Archive for the ‘General Topics’ Category

Alternative entry points for doctoral degrees

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019
Datuk Dr Rahmah Mohamed. Pix by NSTP/Ahmad Irham Mohd Noor

WORKING adults and undergraduates can soon look forward to alternative pathways to a PhD qualification.

The Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) is in the midst of carrying out an implementation study of the next phase of the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) programme where work experience could be translated into a masters or doctoral degree, or speed up the process of getting a PhD.

Defined as a systematic process involving identification, documentation and assessment of prior experiential learning, the programme thus far has created access to certificate, diploma, bachelor’s degree and masters degree study programmes to individuals with working experience but lack or are without proper academic qualifications.

MQA chief executive officer Datuk Dr Rahmah Mohamed said the agency is targeting to introduce APEL T-8 and APEL Q next year that would give access to PhD level qualifications.

“MQA is currently conducting further study on the plan to implement APEL T-8 for the purpose of entry to Doctoral Degree level in Malaysia. This study involves observation on policies, methodologies, and assessment instruments used by foreign Higher Education Institutions (HEIs),” she said. She added APEL T-8 is an extension of APEL A, which provides higher education opportunities based on a person’s working experience.

At the moment, the general policy on APEL T-8 is that candidates must be Malaysian citizen; aged at least 35 years old; possess a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent in the related field; have five years working experience in the related field; and pass APEL T-8 assessment.

“The study on APEL T-8 is expected to complete in the year 2020 and the implementation will be due after the development of the assessment instruments,” said Rahmah.

She said MQA has also begun to develop policies on the implementation of APEL Q and the assessment instruments this year. APEL Q awards masters and doctoral level academic qualifications without requiring class attendance.

“The policy development process is expected to complete this year, while the development of the assessment instruments in 2020. The implementation of APEL Q will be due after both tasks have been completed,” she said.

Already in place is improvement of current policy that enables direct entry from bachelor’s degree to doctoral degree following compliance to a set of requirements.

These include students must have a first class bachelor’s degree or equivalent; or obtain CGPA of at least 3.67 or equivalent from TVET or academic programmes. They will have to undergo rigorous internal assessment by the respective higher education institution; and obtain senate’s approval and accepted for doctoral candidacy.

“For this to happen, there should be a mentor-mentee relationship between the student and his lecturer/ supervisor/ tutor at the bachelor’s degree level that would be able to identify and guide the student to the next level onwards,” said Rahmah.

She said the purpose of the various initiatives is to ensure there is a growth in the number of postgraduate degree holders, in line with the country’s aspiration of becoming a high income nation.

“The rise in number of postgraduate degree holders would be reflective of this aspiration. Malaysia need the human resources of this level to push the agenda. While this would push them in their careers, it would also add value to employers,” she added.

She was speaking at the sidelines of the inaugural Flexible Education Seminar (FlexEd) 2019, which was co-organised by the Malaysia Higher Education Department and MQA.

Themed “Imagineering the 21st Century Learning”, the seminar is aimed to provide exposure to all stakeholders on delivery methods available in flexible education, and to provide opportunity for higher learning institutions (HLIs) to share experiences in implementing flexible education.

The two-day event was divided into three sub-themes: Recognition of Prior Learning; Industry Revolution 4.0-Infused Academic Programmes; and Industry Infused Academic Programmes.

Rahmah said APEL is seen as a key avenue in providing flexible education.

At the seminar she also shared that MQA this year has introduced a new client charter where the accreditation process for new programmes proposed by education institutions be shortened so that they can be introduced in a speedy manner.

By Rozana Sani.

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Youth’ now defined as those between 15 and 30

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019
Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said the reason for the amendment was to reduce the generation gap, accelerate youth maturity, and reduce risk behaviour in youth groups. (NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD)

KUALA LUMPUR: An amendment to the Youth Societies and Youth Development Act (Amendment) 2019 (Act 668) was passed by the Dewan Rakyat today after almost five hours of debate by 17 members of parliament.

The amendment was tabled by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman this morning.

