Thursday, January 14, 2010

Regulate Medical Schools

Regulate Medical Schools

As a medical practitioner, I am worried by the apparent lack of leadership and control of both the Higher Education Ministry and the Health Ministry with regard to the training of new doctors in the country.

I am also alarmed by the announcement by the Perak menteri besar that the state is getting a new medical school involving an investment of RM800 million to take in 10,000 students. There seems to be no planning by those in authority in this frenzy to set up medical schools.

I would like to advise the public to think hard before enrolling at any of the medical schools. The fees are astronomical and the gain may really be a great let-down. The quality of the schools also needs to be seriously considered.

No doubt a fair proportion of private medical practitioners have lucrative practices. But how long will the good times last? It takes at least five years to complete the basic medical degree and easily another five to get any form of postgraduate qualification.

What will it be like 10 years from now? At the rate things are moving, there will be a surplus of doctors in the very near future. The compulsory service imposed by the government on new doctors will be abolished soon as there will not be enough positions in the Health Ministry for everyone.

The alarming signs are already staring at us. I came to know that there are more than 200 housemen in Hospital Besar Ipoh, and 150 or so in the Teluk Intan and Taiping hospitals.

The housemanship years are when new doctors get their real training to be doctors. The housemen need to work very hard, see many patients and learn to make critical and quick decisions under supervision.

After their posting, and if the consultants think that they have got enough training and have performed satisfactorily, they can register as fully qualified medical practitioners.

I don't believe our hospitals can give adequate training to new medical graduates if their numbers are too big. I heard that in some wards the housemen outnumber the patients. How then, can the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) accord these newly qualified doctors full registration?

If, one day, the MMC takes its responsibility seriously, the number of houseman posts will be curtailed and there may not be enough posts for all the medical graduates churned out by all the medical schools here and also those returning from Indonesia, Russia, etc.

Those interested in becoming doctors should note that without satisfactorily completing the housemanship, the MBBS/MD degree holder cannot practise as a doctor.

If a local medical graduate cannot get a housemanship post to do medical training and register as a medical practitioner, the few hundred thousand ringgit spent to get the degree will go down the drain.

It is unlikely that any medical degree issued by local medical schools can gain international recognition. The medical graduate cannot expect to be able to get a job outside Malaysia. Please be forewarned that new graduates with MBBS/MD qualifications may end up looking for jobs just like any other graduate.

I appeal to anyone who aspires to join the medical profession to really consider whether it is wise to spend so much money on some dubious medical course and end up having an MBBS/MD qualification but be not fully registered.


Source: Letters to the Editor, New Straits Times, Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Revamp the Medical Scholarship System

Revamp the Medical Scholarship System
By: Dr. Helmy Haja Mydin

The bickering among stakeholders regarding the disbursement of Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships occurs as regularly as the eruptions of Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. Arguments are often raised about who should receive the scholarships. The loudest are usually parents who decry the system for failing to provide their child with a scholarship that the child “obviously” deserves.

Debates tend to be more heated about the opportunity to read medicine abroad. It is hardly surprising that the nebulous manner in which PSD scholarships are given out is unsavoury to many, as the ultimate prize is not merely a degree, but a career in a profession that is deemed (rightly or wrongly) by many parents to be both prestigious and lucrative.

This annual cycle of ambiguity needs to be stopped. The uncertainty leads to chronic dissatisfaction, further dividing Malaysians along racial lines. We need an overhaul of the scholarship disbursing system, possibly with a different system for each profession (specifically for medicine).

First, PSD medical scholarships should be awarded following identification of needs within the health-care service. The PSD scholarships should serve as a vehicle for long-term investment in human capital for public medical services.

There should be a clear distinction between offering scholarships to balance economic discrepancies between ethnic groups and scholarships that are offered to fill an identifiable national human resource gap. It would therefore make sense from both financial and administrative point of views for PSD to concentrate on the latter, and leave the issue of redistributive strategies to other agencies such as Mara.

With this key point in mind, it follows that PSD should offer scholarships based solely on merit.

