Archive for the ‘Educational Issues’ Category

Teachers’ burden to be cut by 1/4, says Maszlee

Monday, January 14th, 2019
Five initiatives and nine interventions will be introduced under Education Mandate 2019 to reduce teachers’ burden by 25 per cent, says Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik. (NSTP/ROSELA ISMAIL)

SERDANG: Five initiatives and nine interventions will be introduced under Education Mandate 2019 to reduce teachers’ burden by 25 per cent, says Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik.

“The first initiative will ease filing and documentation, where three interventions will be applied to ease the textbook borrowing scheme, committee files, and recording of classroom assessment,” he said at Universiti Putra Malaysia, here, today.

“Secondly, the online system and data management, where all data compiling must be taken from data sources in the ministry’s system. “Student attendance will be recorded online. So, teachers will no longer need to record it manually.”

He said schools would be given autonomy to administer their own Literacy and Numeration (Linus) programme.

“The Linus programme will be done according to the school’s system and taking into account students’ needs since examinations have been abolished for Years 1, 2, and 3.

“Another initiative is to streamline the monitoring process to ensure that teachers are no longer burdened with filing forms on cleanliness, safety and rating of the school canteen.”

Maszlee said the final initiative was to streamline the formation of school committees to ensure that all non-academic related positions are abolished.


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On a mission to reduce inequalities

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019
Teaching children about hygiene in Myanmar

THERE are those who anguish and harbour the ambition to reduce the inequalities in society — income, education, health, and nutrition, for example — but not many has the grit to do something about it.

Loh Rachel, 21, a final-year psychology bachelor’s degree student at HELP university, is one of the few determined to make a difference.

Having had the privilege of attending REAL International School for her highschool education and HELP International School for A-levels, Loh has often sought ways to give back to those who have had lesser opportunities in education and in life.

“It was also a way to develop myself, finding ways to push myself out of my comfort zone,” she said.

One of the key moments that kicked off her cause was when she joined the Asean Youth Volunteer Programme, organised by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, which was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2015.

Selected from 2,000 youths Asean-wide to join a group of 50, Loh participated in a four-week intensive climate change and environmental education leadership programme that focused on project management and environmental sustainability in Krakor Village, Cambodia.

“The programme focused on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and key areas were hygiene and sanitation. Among the activities we had was to teach the particular village community in Cambodia to use hygiene products. It was my first time meeting children who didn’t even know what soap was.

It gave me the realisation that not everybody has the same opportunities or exposure.”

This led on to her involvement in various organisations. These included The International Council of Malaysian Scholars and Associates (ICMS) where she was the executive director of external outreach and publicity, spearheading marketing campaigns for over 10 student-led initiatives aimed at professional development and preparing them for the working world.

Loh is also involved in the United Nations Association of Malaysia (UNAM) Youth looking into the UN Sustainable Development Goal which is addressing inequality through health.

While focusing on volunteerism, Loh also has an interest to develop her business skills. Last year, she was named Maybank Go Ahead Challenge 2017 global champion out of 40,000 participants in the international business case competition.

From her passion in volunteerism and business, she formed an international social enterprise Rise Inc with her friends whom she met through the International Council of Malaysian Scholar and Associates.

Loh is the chief operating officer at Rice Inc which aims to tackle food insecurity and farmers poverty. They are currently running a pilot project in Myanmar which looks into ensuring farmers are not shortchanged and are able to use the existing technology provided by Rice Inc to eradicate poverty where they can.

“What Rice Inc does is to create a supply chain solution, where farmers are provided access to the rice dryers at an affordable cost and enabling them to sell rice at a higher price.

“We are partnering with International Rice Research Institute who have been conducting a lot of work in Myanmar. They are able to identify certain villagers that need this solution.

“We are currently deploying this solution which is in operations during the harvest season.

We are working on a five-year plan to expand to more villagers in Myanmar. We are also looking at farmer communities in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam to expand,” Loh said.

With all the achievements under her belt, Loh was selected as one of the two participants representing Malaysia in the Telenor Youth Forum (TYF) 2018 in Oslo, Norway.