It changed the definition of “youth” by lowering the age from 40 to 30, and for it to be spelt out in the Malaysian Youth Policy.

Previously, “youth” was defined as a person between the ages of 15 and 40.

Syed Saddiq said the reason for the amendment was to reduce the generation gap, accelerate youth maturity, and reduce risk behaviour in youth groups.

In addition, the age of youth society office bearers would also be reduced to a maximum of 30, and they must also be under the age of 30 when appointed.

“At the moment, youth organisations are seen as being idle and are not able to serve as an important medium in communicating with the youth.

“This is due to two factors. Firstly is the failure to adapt the changing lifestyle and mindset of the youths.

“The second is the lack of future leaders to replace existing ones,” he said.

Earlier, Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah (BN-Lenggong) had suggested that the age limit be increased to 35 due to concerns that those below the age of 30 were not fully mature yet.

“Also, why was this not discussed further with the Malaysian Youth Council (MBM)?,” he asked.

In a statement today, MBM, along with eight other youth groups, expressed shock and disappointment over the amendment, saying that the move was not practical for the development of youths.

By Arfa YunusEsther Landau

Kundasang set to be net exporter of high-value vegetables.

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

KUNDASANG: The hilly Kundasang district is set to be transformed into a net exporter of high-value vegetables.

The popular tourist destination is also known for local produce like cabbages and strawberries, which grow well in cooler climates.

Kundasang is about 90 minutes’ drive away from Kota Kinabalu.

Sabah Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Junz Wong said his ministry, together with the farmers and other relevant agencies, would work out a plan to achieve the goal.

The dialogue was jointly organised by the Kundasang community development leader’s unit headed by Siriman Basir and Sabah Agriculture Department.

“We also discussed about rebranding Kundasang products as being healthy, green, organic and good quality vegetables,” Wong added.

“My ministry will implement several initiatives to promote and encourage farmers to go green and organic.

“One of these initiatives is through hydroponic or aquaponic systems which are green, sustainable, tasty and healthy,” Wong added.

By Kristy Inus
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Our museums should open till 9pm

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Complaints by tourists that nightlife attractions are rather limited or unknown especially in the state capital can be encouraged to develop new tourism products like visit to the Sabah Museum if it were to open until 9pm on certain days of the week.
Two examples are the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum which opens until 8 pm and 10 pm respectively even in winter Friday which daily draws thousands of tourists, and they are free admission museums, unlike the Sabah Museum.
Sabah Museum has a traditional native houses of Sabah attraction within its compound where staff or volunteers can dress up in their native attires to greet visitors to attract them to buy and try Sabah food cuisine or handicraft items like the sompoton music instrument with musician teacher to show tourists how to play it, whether or not they buy one.
A mock ‘tamu’ can be staged to earn extra income.

An example is the Kew Palace in Kew Gardens in Richmond, London closes at 8 pm in summer where staff are dressed up in their period costumes to interact with local and foreign tourists of a nostalgia lifestyle in the bygone days as the King’s servants etc. Kew Gardens charges admission fees, and daily thousands visit its attractions. Sabah Museum staff should be the ones to wear traditional attires every working day.
Such new tourism product development prong in Sabah needs enlightened and inspiring political leadership to encourage civil servants used to take for granted office hours routines and renumeration perks, to do their utmost in the interests of the state.
It takes time to popularise Sabah Museum as a tourism product in the evenings, but it is worthwhile to try whether or not admission fee is levied.
The private sector cannot be expected altruistically to run museum attractions ever since a Kopi Tiam Museum popular with tourists viewing its old black and white photographs and items that adorned walls and displays, closed down along Australia Place without any government support a few years ago. Visitors were not compelled to spend on food and beverages served as in the bygone North Borneo era.
Another inspiring example is the National Museum of Singapore where it is an asset to attract tourists that can inspire our Sabah Museum to live up to its fullest potential.
As the museum Director Anglita Teo puts it: “I am a strong believer that history provides us with important lessons about today.
“For example, our current exhibition ‘Packaging Matters’ is all about old packaging, of which the museum has a collection.

