KUALA LUMPUR: An apparent mistranslation of “brain drain” as “longkang otak” momentarily sidetracked a minister’s parliamentary reply during Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat.

Oscar Ling (PH-Sibu) had used the term in his question, in what appeared to be a literal translation from English to Bahasa Malaysia.

“Before I respond to the question, I would like to correct the term used by Sibu in his question,” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Federal Territories) Dr Zaliha Mustafa said on Wednesday (July 3).

“That is a literal translation. The term used by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka is ‘hijrah cendekiawan’ (migration of scholars or intellectuals) although ‘penghijrahan bakat’ (talent migration) is also used, (but) that term is not entirely accurate,” she added.

Ling later acknowledged this in a supplementary question, saying “longkang otak” was a colloquialism.

He had earlier asked about efforts to address the brain drain involving private higher education options for scholarships under the Public Service Department’s (PSD) Program Khas Lepasan Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia Dalam Negara (LSPM), and raising the quality of education in government institutes to match that of private entities.

Dr Zaliha said private higher education institutions (HEIs) must have a competitive Setara rating under the Higher Education Ministry and be placed in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Ranking 2024 to be included under LSPM.

She said the number of private HEIs under LSPM 2024 has not been reduced, contrary to some claims.

She said PSD had sponsored 788 students under the LSPM programme in the last three years: 330 in 2021, 267 in 2022, and 191 last year.

On public-to-private quality comparisons, she said five public HEIs were highly placed in the QS rankings, namely Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

To a supplementary question by Roslan Hashim (PN-Kulim Bandar Baharu) on what is being done to attract talent that had left the country to return to Malaysia, Dr Zaliha said the brain drain must be curbed.

She noted that currently, there are no official figures on the migration of talent.