Loh joined other accomplished young leaders from seven of Telenor’s markets across the world for the sixth installment of TYF, a six month-long global programme designed and hosted by Telenor Group and the Nobel Peace Centre. This year’s delegation is challenged to address inequalities in health through the use of digital technology.

“I am really passionate about reducing inequalities, and for me, to gain exposure to international ideas at the forum, to work with them and connect with industry experts to tackle these social issues are some of the things I am most excited about.”

Along with co-founder of social enterprise Arus Education, Felicia Yoon, 28, Loh edged out of 90 other participants and recently headed for Oslo on Dec 8-11 to work with their assigned teams. Yoon and Loh are among the 16 youths, aged 20 to 28 selected from a pool of 5,000 applicants from Bangladesh, Denmark, Malaysia, Myanmar, Norway, Pakistan, Sweden and Thailand to represent their countries at TYF.

Loh already has plans beyond her graduation early next year. The full scholarship student is aiming for a first class honours degree.

“I am exploring opportunities through Rice Inc and what the Telenor experience would bring.Iwould like to work in the corporate environment first to gain experience but ultimately I would like to positively contribute to the community in various ways,” she said.


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Ministry ready to help

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

THE Education Ministry has set up a help desk at the respective State Education Departments to assist parents who require more information pertaining to the 2019 schooling session.

The ministry in a statement, said parents could seek clarification from the help desk on issues such as the abolition of examinations for pupils in Level One (Years One to Three), textbooks, school aid and school enrolment for Malaysian children without documents.

“The help desk will operate from Jan 2 during office hours,” said the ministry.

Parents in Perlis may contact 04-9737693, Kedah (04-7404000), Penang (04-6521012), Perak (05-5015109), Selangor (03-55108711 ), Kuala Lumpur (03-62046145/46) and Putrajaya (03-88890000).

In Negri Sembilan the help desk telephone number is 06-7653192, Melaka (06-2325542), Johor (07-2310000), Pahang (09-5715741), Kelantan (09-7418082/8092), Terengganu (09-6213003), Sabah (088-537111), Sarawak (082-473712/082-473742) and Labuan (087-583360). — Bernama

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‘More than just a paper chase’

Sunday, January 6th, 2019
Taste of the future: Quest International University Perak School of Business and Management lecturer Asma Amirah Ahmad (centre) offering fair visitors the galaxy lemonade mocktail at the university’s booth at the Star Education Fair 2019 at the KL Convention Centre.

Taste of the future: Quest International University Perak School of Business and Management lecturer Asma Amirah Ahmad (centre) offering fair visitors the galaxy lemonade mocktail at the university’s booth at the Star Education Fair 2019 at the KL Convention Centre.

KUALA LUMPUR: Education is not just about paper chase but a meaningful journey in charting a career path, says Higher Education Department director-general Datin Paduka Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir.

Dr Siti Hamisah, who is from the Education Ministry, said students should explore new boundaries in order to take charge of their future.

“It (higher education) should be an experience that will set the tone for their future,” she said when opening the Star Education Fair 2019 at the KL Convention Centre.

Dr Siti Hamisah said that deciding on the most suitable course after completing secondary education was a big step.

“It sets the tone of the career pathways that school-leavers will embark on.”

Dr Siti Hamisah said she was glad to see the Star Education Fair having a section where students could do a career interest test to help steer them towards courses that would suit them.

There are about 5,000 courses available in public institutions of higher learning and another 8,000 courses offered by the private sector, she said.

Events such as the Star Education Fair, she said, encourages partnerships not just between educational institutions but among parents, the community and the private sector.

Dr Siti Hamisah congratulated Star Media Group for organising 32 successful years of education fairs.

She also commended it for providing scholarships through the Star Education Fund, which has helped more than 3,900 students pursue their tertiary studies.

The Star Education Fund is offering 285 scholarships worth RM15.1mil from 32 institutions.

