Registry of Ph.Ds – how it could be best administered

The establishment of the Registry of Ph.D Holders will have one very clear “side-effect”. It will go a long way in separating the wheat from the chaff but since not all accredited overseas institutions award Ph.Ds, the list of institutions in the Registry may not fully represent all accredited overseas institutions but it does provide at least the first list of institutions where their Ph.D awards are recognised in Malaysia.

Commentary: (April 11, 2017):
On Apirl 03, 2017,  Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Dr. Mary Yap Kain Ching reported that her ministry will roll out a registry of Ph.Ds soon. But this will be confined to Ph.D holders from local institutions. This is a step in the right direction indeed. However one major problem area, those using fake Ph.Ds from foreign institutions or from degree mills are not covered. Based on my own gut feeling, the bulk of the pretenders are in the latter crowd. So this Ph.D registry may only catch the tip of the ice-berg.

I would like, if one of my readers forward my suggestions below to the power that be to tackle the issue still hiding below the ice-berg!

One comment in the above news report that caught my eyes was what Datuk Dr. Mary Yap said, “We all know those who said they finished their PhD within 10 months are fake PhD holders,”

In fact, the good Datuk took 5 years to complete her Ph.D and my learned beautiful and multi-talented friend (from our Doctorate Support Group in Facebook), Dr. Soo Wincci (#drsoowincci) took 6 years to complete hers proved that there is no short cut!

There has been a lot of news for the past few weeks on the need to set up a registry of Ph.D holders in Malaysia. These calls have been brought about by the increasingly serious issue of bogus Ph.Ds and people claiming to have honorary doctorates etc. which was proven to be bogus. I have also made references to this matter in an earlier post and there is a commentary on this issue recently.

In October 2016, the National Council of Professors (NCP) in Malaysia called for the setting up of this registry and hinted that they be given this task by the power that be. However, since not all Ph.D holders are members of this council, and by that, not many Ph.D holders actually are professors (and not all professors in Malaysian universities hold Ph.D or professional doctorates), this body may not be the best representation of the nation’s academic-intellectual power. The NCP further suggested that some charges be levied for the administration of this registry which implies that there may be some monetary gain by the said organisation should they be granted this task.

It was reported that the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) would be working on setting up a Registry of Ph.Ds for Malaysia where all Ph.D holders from local universities (both public and private) would automatically be added to this Registry. It was mentioned that Malaysian Ph. D holders with their doctoral degrees awarded overseas will have to seek verification of their doctorate degrees. So far I have not been able to find the mechanism for such a verification process. Needless to say, this verification process will have to be effective, efficient, fair and transparent. There is also (as mentioned earlier) the need to sort out a cost effective way of administering this Registry.

I think perhaps the following suggestions might be considered by the power that be before deciding on how this Registry is to be administered.

