An open letter regarding the prime minister’s call on entrepreneurship

Dear Mr Prime Minister Najib Razak,

With all due respect, I strongly disagree with you that every undergraduate must be an entrepreneur and offer employment to others.

It was a big mistake that entrepreneurship has been the focus of the Malaysia Higher Education Blueprint (HEB)2015-2025.

University education should aim to train graduates with critical and analytical thinking skills, and inculcate courage to pursue truth and knowledge by questioning authorities, including existing knowledge.

By learning to ask fundamental, relevant and appropriate questions, university students can propose solutions to overcome problems.

Graduates can transfer these across many disciplines and be ready to undertake the challenges of the future. Unfortunately, in general, Malaysian university education failed in this aspect.

Mr Prime Minister, you have conceptually misunderstood the value of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is not limited to being a commercial boss, but includes aspects of accountability, daring to fail, courage in pursuing dreams and new ideas, enduring the pain associated with pursuing a dream, adjusting strategy to overcome uncertainties, and others to numerous to be listed here. Solely linking entrepreneurship to becoming business bosses and offering employment to others has revealed an ugly truth – that government has realised that it can’t sustain a bloated civil service.

Therefore, encouraging graduates to become “entrepreneurs” will be the easiest option in solving the problem of unemployed graduates, but not tackling the root cause of the issue – that we have too many universities that produce too many under-qualified graduates.

If all graduates aspire to become entrepreneurs in e-business, I wonder, who will fill the highly skilled jobs needed to sustain an economy. I can’t imagine how a society will function without engineers, programmers, nurses, teachers, policemen, legal practitioners, bankers, scientists, artists, academics, researchers or doctors. Who will take up the senior positions in the civil service?

Mr Prime Minister, your ideas will result in severe damage, in that eventually, many fields of study will be eliminated from universities to focus on entrepreneurship.

Last but not least, a profit-oriented understanding of “entrepreneurship” will imbalance society severely, and likely cause another lost generation.

* Chong Kok Boon is a physicist by training, and is currently a senior administrator and fellow at a private university. He reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.


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