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Read the article below from FREEMALAYSIATODAY
Malaysia has failed to create innovators, says Prof Sheikh Hussain Shaikh Salleh. He says talented engineers are hired by companies that merely assemble Western or Japanese technology in our factories.
A biomedical engineer says Malaysia’s engineering education is equivalent to those of top universities in the world but, unlike in the West, the country has failed to create innovators.
The former dean of UTM’s Centre for Biomedical Engineering, Prof Sheikh Hussain Shaikh Salleh, who now lectures, said the country lacked the will to invent products. This has led to talented engineers being hired by companies that merely assemble Western or Japanese technology.
“Our curriculum at universities is similar to what is being taught in top universities in Europe. Our syllabus is as good as the West.
“But in the West, the students design and apply the knowledge learned. We buy products from the West for our engineering students to assemble.
“That is why after 60 years’ of independence, are there any new industries coming up? That’s because the engineers are not utilising the theories they have learned.
“The first six months, they would remember what I taught them, but after they graduate, they are absorbed into the workforce and do not become innovators,” he told FMT.
He said at present Malaysians have become experts as “system integrators” by taking technology from Germany and other countries and assembling them. For instance, he said Proton could have been developed further with better engines if more effort had been put into it.
He said most of the students continued to pursue Master’s and PhD in management studies to excel in their career.
“That is why the innovation industry is not evolving. Look at the Koreans. When they started going into technology, they were far behind us. But they went into reverse engineering. The government said to build local cellphones and when the engineers opened up the phone, only about 40% of the products were Korean. The government said they wanted the phone to be made wholly in Korea. There was motivation for them to improvise and they went on to compete with iPhone,” he said.
In Malaysia, he said foreign investors came in with technology but the technology was not shared with locals as the local engineers were hired to manage the production line and assemble products.
“It is a crime if we have local talent and do not invest in them. We must have the will, infrastructure and the system for our engineers to apply their designs and create our own innovation in factories. If things remain the same, we will be stuck at the same level we are now or worse. The worst part is other nations like Myanmar and Vietnam, who are behind us, are going to come out with an infrastructure (to move forward).”
He said once Malaysia invests in innovation, it will automatically motivate primary and secondary students. Sheikh Hussain was a researcher in biomedical engineering. He said he had developed a hearing screening system to detect and aid deaf children from birth.
He had gone to schools to teach students about the hearing system while educating them about his invention.
“You could see genuine interest in the project. If students are exposed to local inventions in primary schools and further motivated in secondary schools, by the time they reach the universities, they would be brilliant in inventing things.”
He said Malaysia needed to scout for talents and invest in them. The professor felt that the education system in primary and secondary schools needed to change as teachers needed to impart knowledge with a positive attitude.
“Why do we learn something? Because it benefits us. And not to forget the subjects we learned a few months ago. That is lacking. We test our children and they cannot see beyond the exams. It is not just book knowledge. What is lacking is inquiring and being inquisitive. We should not be memorising knowledge. We need to change this.”
In Western countries, for instance, students are taught the theory to draw maps and are told to go to town with their parents to draw the design of the town.
“They then come back to school and improvise on the map. These is how theory should be put into practice. When they go overseas, they don’t have to ask people about the location of places. They look at the map and they know. The kids are taught to be masters of things.”
Images by: Azeemah