“It is tailored for a young audience, so families can talk about the pressing issue of recycling today, but we are using history as the entry point to facilitate such conversations.
“Enabling this sort of dialogue means being a part of the community we are surrounded by,” Teo said.
According to her, many encyclopaedic museums around the world are still popular, but they have legacy issues – controversies around how their collections were acquired and where their financial support comes from. But what has really gotten her excited is the rising prominence of city museums globally, like the Museum of London.
So likewise, so can Sabah Museum achieves much more, besides the pressing need for a city museum that a previous mayor lost the tussle of getting the old post office to be one to a rotated chief minister who wanted the historical building to be used as a tourism office, a wastage of tourism opportunity cost as it was a centre that hardly opens after government working hours.
Teo explains: “Museums are as much about the community as they are about their collection.
“As Singapore is a city state, the National Museum of Singapore has to be both a national museum and a people’s museum.
“Singaporeans need to have a sense of ownership and feel like it makes a difference to their lives.
She reveals that the museum is working with Singapore hospitals to bring dementia patients to her museum to interact with the collection and start conversations, besides working with various special-needs schools.
“We have ‘Quiet Mornings’ period, so that people with additional needs or wheelchairs can come in a bit earlier, when it is not so crowded. “We are a civic space now as well as a museum – that’s what I mean by making a difference,” Teo enthuses.
When the Sabah State Library had an outlet at the Suria Sabah Mall, a number of tourists also visited to look at materials there to pass quality time in the rainy quiet evenings, reading displays, tourism subject matters and to acquire an understanding of the local public facility open to visitors and to acquaint with quality book reading people and library members there.

By: David Thien.

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PM had to act fast to pick Latheefa

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019
The appointment of Latheefa Koya as the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Malaysians became aware of the implications of the prime minister’s action in exercising his prerogative. – FILE PIC

WITHIN days of the appointment of Latheefa Koya as the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Malaysians became aware of the implications of the prime minister’s action in exercising his prerogative.

It is clear that the law vests the authority for the appointment in the prime minister.

However, questions are being raised about whether the prime minister can act unilaterally in appointing the MACC chief commissioner.

Does anyone recall any fuss when the previous chief was appointed?

Ideally, the prime minister could have invited his Pakatan Harapan leaders to a meeting, informed them that the post of the MACC chief was falling vacant and he was considering a well-known lawyer for the post.

After that, he could have informed the cabinet of the same issue.

Then, as convention requires, the prime minister could have notified a parliamentary select committee of the candidate being nominated.

The committee would have deliberated on the matter and would have either endorsed the candidate, rejected the recommendation or proposed someone else, which, strictly speaking, is not its business.

These processes would have taken time, gone through twists and turns, and would have been leaked, which would have led senior levels of bureaucracy to rebel against an outsider and a politician taking a senior Jusa (Jawatan Utama Sektor Awam) post.

Cybertroopers would have done a splendid job in not only derailing the appointment, but also discrediting MACC.

Convention determines that the prime minister is someone who commands the confidence of the majority of the members of parliament.

Surely the prime minister is invested with discretionary powers in the appointment of the MACC chief, in particular.

I feel the prime minister’s post does not enjoy the luxury of politeness and patience demanded by naysayers and nitpickers.

If he had not acted quickly, there would have been a leadership vacuum in a key position.


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Fearless and unconventional

Friday, June 7th, 2019

THE shockwaves over the appointment of former PKR politician Latheefa Koya (pic) as the new head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) have yet to subside. It was a thunderbolt that nobody, not even Cabinet members, saw coming.

Her friends in the civil rights movement have lauded the move as one that will “send shivers down the spines of crooks” but the opinion out there has ranged largely from scepticism to disbelief.

When news of her appointment broke on the eve of Hari Raya, some thought it was fake news.

Farhash Waja Salvador, her PKR friend and Perak PKR chairman, was one of those who thought it was a hoax and had called a friend in the Prime Minister’s Office for confirmation.

But many are still trying to figure out why and how she was picked for the job.

Even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who declared that it was solely his decision, seemed to struggle to explain the choice apart from saying that she has “the right qualities”.