Various factors should be taken into account when the issue of merit is discussed, and clear guidelines regarding these factors should be issued so that applicants are familiar with them and applications can be tailored accordingly.

While there should be a minimum academic requirement, these requirements should be focused on subjects that are relevant to the study of medicine, namely the science subjects. Extra-curricular activities, especially those involving positions of leadership, should also be weighted appropriately.

The interview should play an important role in choosing a potential scholar. Interviews allow an individual’s commitment, communication skills and ability to perform under pressure to be better gauged. These factors are arguably more essential for the practice of medicine than mere academic excellence.

The terms of the scholarship should be more specific with regards to expectations on results and post-graduation service. These should not be amenable to the whims of policymakers. For example, clear instructions should be given on the appropriate universities that scholars are allowed to apply to and these should be universities that offer degrees that are fit for purpose – these institutions should be chosen based on international recognition, and are not simply in the list due to political pressure.

But leeway should be given for the pursuit of postgraduate specialist training, as it is in this arena that Malaysia will be able to reap the most benefits from sending her scholars abroad.

Undergraduate medical degree courses will inevitably have relatively similar contents, but the actual practice of medicine in a postgraduate specialist setting will allow our scholars to be exposed to a different working ethos and to technological and management advancement that may not be as readily in Malaysia.

At the level of postgraduate specialist training, the PSD should send scholars to countries that are renowned for specific training needs that would be beneficial to the health-care system in Malaysia. For example, those wanting to specialise in trauma management could go to institutions in South Africa, while for palliative care the UK.

Scholars should have a clear idea of what they are signing up for. While the current service bond of ten years is seen by many to be unpalatable and should be reviewed, contracts should be adhered to as set out by the rule of law. Any resistance to serving the time that has been agreed upon should result in the repayment of the full amount that was spent on the individual’s education. Partial repayments, as is the practice, will only lead to the interpretation of the scholarship as a cheaper alternative to a bank loan.

We should bear in mind that PSD scholarships are a privilege and not a right for any one individual. It should be given to deserving individuals, and the implementation of a transparent and methodical manner of awarding these scholarships will go a long way in helping prevent misconceptions.

Dr Helmy Haja Mydin is Healthcare Policy Fellow at the Malaysia Think Tank (
Source: theSun, June 1, 2009
If you could not make $7 day, no where you can make $700 or $7,000 or more!

The Malaysian Way to Better English

The Malaysian Way to Better English
Kee Thuan Chye

I was recently invited by the Education Ministry to a discussion on "strengthening English" in schools, but from the way the proceedings went, it seemed like an exercise in futility.

The fact that it was being held in tandem with another discussion to "memartabatkan" (uphold) Bahasa Malaysia speaks volumes. As we all know, the standard statement that comes with any official announcement on the need to raise our standard of English must invariably contain the apologetic caveat: "but it must be carried out without threatening the position of the national language". This occasion was evidently no different.

Both the English and Malay groups congregated at the outset in the same conference room where everyone was briefed on the purpose of the event and then parted ways to deliberate on their respective language concerns. During this initial common briefing, it was made unequivocally clear that even though there were plans to "memperkukuh" English, this should not be seen as a challenge to Bahasa Malaysia.

As to be expected then, the meeting on the English side was characterised by guardedness and underdog ambition. Issues raised were mainly those that had been raised before – again and again ("I’m hearing comments I used to hear 20, 30 years ago," said a veteran educationist). Many of the participants had been embroiled in many a discussion past and were now wary of whether their current proposals would amount to anything. You could tell by the conversations outside of the meeting room that most were pessimistic.

Nothing has changed. Certainly not the political will of the government to truly revolutionise its attitude towards the teaching, learning and use of English in this country, which would call for a radical overturn of an official position that has been entrenched since 1970.

Who in the current administration would dare venture that way when their uppermost consideration is winning the next general election? Which is why the vision on English has been always short-term. And what the recent reversal of the teaching of science and mathematics in English was motivated by.

No one in power has dared to think of the long term, of the potential future of a Malaysia dragged down by its lack of proficiency in the global language, of the future of the rural populace who must continue to wallow in their lack of command of the language because they are not ardently advised otherwise. To get them out of their complacency with being monolinguistic would risk raising the ire of certain interest groups – and that could be disastrous for the ruling party.