No easy task: (From left) RCSI and UCD Malaysia Campus head, RUMC surgery Prof Dr Premnath N watching as Dr Siti Hamisah uses the laparoscopic stack which trains doctors in keyhole surgery. Looking on are I.Star Events chief executive officer Datuk Adriana Law, Ng and RUMC president and CEO Prof Stephen Doughty.

No easy task: (From left) RCSI and UCD Malaysia Campus head, RUMC surgery Prof Dr Premnath N watching as Dr Siti Hamisah uses the laparoscopic stack which trains doctors in keyhole surgery. Looking on are I.Star Events chief executive officer Datuk Adriana Law, Ng and RUMC president and CEO Prof Stephen Doughty.

These scholarships cover a wide range of disciplines, from entry-level courses to undergraduate education and professional studies, and are all bond-free.

Star Education Fund manager Susanna Kuan said 28 partners presented their scholarship pledges to Dr Siti Hamisah and Star Media Group chief content officer Esther Ng during the opening ceremony.

Kuan said the other four partners are from the northern region and will present their pledges at the Star Education Fair in Penang in March.

Ng said education had been a focus of the group since day one.

“For over three decades, the fair – an independent platform featuring reputable learning institutions, has been a go-to event for parents, and students,” she said.

“On our part, we make sure that the exhibitors who come on board are not fly by night operators because quality education is not something we can ever compromise on.

by christina chinrebecca rajaendramsandhya menon,  and lee chonghui
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Give teachers more say in classrooms

Monday, December 31st, 2018
Penang Free School students sitting their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination last month. Education systems are a result of collaborative efforts between the government and the people. FILE PIC

There is a six-century BC fable that tells the story of a boy, his father and a donkey walking towards a market.

While they were walking, people ridiculed them for not riding the donkey. When the father let his son ride the donkey, people were annoyed with the boy for insulting his father.

When the father rode the donkey, the people were displeased with him and accused him of abusing his child.

When they were both riding the donkey, people booed and jeered at them for overloading and mistreating the donkey.

This could express the current status of our education system. Almost every initiative of the government is criticised.

The government, on the other hand, with all good intention, keeps changing the course of our educational system.

Almost instantly after a new government comes to power, leaders start to experiment with the educational system.

Today, the Pakatan Harapan government is looking to overhaul our education system.

Most recently Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad expressed his desire to overhaul our education system focusing more on career-based subject matters.

Obviously, the government had expended much effort trying to improve our educational system.

More initiatives do not necessarily mean a better system.

No education system in the world is totally and solely dependent on government initiatives. In fact, they are a result of collaborative efforts of the government and the people.

The government should not expect its efforts, however well planned and properly executed, to achieve success if supporting systems are not in place.

Leadership of the teachers, for instance, is among the most critical success factors of every educational reformation.

By Dr Hussain Othman.

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No thanks for all the education

Monday, December 31st, 2018
(File pix) The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Pix by NSTP/Rosela Ismail

MOVING from the school bench to the workstation may have been a smooth transition for Malaysian baby boomers. Not so for our young Malaysians aged between 15 and 29, according to Khazanah Research Institute’s (KRI) School-To-Work Transition Survey 2017/2018 (SWTS) released yesterday.

KRI’s survey talks of “a number of difficulties young Malaysian men and women encounter in their transition from school to work.” To put it bluntly, many of our young lads and ladies just cannot make the transition. This shouldn’t surprise us. The Malaysian Employers Federation’s laments of yore prepared us for this. So did the capacious comments of academics and NGOs. In fact, KRI’s Inception Note to SWTS quotes employers as saying that Malaysian universities are not producing “employable” graduates with the skills, industrial training and soft skills, such as the ability to think critically and creatively, to communicate effectively and work independently. Others too have shared similar stories. A 2014 study conducted by the World Bank in collaboration with the Institute for Labour Market Information and Analysis, Ministry of Human Resources, too came to similar conclusion, ending with a call to revamp Malaysia’s education and training system. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Economic Assessment of Malaysia 2016 added to the chorus of voices calling for the re-purposing of our education system.