  1. Ownership:
    The MoHE should be the custodian of this Registry which should be “owned” by the Malaysian Government. This will ensure that no parties can gain any financial advantage for owning the data the Registry so contained or make monetary gains for the administration of the Registry. The MoHE’s Registrar General and his/her staff is the right team to handle this since they have ample experience handling the registration of around 500 active private colleges and universities where many of the Ph.D holders are already in the MoHE’s databases. This will make cross checking of data and verifications work more effectively accomplished.
  2. Criteria of admission:
    There must be a clear, but simple to use set of criteria for admission to the Registry. The admission of a Ph. D holder should be done once all the criteria have been met. There should not be any hint of any “approval” step or steps in the process. Anyone with a bone fide Ph.D (that is verifiable) shall be admitted to the Registry. No one should be denied a place in the Registry because of his/her colour, creed, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. Getting on the Registry should be considered the same as getting on to the electoral roll –  it is a right and not a privilege. Thus the cost of registration should be made as low as possible where I would suggest that the MoHE be granted a yearly budget by the Treasury for the administration of the Registry. We need to stress the fact that not all Ph.Ds are earning big bucks. There are the freshly minted ones who may not have a job or the senior ones who have already retired. Thus the cost to register in this Registry shall not be made a deterrent to those who may not be so financially endowed. RM10 – RM50 should be the the range for the registration fees for  the administration of this Registry.
  3. Transparency & Peers Review:
    The entire process of registration should be fully transparent to give the Ph.D holders and the other stakeholders confidence in the entire system. Perhaps the transparency can be extended to the data held such that each registrant will be having a “page” where her/his expertise, papers published etc. (but not personal details) will be listed. This will serve one further purpose: anyone who have slipped through the filtering process may be “caught” at this stage as the page will be open to anyone on the internet. Peers review is a very powerful tool for the Registry administrator to use. The power that be should take a leave from the career/job/hiring social medium platform, Linkedin where few of the members have (or dared) to put in false credentials as these could be easily “discovered”. Perhaps for more senior Ph.D holders, the need to verify their credentials may not be that stringent as many would have Linkedin profiles where their respective “contacts” would have studied and scrutinized their credentials before accepting them as “contacts”.My Linkedin profile is more credible not because of my own data but the “contacts” that I have who are more established scientists, entrepreneurs etc. than yours truly had verified my credentials and are willing “to be seen” as a part of my network. This philosophy is actually the key success factor of Linkedin. “I am credible because my many contacts have verified my credentials directly by linking with me”. It is not the same as Facebook! Thus the Registry may have features that mirror that of Linkedin to allow senior, established Ph.D holders to help in the verification process in the “Linkedin” way. In fact, I would risk saying that the MoHE should discuss with Linkedin to find a way to maximize the “social verification” features of this platform and the MoHE may be well advised to considering “putting” the Registry on this platform.
  4. Leverage on Foreign Universities:
    All bone fide institutions of higher learning worldwide will want their academic awards be recognized. This should therefore be the key to getting foreign institutions to contribute to the work needed to administer the Registry. However there are key questions that the power that be needs to have answer to, namely:
  • Is there a way to make sure that overseas universities submit themselves to be included in the Registry?
  • Can we make it simple and accept all universities that are accredited in their home countries?
  • Can we make use of the diplomatic missions in Malaysia to be responsible for keeping this list updated for their respective countries?
  • What about those countries without representation in Malaysia? Can we use some international association like The Association of Commonwealth Universities … even the listing for Malaysia is not complete with only 21 institutions (with many Malaysian public universities not listed the organization)…

MoHE can also leverage on the foreign universities to shoulder a big part of the burden in verifying their own graduates’ credentials. It is after all, to the very institution’s advantage to make sure that their graduates are fully recognized. Thus the MoHE could in fact make a “standard” arrangement with the education authorities of each of these nations so that the list of new Ph.D holders (with verifiable details provided) each year (and that of previous years) could be supplied to the MoHE by each interested institution. My son’s alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA even has a website that provides verified details of its graduates principally for the benefits of prospective employers. Thus giving them confidence of the data held at the website and a way to cross check the resume of UNL’s graduates readily. Perhaps MoHE can tap into this sort of databases to make the verification process a lot faster and effective.

The establishment of the Registry of Ph.D Holders will have one very clear “side-effect”. It will go a long way in separating the wheat from the chaff but since not all accredited overseas institutions award Ph.Ds, the list of institutions in the Registry may not fully represent all accredited overseas institutions but it does provide at least the first list of institutions where their Ph.D awards are recognized in Malaysia. What the Registry also need is a “compliant” segment where if anyone’s credential is challenged, there is a fast-track way for the complaint to be studied and verified. There must also be a heavy penalty for the supply of false information by the registrants. Thus I suggested that the Registrar General’s office shall be the best authority to deal with this as there are already some provisions in ACT 555 and related acts of parliament that have penalty clauses which can be used.

When the Registry is ready, I shall be one of the first to want my name to be on it!

Lock in your tax benefit from SSPN-i saving NOW!

