Sunday 7 September 2014

SOUTH KOREA: Lowest-ranked universities to see cut in funding

GLOBAL: Different ways of learning for students abroad

Vietnam: Universities still have little autonomy

Last update 16:02 | 31/08/2014 by Vietnam net bridge

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has bemoaned the slow process of delegating more power to universities to enhance their autonomy, saying relevant agencies should accelerate the process to increase the quality of education.

Chairing a meeting on autonomy at public universities in Hanoi Tuesday, Prime Minister Dung said that making universities responsible for all their operations is a right policy and has delivered initial positive results.

According to Dung, their autonomy aims to create a motivation and a breakthrough to improve the quality of education and facilitate sustainable development of universities.

However, the process has been moving slowly and should be speeded up so that universities can soon be autonomous in terms of finance, organization, training, curriculums and issuance of degrees and diplomas, Dung added.

At the meeting, participants also discussed the implementation of such a policy. Professor Dr. Le Vinh Danh, president of Ton Duc Thang University, said the tuition cap should be removed. Tuition fees should be decided by factors such as training quality and demand of learners, he added.

President of Vietnam National University of Hanoi Phung Xuan Nha shared the same view, saying the quality of education and learners’ needs should be used as criteria for setting tuition fees and that the quality of universities should be judged independently and publicly.

According to some university leaders, they have limited professional autonomy in terms of issues like providing new courses and curriculums, so they want more autonomy regarding these matters.

Dung told the Government Office and the Ministry of Education and Training to gather opinions of ministries, agencies and universities presented at the meeting to improve a draft resolution on autonomy for universities before it is discussed at the Government’s regular meeting this month.

According to Dung, the draft resolution needs to pay special attention to personnel, enrollment, new curriculums and scientific research.

MALAYSIA:Not guilty, says first academic charged with sedition

Emilia Tan Issue No:33

Azmi Sharom, a law professor at the University of Malaya, was on 2 September charged with sedition in a court in Kuala Lumpur. The public galleries were packed with academics and students from the university, and other supporters and rights activists. He pleaded not guilty.

Azmi is the first Malaysian academic to be charged under the 1948 Sedition Act, although a number of opposition politicians have faced sedition charges in recent weeks under the law that dates back to the British colonial era.

The professor, who was granted bail during the Tuesday hearing, will appear again before the court in October. He said in a statement later that he would fight the charge, saying it was a blow to academic freedom and freedom of expression.

“I hope reason will prevail,” he told well wishers at the court. Sedition can carry a jail term of up to three years.

Shocking charges

Azmi said he was “shocked” at the charges for comments he made relating to a Malaysian online newspaper on 14 August, on a 2009 crisis in the state government of Perak, describing the events of the time as “legally wrong”.

“My statements were based on established case law and democratic principles. They were given in my capacity as a law lecturer of 24 years standing,” he said.

Academics have been horrified at the charge, which they see as being used to silence anyone who criticises the government.

“If you believe in world-class universities, academics should be allowed to make professional comments. He [Azmi] is from the law faculty. He shouldn't be charged,” Rosli Mahat, vice-president of the University of Malaya academic staff association, told The Malaysian Insider online newspaper.

Rosli, who was at court with many other university staff and students to observe the proceedings, said the charges were “an affront” to the university.

Lau Yi Leong, secretary for national affairs for the Malaysia Youth and Students’ Democratic Movement, said academics were simply expressing their opinions in their professional capacity. Students fear they could be next in the firing line.

“Furthermore, it is undoubtedly clear that, at a time when new students are being enrolled into universities, it is the government’s intention to also warn the new students not to be too keen in applying their knowledge to social, political and economic issues,” Lau said.

Vince Tan, secretary-general of Progressive, University of Malaya – a student group – said in a statement last Tuesday: “Such charges show that the authorities have no regard for academic freedom, when an academician can be punished for commenting on an issue related to his field of study.

“When the intention of the government [is] to repeal a particular legislation, it should no longer be used to prosecute anyone. Such prosecution is also in utter disregard of the intention of the government of the day,” Tan added.