He did not elaborate but those who know her could guess what the Prime Minister meant.

“She’s the kind of person who cannot be bought. You won’t get anyone else like her. She is fearless and fierce, so much so she sometimes frightens me,” said policy analyst Yin Shao Loong who got to know her during the reformasi protests.

She has championed a dizzying string of issues from defending the homeless and those arrested for their political activities to taking the MACC to court several years ago – now that is fearless for you.

“It’s one of the toughest jobs in the country and also a dangerous one because you have to go after powerful people. But she has the credentials to go after the corrupt and she is committed to justice,” said Yin.

Latheefa’s daring in calling out those in power has won her many admirers but her detractors see her as a loose cannon.

But why so much furore over her appointment?

At one level, the apprehension about Latheefa has to do with her lack of administrative experience and doubts about whether she will be able to handle a body as complex and entrenched as the MACC.

It is like someone who is used to a swimming pool now having to swim in the open sea.

They are concerned that she may end up like Attorney General Tommy Thomas, but at least she speaks Bahasa Malaysia.

At another level are concerns that this is a political appointment which goes against Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto.

“It’s really awkward, all that haste and secrecy. That’s why you don’t see much reaction from Pakatan leaders,” said Unisel vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Redzuan Othman.

Latheefa’s past involvement in PKR politics also raises concerns about her independence.

She was closely associated with what the PKR crowd called the “Azmin cartel” during the PKR election. She was very critical of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for their involvement in the polls and had launched broadsides against them.

“I’ve nothing personal against Latheefa. She is a competent lawyer but she was in a camp against our president and that worries me,” said Farhash.

There is little doubt she will be firing on all cylinders against Barisan Nasional wrong-doers but can she be professional if there is a report against, say, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali?

Politicians have been among the biggest crooks in the country and PAS vice-president Datuk Iskandar Samad put it in a nutshell when he said that an agency that will be investigating politicians should not be led by a politician.

Conspiracy theories have also been swirling. The fact that outgoing MACC chief Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull is exiting a year before his contract ends has added to the conspiracy stories.

Mohd Shukri had told Bernama chairman Datuk Seri Azman Ujang when they met at a buka puasa event that he had told the Prime Minister from day one that he would stay for only a year.

He had initially refused to take the job, pleading that he was 58 and ripe for retirement but age is not the best of excuses to use with Dr Mahathir who refused to take no for an answer.

But no matter what Shukri may say, people out there imagine he was pressured to go.

Latheefa’s stormy ties with Anwar have naturally led to speculation that she is there to make things difficult for the prime minister-in-waiting.

There has been a deafening silence from Anwar as well as his Deputy Prime Minister wife and that speaks volumes.

Anwar’s social media has been full of everything but anything to do with Latheefa.

Anwar, who had just returned from the umrah when it happened, appears to have reined in his party from criticising the appointment.

He does not want debate over the appointment to affect his ties with Dr Mahathir. He had also been kept in the dark even though he had met the Prime Minister shortly before leaving for Mecca.

It is the Prime Minister’s prerogative and besides, it is a fait accompli and nothing that anyone says is going to undo it.

Latheefa is not a conventional woman and her combative political style was unusual even by the standards of PKR politics.

She is used to doing the shooting but the last few days has found her at the receiving end of criticism and attacks.

By Joceline Tan

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Study: Malaysia is the slowest marathon nation.

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has the slowest marathon runners worldwide, according to a study.

The State of Running 2019 study carried out by athletic shoe review site Run Repeat and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), analysed some 107.9 million race results from over 70,000 events.

The results include participants from 209 countries participating in running events between 1986 and 2018.

In the study, Malaysia was placed ‘the slowest in half marathons (HM, 21km) and (full) marathons (FM, 42.195km).

The top performer for HM is Russia with an average timing of 1 hour, 45 minutes, and 11 seconds, followed by Belgium (01:48:01) and Luxembourg (01:50:20), while Spain is the top performing country for FM with the timing of 3 hours, 53 minutes and 59 seconds, followed by Switzerland (03:55:12) and Portugal (03:59:31).