Hands up, if you have heard of SSPN-i?…

Hands up, if you have heard of PTPTN?…

My guess is, if you are a Malaysian living in the homeland, I would be surprised if you do not know what PTPTN is. Perbadaan Tabung Pendidikan Nasional (PTPTN or National Higher Education Fund Corporation) is the body that Malaysian students studying in accredited tertiary institutions apply for funding for their studies. One cannot help but notice news about PTPTN due to its defaulters issues.

Wait! What is SSPN-i? Is it related to PTPTN in any way? You may want to ask.

In fact SSPN-i (Skim Simpanan Pendidikan Nasional – National Education Saving Scheme) is the saving scheme of the PTPTN. It encourages parents to save for their children tertiary education. In fact, since Jan 01, 2012 tertiary students will need to have a SSPN-i account before they are eligible to apply for any PTPTN loans. SSPN-i pays dividend yearly which hovered between 2.5% to 4.25% with the latest figure for 2015 at 4%. Not impressed? But this should not be the main reason for you to invest for your children tertiary education fund in SSPN-i, especially if you are paying income tax. The key attraction to investing in SSPN-i for a tax payer like me is in the RM6,000 maximum amount of tax relief per year for net deposit in your child’s SSPN-i account.

You need not be a mathematics boffin to work out that the RM6,000 tax relief will count for RM1,200 for me as my average tax rate is around 20% (… gee am I revealing too much here?). Look at it another way, I would “gain” RM1,200 because I had deposited RM6,000 in 2016 to my daughter’s SSPN-i account. I would still gain a tax-free dividend of around 3 – 4%, which will be the same as what one would get from a normal bank saving account. 23% return on my investment with 20% “guaranteed” and “immediate” when I compute my tax for 2016 next year is nothing you can get legally anywhere in Malaysia. SSPN-i is also a government guaranteed investment. It is a no-brainer really, that is if you are liable to pay income tax for 2016.

In my case, I have just deposited another RM3,000 today adding to the RM3,000 I had already invested in October 2016 to  maximize my “returns”. As my wife’s business earning for 2016 is very minimal, and we have only one child who is a minor (thankfully our son has graduated from university last week!), we could not take full advantage of the “RM6,000 per child” SSPN-i tax relief. However if you have a dual-income  family where both spouses pay income tax (i.e. each of you earn more than the minimum “qualifying” annual income to earn the privilege to pay income tax), and you have children, you will do nothing better than to raid your children’s piggy bank, saving accounts etc. and invest to the maximum sum.

As the profile image has shown, if you hurry to deposit cash in related bank (I went to Maybank, USJ Taipan), a nice PTPTN staff will be on hand to help you with your SSPN-i if you need one and he/she will give you a nicely shaped “golden egg” as a piggy bank for your child and a very good quality recycle bag for mom or dad. Do hurry, at the time of writing (Dec 22,2016) there are only five more banking days left! If you have already opened SSPN-i accounts, you need not go the bank to deposit, Maybank and CIMB online banking portals also accept your money online. Whatever you do, please beat the Dec 31, 2016 deadline!

Since 2015, there is another type of SSPN-i account called SSPN-i Plus which comes with life insurance (Takaful) coverage. However you can only gain the additional RM6,000 tax relief (in addition to the RM6,000 for SSPN-i) if you have not topped the Employee Provident Fund /Life insurance quota of RM6,000. And for SSPN-i there is some monthly commitment of a minimum of RM50. So for most income taxpayers, SSPN-i may be the better choice. More details are found in this Lowyat discussion forum.

Wishing all my readers Merry Christmas (for those who are celebrating) and a happy and prosperous 2017.

Difficult to score on moving goalposts

The education concept behind the new lower secondary national assessment system, PT3 in Malaysia is a great idea that was horribly implemented. What can students and parents do? Read more to pick up some advice from a parent & educationist.

I had to be on a day-trip to Penang on December 22, 2014 which was the same day that candidates who have sat for the lower secondary school’s Pentasiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3) (which has replaced the traditional Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examination by the power that be) would get their results. My daughter was one of the 453,413 candidates. When I reached Penang at around 10:30 am I gave my wife a quick call to check on my daughter’s performance. I wanted to speak to my wife first just in case we have some “unforeseen” results. But my daughter answered the call instead, because her mother was driving.

