Dr. Ahmad Mahdzan Ayob's Web site: Mahdzan.com/Mahdzan

© 1999-2003
Higher Education

May 1965 - Lincoln College
Armed with a Colombo Plan scholarship, I left for New Zealand to 'dig' for a degree in agriculture! A friend asked me if I was going all the way to New Zealand to learn how to hold a cangkul! Having grown up on the padi fields, I could not look beyond the next 'batas bendang' (padi-field bunds). Although I have been putting down 'medicine' as my choice of career for several years at the RMC, I had to change my mind when I realised that RMC did not teach me how to overcome the sight of blood (especially fast flowing). Perhaps this was one reason I didn't join the army.

New Zealand is a beautiful country, even though it is out of the way in terms of world air routes. The capital, Wellington, is known as the windy city! That was my first point of contact with NZ. From there I took another flight to Christchurch, and Lincoln College is about 20 km from the airport. From above, we could only see sheep on the Canterbury Plain. I was told that sheep outnumber people in New Zealand! Even today, the population remains small but rich, because dividing sheep by people yields a large number!

Majority of Lincoln students were Kiwis (New Zealanders), and mainly Pakehas (as the Maori people refer to the Whites.) There were very very few Maoris in the College at that time (1963), and most of them were doing diploma courses, rather than degree. As it appeared to me at the time, the Maori people were somewhat marginalized by economic development, as are most indigenous people everywhere. Many years later I came to read about the Maori people's court struggle to obtain back their ancestral land. It seems that the Waitangi Treaty signed between the Maori people and the white settlers' government confered them certain rights which they are now claiming.

That New Zealand is very advanced in agriculture is a well-known truth. The standard of living is among the highest in the world, at least during my years there. The Kiwis were trying to penetrate the Japanese market with their lamb chops, which cannot be eaten using chopsticks! The Japanese were mainly seafood eaters, and NZ had a difficult time trying to change eating habits of the Japanese. Prof. Philpott of the Economics Research Unit at Lincoln was busy studying the Japanese and EEC markets to see how export of NZ lamb can be increased. And I was trying to learn how all these fancy econometric modelling could be applied to Malaysian rubber!

In the first year we had to repeat some of the things we studied in Form Six--zoology, botany, physics, maths, and chemistry. Economics was taught from the second year at Lincoln, first as a single subject only. Then, in the fourth (final, for those with smooth sails!) year, we may major in agricultural economics, taking subjects like macro, micro, agric marketing and econometrics. I took my studies seriously at Lincoln and often 'staged hold-ups' to ask for clarification from lecturers--especially for pronunciations I couldn't understand. Kiwis and Australians have their unique accent--like, when they say 'today', 'cows' and 'mate'! And many more, surely. But they are very friendly people when you get to know them. Maybe reserved in the beginning, yes, but very warm later and for a long long time. I still write to one family in NZ -- after 35 years!

Most of my students nowadays do not like to ask questions, not in class and not at the exit door of the class. Don't know why. I wish they would ask some questions and I feel good explaining things to them. Asking question is not easy, actually. I can understand that. You have to have an inquisitive mind. It has to be developed and nurtured. Without it society cannot progress. Research is the search for answers to questions. Development is application of research findings. This is really getting philosophical! I didn't intend to make this too heavy for all and myself. So let it end here.

See also:
Ahmad Mahdzan's Primary School Days
Ahmad Mahdzan's Secondary School Days
Ahmad Mahdzan's Higher Education in New Zealand