PM promised to repeal the law

Two years ago Prime Minister Najib Razak promised to repeal the 1948 Sedition Act and said it was to be replaced by a new National Harmony Act.

In a statement this week, the prime minister's office reiterated that the act would be repealed and replaced with the National Harmony Bill, which was currently being drafted. No timetable was given.

The Centre for Independent Journalism, or CIJ, added to the criticism, saying the continued use of the Sedition Act “makes a mockery” of the prime minister’s legislative reforms and pledge to repeal the act more than two years ago.

CIJ said in a statement from its directors Sonia Randhawa and Jac SM Kee that “too liberal” a use of the Sedition Act would stunt the function of universities and institutions of learning to the point that they would not be able to function appropriately.

“Restrictions must be necessary and proportionate. To censure legal opinion without demonstrating the threat to national security, public order or public morality is unnecessary and disproportionate,” the statement read.

Some activists believe that the move could backfire on the government and lead to stronger demands to bring forward the repeal of the Sedition Act just as the government previously changed the Internal Security Act that affected students’ political activities and academic freedom.

A government spokesperson said that academics, like other citizens, must adhere to the law. 

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Cambodia: More Than 70 Percent of Cambodia’s High School Students Fail Key Exam

Source: Radio Free Asia 


Students leave an examination center in Cambodia's Svay Rieng province, Aug. 4, 2014.

More than 70 percent of nearly 90,000 of Cambodia's high school students who sat for this year’s national examination have failed, the Ministry of Education announced Friday—the result of a government crackdown on bribery and cheating that had tainted previous exams.

It was a stunning reversal of the 80 percent pass rate last year and the previous year, forcing Prime Minister Hun Sen to give a “second chance” to unsuccessful candidates who have to sit for another examination around mid-October.

The ministry said in a statement that only 25.72 percent or 23,126 of 89,937 students passed this year’s Grade 12 examination held early this month under the watchful eyes of thousands of monitors recruited by the Anti-Corruption Unit.

Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said the result of the examination—a prerequisite for students wishing to pursue university level studies—underscored the government’s move to check cheating as part of deep reforms implemented at the ministry.

“This year’s examination was the first test of deep reforms that have been carried out at the ministry,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.

Cambodia's Anti-Corruption Unit chief Om Yentieng this week praised high school teachers for overseeing the "cleanest-ever" national exam but warned that jail time awaits anyone who is found to be corrupt at the second round of exams, the Cambodia Daily reported.

He said that less than 500 of the more than 10,000 teachers who oversaw the exam were noted by ACU officials as not having done their job properly.

“There will be no exceptions at the second exam. At that time, you will at least be held in pretrial detention for one month—that would be long enough to remove your name from the payroll,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

“You are the teachers and if you mistreat or cheat your own students it would not be different from a father raping his daughter.”

'Wake-up call'

Phann Nil, the principal of Chea Sim Samaki high school in the capital Phnom Penh, said the examination result was a “wake-up call” for students.

“This result will encourage students to study hard and parents must also pay attention to their children,” he said.

Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association deputy president Ouk Chhayavy said the association endorsed the examination result but was not supportive of the decision to give students who failed a second chance, citing the financial strain on the government.

“I congratulate the students because the result they obtained was based on their own knowledge,” she said.

Sorn Chovorthey, a student who excelled in the examination, said it was the result of hard work.

“My advice to those students who failed: don’t be discouraged because you have a second chance. You have another month to study. Please study hard, day and night, and be confident,” he said.

Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron, who has been credited for the reforms at his ministry, said strict measures had to be taken to eliminate irregularities in the examination.

He said the ministry would provide additional classes for key subjects to students who failed in preparation for the re-test, which he pointed out would be as vigorous as the earlier examination.

“Even though we have only one and a half months left, you must study hard,” he told the students.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Myanmar’s University Students Protest Proposed Education Law

Source: Radio Free Asia

Hundreds of university students protested on Tuesday against a proposed law that civic groups say allows centralized control of universities and curtails efforts to bring about autonomy of the country’s institutions of higher learning, according to student leaders.

