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Journal Review and Critique

Norehan binti Khamsim

850708015314, SPM0189/15

Little A. W. (2006). Diploma Disease. In Clark, D. A. The Elgar Companion to

Development Studies. (pp. 121-125) Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Pub.

The article Diploma Disease written by Angela W. Little, a Professor Emerita at the Institute
of Education, University of London in 2006 is in response to Ronald Dores propositions on
Diploma Disease which was first introduced in 1976. Later on, Ronald Dore has written more
about Diploma Disease, revisiting his ideas, revising and reflecting on them. The discussions
in Littles article are based on more than one of Dores work. It includes his book The Diploma
Disease: Education, Qualification and Development both the first and second editions which
were published in 1976 and 1997. The articles references among else, include Dores articles
The Argument of the Diploma Disease: A Summary and Reflections on the Diploma Disease
Twenty Years Later which were published in a journal in 1997.

The article begins with a brief discussion of Dores ideas. Next, it discusses studies
carried out by different researchers to explore aspects in Dores first book. The studies are done
in the same countries where Dore did his first studies and suggested the ideas of diploma
disease. The article compares and contrasts Dores prognosis and predicted course of the
disease with the findings of the researches done decades later. The article also discusses the
revised aspects of diploma disease written by Dore himself twenty years after the original
diagnosis was proposed.

Although the article starts by discussing diploma disease, it is very brief that it does not
do justice to the original diploma disease which Dore had proposed. The readers need to have
a good understanding of the original work on diploma disease to be able to fully comprehend
the article written by Little (2006) and make the connections between the two. The article
describes diploma disease as a ritualised process of qualification-earning whose consequences
were thought to be especially deplorable in developing countries (Little, ibid, p.121). It stems
from the modern bureaucratic organisations making education certificates as screening tools in
hiring employees. Little states that one of the consequences is qualification escalation which
means that getting the same job requires higher qualification than it was before. Little also
states Dores concerns about motivation in learning whereas students learn to get a job rather
than learning for its own sake and learning to do a job. Besides that, diploma disease also
undermines the schools potentials in developing human capital while degrading the process of
education. Little also states Dores proposition that the later a country starts its development,
the more widely education certificates are used for occupational selectionthe faster the rate
of qualification inflation and the more examination-oriented schooling becomes (p.121).
References to Dores work are made by Little throughout the article as well as Dores
adjustments to his original ideas following important events in the countries involved in his
first studies.

Although Little (2006) states important key elements in diploma disease, readers need
to read the original work by Dore to be able to make sense of the article. Dore discusses each
element in depth. Dore also wrote his ideas and organised his arguments in a way that readers
will find it easy to understand and make connections with what they experience and see in the
education world. He explains the causes of each aspect in diploma disease and its
consequences, the relationship between them and how they are connected while supporting his
arguments with examples from countries he did his studies on. This is missing in the article by
Little. The article discusses important aspects of diploma disease without much discussions
that readers may find it difficult to recognise symptoms of the disease in one owns country.

In taking Malaysia as an example, several circumstances in the educational setting here

can be associated with aspects of the Diploma Disease. Malaysia in the first place shares several
characteristics of countries plagued with the disease. It is a developing country which rapid
development stage begins in 1960 to 1995 (Noorazuan & Ruslan, 2003). As suggested by
Dore, the disease are worse in developing countries because of few reasons. From these
reasons, several fits the situations in Malaysia. The stakes in diploma competition is so much
higher because of the great income difference, lack of resources needed for style of education
that thwart rote-memorisation and exam-centred practise, not much of learning-for-its-own-
sake traditions and wide cultural gap between traditional and imported modern culture (Dore,
1980). Malaysia education also practices high-stake standardised national examinations.
Although the level of bureaucracy in private sector can be flexible, the government sector is
highly bureaucratised. Malaysia can also be categorised as a classless society where everyone
has a fair chance at social mobility. Even though symptoms of the disease can also be seen in
the country, whether it is in fact diploma disease for certain, should be proven by studies done
in the country. However, a few examples of these symptoms can be identified as followed.

Studies on education inflation in Malaysia produce a range of findings depending on

the sectors and fields of work. The year the study is carried out is a variable as well. A study
carried out by Zulkifly Osman, Ishak Yussof and Abu Hassan Shaari Mohd Nor (2009) on
Education Inflation in Accordance to Malaysian Labour Market Indication suggests that there
are possibilities of education inflation in Malaysia. The findings further suggest that over-
education does not exist in Malaysian education system but qualification escalation does. This
causes occupational mismatch and unemployment among the highly-educated or what Dore
(1976) termed as educated unemployed. This conclusion is supported by findings of other
studies by Mohd Afendy Anuar and Zulkifly Osman (2012) and Raze Norsyahman (2015).

