The Tempinis diaries

November 26, 2007

Malaysian Born Talent: The Brain Drain in Perspective

Filed under: malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:55 pm

We talk constantly about the brain drain from Malaysia in the abstract.  In my previous post, I mentioned Wang GungwuDanny Quah and Lai Choy Heng as examples of eminent Malaysian born academics who are based at universities abroad.   I decided to do a google search using the key words “Malaysian born” and “academic” and another search using “born in Malaysia” and “faculty” to try to have a more complete picture.  What I found was mind boggling.  An array of extremely eminent doctors, scientists, a lawyer, a performing artiste, a social scientist – all Malaysian born and all plying their trade elsewhere. 

The list includes the very prolific (he has published in Nature!), Dr. CC Liew (Chong-Chin Liew), Chief Scientist of Genenews, Dr. Hock Lim Tan, world renowned paediatric, expert in infectious disease, Dr. Lim Seng Gee,  Dr. Cheong Choong Kong, former academic and the iconic former head of SIA, acclaimed writer, Shirley Lim from the University of California at Santa Barbara,  Professor Christine Chin, a sociologist from American University, international legal expert on the law of evidence, Professor Andrew Choo from Warwick University, award winning education Professor, Dr. Swee Hin Toh of University of Alberta and performing artiste, Su Lian Tan of Middlebury College.  This list is most certainly an incomplete list of Malaysian born talent who are working as academics abroad.  Feel free to add in the comments section below if you know of any other eminent academics who are based overseas. 

My simple google search confirms that Malaysians are indeed a talented lot.  Why then are our national policies driving these talented individuals abroad?  It is also very telling that from the list above some of the Malaysian born talent who were based in Australia (Dr. Lim Seng Gee and Dr. Tan Hock Lim) have been lured back to Asia.  Yes – you guessed it – they are now based in Singapore. 


  1. It makes one feel good to see that we are a talented lot after all(especially if you’ve spent a weekend being ribbed by your Singaporean kakis). Let’s be honest with ourselves, wouldn’t you take up a better position (pay, benefits, freedom, etc) even if it means having to go abroad? Moreover, how much exposure does one expect to gain by staying put? Rather than worry about the brain drain lets see how we can harness this pool and network of talent.

    Comment by can — November 27, 2007 @ 2:19 am

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