20 September 2007

An Opinion on "An Opinion on the PhD"

I would not have written this post if it hadn't been for my friend's ability to copy and paste. He pasted an article by Dr A Murad Merican in his blog post "An Opinion on the PhD" (link here). The article is about what the “PhD” means and does not mean. For example, "Obtaining a PhD is only the beginning towards becoming a scholar, but a scholar does not necessarily need to have a PhD to be one." (Quoted words are my friend's interpretation of the article - See, I'm good at pasting too.)

My comment in his blog apparently became so long so I decided to turn it into my blog post as well.. Haha.. Here it is:

I read this article in the newspaper a few weeks ago and felt it was very timely. Timely because our Ministry of Higher Education had just recently launched its strategic plan (which includes aiming for a few more thousand PhD holders by 2010) and some local universities are now racing to become "Apex Universities” under this plan (yup, new status-labels, dudes).

I do think that achieving a GENUINE doctorate degree is a challenging and rewarding task. A person is forced to acquire and progress with excellent transferable skills every step of the way. From the preliminary coursework to the proper research work, involving mental debates, a well-founded written thesis and oral defence sessions, the process isn’t easy (unless one merely buys a fake PhD or DBA like some Malaysian businessmen, internet millionaires and celebrities do).

However, more doctorate holders among our academics do not necessarily guarantee better quality education/research from our universities. When there’s no academic freedom (due to the lack of freedom of information and expression, thanks to many constitutional amendments, laws and rules which I hate to remind ourselves), then how can the pursuit of the truth (knowledge) really benefit?

I agree with the statement that PhD holders & Professors are not necessarily scholars & intellectuals (and vice versa). In certain cases – and I’m simply adding this point on my own – some of them are NOT EVEN RESEARCHERS. To be honest, I’m not referring to those academics who don’t do much academic research work etc. What bothers me more are those who hold high academic offices but are completely prejudicial (towards certain views) and extremely biased (in believing certain people) when making crucial decisions. Does a researcher really think and act that way?

These people, to my mind, are simply a disgrace to their own profession as “researchers”. One does not “search again” for the truth by making terribly prejudicial and biased calls. We term it as “tanpa usul periksa” (without investigation) in Malay. To me, researchers could be the best of judges, but these people I’m referring to are just politician-wannabes.

Luckily, I've also met many PhD holders and Professors who are very humble and do not expect their views to “conquer everyone else's” (despite all the knowledge and educated justifications that they have in reaching their conclusions). To me, this is what the pursuit of knowledge is supposed to teach a person; Humility. The more one learns about the world, the more one discovers how much one does not really know.