COMMENCEMENT SPEECH BY YAB TUN DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD, PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA AT THE CONVOCATION CEREMONY OF ASIA SCHOOL OF BUSINESS CLASS OF 2019
14 APRIL 2019 (SUNDAY), 3.00PM AT THE GRAND BALLROOM MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL, KUALA LUMPUR
1. It is indeed a pleasure to be here and be part of this celebration on the occasion of the graduation of the second MBA class of the Asia School of Business (ASB).
2. It has to be an exciting day as it also marks another milestone in your life. I am sure it is also a day full of anticipation, expectation, hopes and dreams as graduating means that you are now more equipped to face the world compared with when you first started you studies here.
3. While the scroll alone may not guarantee you success, it will, as you step up to face the new levels ahead, provide the confidence to take on challenges that life has in store for you.
4. What is useful is that you as students have built these skills in a multi-cultural and multi-national environment. Students at ASB would have been enriched by learning the customs and practices of others, with the mandate to address challenges and solve problems confronted by businesses.
5. The best investment that can be made is the investment in education. Education raises the potential of the individual to through value added, which, in turn raises the potential of businesses and economies to perform well.
6. As a nation, no investment will pay as high a dividend as the investment in education. Education plays a defining role for all of us – from the earliest childhood years, through elementary school, through high school, then on to college and post-graduate education for some, and then to life-long learning for working adults. At every stage of life and in every strand of life, education can make us better off – as individuals, in organisations, and as a nation.
7. Education is an essential foundation for the nation’s betterment, and it paves the way for progress. Education is a very powerful and effective tool for enhancing social mobility. Driven by this conviction, We have made strengthening access to quality education as a key mission of our administration – now as well as when I was the Prime Minister earlier.
8. Congratulations to the graduates and their families. Congratulations are also in order to the faculty and staff and leadership of the Asia School of Business. And congratulations are also due to the founding partners of the school: Bank Negara Malaysia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
9. In the very short time since its establishment, Asia School of Business (ASB) has much for us to be proud of. ASB is well on its way to becoming one of the leading management schools in Asia, and is already highly regarded on the world stage as well. Strikingly, the school has been labelled as having an outstanding innovative MBA programme in the world, and that programme has attracted top students, faculty, and corporate partners from Malaysia, from the ASEAN region, and from six continents across the globe.
10. I am pleased to learn about the unique curriculum of the school, in which Action Learning brings ASB students into continuous contact with the people,challenging the opportunities of local and regional companies. Not only do the students benefit from this experience, but the companies that host student teams also directly reap the benefits of the student’s energy, education, and problem solving.
11. Reflecting Malaysia, ASB’s strength also lies in its approach to addressing how to operate in an environment of diversity. I am told that ASB teaches teams of people from diverse backgrounds how to work together and how to maximise benefits from a broad range of work and life experiences represented in those teams.
12. Alongside their academic disciplines, I was told, students learn collaboration, tolerance, respect for each other, and strength through unity.
13. I learnt that ASB calls these, SMART skills. These SMART skills are the ones that will enable individuals and organisations to leverage on human assets to their full potential – to lead teams, to manage conflicts and differences of opinion, and to build consensus and negotiate alignment for productive action. What could be more important for the future of countries such as Malaysia and other emerging economies than these SMART skills.
14. The school also complements these SMART skills with SHARP skills. The SHARP skills that you have learnt in your programme will enable you to use state-of-the-art analytical tools in finance accounting, statistics, economics, optimisation, and artificial intelligence.
15. The future will depend not only on the SMART skills for organisation and team management, but also on the ability to deploy SHARP tools to optimise the use of a nation’s assets and economic opportunities. While most schools teach versions of SMART and SHARP tools, your experience here I understand is truly unique, as the curriculum integrates the theory of these tools with practical application in companies across a range of industries and throughout the region.
16. I was trained as a medical doctor. But economists and business leaders always remind me that productivity is an essential ingredient for economic progress. Higher salaries without higher productivity is meaningless as it will only lead to higher prices of goods and services. One of the greatest challenges for Malaysian businesses today is to raise productivity across our economy. Our national standard of living and our ability to transform Malaysia fully into a developed economy status will be strongly influenced by our ability to raise our productivity rates.
17. This is where education is a critical contributing factor in developing knowledgeable and skilled talent that will raise the country’s productivity. The ASB curriculum and the ASB Action Learning projects provide the students and their host companies with the tools and practices to meaningfully impact our productivity. We must build and apply these capabilities with energy and courage.
18. As you venture forward into the workforce in any industry in any part of the work you will need to learn to work collaboratively. We can improve our collaboration within our corporations and their supply chains, as well as between our corporate and government sectors. I am told that collaboration is one of the five core values of ASB. Students are repeatedly put into teams to face challenges in their academic and applied work. You would have learnt that the best solutions often come from combining the work of many, and that learning to work together is highly rewarding as well as organisationally beneficial.
19. ASB provides Malaysia with an important approach to the education of our future generations. Malaysian individuals and organisations must continually refine their skills for the modern global economy. No one is born with these skills.
20. They come from hard work, motivated study, and the many iterations of trial and error. We have no choice but to put our shoulders to the grindstone and master these skills and therefore our destiny as a nation. Critically, our educational institutions must keep up with these best practices to provide the people of Malaysia with the best possible educational models and opportunities. We can do this and we will do this.
21. Finally, while knowledge is powerful, without the right values, it will become futile. And at times, even destructive. An educated person is not just one who is intelligent, but one who has the ability to differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil.
22. There are so many instances where so much destructions have been committed by very smart individuals. The pursuit of knowledge should be a life-long endeavour, and more importantly it should be complemented with the right values and character. Work humbly and generously. Be open to new ideas as well as to the possibility of being wrong.
23. Be guided by a right moral values compass and while continuing to pursue learning, we also need to learn how to be a better human being. If we truly aspire to see societies progress and prosper, it is incumbent that each of us to use the skills and knowledge we have acquired not just for personal gains, but to collectively contribute to the betterment of society.
24. Once again, let us congratulate these graduating students, along with their families, the ASB faculty and staff, Bank Negara and MIT, for their successes to date and for the even greater successes yet to come.
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