Two of the factors suggested by Raze Norsyahman (2015) that contribute to

occupational mismatch also correspond with aspects in diploma disease. One of them is
education explosion which is shown by the liberation of the education system in 1990s that
sees the establishment of many public and private universities. The high funding set annually
by the government for education without regards of the balance between demands and offers
is also a contributing factor. Interestingly, Malaysian government also solved the problem of
unemployment amongst first degree graduates due to economic crisis by funding them to
further their studies in higher levels. The other is stricter employment requirements by
employers. A study by NEAC (2001 as cited in Rahmah Ismail, Ishak Yussof & Lai Wei Sieng,
2011) the main determinant of graduates employability is communication skills while
academic achievement ranked number eight. However, as will be proven by studies on diploma
disease, the setting where a study is carried out is an important variable that affect the findings
tremendously. However, it may be that even though employers are looking at more criteria in
hiring, when more than one candidates fulfil them someone with higher academic credential
would likely have a better chance than those with lower credential. Especially when having a
first degree is common, which is the case in Malaysia.

One of Dores main concerns when he proposed diploma disease is the quality of
education; education versus schooling. In the case of Malaysia, more researches can be done
to study if, with the symptoms of diploma disease shown, the quality of school has indeed
lessen. A study by Wolf (1997; 2002 as cited in Little, 2006) shows that even though several
symptoms associated with the disease exist, little evidence suggests that the quality of school
education has decreased. Wolf did his study in England which was disease free in the 1970s
but later develop symptoms of the disease in terms of more young people and/ or their family
go for university diploma which transforms higher education sector and increases the value
attach to university qualification. However, rather than bureaucratisation of the work place,
Wolf attributes this to a rational costbenet analysis by young people and their parents and
the simple faith of politicians in the link between economic prosperity and education (p.122).

Other than the studies by Wolf in 1997 and 2002, article by Little (2006) also discusses
researches by Amano (1997) which study the case of Japan, Sri Lanka by Little (1997b) as well
as Kenya by Toyoda (1997) and Somerset (1997). Just like the case of England, these studies,
with the exception of Kenya, indicate that the disease has changed its course from what is
predicted by Dore. Little also acknowledges that Dore himself has written a set of reflections
where he reassess his original diagnosis. Little states how Dore has noted that some
governments had put a stop on qualification spirals and employers inflate criteria within the
same certificate qualification which suggest the inclination to believe in human capital. Little
also include other changes that Dore identified including how historical events affect the course
of the disease, changes within the bureaucratisation of working life as well as impacts of
qualification seeking towards learning and working. Besides that, Little also include a different
perspective towards aspects of the disease. Interestingly, concerns about the disease that
originated from developing country is now resurfacing in the policies of developed countries.

The discussions on what happen to the countries where the ideas of the disease are born
and what happen to the disease itself or aspects of it provide the readers with a fair view of the
disease. It does not blindly advocated every aspect of the disease. The article gives the readers
view of the ideas proposed by Dore and discusses the studies that explore the progress of the
disease. The article indicates that education is very dynamic as well as custom-made according
to the country and society. It does not stay the same or even follow the same course depending
on many factors. However, Dores propositions of diploma disease provide a good framework
and references to study and make ongoing improvements towards education.

Dore, R. P. (1976). The Diploma Disease: Education, Qualification and Development, London:
George Allen & Unwin.

Dore, R. P. (1980). The Diploma Disease Revisited. IDS Bulletin, 11(2), 55-61.

Little, A. W. (2006). Diploma Disease. In Clark, D. A. (Eds.), The Elgar Companion to

Development Study. (pp. 121-126). UK: Edgar Publishing.

Mohd Afendy Anuar & Zulkifly Osman. (2012). Bukti Baru Inflasi Pendidikan Hasil
Ketakpadanan Pekerjaan. Prodiding PERKEM VIII, 2(2012), 1254-1262.

Noorazuan Hashim & Ruslan Rainis. (2003). Urban Ecosystem Studies in Malaysia: A Study
of Change. Florida USA: Universal-Publishers.

Rahmah Ismail, Ishak Yussof & Lai Wei Sieng. (2011). Employers Perceptions on Graduates
in Malaysian Services Sector. International Business Management, 5(3), 183-193.

Raze Norsyahman bin Shahril. (2015). Terlebih Pendidikan dan Inflasi Pendidikan Dalam
Sektor Awam di Putrajaya. International Journal of Business, Economic and Law, 8(3),

Zulkifly Osman, Ishak Yussof & Abu Hassan Shaari Mohd Nor. (2009). Inflasi Pendidikan
Mengikut Ketentuan Dalam Pasaran Buruh Malaysia. Prosiding PERKEM IV, 2(2009),