Most of us at the meeting were too polite to bring this up, but an old hand in education did ask, "What is our language policy now? Monolingualism or bilingualism?".

So, by and large, we dutifully confined ourselves to discussing the areas of training, marketing and pedagogy. We gave suggestions on how to make the noble profession of teaching seem truly so to those going into it ("most students go into teaching English because they have no choice", observed a participant); on the need to take in only teacher-trainees who had an acceptable level of proficiency in English; on getting teachers to employ non-formal teaching methods that would be filled with fun for the learners and to organise out-of-class activities; on making more use of e-learning and ICT; on what to avoid if grammar were to be taught explicitly; on how to instil confidence in English teachers and give them the support they need when this is denied them by the school environment.

One of the best ideas – and possibly the only political one – was to urge the government to commit to promoting "coordinate bilingualism" rather than "subordinate bilingualism", such that no language would be eclipsed or even dominated by another. That kind of commitment is essential, especially in a school environment where the ustaz can have a powerful influence on the headmaster’s policy implementation.

At the meeting, no one suggested bringing back the English-medium school or making a pass in English compulsory for passing SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia). Most of us thought this would be pointless, anyway.

After all, Dr Mahathir floated the English-medium school idea briefly when he was prime minister and then backed off. And only recently, Deputy Prime Minister and new Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin sent up a test balloon regarding the compulsory pass but nothing has come out of it since.

To me, that meeting was a sad reflection of what we are – a people who are rich but are afraid to cultivate our wealth and let it blossom, and all because of our insecurities. We fear opening our minds so we deny our children access to our vaults. Each time a new education minister comes into office, there will be an attempt at some stock-taking and cursory spring-cleaning, but this is then followed by the same old business as usual. We pay lip service, we opt for eyewashes.

Will this time be different? I much doubt it. So, as has been happening over the years, those who have the means will find ways to improve their English, mostly outside of the school system, and those who don’t will lag behind. And when it comes time for university graduates to attend job interviews, that’s when the difference will be telling. Still, at the end of the day, these will just amount to being mere statistics. It’s the outcome at the elections that matters more.

It is, as we say, the Malaysian way.

Kee Thuan Chye, who retired from journalism in May, is an advocate of good English, having edited a column on the subject in a national paper for years. He also authored the book March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up, which has been translated into Chinese. Comment:

Source: theSun, Thu, 13 Aug 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

1Malaysia dilemma

The ‘1Malaysia’ Dilemma
by K.K. Tan

The four main places for racial integration in Malaysia are:

» where we study;

» where we work;

» where we live; and

» where we entertain, play games and visit.

Of the four, education is the most important as it shapes our values and outlook from a young, tender and impressionable age and through our formative years. But our diverse national education system, which allows the freedom of choice for parents, is stuck in a dilemma. Our national schools, which should be the place for integrating our children of all racial backgrounds, are not the preferred choice for most non-Malays who are sending their children to Chinese, Tamil, private and international schools. Why?

In recent press articles, the top reasons given by most non-Malay parents for their lack of interest in sending their children to national schools are:

» not enough emphasis on Chinese and Tamil;

» lackadaisical attitude of teachers;

» Bahasa Malaysia as a medium of instruction; and

» perceived Islamisation.

As a result, national schools have become increasingly dominated by Malay pupils.

Vernacular or national-type schools existed in the country even before Independence. As Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in his response to a question in Paris earlier this month, "… it is not ideal, but something we accept. We have inherited from our forefathers a system where various communities decide on the type of education for their children … if we go against the choice, then there is bound to be social unrest …"

While nothing much can be done about vernacular schools, the government can certainly do more to woo the non-Malays to national schools. The government has stated its intention many times to make national schools more appealing to non-Malays, for example, by introducing Mandarin and Tamil classes during school hours and phasing out the limited POL classes which take place after school hours.

But many people feel that there has been too much talk and too little action. They feel that the Education Ministry is not doing enough, partly due to its huge bureaucracy (and is therefore resistant to change) and partly due to a lack of qualified teachers (to teach Mandarin and Tamil, for example).