In the study for slowest nations in HM, Malaysia is joined by Thailand (02:24:56) and Vietnam (02:30:20), while Vietnam (05:19:34) and the Philippines (05:25:35) are amongst the slowest nations in the FM category.

However, the study noted that its dataset covers “96% of the United States race results, 91% of the race results from the European Union, Canada, and Australia and a smaller sample from Asian, Africa, and South America.”

The Star decided to compare the results of top Malaysian runners for both FM and HM categories in two events: The Penang Bridge International Marathon 2018 and Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2018.

In the PBIM 2018, the top male Malaysian in the FM category is Nik Fakaruddin Ismail, who clocked in at 02:45:54, while the HM category top male Malaysian is S. Poovansanthan, who finished at 01:16:46.

The results can be viewed here

For the SCKLM 2018, the top male Malaysian in the FM category is Muhaizar Mohamad (02:37:03), while the top Malaysian man in the HM category is Anas Rosli (01:14:58), with the results viewable here

A typical FM held in Malaysia has a qualifying time of between seven hours and eight hours, while the qualifying time for a HM is usually between three hours, 30 minutes and four hours.

For example, The Penang Bridge International Marathon stated in its website that the qualifying time for its FM and HM categories are seven hours and three hours and 30 minutes respectively, while the Standard Chartered KL Marathon, the qualifying times are seven hours and 15 minutes, and three hours and 30 minutes for FM and HM categories respectively.

The PBIM 2019 will be held on Nov 24, at the Queensbay Mall outdoor carpark in Bayan Lepas, Penang, while SCKLM 2019 will be held on Sept 29 at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur.

Based on the results, the study came out with several conclusions, including:

>> 10km runs are popular in Asia, Africa and South America, while 5km runs and HM are popular in US and EU respectively.

>> For the first time in history, there are more female than male runners.

>> Male runners have never been slower.

>> Racing in non-English speaking countries is on the rise.

>> Motives for running are potentially changing.

By Bernard Cheah
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Agriculture — Daim’s new love!

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019
Tun Daim Zainuddin (left) sharing his views and thoughts on agriculture — a goldmine waiting to be fully developed.

IN all my years as a journalist, I never had an opportunity to interview Tun Daim Zainuddin exclusively. Never had that one on one with the man widely regarded as one of the country’s movers and shakers.

Daim as finance minister was not much of a talker (at interviews that is). But he would entertain questions at scheduled press conferences. He would choose and pick his occasions, including conferences and seminars.

But when Daim speaks, people listen. That’s for sure.

I’m sure many people can easily recall the interview he gave to a Chinese newspaper two general elections ago. In that interview, Daim predicted that the Barisan Nasional would lose five states in the national polls. And he was proven correct!

But as luck would have it, I was presented with the opportunity for a one on one with him last week. I’ve covered Daim as a journalist before. He never failed to present himself as a serious person devoted to his own business, and later when he joined the government, as a financial guardian, planner and executioner of national fiscal and economic policies.

In the past one year or so, Daim has been in the news. That was when he was appointed as the chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons, an entity that was formed to help the newly-installed Pakatan Harapan government with socio-economic and financial matters.

Daim had said many times that he preferred to lead life as a private citizen. He was finance minister from 1984 to 1991, after which he left government service. It was then said that he had a falling-out with the then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

His critics had a field day then. To show that the falling-out (if indeed there was one) was merely empty talk, Dr Mahathir brought Daim back into the cabinet in 1998 as minister of special functions, which the latter accepted.

Don’t forget that 1997/98 was a difficult period for the country, with the financial crisis threatening to ruin us, politically and economically.

The naysayers had predicted that Malaysia would suffer and that its economy could not stand such pressure.

On the contrary, the country did very well actually, despite the financial crisis causing an overhang over the nation.

As minister with special functions, Daim set up the National Economic Action Council (NEAC), which tracked the economy daily.

Daim’s approach was simple — identify the issues quickly and take immediate remedial actions.

