Why do we obsess over rankings?

HIGHER Education Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin is reported to have said that he wished to continue with the good policies he implemented during his first stint in the office.

I am hoping those “good policies” means the ministry will no longer be obsessed with rankings because, as some have pointed out, education is not a sport.

University of Reading Malaysia CEO Wing Lam said we should not pit universities against one another like football teams in the English Premier League. There are far more important things we need our universities to focus on.

We have been told, many times over, not to be obsessed with rankings.

Dr Ong Kian Ming, who was head of the Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur, said in September 2017, that the Higher Education Ministry (MOHE) should not be overly obsessed with Malaysia’s performance on the global university ranking system but instead focus on improving the local measures of university quality developed by the MOHE and the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

According to Ong, if we focus on improving our universities according to more suitable locally developed indicators, the output of our universities will improve in terms of the quality of research, teachers, and graduates.

Two years later, the eminent Prof Dzulkifli Abdul Razak said he was “increasingly unsure of the worth of the ranking game”. He said the whole exercise was “intellectually dishonest, perhaps bordering on unethical.”

He saw it fit that we skip the ranking game altogether and move on.

As the obsession over rankings continued unabated, Dzulkifli wrote in July that there was a new ranking of cities on their “affordability” for students around the world.

There is now another ranking to fuss over.

Kuala Lumpur was the QS choice for ”Asia’s most affordable study hub”, and placed 28th in the world for 2023. https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2022/07/812613/quality-some-private-varsities-appears-be-wanting

Dzulkifli wondered whether higher education was still considered a public good, as advocated by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Does the second-time minister agree with Dzulkifli or Ong? Will he listen to Lam to not compare our universities like football teams?

We wait with bated breath Khaled’s presentation of MOHE’s direction next month. – December 15, 2022.

* Hafiz Hassan reads The Malaysian Insight.

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