Archive for the ‘Colleges / Universities - Issues’ Category

Value of part-time work

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019
(File pix) Archive image for illustration purposes only.

EVERYONE knows the tale of the impoverished student at university. Higher education is expensive, more so in a foreign country. You track exchange rates like you are playing the stock market.

Every chance to save money becomes paramount. The calculator app on your phone is used to keep track of every expenditure. But if there is one thing better than saving money, it’s making money and becoming financial stable.

Despite most students being over the age of 18 when they enter the world of higher education, many see themselves as adult-sized teenagers. After all, some students have never held a paying job so far. Getting a job while studying adds considerably more responsibilities to an already hectic schedule of daily classes but it can really shape students up to take their duties more seriously. Missing a few classes may not have an effect on one’s grades as much so there are no consequences to be felt.

But go in to work half an hour late and you get your pay docked. Miss a shift and you won’t get paid, and you are behind on your monthly rent.

It is one of those hard lessons best learnt early in life.

The management of newfound wealth is another responsibility which results from work.

A steady disposable income makes it tempting to quickly spend it. And while you should treat yourself once in a while, the hard work you had to put in to earn money and the ease in spending it should be another wake-up call.

Money is not easy to come by. Saving up for emergencies is crucial. For example, if you are responsible with a few hundred American dollars, which easily hit the thousand ringgit range for Malaysians, you can bring this mindset of saving money into a future when you make more income. Think of earning more as being able to save more, not spend more. This is not to say that you should not pamper yourself once in a while. Absolutely put aside funds monthly to be used only for fun as this is part of stress management.

You don’t have to go overboard but treating yourself within your means will help you not only to appreciate the value of your work, but it will also motivate you to work harder and find better work in the future so you can continue to enjoy creature comforts.

Perhaps the more obvious reason to take up a part-time job as a student is to expose yourself to the workplace. Navigating office politics can go along way in ensuring a pleasant work environment. Overtime, you learn to deal with the quirks of co-workers and bosses. Those in the hospitality industry learn to deal with a variety of people every day as well. It teaches patience and adapting to deal with different problems.

And every time you handle a problematic customer, you get that much better at dealing with people in general.

You also learn to talk to bosses and negotiate taking a day off and asking for a promotion. You are not always going to work with colleagues you like, or even colleagues who like you. You do not have to like colleagues but you do have to understand how not to cause trouble for yourself without being able to wiggle your way out of it.

Future employers appreciate that you have some work experience even if unrelated to your field as it shows that you are able to take on responsibilities.

Having money does not mean someone is happy of course, but it can help with managing stress as long as you’re responsible with money. For most of us, higher studies is a way to get better prospects after all and it is right that you will want to reward yourself too.

And you absolutely should.


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‘Verify programmes to ensure degrees are recognised’.

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

PETALING JAYA: Verify the accreditation or quality assurance status of programmes offered by universities, local or foreign, the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) advised students, parents and employers.

MQA chief executive officer Datuk Dr Rahmah Mohamed told The Star that the quality of higher education is a priority for the government.

“For that purpose, (the government) has set up an accreditation system through MQA and other professional and regulatory bodies.

“Every country has an accreditation and quality assurance system, which the public can access.

Dr Rahmah explained different countries have different regulations and arrangements for accreditation or quality assurance.

“It is advisable to engage relevant authorities of the country to get the right information,” she added.

A list of accredited local programmes is provided on the agency’s Malaysian Qualifications Registry and List of Provisionally Accredited Programs website, she said.

Other professional and regulatory bodies, too, Dr Rahmah said, have provided their recognised qualifications on MQA’s website for easy public reference.

Last year, the Education Ministry launched the University Degree Issuance and Verification System, or known as e-Scroll, to tackle the increasing number of fake degrees.

The ministry said the blockchain technology is secure and has the potential to increase the efficiency in authenticating genuine certificates.

The system was developed by a team led by International Islamic University Malaysia.

Higher Education Department director-general Datin Paduka Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir said a consortium of six universities has agreed in principle to adopt the e-Scroll system in their coming convocation.

“We are enlarging the membership of the consortium to include the rest of the public universities; private universities have shown interest to adopt the system, we will gradually (include) them.

“We have presented the blockchain system to the Malaysian Examination Syndicate and Malaysian Examination Council committees who are in the process of getting approvals from their highest management.