There was plenty of evidence on the ground, too. Quoting the Higher Education Ministry’s Graduate Tracer Study of 2016, KRI said that 23 per cent of Malaysian graduates were out of a job six months after graduating. Of the 57 per cent employed, 15 per cent were in part-time jobs. Even PhD graduates faced a similar fate: 16 per cent of them were unemployed in 2016. The decline apparently has an earlier history. In 2014, there were 450,000 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia certificate holders, but only 250,000 of them continued with some form of tertiary education. It is not just the universities that are ailing; schools, too, are hit with the blight.

We cannot, of course, blame all our ailments on our education system. But that is a very good place to look for a cure. And we must begin at the beginning. What really is the purpose of education? Some argue that an education system’s aim should be to produce intellectuals. Martin Luther King Jr. thought not.

We agree. “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but no morals. We must remember that intelligence is not enough.

Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”


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Flexibility and mobility in studying online degrees

Sunday, December 30th, 2018
(File pix) Nur Azrina Azizi said online degree programmes allow her to study anywhere and at any time.

WHEN Nur Azrina Azizi, 23, was contemplating tertiary education, she had a few criteria in mind: reputation of the university, on-campus or off, and cost.

Working for her family’s natural skin and hair care product business that operates both in Malaysia and the United Kingdom, Nur Azrina shuttles between the two countries and wanted a degree programme that allows flexibility and mobility.

She selected the fully online Bachelor of Science in Business and Management programme at the University of Derby near where she resides in the UK and is looking forward to graduating next year.

“The programme is fully accredited by professional bodies such as the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and The British Psychology Society.

“The degree course is awarded a CMI Level5in Management and Leadership.

“University of Derby has stated that the credit value of the online programme is the same for students who pursue it on-campus. Online students are under the same intense scrutiny in validation and assessment as students on-campus,” she said, adding that course materials as well as academic journals are accessible via the University Online Library.

The structure of the online degree programme is the same as the one on-campus except that you log into lectures on the student portal.

Each module is 10 weeks long, and students are provided with course materials, time of lectures, and online academic journals and textbooks.

“I tend to buy textbooks because I like to highlight facts for easy reference.

“The business management degree course is 100 per cent coursework with timed online tests for some modules.

“For regular group work, we have Skype sessions and Whatsapp groups to discuss the assignments. Group work is assessed for the final module grade.

“The university provides technology tools and we have daily contact with lecturers. We can call, text, video chat and email them, and they reply in a timely fashion.

“You have to communicate with your lecturer if you need help or guidance. Most lecturers are informative, supportive and engaging.

“We use Blackboard and Turnitin software for coursework, assessments and presentations. A laptop and good Internet connection are crucial.”

Time management and keeping tabs on deadlines is important.

“I allocate most hours for studies to the first six weeks of a module. I study four to five hours per day with breaks in between. Sometimes I spend more hours on studies, especially when assignments are due.

“Typically, a unit in a module takes a week to complete — the university recommends 20 hours per week for a 20-credit module so you have to be diligent and allocate time properly to keep up with the lecturer and the readings.

“On some days I am in front of my laptop all day so it really depends on the module.”

Self-discipline is key for those considering online degrees, cautioned Nur Azrina.

“You have to be organised and meticulous in keeping up to date with assignments and course readings to ensure that you don’t fall behind.

“I have a designated study area at home. But I study in libraries and cafés for a change of environment.

“I tend to work well at a desk and I like to work on assignments at coworking spaces or quiet cafés. Coworking space offers the opportunity to work alongside other people.”

She feels online degree programmes may not be suitable for all studies.

“For example, if you want to read law, medicine or engineering, I wouldn’t recommend an online mode of study as you need practical training.

“And it does get lonely pursuing an online degree course.”

Alan Liau Chen Kiong, 42, who resides in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, is pursuing a business management bachelor’s degree at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia through the institution’s online platform, Swinburne Online.

Expecting to graduate in 2021, Liau took up the programme as he can both study and continue in his current job at the same time.

Liau studied in Australia in 1993 but, due to budget constraints, he had to return to Malaysia. Now married with one daughter and another daughter on the way, and with an established money services business, he feels it is timely to get a degree that will enable him to lead the company.

