Week in Review: Are we Malaysians naturally blessed with smarts?

  • Allows us to overcome limitations of an exam-based education system
  • Our universities producing good engineers for the likes of Motorola, Aemulus

Week in Review: Are we Malaysians naturally blessed with smarts?I WAS on the LRT (light rail transit) yesterday and sat next to two students whose conversation saddened me.  Both were talking about what questions were coming out in the exams and how accurate their tuition teachers were in predicting these questions.
Hello! Is this how Malaysia plans to build the backbone of its knowledge economy? Students being brought up to spot questions, and memorize answers?
It was a sobering realization for me on how far the execution of our education strategy was from the proclamations of the Government to build a competitive economy based on creativity, knowledge and drive.
But then despite the limitations of our education policy, and the aimless proclamations by political parties now of creating a world-class education system (third best in the world?), we somehow keep producing talent that is good enough.
Just look at the two articles that we ran this week on companies in Penang. Both Motorola Solutions, a multinational with 1,200 R&D engineers and Aemulus, an IC tester company with 50 staff, rely on locally trained graduates and are happy with the talent they get from the universities.
But both are hungry for talent with deeper understanding of the basics of engineering. This is driven by the fact that they themselves want to keep pushing the envelope in the products that they create and therefore need a talent pool that has sharper domain knowledge.
Dr Hari Narayanan, director of engineering and head of research and development at Motorola Solutions, feels that we just need our universities to focus on certain areas of engineering and become super good at them.

Right now, the problem is that we produce too many generalist engineers who are neither good at this or that. No more of that going forward, he says.
Meanwhile, Ng Sang Beng of Aemulus Sdn Bhd flat out says that Malaysia does produce engineering graduates who can be developed into world-class engineers and says his own experience at Aemulus is proof of this.
And this leads me to the insightful comment that the vice principal of the international school my kids go to made. On being berated by irate mothers for not driving a more exam-focused philosophy for their primary kids, he noted: “In my three decades of being an educationist, I have discovered that there is no correlation between how smart a kid is in his early years versus the professional success they enjoy in their careers.”
He was trying to placate the group of mothers. They were not impressed, but I took that to heart. Perhaps we Malaysians, aside from our bounty from mother nature, are also blessed with natural smarts that help us overcome the limitations of our education system.
Do you agree? Or do you have a more logical reason why we still produce competitive engineers?
Previous Installments:
Week in Review: The rise of the angel investor?

Week in Review: The rise of digital-only publications
Week in Review: The certainty of taxes
Week in Review: Phison founder determined to make his mark here
Week in Review: A once hot start-up fights to stay relevant
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