Vision schools, when they were first proposed about 10 years ago, seemed promising. The idea was to put a national school and one or two other vernacular schools together at the same site to share common facilities in order to allow children of all races to interact. A few were subsequently set up but it remains unclear if they are a viable solution to our fragmented education system.

Besides the poor racial mix due to the different types of schools, the other important factor in promoting national unity is the role of teachers. Teachers can "make or break" a child’s outlook to life and on issues such as race. Having skilled and properly trained teachers has been a problem. And having teachers with the right attitude and outlook to promote mutual respect and understanding of all races seems to be a bigger problem.

Although there are exceptions, the teaching profession appears to be the "dumping ground" of those who cannot make it for the other professions or those who are merely using it as a ladder for other academic pursuits. It is simply not attracting the right kind of people like before.

On the medium of instruction in schools, no one doubts the importance of Bahasa Malaysia or its position as the national language. But the role of English as a "neutral" language in the past to unite the students has not been given due recognition.

An academic question often asked is: "What if the government had continued with using English as the medium of instruction?" Would our national schools provide a more conducive climate for racial harmony and attract a more racially mixed student population than what’s happening now? Many in the generations that went to the English-medium national schools can testify that there were much better race relations then and much of the goodwill still remains until today.

The government has recently decided to switch to the use of Bahasa Malaysia in national schools for science and maths against the advice of the majority of parents, educationists and even former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The concern is that children from the rural and poorer background may suffer in the long term from such a policy. Many parents of all races who have children in the urban schools are also appealing to the government to allow these schools to have the option of continuing in the use of English in science and maths.

Are we "trading off" the use of English needed to speed up our economic development to perceived political benefits (which are harder to prove) by using Bahasa Malaysia?

Sure, Bahasa Malaysia, if properly developed, nurtured and supported by all, can over the long run (say in a decade or two) be the language of science and commerce as well. But the use of English can greatly speed up (perhaps by decades) our economic development more than Bahasa Malaysia can. That is the reality we are facing as a young nation.

We can continue to develop Bahasa as a unifying force but we cannot afford to wait for it to catch up while we all lag behind. Our economic development and competitiveness should take precedence over all else because achieving economic success for all is also a vital ingredient for racial harmony.

What is the way forward for our education system?

Curbing or closing down the vernacular schools would be unjust, against past understanding and the principle of free choice and would create social unrest.

The government can do more and invest its resources more efficiently to make national schools more attractive to non-Malays. There should be less talk and more action to implement what has already been announced and agreed upon.

Perhaps what is needed is an overhaul of our education system in the spirit of 1Malaysia, which must include greater usage of English and a comprehensive programme to attract and train the right kind of people as good teachers with the right skills and knowledge and the right outlook on national unity.

This is the edited version of the speech that the writer gave at a national unity forum organised by ASLI recently. Comments:

Source: theSun, Thu, 29 Oct 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Grading System for SPM

New Grading System for SPM

Malaysian education system is based on the current political situation. We notice, every time there is a new minister, there will be new education policies coming on.

As we read in the New Straits Times recently (October 3, 2009), a new system will be used to grade all papers in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination starting this year. This development is in line with the appointment of Tan Sri Muhyiddin as a Minister of Education.

The Education Ministry announced that a new grade of A+, followed by A, A-, B+, B, C+, C,D, E and G for those who fail. It will replace the previous A1, A2 or B3, B4, 5C, 6C, 7D, 8E and 9G.

Education director general, Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom said the new grading system would help the ministry identify outstanding students for training programs.

According to the director general, the new grading system would help the ministry to grade students better and select excelent students for scholarships since the grades are more detailed. An A plus will be the highest grade.

If we notice, the new grading system is not material. Only a new grade in 'A' is introduced which comprises 3 grades in A as compared to 2 grades in A previously. The others are still the same except they change the name only. For example, instead of calling B3 and B4, the ministry change it to B+ and B.

