Saturday, November 21, 2009

Indexes and Rankings

I am in the education industry. Therefore, university rankings are fairly common. Year in and year out, university rankings are being published; we should be familiar with UK’s The Guardian and The Times, and the U.S. News and World Report with their ranking statistics. These rankings serve to facilitate the college/university search process – they assist prospective students in identifying and shortlisting potential destination colleges and universities. More importantly, it lends prestige to those tertiary institutions that excelled.

Even so, there are critics who denounced these rankings by insisting that they are misleading and that they say nothing or very little about whether students are actually learning at particular colleges or universities.

Irrespective of our own position on this matter, rankings are here to stay. In fact, when I examined the latest rankings of UK universities, I cannot help but check out my university’s standing (i.e. University of Strathclyde, where I did my undergraduate study). The Guardian ranking of UK Universities 2009 put this university at position # 29. And The Times’ Good University Guide 2010 listed this same university at position # 37 among UK universities. I guess this gives me a good feeling that my university is a top-flight university.

Anyway, rankings are not just for universities. I had already reported on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which measures the perceived level of public-sector corruption in 180 countries and territories around the world. The CPI is a "survey of surveys", based on 13 different expert and business surveys, and as we all know by now, Malaysia has plummeted to position # 56 and Singapore is sitting smugly at position # 3.
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There is also the World Economic Forum’s 2009-2010 Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), where Singapore is in position # 3 (# 5 in 2008-2009) and Malaysia is in position # 24 (# 21 in 2008-2009).

And today, I came across FutureBrand’s 2009 Country Brand Index (CBI), which assesses 102 countries across 29 image attributes and seven measures of brand strength. FutureBrand has rallied around the idea that countries have the potential to become some of the world’s strongest brands, rivaling Nike, Sony and IBM. Hmm, interesting, right?

So, how did Malaysia perform? Malaysia is ranked the ninth best country brand in Asia Pacific, classifying it as a "second-tier nation in the region developing into a strong brand", and again, it was clearly behind fourth ranked Singapore. Also, Malaysia does not make the top ten country brands list in being an ‘Easiest place to do business' and ‘Ideal for business' while neighbor Singapore ranked first and second in the respective categories. Notice that I did not even refer to the world rankings – just Asia-Pacific. For everybody’s info, Singapore did not also make it to the Top 10.

From the above, we can conclude that our country has a long, long way to go before we can consider ourselves to be a top-tier country. Najib, rather than champion 1Malaysia, you should focus on getting our country to climb out of the big, deep and messy hole that we have found ourselves in. We don’t need to look far – just benchmark ourselves against tiny Singapore will do – and we will know what we must do. Sloganeering is all very well, but more than ever, we need you to act, and not just mouth words. Don’t we always hear that famously fashionable refrain, Malaysia Boleh? Let’s do it, Najib!

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