You can say that the NEAC was a template, which was tried, tested and proven to be useful. Perhaps, it was a precursor to the Council of Eminent Persons, which Daim also chaired.

If you really had wanted to remain a private person, why come back to serve the government, I asked. His reply: “The prime minister called me to help him. How can I refuse?”

A straight-forward simple answer that speaks volumes of the former MP for Merbok’s relationship with his former boss.

I had heard stories about Daim’s latest love, which prompted me to seek the interview. I had seen a few postings on social media of Daim’s visit to several places in the country, and none were related to finance or industrial.

They were visits to agricultural projects, run, managed and owned by individuals. Daim and agriculture?

He said: “Why not? If you take the trouble to go round the country, you will feel excited about agriculture. I’ve met new individuals who believe strongly in their efforts, who are passionate about their projects.

“I met a man by the name of Zul, who plants pineapple in Changlun in Kedah. Pineapple in Kedah? Most people think of Johor when pineapple is mentioned.

“I met another person by the name of Marzuki who operates a small but very successful fig farm just outside Kuala Lumpur. In Kajang to be exact.

“And then, there’s a Dr Yusof whose orchid farm in Dengkil is doing very well. These are the individuals who are making a name for themselves in the agriculture sector. I’ve also visited farms outside the country, too.”

I’ll be writing about these individuals, considering they had managed to trigger such big interest from Daim. Would you be helping the government in pushing for agriculture expansion then, I asked.

He said agriculture has such a big potential. It would be terribly wrong if we don’t give agriculture a big push.

Thailand has made such big strides in agriculture, as has Vietnam, he said.

The people who are tasked with developing agriculture need all the support they can get. But they must also be proactive in their research, especially in new technologies that can change our agricultural landscape.

“Do you know somewhere in the world, some farmers are experimenting with growing padi in the sea? I’m serious. If we want to reduce our over-dependence on imported foodstuff, we must be more aggressive with our agriculture,” he said. By the way, our imported food bill is in excess of RM42 billion a year!

By Ahmad A Talib.

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VIPs cook ‘royal’ bubur lambuk

Saturday, May 25th, 2019
All together now: Dr Wan Azizah (third from right) with (second from left) Yeoh and the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Dr Rose Lena Lazemi (second from right) stirring the bubur lambuk with the centre’s residents during the visit to Darul Hanan care centre in Pongsu Seribu. — Bernama

All together now: Dr Wan Azizah (third from right) with (second from left) Yeoh and the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Dr Rose Lena Lazemi (second from right) stirring the bubur lambuk with the centre’s residents during the visit to Darul Hanan care centre in Pongsu Seribu. — Bernama

KEPALA BATAS: Folk at the Darul Hanan care centre were treated to an authentic royal recipe of bubur lambuk that few have tasted.

The recipe, which comes from the Pahang palace, was used to whip up the savoury porridge for the home’s 70 residents.

It took two large pots, each containing 10kg of rice mixed with a smorgasbord of herbs and ingredients.

“There are Spanish mackerel (tenggiri), prawns, chicken and beef in it.

Jahara said Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Sultan Iskandar was scheduled to join in but could not make it following the passing of former Sultan of Pahang, Paduka Ayahanda Sultan Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mu’adzam Shah.

“We decided to go ahead and not disappoint the folk here,” Jahara said, adding that the Pahang palace supplied the recipe.

Among those who helped keep the delicious preparation stirring for over an hour yesterday was Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

She was helped by her deputy in the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman and Penang Women, Family Development and Gender Inclusiveness Committee chairman Chong Eng.

Jahara hopes more visitors will drop by the centre to spend time with its 22 male and 48 female residents.

“We have physiotherapy, spa, gym, farms and gardens here, with 28 staff members. But all the resort-like facility in this quiet place is no match for human cheers and laughter, and the old folk need more company to share stories with,” she said, adding that the RM1.1mil annual expenses of the home are supported by Penang Zakat Management Centre.

After a tour of the centre, Dr Wan Azizah said the government would look into upgrading the massage chairs and help it get lawn-mowing equipment to save the cost of hiring outsiders to do the job.