I am confused with the ministry of education policy of selecting excellent students for the scholarships. The Ministry is still emphasis on the academic achievements rather than co-corriculum activities and leadership quality of the students. The Ministry should be more transparent in intoducing new grading system which comprises academic grading plus non academic grading system. I called this system as "Composite Grading" and it can be used to grade a student based on his academic and non academic achievements.

"Composite Grade" will be used by the government to select students in giving a scholarship or rewards. This type of announcement by the Ministry of Education is more meaningful to the parents and the public to read.

I do hope political parties mainly UMNO, MIC and MCA should sensitive about transparency of grading system for national education as I mentioned in this article. I do not see much talks have been discussed by political parties especially MCA and MIC about the education grading system except busy with their leadership issues.

I am Healthy

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sex Education in Malaysia

A Little Story about Sex Survey

About half of all young Malaysians don't know how babies are born.

A National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) survey had also found that two in five do not know where the foetus develops. Half of those surveyed did not know that the male and female reproductive organs are.

The Malaysian population and family survey, which polled some 1,700 respondents between the ages of 13 and 24, revealed the dept of ignorance among the young in basic sexual and reproductive health.

The respondents were from all races and from urban and rural areas across the country. Carried out by LPPKN every 10 years, the survey tested respondents on HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, contraceptives and reproductive organs.

The topic of sex education has long been a subject of debate, and Malaysia came close to implementing it in 2006 after the Cabinet gave the nod. But, it appears to have fallen by the wayside.

Sex education does not mean we are giving the youngsters a license to have sex. It is to arm them with proper knowledge and to teach them to practise healthy sexual behaviour, and to be responsible for their own actions. Children today are exposed to so many things they think is sex education, but it's not. Pornography, for example, is a very perverted form of sex.

More focus should be placed on preventive measures instead of kneejerk reactions to cases like abandoned babies. Too much funds have been allocated to fix problems instead of adressing them at the source. We shouldn't let our kids reach the stage where they have to seek abortions. We should prevent that from happening. And, we teach them abstinence but also arm them with knowledge about safe sex.

A World Health Organisation study on 19 countries that have a system of sex education in place showed that sex education did not hasten sexual activities. On the contrary, it delayed sexual activities and led to safer sex.

Sex Education: The Story So Far

>> January 1991: The National Union of Teaching Profession disagreed with a suggestion to allow films and videotapes depicting sexual scenes to be used for educational purposes.

>> September 1992: The Cabinet Committee on AIDS proposed that sex education, with emphasis on AIDS preventation, be taught to Form Two pupils.

>> October 1992: The Education Ministry decided not to use the term "sex education" for the subject on sex as it can be misconstrued by the public. It woild be known as "family health education" and taught to only secondary school students.

>> December 1994: Sex education would be introduced as a subject called "family life education" for students from Forms Two to Five beginning the 1995/96 school term, said Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn.

>> September 1998: The proposal to include sex education in schools has been perceived negatively by some parents and groups in the society, said the Federation of Family Associations.

>> April 2000: Sex education was taught in Penang under a pilot project involving Form 3 students in 15 schools.

>> December 2003: Teachers would be given guidelines on how to approach subjets on sexuality early next year, said the National Unity and Social Development Ministry.

>> December 2006: The Cabinet gave the green light to introduce sex education into the school syllabus at all levels, said the Ministry of Education.

>> December 2006: A sum of RM20 million had been allocated to provide training, campaigns and promotional materials for sex education, said Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

>> March 2007: A plan to expand the scope of the sex education programme beyond students was holding back the roll-out of the guidelines.

>> May 2008: Sex education and the danger of HIV and AIDS would be introduced under the National Service training programme starting October, said Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen.

>> November 2008: Sex education was unlikely to be introduced in the National Service training, said NS Training Council chairman Datuk Dr Tiki Lafe, as feedback from various quarters had not been received.

Mansid @ I am Malaysian Blogger

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

A New Chancellor Joins UKM's Journey
By: Sharifah Hapsah Shahabudin, Vice Chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

On July 21 2009, Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir, the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan, was proclaimed the new chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, in the historic Dewan Tun Abdul Razak (DeCTAR), named after its first chancellor.