“How many “B”s did you get?”, that was my opening line. “I am surprised you ask this funny question!”, my daughter answered indignantly.

She did her best and scored 5 “A”s, 3 “B”s and 2 “C”s. Naturally, she along with a few hundred thousands “PT3ers” were disappointed and rightly so. Both my wife (a former teacher) and I feel that our daughter has done her very best and we are proud of her achievements despite being one of the “guinea pigs” for Ministry of Education.

Anyone who plays football can tell you that it is very, very difficult to score a goal if the goalposts keep moving. Those charged with implementing PT3 must be either fickle-minded, lack planning skills or both. Parents, students and even teachers have been left guessing what to expect of PT3 candidates and how assessments were to be taken. This was not helped by the constant adjustments to the entire PT3 system. At one point, we did not even know whether there would be a “final” examination, or if there was one, in what format it was going to be. One thing good about this is that the “advantage” held by those who are “customers” of tuition centres have been mainly nullified. No one, even the teachers had any idea what to expect in the entire PT3 examination system. To me, those deciding on the PT3 were actually making up the “rules’ as they went along. This is grossly unfair to all stakeholders. If the system is not yet fully tested and the plan not fully thought out, it would have been better to have retained the PMR for this cohort and implement PT3 for those who have started Form 1 in 2014. The RM100 million questions include, why was the haste in implementing PT3? What was the rationale? Who stood to benefit from this premature implementation of PT3? (the PT3 candidates, their parents and teachers surely were not the beneficiaries)

As an educationist, I have nothing but praise for the concept of PT3. It has many positive features such as giving greater emphasis on continuous learning and assessment. This makes life a lot more difficult for those lazy students and reward those who put in consistent hard work. However PT3 is a great idea that has been very, very poorly executed. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details”. The constant yo-yoing of policies and instructions given by those handling the PT3 system had caused the poor candidates (their teachers and parents) to second guessing what would the system churn out next.

You cannot sail a ship that is half built and hope that it will withstand the waves in the high seas. It was just plain luck that this half built “ship” called PT3 was only “partially submerged” in its maiden voyage! One thing great about the PT3 system is that “leaking” of examination question papers so endemic in our examination system seems to be “eliminated”.  Schools have the option to choose which version of the examination paper to use.  I am sure the PT3 system has a built-in mechanism to ensure that questions chosen and compiled for different versions of the same subject would assess the students in the similar manner and there is a moderation process to ensure equality. There should not be any “harder” or “easier” papers. I think the power that be should make sure that this process is transparent and communicated well to all stakeholders.

Because of these moving goalposts (I heard that even the scoring system for grades was changed unannounced), many elite schools that were accustomed to producing 70 – 80 or more students with straight “A”s are seeing this elite lot in single digits in 2014. But as a parent, I would strongly advise that we treat our children’s PT3 results as a form of attainment and a rite of passage.  The schools, teachers and candidates are all victims of a badly executed but highly progressive examination system. Console your children if they did not do as well as expected. Tell them that PT3 is only the second public examination in their learning journey, and it is not the “be all and end all” of their tenure as a student. There are bigger challenges ahead. They must enjoy learning and carrying on learning all their lives.

I do advise students who are unhappy with their PT3 results to file in their appeals (there is still about 1 week left to file an appeal by Jan 21, 2015). They owe it to themselves and their younger colleagues at schools to voice up their discontent. Perhaps the power that be may take notice if there are 100,000 appeals. It should take those charged with implementing the PT3 to task for messing up a great opportunity in making progress in our education system due to their inaptness and some might say, incompetence.


This article was initially written to be published as the penultimate piece on my column in Focusweek / Focus Malaysia last week (Jan 10, 2015). But as there was a change in arrangements which resulted in an earlier termination of my association with the publication, I am publishing this article on my own blog instead. I hope my readers in Focus Malaysia can find this and like this!

……………………….Chow YN, PhD.