“The university provides a weekly schedule to track our studies which I find extremely helpful. Assessments, assignments and tests to be completed online are stated in the schedule.

“It also provides an online textbook and library access. The only hardware

requirement is a PC with Internet access. But I also use my phone or tablet to do readings and follow up on my studies,” he said.

The university suggests online degree students spend at least four hours a day on studies.

“I normally study at night after I’ve settled down my daughter and finished helping out my wife with the housework.

“We do have a schedule to meet up with our lecturers online to understand the requirement of an assignment or test. We can also reach them through email or the online chat portal. We separate into smaller groups for some subjects to gather virtually to discuss an assignment.”

Liau believes anyone can pursue an online degree, provided they meet the entry requirement.

“It offers the efficiency of location and time. Everyone can study anywhere at any time without difficulty. Hardware and internet access is crucial.


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The case for online-only degree programmes

Sunday, December 30th, 2018
(File pix) One can also gain a degree through the open and distance learning (ODL) mode.

USUALLY when one is thinking of pursuing tertiary education, the following comes to mind — enrolling in a programme at university; attending face-to-face lectures and tutorials; doing assignments and coursework, and presenting the work either individually or in groups; and sitting exams at exam halls.

Or one can also gain a degree through the open and distance learning (ODL) mode.

The Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) refers to ODL as the provision of flexible educational opportunities in terms of access and multiple modes of acquisition.

Its Code of Practice for ODL published in 2014, which serve as the guidelines for Malaysian higher education providers, stated that “flexible” means the availability of choices for educational endeavours anywhere, anytime and anyhow.

“Access” means opportunity made available to all, free from constraints of time and space. And “multiple modes” mean the use of various delivery systems and learning resources.

MQA chief executive officer Datuk Dr Rahmah Mohamed said the government is cognisant of the potential of ODL in fulfilling fundamental rights of all people to learn and the need to incorporate it within the framework of human capital development.

“ODL can involve more than 60 per cent online learning which include face-to-face virtual learning such as videoconferencing,” she said.

“Our current policy allows 100 per cent online ODL delivery. Institutions can leverage on upgrading their ODL programmes through Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) technology.”

Innovations such as mobile computing, cloud technology, social network and big data have created an opportunity to build a learning ecosystem that allows personalised learning independent of time and place.

“Learners design their own educational pathways based on their personal goals. Being able to pursue a degree online 100 per cent will enable the small-town housewife who has commitments at home to get a bachelor’s degree and acquire the knowledge and skills which were unattainable previously.

“The young millennial entrepreneur is able to gain the qualifications including running an online business, despite his busy schedule.”

The trend of pursuing a wholly online degree course is on the rise in countries such as the United Kingdom, United States and Australia, and it is indeed compelling for Malaysia to follow suit.

But it is not without disadvantages and can only be successful if certain aspects are in place Online-only learning is increasingly being offered by many universities abroad for bachelor’s and postgraduate degree programmes where contact with lecturers and teaching staff, and the process of learning take place 100 per cent through the Internet.

Associate Professor Dr Rozinah Jamaludin at Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Instructional Technology and Multimedia said this is a natural extension of living in a digital world.

“We have digital economies, digital universities, digital devices and more. The rise of digital computing and Internet is a game changer to the whole system of education,” she added.

The influence of disruptive technology in 4IR is also the main drive towards this wholly online learning offering.

The evolution of Education 1.0 to Education 4.0 is a continuum of the evolution of World Wide Web from transmissive (1.0) to social (2.0) and semantic (3.0).

Innovation guru Peter Fisk, who delivered the keynote address Changing the Game of Education at Dansk Industri in Copenhagen Denmark, said Education 4.0 comprises learning anywhere anytime; personal, flexible delivery; peers and mentors; why/where, not what/how; practical application; modularity; student ownership; and evaluation, not examination.

This trend, Rozinah observed, is also apparent among private universities in Malaysia such as Open University Malaysia, Asia e-University, Wawasan Open University, Madinah International University and Unitar International University, though most use blended learning comprising face-to face and e-learning, where students meet lecturers and sit examinations offline.