By Lo Tern Chern

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Developing skilled personnel and niche tourism areas

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019
A tourism management class at UiTM.

IN Malaysia tourism is big business.

Tourism, Arts and Culture (MoTAC) Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, in a Press conference earlier this year, stated that the tourism sector contributed RM84.1 billion to the national economy last year, up by 2.4 per cent compared to RM82.2 billion the previous year.

The country registered 25.8 million tourist arrivals, placing it among the major tourism destinations of the world.

With 2020 announced as Visit Malaysia Year, the tourism industry has again taken centre stage as a national mission and a major catalyst to ensure Malaysia remains competitive. Visit Malaysia 2020 is targeted to bring in 30 million international tourists and RM100 billion in tourist receipts to the country.

Professor Marcus Lee Stephenson, dean of the School of Hospitality at Sunway University, said tourism in Malaysia is geographically, ecologically, culturally and socially diverse.

“The tourism industry in Malaysia reflects the manifold nature of the destination. The country is appealing as it is composed of more than 1,000 islands and has a variety of marine parks, and varied landscapes — both natural and built environments.

“The destination has an incredible mix of ultra-modern places to visit and traditional places too. Therefore, culture and heritage tourism products alongside the sun, sand and sea tourism products bode well for an advancing tourism industry as an all-appealing destination,” he added.

For tourism to flourish, investments in the construction of hotels and tourism resorts and in the expansion of the events industry have also seen growth. So too educational programmes in hospitality, events and tourism management, mirroring the expansion of the tourism industry.

Professor Dr Sallehuddin Zahari, dean of the Faculty of Hotel and Tourism Management at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Puncak Alam, noted that the positive development of the tourism industry in the country not only generates employment opportunities but also promisingly and continuously expands tourism study programmes at higher education institutions.

However, there are gaps between tertiary education institutions’ output and industry needs that have yet to be bridged.


To service the tourism industry not only for next year but also in the years to come, there is a need to develop adequate skilled and professional manpower that will ensure that tourism in Malaysia stays ahead.

Various universities in the country offer tourism-related programmes.

Taylor’s University, for example, offers various levels of programmes in tourism — from diploma and bachelor’s to master’s and doctoral level. Postgraduate programmes are offered through research mode and the rest are taught courses. These programmes are centred on the core field of leisure management such as tourism, travel, recreation and events management.

The university’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Leisure Management executive dean Professor Dr A. R. Neethiahnanthan said Taylor’s flagship hospitality management programmes offer interesting complementary studies in hotel and restaurant management, convention management and integrated resort management.

“We receive healthy enrolments year on year especially from both international and local markets. The present enrolment is approximately 500 students annually and the school’s international students hail from 59 countries, turning our classroom into an international hub with excellent diversity for learning,” he added.

“The recent achievement of Taylor’s University rising to 14th place in the QS World University Rankings by Subject for Hospitality and Leisure Management has also created strong positioning and demand in the market,” he continued, adding that partnerships with over 500 top hospitality and tourism partners worldwide provide great opportunity for students to get the best possible learning experience on and off campus.

The School of Hospitality at Sunway University offers six programmes relating to three core areas: events and convention management, hotel and hospitality management, and culinary arts and management.

“As the industry evolves, the programmes place concerted emphasis on innovation, technical skills development and enhancement, and deep awareness of emerging trends from a global viewpoint, aligned with the changing and complex needs of the industry,” said Stephenson.

Sunway University students are able to experience world-class facilities which include a mock hotel suite and reception area, beverage laboratory, event studio, and cuisine, pastry and demo kitchens.

“The school has a partnership with Sunway Resort Hotel and Spa for internship opportunities and research collaborations. It has also established a close partnership with Le Cordon Bleu International, which certifies the school’s programmes and we organise regional and domestic field trips, as well as other relevant industry activities,” he said.

At Berjaya University College (BUC), its Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism takes the experiential learning approach.

BUC chief executive and vice-chancellor Emeritus Professor Walter Wong said the Berjaya Immersion Methodology ensures that exposure to real-world industry practices and professionals is prioritised as a key learning method.