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Greening the campus

Sunday, February 3rd, 2019
(File pix) Many tertiary institutions are stepping up initiatives to conserve the environment. Courtesy Photo

AS centres that focus on knowledge-sharing and creation, universities are bustling hubs visited and inhabited by hundreds, if not thousands, of people daily.

In the midst of the core business of teaching and learning as well as conducting research, university campuses are congested with traffic and busy with activities such as events; daily churning out of print and paper; and the consumption of food and utilities.

To counter these challenges, many tertiary institutions are stepping up initiatives to conserve the environment.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), for example, already has a green mandate in place that aligns campus activities with its sustainability efforts.

Vice-chancellor Professor Datin Paduka Datuk Dr Aini Ideris said UPM’s commitment to the preservation of the environment is reflected in effective environmental management, coaching, the curriculum and quality management-based systems.

“As a research university, UPM leverages on its capabilities to measure its impact, embed green input into its teaching and plan solutions and strategies within our industry and community to advocate the need to reduce impact on the environment locally and nationwide,” she added.

An alternative road for private vehicles going to and from Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Damansara runs through Universiti Malaya (UM). It is concerned about the long-term impact of the campus carbon footprint as well as consumption behaviours regarding food, water and electricity.

UM Eco Campus Secretariat and UM Living Labs chairperson Professor Dr Sumiani Yusoff said many efforts have been made to understand and promote sustainability at the university and its surrounding areas.

“There is a need to address environmental challenges. It is a necessity for a university to embark on sustainable campus pathways and deviate from laissez-faire and business-as-usual attitudes,” she added.

Many argue that with vast land on its property coupled with a long history of agriculture education, UPM has little concerns about sustainability and environmental impact.

But this is not so, said Aini.

“Being green is not only about land size. It is about creating the awareness and spirit to reduce impact on the climate. It is also continuous effort, strategy and how we can steer mindsets towards green living lifestyles.

“We have long realised we need to create a green, sustainable campus. We have had a UPM green policy since 2011 to review the situation and decide on what needs to be done,” she added.

UPM endeavours to raise awareness on sustainable development; preservation of biological diversity in natural and man-made environment in the university; and reduction in the release of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change, through the efficient use of energy to prevent wastage and the use of alternative energy to lower dependence on nonrenewable energy.

The policy also stipulates to reduce the production of all types of residues from campus activities through the 4R (reduce, reuse, repair, recycle) programme; reduce the use of private motor vehicles by improving disabled-friendly public transport on campus and between it and the public transport hub in its vicinity, and provide safer lanes for cyclists and pedestrians; and adopt the concept of sustainable development in the management and development planning of the campus.


With the policy as a guide, a number of innovations and best practices have been put in place to make UPM a green campus, namely a consistent effort at reforestation and tree planting; the establishment of a wastebank on campus; and the green campus transportation blueprint as well as smart energy.

“Through the Joint Research Project on Rehabilitation of Tropical Rainforest Ecosystem with Mitsubishi Corporation since 1991, some 350,000 forest trees from 128 species have been planted in Serdang main campus as well as Bintulu campus, covering 47 hectares. The project aims to assess the health of rehabilitated forest through measuring indicators of forest health and sustainability of foreign resources.

“Every year we do mega planting of more than 10,000 landscape plants on campus.”

UPM has set up Serdang Biomass Town, a centre for the recycling of used cooking oil into biodiesel oil for vehicles and machinery on campus, for the neighbouring residential community of Sri Serdang.

“Those who donate get organic fertilisers in exchange, a byproduct of the recycling process. This has proven to be hugely popular and donations also come from outside Sri Serdang.”

UPM Faculty of Environmental Studies houses Putra Wastebank which takes in fabric for recycling into other products via third party cooperation. It takes note of recyclable items credited in the Wastebank record book and “pay” sellers in the form of bicycle rental hours at the end of a semester.

UPM encourages students to ride bicycles to reduce carbon on campus.

“We have dedicated bicycle lanes and covered pedestrian lanes. The university community observes ‘no vehicle day’ on Saturday.

During registration week for the academic year, students get a rebate for bicycle purchase.

“We have reorganised student placements with 70 per cent getting rooms in residential colleges closest to their faculty.”