University of Nottingham Malaysia School of Education’s head of undergraduate studies, Associate Professor Dr Lee Kean Wah, said the reasons why online-only degree courses are gaining traction can be attributed to their affordability, flexibility and learning-on-the-job opportunities, which a lot of conventional degrees cannot offer.

“One can certainly understand why such an option is appealing, particularly with people who want to learn certain subjects to develop specific skills without having to give up their jobs. Such an option will be particularly attractive to those who want to balance study and work, without the need to attend class physically,” he added.

Professor Datuk Dr Mohamed Amin Embi, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Centre for Teaching and Learning Technologies director, said firstly, it is cheaper to run online courses as there is no need to invest in brick-and-mortar facilities.

“Secondly, cheaper and faster technology means online programmes can be offered anywhere, anytime, anyhow and across any platform and gadget.

“Thirdly, it is convenient especially for work ing adults who do not need to leave the office.

“Finally, there is a change in learning style — most things can be learnt onaself-directed basis, especially on YouTube.

“Hence, why not pursue a degree course online?”


So what constitutes a good online degree programme?

Mohamed Amin said: “Fundamentally, it’s how the programmes are designed.

“The key is to design the course in such a way that students go through a meaningful learning experience. In other words, the programme should be learning-based instead of merely content-based.

“Each course should be designed in such a way that it provides many tasks/activities instead of merely lectures. The tasks can be done individually, in pairs or groups.”

The other challenge is to keep students motivated to learn — putting them in the driver’s seat by providing different learning experience based on tasks, challenges, problems and case studies.

“Encourage heutagogy (self-instruction) through self-exploration activities and tasks.

Promote peeragogy (peer instruction) through collaborative group work and activities.

“Gamify the learning process to maintain motivation by injecting elements of competition in the learning process.

“Encourage user-generated content by getting students to create or co-create content instead of merely watching videos. If lecture videos are necessary, make sure they are ‘bitesized’ — not more than seven minutes in length.

Students need to do a lot of self-reflection.”

To address concerns on aspects such as testing and assessment, and plagiarism and security, Mohamed Amin encouraged the use of portfolio-based assessment. Formal assessments have to be conducted in a proctored environment where the identity of the student is verified.

“Security and management should not be much of a concern if a robust learning management system is in place.”

Rozinah added that good online degree programmes have relevant and current content that meets the needs of the industry.

“There needs to be proper learning support services. The curriculum has to encourage independent, self-taught, self-motivated and self-determined learning covering the 4Cs in the 21st century learning skills—Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity.”


Studying alone in a 100 per cent online programme is not without its pros and cons.

“The advantages of an online-only/distance degree programme are its flexibility and relatively cheaper cost.

“As for the cons, one needs to give careful consideration to the quality and validity of the degree, given the many fake and online diploma mills; lack of individual attention and feedback; and missing out on campus life,” said Lee.

He highlighted students also need to carefully research and look out for bona fide, professionally accredited and endorsed programmes and genuine online universities before enrolment.

Rozinah noted that online learning is excellent for most academic courses and training programmes requiring cognitive learning where the student uses memorisation, learns concepts, uses analytical skills, evaluates data and uses this knowledge to arrive at solutions.

Examples of cognitive learning include augmenting one’s knowledge of accounting procedures, economics, political science, health services, office administration and psychology.

“Programmes which seek to change student attitudes, such as dealing with cultural differences or behavioural training do not work as well online. Nonetheless, online information may be used effectively as an adjunct to traditional classroom teaching.

“Similarly, courses that require students to use physical skills such as welding, auto mechanics and learning to fly cannot rely on online learning. Hands-on experience is vital to the success of these type of courses.”


Can online learning replace classroom learning?

Mohamed Amin gives a resounding “yes” if the programme is designed for experiential learning — learning by doing.

