be enough since - as Marina Mahathir (yes, the outspoken daughter of...) shows - the government has nothing to fear from the regular Malaysian media.But it was not enough. This news by rising politician Tony Pua should really worry Malaysians. Apparently, instructions were given by some government commission…Read more …

Higher Education Funding in Indonesia

The Jakarta Post reported that the Indonesian Director General for Higher Education, Satryo Soemantri Brodjonegoro would increase the subsidies for universities. The government would disburse a Rp 13.5 trillion (US$1.5 billion) fund next year to subsidize costs at state-run and private universities. Good news for Indonesian higher education? Of course, every extra dollar or rupiah is welcome. But...He admitted that the increase would not cover education costs for university students. "The amount is too small to meet the demands of poor families who want to have access to higher education," he said. In…Read more …

Malaysia as an Education Hub

The UNSW debacle in Singapore and the exit of Johns Hopkins last year, have dealt a serious blow to the Global Schoolhouse strategy of the Singapore government. Singapore’s neighbor Malaysia announced a similar strategy last year. With this strategy, Malaysia becomes one of the most interesting examples of the way that higher education is globalizing nowadays. A major exporter as well as importer of higher education, with foreign universities within its borders and Malay universities establishing branches outside Malaysia. First of all, Malaysia has long been sending many of their students and university…Read more …

Meritocracy, Tolerance & Paternalism

The practice of 'affirmative action' for ethnic Malays remains a sensitive issue in Malaysia. The practice was established in order to raise the living standards of bumiputra Malay (vis-a-vis the Chinese and the Indian minorities) by giving them preferential treatment in a wide range of areas such as economic ownership and education. This New Economic Policy was implemented in order to avoid repetition of the 1969 riots between the prosperous Chinese minority and the ethnic Malays.I witnessed the sensitivity of the issue when I was in Kuala Lumpur last October. A KL based…Read more …

Travel report

Here, somewhere between Los Angeles and Sydney, I decided it's time to resume posting again. I'm returning from a very long and interesting trip through Indonesia, Malaysia, India, the Netherlands, Portugal, Canada and the US. In three of the countries I have conducted interviews for my research: Indonesia (at Institut Teknologi Bandung and Universitas Gadjah Mada), Malaysia (Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Malaya) and the Netherlands (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and Technische Universiteit Delft).My research analyses the way in which nation states and universities respond to the increasing importance of knowledge for economic development and…Read more …

Around the World in 1 Post

I haven't had the time to write many posts this week. Besides, I did not come across any news items of real urgency this week. However, a few items caught my attention.***First, there was an interesting statement of Australia's Minister of Education Julie Bishop. She claims that uniform degree structures, a diploma supplement and international recognition of qualifications are among radical changes Australia needs to adopt to meet competition from a powerful higher education bloc forming in Europe. She warns that if Australia does not align itself with the changes taking place in…Read more …

Whartonization

The Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania seems to have become very popular in Southeast Asia. The Singapore Management University that was established in 2000 was modeled after the Wharton School."Its educational and administrative practices are modeled after American institutions, in particular the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which has played a central role in SMU's development."Today, the New Straits Times reports that Malaysia is going to be home to a top-class business management institution, modeled on.. the Wharton School of Business. Special Envoy to the Higher Education…Read more …