UPM collaborates with Toyota in the use of electric vehicles for transport as well as research with the Faculty of Engineering.

“We welcome moves such as the ban on smoking at all eateries and the impending ban on the use of plastic straws recently introduced by the government.

“While UPM is a no-smoking campus since 2011, environmental friendly policies from the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change are creating avenues for our researchers to come up with solutions that help environment conservation.”

A UPM researcher has conducted research to produce straws that can degrade faster than existing ones. Talks are underway with the industry to pave the way for production.

(File pix) UPM encourages students to ride bicycles to reduce carbon on campus. Courtesy Photo


Launched in 2015, the UM EcoCampus Blueprint guides the institution’s green initiatives in eight core areas, namely Landscape and Biodiversity Management, Waste Management, Water Management, Energy Management, Transportation System Management, Green Procurement, Education Management — Environment and Climate Change, and Change Management in Governance, Participation and Communication.

Sumiani said the blueprint aspires to longterm commitment from its top management, academic and non-academic staff, as well as students working as one community in a concerted manner towards a more sustainable campus.

Short- and long-term action plans are displayed to provide the campus community opportunities to take proactive measures, in stages, as a show of support in promoting UM as one of the prominent eco campus models at the local, regional and international levels in tandem with its status as a leading university in research and education.

“UM Eco Campus initiatives aim to develop a novel campuswide sustainability framework with support from UM Living Labs.

“These initiatives contribute towards minimising harmful environmental impact on campus, especially by decreasing carbon emission, to drive UM to be one of the prominent eco campuses in the nation and the world. The initiatives cover mainly, but are not limited to, the grounds of UM’s main campus of 360 hectares,” added Sumiani.

UM Living Labs enable the integration of research and development, demonstration and deployment of sustainability solutions on the ground, promotion of multi-inter-and-transdisciplinary research and, most importantly, the labs befit the need of the community for a better campus environment.

UM Living Labs are in their fourth cycle, where solutions are applied on a larger scale throughout the campus. They have already shown more than a reduction of 6,590,000kg carbon dioxide Green House Gases emission, with direct and indirect monetary gains from these collective initiatives amounting to more than RM1.2m after one year.

“Last year, we soft-launched UM Living Labs Training Modules to mark our long-term commitment in commemorating World Earth Day in April annually. The modules are one of our new collective efforts which emphasise capacity-building based on UM Eco Campus Core Areas.”

Over the years, UM initiatives, namely Water Warriors (water management), UM Zero Waste Campaign (waste management) and The RIMBA Project (landscape and biodiversity management), have attracted numerous participants both local and international.

In putting forth sustainability into action, sharing of best practices — within the community and without — is another important learning curve that UM have to scale continuously.

Best practices in UM Eco Campus initiatives are embedded in a series of guidelines including: Guideline on Green Waste and Wood Waste Separate Collection and Management for Institutional Area; Guideline on Energy Monitoring and Management for Energy-Saving in UM; UM Campus Transport Guidelines; UM Green Procurement Guidelines; and Eco-Surau Guidelines: Imarah Green Project of Academy of Islamic Studies Surau.

“Each guideline tackles different campus sustainability issues at hand and can be replicated to suit different scenario and challenges.”


In the recently announced Universitas Indonesia GreenMetric World University Ranking (UI GreenMetric) 2018, UPM was placed 32nd in the world, making it Asia’s third and second in Southeast Asia. It maintained its first position in the country. UM came in 36th.

UI GreenMetric is an annual world university ranking of the current condition and policies related to green campus and sustainability in universities.

In 2018, there were 719 higher education institutions in the rankings with 18 from Malaysia. Top place went to Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands while University of Nottingham was second and University of California Davis, third.

To date, UI GreenMetric is the first and only world university ranking system based on voluntary participation that focuses on campus sustainability performance.

It ranks universities performance in six categories: Setting and Infrastructure (15 per cent), Energy and Climate Change (21 per cent), Waste Management (18 per cent), Water Management (10 per cent), Transportation Management (18 per cent) and Education and Research (18 per cent).

Aini said every participant has a level playing field and a specific role to play within the academia in contributing towards sustainability.

“If you read in between the lines, the university is under scrutiny — not only its community but also the top management.

