Dubious qualifications and fool’s gold

The original post was published in The Ant Daily which is now closed: http://www.theantdaily.com/news/2013/10/10/dubious-qualifications-and-fools-gold . In view of the recent news reports in the Chinese press about traditional medicine practitioners being conned up to RM50,000 for dubious Ph.Ds, I think it may be good to remind people about what I talked about in this article. … (commentary: Feb 23, 2017)

In response to a federal minister trying to defend his dubious qualifications, one of us wrote this piece for theantdaily.com.

Last updated on 10/10/2013 – 12:34

Posted on 10/10/2013 – 12:31

Chow Yong Neng

COMMENT: The recent debate in Parliament on the issue of cabinet ministers having dubious degrees and the inapt defence provided to sweep this under the carpet provided lots of amusement for the masses. In this week’s The Heat, the story of dubious qualifications has been well covered. However, at issue is a few facts that could perhaps put paid to the defence provided by those who have purchased such qualifications.

Fake or genuine

I agree fully with the Minister of Human Resources Datuk Richard Riot Jaem’s contention that the qualifications he had presented were not fake. Indeed these are 100% genuine, with one big caveat; the qualifications were issued by degree mills. There is no academic standing whatsoever in these pieces of paper that the good Datuk holds. Let us call these papers by their proper collective name: dubious qualifications.

Recognised and accredited

A check with Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam’s (JPA) website revealed that neither Preston University (USA) nor Chartered Institute of Business Administration (Ireland) was listed. Similarly, Preston University was not listed in the website of USA’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Thus the minister’s dubious qualifications are not only unrecognised but also unaccredited. CHEA also provided links to several US state governments’ websites which specifically warned that anyone using dubious qualifications will be deemed to have committed a felony.

Funny as it may seem, I personally have seen a JPA letter of recognition issued for another famous degree mill, Irish International University, on the latter’s website (which has since disappeared from cyberspace). Thus JPA’s letter of recognition is not a good yardstick in telling if a qualification is of the dubious kind. One should check with JPA’s website for confirmation.

With the minister having access to the civil service machinery during his many years of service, especially his stint as a deputy minister, he could have asked his officers to check with JPA on his qualifications, since he had “worked very hard for it”. As a six-term Member of Parliament he would have been involved or at least seen the papers tabled for the amendments to Acta 555 a few years back. Acta 555 governs the operations of private institutions of higher learning (PHEI). Part of the amendments was to deal with degree mills. Thus it can be assumed that the minister comprehends fully the penalties and so on for PHEIs to offer and/or conduct academic programmes without proper approvals and the measures taken to deal with degree mills. If my memory serves me correctly, the commercial outfit that was part of the Preston University (USA) degree mill scam was located in Puchong, Selangor. I think that a learned person like the minister would have no trouble differentiating the “real McCoy” for a college from a degree mill which this outfit in Puchong was. Thus there were ample opportunities for the good minister to “discover” that what he “worked very hard for” was worthless. If he then had taken the path of burying these qualifications, since he was already so good as to represent the country over 50 times to give speeches in English, none of us would have been wiser and the issue would not have arisen.

Integrity & country’s reputation

The common copper ore, copper pyrites resembles gold and is called fool’s gold. If one tries to pass off copper pyrites as gold, he would have been branded as a cheat. In the same context, dubious qualifications are the same as copper pyrites. There is still no law in the country to stop anyone from buying a dubious qualification for self-satisfaction, frame it and hang it on his wall as suggested in Parliament by another minister. However, if you are getting jobs, highly paid corporate appointments or cabinet posts using dubious qualifications, it is the same as selling fool’s gold as real gold.

There is a Chinese saying, “real gold will withstand the fire from the stove”. Thus the fool’s gold presented in this case is melting easily and now burning its holder’s fingers.

Dr Chow Yong Neng has served the education and training industry for 21 years. He takes particular interest in discovering and collecting stories about dubious qualifications and their holders.

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