PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched the PERMATApintar Negara Complex at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) recently.
Also present at the ceremony were his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, who is also Permata Negara patron; Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin; and UKM vice chancellor Professor Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin.
The need to nurture the gifted was stressed by the prime minister. Specially-endowed children feel alienated in a normal classroom setting. The curriculum is not challenging to them at all.
The PERMATApintar programme is designed to satiate their needs. UKM offers a homely and stimulating environment to learn and flourish.
Robert Reich has argued persuasively in Changing Frameworks And Qualifications that the wealth of nations in the future will lie in their intellectual capacity, not supplies of raw materials or financial base. We could not agree more.
Universities have an additional role to play in meeting the specific human resource requirement of a nation in this regard.
Public expectations of tertiary institutions in this respect are high and their plaudits can also be fulfilling.
David Robertson, in Social Justice In A Learning Market, has raised the concern that "universities are trapped between self-regarding anticipation of applause (for having expanded under trying conditions) and the hiss of escaping confidence (as questions are raised about standards, employment prospects and the genuine commitment of universities to social justice)".
UKM has once again chosen an untrodden path by taking these gifted children under its wings before they get bored in a mundane classroom setting. The university has provided a space for further intellectual development of these talented children, some of whom will enter Ivy League universities when they are still in their early teens. That is certainly life-changing.
In the future, some of these prodigies may become top academics in UKM.
Some may become the Steve Jobs of Malaysia as Najib had envisaged.
Their success will be our nation's victory. We reap tomorrow what we sow today.