Unemployed graduates - whose fault is it?
Jul 10, 06 4:14pm
What is the use of university education if we continue to fail in ensuring that our graduates are ready for the workplace and ready to make the world a better place? Who is at fault in creating thousands upon thousands of unemployed graduates, especially from Universiti Teknologi Mara and Universiti Utara Malaysia who are not proficient in the language of professional success?
Is it the way we select students into our public universities? Is it the way those universities train the students? Is it the form of mental conditioning we subject them to? Is it the quota system or the numbers game itself? Is it the nature of “university education” the students have wrongly perceived? Or is it the entire culture and spectrum of our education system – from pre-kindergarten to even graduate education - that is so out of touch with the mental demand of hypermodern dictates of our ever-globalising economy that is at fault?
There is the dimension of race, ethnicity, and political-economy in them. The greatest threat to any ruling government is in its ability to appease unemployed graduates. They expect jobs. They will blame the government for betraying them. They are smart enough to analyse who owns the wealth and resources in the nation and why the economy is not providing some form of guarantee of employment opportunity. Frustrated graduates will channel their anger into so-called social movements, supporting parties that can articulate the bets why the graduates are jobless. Students of national revolutions can attest to this in the case of modern revolutions such as in Iran and Indonesia.
Most of those unemployed are in the technical fields. Our ideology of industrialisation might have created mass unemployment. Our continuing belief in the mantra of high-tech high touch and everything technical has intoxicated our policy-makers with the belief that we must create a workforce gene-pool of humanoids who will serve the great cyber-cities we created out of false consciousness. Our ideology of post-industrialisation and our fascination with bio-technology is like our own Arthur C Clarke’s dreamscape for a Third World nation that churns out more humanoids through three- to four-year degree programmes whose curriculum are perhaps not in sync with the nature of technical expertise needed in those technical and scientific corporations transplanted in our economic landscape.
What the textbook teaches is probably five to 10 years outdated. Technology, in the hands of major oligopolic corporations from Japan, Europe, and America moves faster than our university graduates can think and read. Who wants to sell trade secrets to developing nations? Major corporations want to make money as fast as they can and relocate. National governments unknowingly are forced to design their education system to meet the labour needs of these state-less corporations.
Countries like Malaysia even set up International Advisory Panels to seek advice from the neo-colonials how best to re-colonise the natives. The power-elites gain from a system that does not trickle down. They gain from setting up subsidiaries of these corporations. The Multimedia Super Corridor is a good example of one grand showcase of a mismatch between the curriculum in a kampong school and the culture of knowledge in those high tech outfits. Our “smart schools” are merely a showcase of our “entry into the Information Age”.
But whose “Information Age” are we entering into? Our policymakers do not quite understand the link between technology and social control in the context of globalisation. They have not yet understood the ideology of “technological determinism” - a strange word even for Malaysian social scientists keen in studying what Vladimir Lenin would say a nation’s “commanding heights”. Many would argue that technology is neutral and has nothing to do with displacing human beings. The argument that technology does not have a “life of its own” is not convincing enough to scholars who see the political-economic nature of technological dependency and global corporate control of world’s scientific and technological expertise.
By the time our students graduate from UiTM or UUM, we will have the technological demands in the workplace shifting leaps and bounds. Nations like ours are run by policymakers who do not have a good understanding of technology, human capital, and social change. University culture must change What must we do at the level of university culture in order to produce quality and employable graduates? The culture must change. Universities must be turned into a radical breeding ground of independent thinkers.
Freedom to think, speak up, dream of and design better alternatives must be cultivated. Universities must not be turned into another national service camp or Biro Tata Negara human conveyor belt. Our graduates are failing in the workplace because their thinking has been “schematised” since early secondary school years. The Malaysia public university is now playing the role of making the “uncritical mind” more docile – in the name of stability and social control. Student activities must reflect critical thinking, not merely “post-high-schoolish-Malaysian-Idol-type of fun stuff that are tuned to the dictates of blind nationalism.
Activities must be engaging so that we may turn our youth into brave, vocal, and enterprising students able to set their own high intellectual standards and work comfortably with people of other races. Multicultural understanding must be a key area for vice- chancellors to work on. All forms of racism must be abolished. As future leaders, university students must be taught the ugliness of race-based politics.
How do we prepare our students to be well sought after graduates? Here is how we may begin: Take only the best if we want to ensure success. Have other options for those who are not qualified. It does not matter what ethnic group they are from. University education is not for everybody; especially not for mediocre ones who gain acceptance with mediocre grades. If we are to have quality universities, we must admit only the best and the brightest. There are other avenues of success for those not rigorous enough in academic work.
The meaning of success does not lie in university education alone. A graduate of a technical college, a trade school, a community college can become as successful as a university graduate if he/she finds meaning and pride in the course of study chosen. A doctor, engineer, accountant, lawyer, or computer scientist is a human being in the wheel of Capital. A modern farmer, horticulturalist, hair salon owner, graphic artist, a good rock musician is also a human being in the wheel of Capital.
Higher education provides avenues to master more sophisticated skills as better workers in a more complex economic system such as that of hypermodern Malaysia.
"Turn them into teachers and farmers"
But what do we do with those that are currently unemployed and unemployable? I suggest we turn them into the best teachers in the land our children deserve to have. Teaching is one unique profession that will train the individual to communicate well, plan well, and help children learn academic and pro-social skills well. These graduates have the language, speaking and computing skills to help the younger members of society succeed.
These graduates can work as professional teaching assistants mentored by certified classroom teachers. This will help ease the burden of large class size that are making instructional strategies ineffective. Instill pride in their work in making children learn. We have so many problems in our education system that our schools need to have as many graduates as we can as role models. Have Malay graduates sent to Chinese and Tamil schools. Have Chinese and Indian graduates sent to Malay schools or schools in Sabah and Sarawak.
Have them learn the meaning of multiculturalism through their interaction with children of different races. A well-trained university graduate should be able to apply what they learned about racial harmony into real-life practice. Or, turn them into farmers.
Let them create a pastoral life away from the failed vision of our technological dream world we create out of the blind policy of Vision 2020. Let us work together to help the children of the next generation become better prepared for changing times. The greatest threat for any government is that of a critical mass of angry, bright young people without jobs.