Why measuring only academic inputs causes academic decline in Malaysia

Dr. Chow provides a commentary on this article he wrote about the obsession with inputs that is one of the culprits for academic decline in Malaysia.

With the discontinuation of The Heat as a print version and a more reduced Focusweek taking its place in October 2014, I was given about 10 days of “breathing” space. At that time (around late September / early October 2014), some officials in the Ministry of Education threw a “bomb” into the higher education industry: the use of forecast results from the national high school graduation examination, Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) for the purpose of granting conditional acceptance for high school graduates to enter private colleges was disallowed. This practice which can be traced back for over 20 years allows students to commence their college studies without having to wait for months for the SPM results to be announced.

The reason cited in the press was IMHO not really credible, some students whose actual SPM results were not up to par were accepted into college studies based on a more favourable forecast result and hence this 20-year-old practice had to stop. It is like saying that because of some cases of accidental injuries due to the kitchen knives, we now make it illegal to have it in the home! The person making the recommendation to the power that be to ban the use of forecast results perhaps was not familiar with the dire consequences to private colleges for any failure to “weed” out students without the correct SPM credentials. This gave me an idea about this article. 

Is the obsession with inputs one of the key contributor to the lackluster academic performance of Malaysian students? That was the question I asked in the following article.

Our system also has very little flexibility when it comes to tapping into the expertise of renown sons and daughters of Malaysia to impart their wisdom to the new generation of learners. By disregarding the professional and industrial attainment of a person when it comes to measuring the academic credential of a person to teach at college level makes it very restrictive when we want to tap on many very established and renown professionals, designers, creative talents to impart their wisdom to our students.

In early 1980s I was taught mathematics at GCE “A” levels by Mr. Gowland who did not go to university. He was better in teaching us and guiding us to score grade A’s than many of his colleagues with Masters and PhDs. A person with a string of degrees does not necessary make a good lecturer. In the same technical college, tucked in the small town of South Shields, Tyne and Wear, England, our head of department, a nuclear physicist with a PhD was having great difficulties in making us understand topics in nuclear physics at GCE “A” level! I remember this lesson well and when I was hired as a  lecturer in 1996 (without any formal training in teaching) by the now defunct Sepang Institute of Technology. I quickly learned the rope by sitting in on classes delivered by senior colleagues especially those from the collaborating university, University of Adelaide. I also was not shy in asking for pointers from senior colleagues and did a “learn as you go” for the first few months.

It is about time we move to an “outcome-centric” education system. Why should we care how and what kind of inputs a student’s learning journey involved? We should only use SPM grades as an “indicative” measure to accept students into higher education. We should provide a “challenge route” for those whose grades may not be sufficient to follow a course of study of their choice so long as they can take the challenge and prove that they can do just as well as others by passing the relevant subjects (in which they did not attain the necessary grade as SPM). We should worry a lot more about what the student can do after taking a subject (the output or learning outcome) and not about the amount of work he put into studying it. We should care less about the different “learning journey” of individual students and more about their reaching their “learning destination”. Each student’s ‘learning journey” is different from the other but it is their ability to demonstrate the attained skills and knowledge, that is the “learning destination” that counts.

I am glad the re-published article in (in English, Chinese and Malay), at the time of writing this article  has generated 5 comments (all, I am glad to say being favourable to the author!), 170 Facebook “likes” and 6 tweets on the news portal.

The great 20th century statesman who transformed China from an economic basket case to soon-to-be the World’s largest economy, Deng Xiaoping said in 1961, “it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat”. Perhaps educationists in Malaysia, especially those advising the power that be should ruminate on the wisdom of Deng.

Last updated on 11 Jan 08:29 AM

by Dr Chow Yong Neng

OPINION: Parents, students and owners of private colleges and universities are relieved now that the powers that be have concluded that it serves no purpose to prevent the use of forecast Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) re­sults for conditional admission into private institutions of higher learning.