In a ceremony steeped in UKM tradition, the higher education minister announced the appointment by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Section 8 of the University and University Colleges Act 1971 and the UKM constitution, in front of more than 3,000 academics, students, staff, alumni and guests.

Tuanku Muhriz succeeds his late uncle, Tuanku Jaafar Tuanku Abdul Rahman, who was chancellor for 32 years, and Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who was chancellor from 1970 until his untimely death in 1975.

Chansellor are usually appointed from among dignitaries such as royalty, or other persons of eminence. Although largely titular and non-resident, several sections of the UUCA do invest power in the chancellor.

The chancellor appoints one or more pro-chancellors upon the advice of the higher education minister and he may delegate his duties to any of them.

He determines the date and frequency of convocation, and presides over those that he attends. He awards degrees, diplomas, certificates and other academic recognition. He can also withdraw the awards from those found guilty of scandalous acts, although this has never happened.

In the appointment of a royal professor, the chancellor consults with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who may bestow the honour on not more than three very eminent persons at a time.

The chancellor approves the university seal or any amendment to it. More importantly, on the advice of the governing board, the chancellor has the power to approve, amend or repeal any statute of the university (though the written approval of the University Senate is required for statutes on academic matters).

Generally, in Malaysia as in most Commonwealth nations, the chancellor is largely ceremonial, with day-to-day operations typically handled by a vice chancellor and the governing body headed by a chairman.

In other countries, vice chancellors are known as presidents or rectors or both.

The title “chancellor”, too, assumes different meanings in different countries, and even among different universities in the same country. The tradition has evolved in unique ways from its medieval origins, through the Renaissance and post World War 2 period, even among countries in the Commonwealth.

In Australia, besides having ceremonial duties, chancellors are also chairmen of universities’ governing bodies. They are frequently drawn from the senior ranks of business or the judiciary.

In some universities, a visitor, who is senior to the chancellor and is generally the state governor, or the bishop for Catholic universities, is appointed. The function is mainly ceremonial.

In the state universities of India, the governor of that particular state is the administrator and the president of the country is normally the chancellor, whose function is largely ceremonial.

In the Republic of Ireland, it’s more complicated. Two of four chancellors are figurehead leaders, while the other two (Dublin City University and University of Limerick) are also the chairmen of the universities’ governing authorities.

In the United States, the heads of universities are typically called either “president” or “chancellor”, depending on the preference and statutes of the university. Where there is a state university system, the chancellor serves as a system-wide chief, with presidents governing individual campuses, although in some state systems the two titles are reversed.

This is seen in the University of the Philippines system, where the head of its autonomous universities is the chancellor and the head of the university system is designated the president. Vestiges of the figurehead British “chancellor” are seen in College of William and Mary, but the executive there is called “president”, not “vice chancellor”.

Tuanku Muhriz joins this diverse and interesting world of chancellors at a very challenging phase of UKM’s history. The first chancellor kept us firmly on the path of a national university that arose from the aspirations of the Malay rulers since 1903, and the struggles of the rakyat since the 1920s, for a university that enshrines Malay as the language of knowledge.

UKM has stayed true to this mission and has built a corpus of knowledge that attracts scholars from all over the world.

The second chancellor inspired us to build a strong foundation from which to leap forward to new levels of academic excellence. Student enrolment, staff recruitment, and the establishment of faculties and research institutes, grew by leaps and bounds. The “kebangsaan” spirit continued to glow, kindled by the challenges of globalization and the necessity for internationalisation.

Now, on the threshold of its 40th year - 2010 - the third chancellor will preside over UKM’s transformation into a research university comparable with the leading universities in the world by 2018.

As key partners in contributing knowledge and innovation as drivers of national growth and competitiveness, we are cultivating not only an intellectual and academic environment but spawning a culture of enterprise, emanating from our scientific discoveries and innovations, thereby linking research with industry and other stakeholders, teaching and the world of work.

UKM has entered an exciting phase of its development where change is anticipated beyond every bend. In this spirit we welcome the new chancellor.

Source: New Straits Times, August 18, 2009
Related link: Plagiarism in Universiti Putra Malaysia

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