Lee feels online learning cannot replace classroom learning entirely. “Online-only learning will not entirely replace classroom learning though the boundary between traditional and online-only degree programmes is getting more and more blurred. Even current face-to-face-based learning degree courses incorporate a mix of online, blended, and flipped approach to learning.

“Vice versa, online-only degree courses are not wholly online in the sense that interaction between students, peers and professors, and feedback are crucial for learning to take place,” he added.

Rozinah said online learning can replace the classroom experience through virtual contact instead of face-to-face interaction, provided the Internet connection is of high bandwidth speed.

“However, at present most universities — public and private — in the country offer the blended learning approach where students meet lecturers three to five times per semester and sit examinations offline and in a specified location. No university has gone fully online yet. But there are plans for fully online programmes.

“Malaysian students still need to see the lecturer face to face, they need the human touch. So blended learning is the way to go.”

Lee is of the opinion that Malaysian universities will need to look at the possibility of providing 100 per cent online degree programmes soon.

“A lot has been said and discussed about the impact of IR4.0 and how it is likely to influence business models and employment trends.

“There’s no denying that the rapid development of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and robotics will render certain jobs obsolete in the future.

The promise of a university degree that will set students up with a job for life is no longer a sustainable model for universities.

“To stay relevant, a university must be bold, creative, and innovative to design programmes that combine the best of workplace experience and theoretical rigour.


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Education challenges for 2019 and beyond

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

WHAT an exciting year 2018 has been for our nation.

In previous year-end columns, I had done wrap-ups on the progress and achievements within Malaysia’s education ecosystem and various initiatives moving forward. This column has also touched on various topics from technology and the civil service, to policy reform and fake news.

For this year’s final piece, I would like to look at the future of our education system and prompt some questions we should be asking ourselves for 2019 and beyond.

Far from things being all doom-and-gloom, Malaysia’s higher education system was spoken of in high regard.

It was encouraging to hear from education representatives around the region on how they looked up to Malaysia’s education growth over the last decade – the creation of Malaysia’s research universities since 2007, improvement in rankings, increase in research output, and country’s ability to attract renowned international branch campuses had not gone unnoticed.

I spoke about the growing need to leverage technology to provide quality educational access and student mobility, (which is expected to grow by 200 million by 2030) as well as the creation of friendlier Asean student cities.

A common theme was the need for greater international collaboration and for education organisations in the region, from Seameo (South-East Asian Ministers of Education Organisation) to the British Council itself, to leverage on each other’s strengths, competencies and resources.

This topic has been something close to my heart for the longest time – being proud of our (im)perfect but improving higher education system.

I believe for 2019 and beyond, we have a lot to share and can be prouder in spreading Malaysian higher education.

Second, what do we really do about unity education? We should look not just at school children but also adults.

Realities on the ground struck me during my drive home. Radio deejays were discussing the unrests of the Seafield Temple rioting and Icerd (the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) protest rally.

Malaysia is indeed at a major crossroads in its history.

The (dis)unity that we see and feel is not a new phenomenon. It’s been growing for a while now. It isn’t even an issue of who is or isn’t in power – though politics doesn’t do the narrative any favours.

If anything, the GE14 results indicated that Malaysia has bucked the populist trend that has swept across Europe, the United States and most of the world.

However, Malaysia isn’t immune to this phenomenon.

Education, therefore, plays a crucial role in compassing our future.

We often look at our school-going children as subjects of the unity discussion – and it’s not wrong.

According to UC Berkeley psychologist Mendoza-Denton, schools are an important place to fight against prejudice and interventions aimed at improving social relationships are most effective in earlier grades … before prejudice becomes too entrenched.

Therefore, it seems a no-brainer to encourage intergroup friendship in schools.

On the other hand, we often forget about educating adults.

I’ve seen my friends and family, raised in multiracial neighbourhoods and educated overseas, develop somewhat racial and misguided thought processes.

It’s baffling, but there’s enough research to suggest that economic anxiety coupled with the rise of social media and (mis)information influx recondition the mind.

The flurry of WhatsApp messages beating the conspiracy drums that “they” are out to get “us” has certainly exacerbated the situation.