Students admitted using forecast re­sults, whose actual SPM results fell short of the required minimal grades, have always been prevented from enrolling into their desired course of study. Private colleges know too well that if they allow them to remain, sooner or later, approving authorities like the Malaysian Qualifica­tions Agency (MQA) will catch up with them. So long as parents and students are well informed of this fact, there should not be any issue of anyone “slipping” through the net.

But what if a student’s actual result does not “qualify” him for enrolment into his desired course of studies but he did well in the first semester of the foundation programme? For instance, student Tan used his SPM forecast result of five credits to enter a foundation programme. But he only scored four credits in his SPM and failed to get a credit in mathematics.

However, since being admitted to his foundation programme, Tan had worked hard and scored grade A for mathematics in his first semester examination. Under the Ministry of Education (MoE) policy, Tan will be denied his quest to be formally enrolled in his foundation studies prog­amme.

However, a true educationist will be persuaded by the fact that Tan’s SPM grade for Mathematics is immaterial as he has proven himself by scoring in Math­ematics in his foundation studies, which is at a higher academic level than SPM. Tan has “made up” for his lack of credit in SPM mathematics and should be allowed to continue his foundation studies.

But Malaysia over-emphasises inputs. We are obsessed with measuring inputs in academia, from the admission of students to institutions of higher learning, to quality assurance of delivery and learning of aca­demic programmes – the key emphasis is just on inputs and more inputs.

We do not have a concept of learners’ ability to “catch up” as we do not have much faith in evaluating our learners’ outputs. So scoring a credit grade in SPM mathematics in Tan’s case is considered more important than his scoring a grade A in an academically higher level math­ematics. Thus Tan’s desirable foundation studies output for mathematics is ignored.

Tan’s case is a classic example of, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” but Malaysian education policies are more into “what was done to make the pudding”. It is this kind of input-centric mentality in our education system that has held Malaysians back from excelling academically for decades.

Even on the input-side, Malaysian educational policies are overly input-cen­tric as well. Someone once had an idea that to teach at diploma level, the lecturer must have a minimum of a Bachelor degree. This idea eventually made it to be the “standing policy” to evaluate the suitability of a person to teach. Thus for Bachelor level studies, the teaching staff must have a Master’s level qualification and for Master’s subjects the lecturer must hold a PhD in the same field. Our educa­tion system seems not to have the ability to recognise the importance of experience, exposure and achievements over paper qualifications.

If there is a Master’s level class on modern shoe design, Datuk Jimmy Choo would not be allowed to deliver it. This is because Choo, even though he is the world’s most renown shoe designer, does not hold an earned doctorate in this field. Yet a freshly-minted PhD holder in the same field who has never worked beyond academia would be found suitable to teach the same class. Such is the idiosyncrasy of Malaysia’s higher education system.

This obsession with input is the major cause of the lack of transmission of wisdom, insights and experience by successful professionals, industrialists and master craftsmen to the new generations of learners at Malaysian institutions of higher learning.

If our young learners are denied the opportunities to learn from great masters in their respective fields and are instead constantly fed an academic diet of book-knowledge, it will not take a genius to figure out why our universities have been lacking yearly in the various universi­ty ranking systems compared to our peers.

Unless Malaysians collectively get out of the shackles of our input-centric mental­ity, we will always be chasing the tail wind of our competitors

Dr Chow Yong Neng once argued successfully for MQA to allow a few of his students with inadequate SPM grades to continue with their studies by emphasising the satisfactory output of their diploma studies.

This article was first published in the Oct 18, 2014 issue of Focusweek

Punishing new student loan borrowers for the sins of their predecessors

Punishing new borrowers for the “sins” committed by their predecessors is akin to punishing a child for the crime committed by his father….unfortunately that’s what PTPTN is doing to new student loan borrowers.

On November 6, 2014, I received a phone call from David Lee, Editor-in-Chief of Focusweek, the sister publication of Focus Malaysia around noon. David was keen to have a full article written on the announcement made by the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) a day earlier where it had reduced the amount of loan that new borrowers would be getting from November 1st, 2014. Students from private institutions of higher learning will be hardest hit with a massive reduction of 15% in the maximum loan quantum, their public institutions of higher learning counterparts got a 5% corresponding reduction. The mean-testing criteria were further tightened so that only borrowers from low income families would stand to get the full loan.