“From sessions with internationally renowned guest lecturers to participating in events and tourism-related organisations, our students are awarded the privilege to learn hands-on in exclusive environments for optimum personal development in their craft.

“We send students overseas to join competitions where they learn by doing, transform the way they think and gain the confidence to display their skills in public. This experience helps them to stand out from the crowd and be competitive in a proactive way.”

The tourism management programme at UiTM’s Faculty of Hotel and Tourism Management emphasises specialised areas through its individual courses or subjects such as customer service, tour planning and design, tour guiding skills, air fares and ticketing, health and wellness tourism, heritage tourism, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions, and park and leisure management.

“In addition, some new elements such as community-based tourism, rural tourism and eco-tourism are embedded in the tourism planning course. All niche tourism areas are always given attention.”


While the manpower needs for the hospitality segment have been adequately addressed, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) feels the tour and travel management aspect is lacking as the skills needed and requirements are a bit different.

“Currently all universities and colleges provide courses with up to 80 per cent content on hospitality and the balance of 20 per cent touching on general travel. None provides the actual job skill requirement and need for the travel industry. Therefore, for the travel industry itself, it is a major challenge in getting staff,” lamented MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang.

MATTA has more than 3,600 members, representing over 70 per cent of total tour and travel agents licensed by MoTAC.

Over 80 per cent of MATTA members are inbound travel agents promoting domestic tour and tourism products attracting tourist arrivals to the country besides the outbound, ticketing and Bumiputera segment.

MATTA has been actively engaging its members to be proactive and creative by designing flexible and tailor-made holidays packages responding to changing travel trends and consumer demand.

Niche tourism segments that are gaining popularity include family travel, wedding and honeymoon, bird-watching, jungle and mountain trekking, food (including fruits), sports and cruise tourism.

“The tourism industry has created employment opportunities for some 3.2 million people, making up 22.7 per cent of the total employment in the nation. It is robust and the demand for administrative and operation workers such as in sales and marketing/reservation and operations is increasing in addition to the demand for skilled workers such as drivers and tour guides with foreign language skill,” said Tan.

“None of the higher education institutions has a specific course that caters to the travel industry. That is why graduates who enter the travel industry have to start from zero. That is also the reason why they are not keen to join the travel industry — they have to start from the bottom,” he explained.

Tan said education is critical to encourage individuals to choose the travel industry as a career.

“Education institutions must work hand in hand with tourism industry stakeholders such as MATTA to provide skilled manpower to serve the tourism industry sector and its development.

“They should concentrate on key travel industry job scopes such as marketing to promote Malaysia as a destination. Emphasise language and communication covering writing and speaking skills including multiple spoken languages, and knowledge on computer/central reservation systems such as Amadeus, Galileo and Sabre.”


For the tourism industry to progress further, higher education institutions are cognisant of the need for further collaboration with the industry to provide the manpower as well as knowledge and know-how required to grow specific niche areas in tourism.

UiTM’s Department of Tourism Management is taking initiatives to create new partnerships and strengthen existing ones with tourism industry players.

It is collaborating with organisations such as the Pacific Asia Travel Association, Malaysia Chapter, MoTAC, Asia Pacific Institute for Event Management, and Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau.

“We strongly believe that a strong relationship between the industry and institutions should always be fostered to ensure educators are maximising the benefits for both students and industry in the educational process. Failure to develop such a commonality of approach may lead to meaningless effort even though the country has wonderful tourism products,” said Salehuddin.

BUC, meanwhile, has been appointed as Cluster Leader for Events Management by the Malaysian Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Education, a national initiative formed under the government’s Economic Transformation Programme to improve the quality and quantity of tourism and hospitality professions in the country.

“Berjaya UC is committed to develop and deliver high quality tourism and events management education to serve the needs of the industry, thus improving the nation’s status as an international tourism destination,” said Wong.

BUC’s Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism has also established the Asia Pacific Centre for Events Management with the aim of providing events management research and programmes to advance the events industry in Asia Pacific.

By Rozana Sani.

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