Thus, providing lifelong learning opportunities that promote unity education for adults is vital.

We need to actively promote that bond of Malaysian-ness – and fast!

The words of our first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj ring true even today: “We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us. Let us remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation”.

If Malaysia wants to continue as a model nation for unity, moderation and multi-culturalism, we must accept these challenges and introduce solutions, as difficult as they may be.

Third, perhaps it’s time for a single national school system?

Speaking of difficult solutions, often and unfortunately associated when one mentions unity and education, is the thorny issue of vernacular schools.

Earlier this week, the Perlis Mufti, Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin aka Dr Maza, an individual with a colourful history on race issues, issued an open letter to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, calling for a single school system with options for vernacular and religious education after national schooling hours and supported by local communities.

Under normal circumstances, such a letter would spark furious debates.

However, it was overshadowed by another piece of important news, the “Warkah Cordoba” (an amusing episode in our political news making – Google it).

This is, I believe, symptomatic of a bigger issue – the inability to discuss serious issues seriously, or that we get too easily distracted

Fourth, what about an education system that fosters political maturity?

Speaking of serious discussions, in November, the Parliament passed an amendment to the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) which now allows students to partake in politics within their campuses (previously only off-campus was allowed).

Related to this is the Undi18 movement, which is about lowering the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.

These two things could have a profound impact on our nation’s development and progress – either very positively or very negatively.

Done right, these freedoms could spur the nation’s growth unlike ever before. Done wrong, it could lead to societal unrest. (When I was a budding lawyer, I came across many international cases of student politics leading to deaths due to political differences).

While we grapple with unity and mature discourse, the UUCA amendment and Undi18 raises the urgency to ensure that our youth are equipped with the right critical thinking skills and exposure to contemporary issues to enable them to analyse, process and express information in a constructive manner.

Today’s 13-year olds could possibly be voting citizens come 2023. And with the youth demography being the biggest in Malaysia, their vote will have a profound effect on Malaysian politics and national development in time to come.

As such, the race to properly educate critical thinking citizens with the right values and ethics has to start today.


This article may seem a bit “jumpy”. I’ve gone from the internationalisation of higher education to educating adults on unity, to political expression among 13-year olds.

To me, this is both the beauty and the beast of the journey our beloved nation is currently on.

While one part of society marches on towards fostering international collaboration, other basic bread and butter issues and nurturing an empowered citizenry continue.

Ultimately, it all comes back to education (a line I think I’ve used multiple times before). 2019 is not just another year. There is a lot at stake, and we must plan for the Malaysia of beyond.

By Danial Rahman
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Teachers can look forward to lighter workload.

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The year 2019 could very well be the one most teachers will look forward to as plans to reduce their burden are underway.

The Education Ministry will announce nine “interventions” on Jan 14 to be implemented at the ministry, state Education Department, district Education office and school levels.

Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said this was to ensure teachers would have more quality time with students in class.

He said his ministry held 16 engagement sessions with the National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) from July until December, some of which were to discuss the factors contributing to the extra burden on teachers.

“Teachers have to struggle with clerical work. But the reality is, clerical work does not only exist among teachers but also in other jobs.

“Even the best education system in the world has its own clerical work. The Education Ministry is committed to ensuring that all administrative tasks must be for the purpose of improving the quality of education,” he said in his speech during an NUTP special assembly yesterday.

Dr Maszlee said this would include tasks that were overlapping and irrelevant to teaching and learning, so that teachers could focus on teaching.

He urged teachers nationwide to be patient as time is needed to realise a change.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Dr Maszlee said the ministry had held frequent engagement sessions with NUTP and other stakeholders.

“We want to ensure whatever policy we make, it also comes from the teachers themselves,” he said.

NUTP president Kamarozaman Abd Razak said the teaching fraternity was looking forward to the announcement and to spending more time with their students in class.

“It has been a great year for us. Never in the history of NUTP did we have 16 engagement sessions with the Education Ministry in seven months,” he said.

“We would like to thank Dr Maszlee and his deputy Teo Nie Ching for their efforts.”

By Royce Tan
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