I was very honoured by this request, but there was one caveat: I needed to get the story written and submitted by lunchtime the next Monday, November 11,2014. This gave me about 5 days to do the job. Luckily for me, being a avid follower of the PTPTN saga, I had in my “collections” a great deal of press articles and other data that would allow me to start the job. But I still had to do a lot of desk research and getting the relevant data was the most time-consuming.

Working frantically for the next few days and with the editorial inputs from David and his team, we managed to get this front cover story on the November 15, 2014 edition of Focusweek completed. The followings is an excerpt of the full article that was carried in on December 8, 2014.

The full article also covered the unfairness of reducing 3 times higher the reduction in maximum loan (at 15%) for borrowers in private institutions of higher learning compared to their counterparts in public institutions. Since the private and public institutions cater for just about equal number of students, why the heavier “punishment” on the private sector. What I could not find was the data from PTPTN which show who are the main loan defaulters. If the majority are from the private institutions then PTPTN might have justifications for the more severe treatment, but personally, I doubt this is the reason. I also covered the implications on the 15% maximum loan reduction on the private college and universities enrollments where I think those institutions struggling financially will see these austerity measures hitting them hardest. I think a further round of consolidation of the private higher education industry is going to take place in the next few months when the impact of this loan reduction is felt on the new students.

My key quotable quote: Punishing new borrowers for the “sins” committed by their predecessors is akin to punishing a child for the crime committed by his father.


PTPTN punishing the wrong people

PETALING JAYA: The dire predictions have come to pass. Less than three months ago, The Heat newsweekly wrote of a looming student loan crisis at the National Higher Education Fund Corporation, marked by an almost RM50 billion outstanding student loan account and an alarmingly high level of graduate joblessness or underemployment.

The report referred to the situation as a “ticking financial time bomb” and ques­tioned whether the PTPTN (the Bahasa ac­ronym for the corporation) could continue to use kid gloves on the defaulters.

The warnings seem to have been heeded, although it’s far too late. On Nov 5, PTPTN chairman Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah announced a measure that was once rejected by the Cabinet – listing loan defaulters in the Central Credit Reference Information System (CCRIS).

The first stage would involve 173,985 borrowers who had not started financing their loans totalling RM1.23 billion, three years after graduating. Other defaulters will follow in succeeding stages. Being listed under CCRIS would affect the borrowers’ credit worthiness and make it difficult for them to get bank loans.

While this falls within the ambit of nat­ural justice, another announcement by the PTPTN has fast turned into an unpopular decision that invites controversy.

This has to do with the decision to tighten the eligibility criteria for borrowers and to reduce the loan percentage by 5% and 15% for borrowers from the public institutions of higher learning (IPTA in Bahasa) and private institutions of higher learning (IPTS) respectively.

Only borrowers whose families are receiving government handout in the form of 1Malaysia People’s Aid or BR1M would be eligible for 95% PTPTN loan. Borrowers coming from families which do not qualify for BR1M and with household income of below RM8,000 would be eligible for 75% PTPTN loan while those whose families earn more than RM8,000 will only be eligible for 50% PTPTN loan.

It was reported that 558,475 PTPTN borrowers did not make a single instalment payment, causing their collective debt to balloon to RM4.3 billion. Although the PTPTN is putting 173,985 of them into CCRIS, one wonders why the rest can’t be made to face the same fate as well. It is crucial to cast the net far and wide, to generate a payment schedule that would keep the fund afloat.

Other decisions taken beg some thought. The government has decided to convert the PTPTN loans of high achievers who scored first class honour degrees to scholarships and this would benefit 22,150 borrowers as at end September at a cost of RM603.1 million.

This is an excerpt of an article first published in the Nov 15, 2014 issue of FocusweekThe cover picture was an image taken from the front cover of Nov 12, 2014 edition of Focusweek.

[polldaddy poll=8530190]