The protests at Dagon University in the northeast of Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon and Dawei University in Thaninthary region in the country’s south were the latest by universities against the National Education Bill passed by parliament in July.

At the protest in Dagon University, student leaders gave speeches about the bill and demanded a meeting with the government, parliament and the National Network for Education Reform (NNER), a group of civil societies pushing for reforms in educational institutions.

Under the bill, the government would establish a National Education Commission (NEC) that would “control the entire country’s education sector, make policies for it and determine its budget,” Zayar Lwin, chairman of the student union at the Yangon Institute of Economics, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“If each university had autonomy, we wouldn’t need the National Education Commission and the Higher Education Coordination Committee, which would be established by the commission,” he said.

The Yangon Institute of Economics is another key university in Myanmar’s commercial capital.

“We’re protesting today to point out that we won’t have any autonomy at universities if we have these two organizations,” he said.

President Thein Sein last month sent back the bill to parliament, saying 25 points in the proposed legislation needed further discussion, according to The Irrawaddy online journal.

Myanmar’s constitution permits the president to send back bills to the legislature within 14 days of their passage, but if lawmakers approve them once again, they automatically become law in seven days.

The student protestors in general want decentralized higher education that gives more authority to schools themselves to run their own affairs and relaxes rules on curriculum.

Under the proposed changes, the Department of Higher Education which supervises universities in Myanmar would be abolished, according to Yin Yin Nwe, head of President Thein Sein’s Education Reform Advisory Group.

“The curriculum will be controlled [by the Ministry of Education] at the beginning,” she told RFA in July, although other reports pointed out that the universities would operate independently under their own boards and have a uniform curriculum during a five-year transition period.

Government control

Myanmar’s more than 150 colleges and universities are mostly located in the regions of Yangon and Mandalay and currently are organized according to fields of study which fall under the direction of relevant ministries.

The NNER, comprised of educational, political and religious organizations, rejected the New Education Bill last month, because it allows the government to retain its control over universities even though it is supposed to overhaul Myanmar’s education system, The Irrawaddy online journal reported.

The organization, which has held nationwide talks over the past two years on education reform, had criticized the bill for excluding many of its key recommendations.

“Universities and colleges must be autonomous and, by necessity, they may cooperate on democratic principles. For academic quality to be assured, assessments must be done by a team of independent specialists,” the NNER said.

It called the move to set up the NEC and the Higher Education Coordination Committee unnecessary, saying they would maintain the government’s centralized control of education.

Among the NNER’s complaints about the bill are that it ignores calls for local languages to be used in instruction in ethnic states, is discriminatory in articles dealing with special-needs children, and provides a definition of higher education that harkens back to the country’s authoritarian regime, The Irrawaddy said.

The NNER recommended that the Ministry of Education be a “facilitator” and leave school management to respective school boards, which include principals, teachers, parents and respectable citizens.

Student unions

Students at universities in Sagaing, Mandalay and Monywa had protested against the bill last week.

Students at Yatanarpon University in Mandalay had said that the bill restricted their rights, reinforced a centralized system, ignored ethnic literacy and relied on an outdated point-based grading system, according to the Myanmar Eleven media group.

The students also criticized the bill for lacking transparency as it moved through parliament, because information about it in state-run newspapers did not match with what was passed by the lower house, the group said in a report in July.

Nyan Htein Lin, the head of Yatanarpon University’s student union organizing committee, also criticized the bill’s provisions for strengthening the government’s control of higher education, ignoring ethnic literacy and continuing the current grading system.

He also pointed out that only government officials, ministers and professors participated in drafting the bill, while other experts and student representatives were left out.

The student union called for student representatives, teachers and non-government experts to be included in the process.

Reported by Khin Khin Ei of RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

China's Confucius Institutes flourish in ASEAN after West's freeze-out (西方冷落后中国孔子学院在东盟蓬勃发展)

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