“Most UPM initiatives focus on transport, recycling and waste treatment apart from green space. Our strength is in these areas. However, this year we will try to improve in other areas.”

UPM’s success in being ranked first in the country for nine consecutive years is the result of team effort with dedicated person in charge in every department tasked with this index.

“The whole campus contributed to this ranking initiative by participating in our sustainability activities. We believe in inculcating values in future leaders of this nation and our international students where the impact can be seen in a bigger scale.”

As for UM, it maintained renowned status as Asia’s first Most Sustainable University in City-Centre Set-up. UM rose in three significant achievements: Best Water Management in Malaysia, Best Education and Research (Sustainability) in Malaysia, and Best Waste Management in Malaysia.

Sumiani said: “At UM, we believe that (any) ranking system is important for us to learn, reflect and improve on our progress over the years.”

With a campus population of 33,041

equivalent to 1.84 per cent of Kuala Lumpur population inhabiting a main campus area of 2.99 million square metres, UM achievements in this campus sustainability assessment is “an important milestone”.

“The campus community must reflect on its way of using limited resources while optimising productivity and performance.”

Universitas Indonesia in its website said it believes by drawing the attention of university leaders and stakeholders to the rankings, more focus will be given to combat global climate change, improve energy and water conservation, and promote waste recycling and green transportation.

On academia’s role in conservation and environment protection, Sumiani said: “Universities occupy a unique position in society. UM, with its pool of experts and academia cutting across disciplines and faculties, has a critical role in the creation and dissemination of knowledge.”

Universities occupy a position of neutral and trusted stakeholders in society.

“Academia has a key role to play in conservation and environmental protection. It has the capacity and responsibility to guide and lead society at the local, national, and international level.

“In UM, we are stepping up to lead in this area by welcoming all academia to embark on our campus sustainability journey in various ways such as research projects, community engagements, faculty programmes, student mentoring and many other platforms.”


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Bringing back credibility to tertiary education

Thursday, January 24th, 2019
‘For universities to be relevant, excellent and effective, a high level of quality must be achieved in various aspects, and this can be done through having academics who are more visible with works that are used by the community,’ – DR MASZLEE MALIK, Education Minister

EDUCATION continuity to the tertiary level is the result of hard work put in during the years in school.

Many will find higher education a challenging world as it is here that students will get to know their real selves, the destination of the journey they are taking in life and the means of getting there.

Hence why the Education Ministry finds it crucial to bring back credibility to public universities and higher education through improved quality and emphasis on values as the core of education.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, in delivering his 2019 mandate titled “Education for All” last week, said the ministry has underlined four key directions for higher education – quality, autonomy, collaboration and internationalisation.

“University is an open intellectual field. It is there that theoretical debates, lively and open discourse, as well as the sharing of knowledge take place.

“For universities to be relevant, excellent and effective, a high level of quality must be achieved in various aspects, and this can be done through having academics who are more visible with works that are used by the community. We encourage universities to nurture the culture of having dialogues, debates, discourse and other intellectual programmes that will provide solutions to society’s problems and develop the nation,” he said.

Ethics is another important aspect that has to be focused on, he said.

“Bad work ethics, plagiarism, and academic bullying must cease. Integrity will not be compromised. Publication of article that has no quality should be exterminated. Publication should reflect the mastery of intellectuals in their respective fields and be regarded as universal reference within the field,” he said.

The ministry will also increase the quality of research grants to ensure that knowledge transfer will occur, encourage translation of great works and the research will establish results that will resolve current community and national problems in a substantial manner. Lecturers who have been awarded research grants are encouraged to guide and finance their post-graduate candidates by appointing them as research assistants.

“For lecturers promotion, we will start moving towards using a big data-based system with artificial intelligence that will accommodate all efforts and contributions from lecturers to determine auto-promotion eligibility. The requirement to fill endless forms will cease,” he said.

The library will be a broad and borderless repository of knowledge and the communication system between libraries at all universities and access to external publications be improved.

“We are aiming to have public universities and the higher education sector be referred to by the global community. The process of internationalisation includes the effort to increase the number of foreign students coming to Malaysia to study in line with the vision of making Malaysia an international education hub, and building more branches of local universities abroad through the satellite university method,” he said.

To increase autonomy at universities, the ministry will reassess the key performance indicators (KPIs) of each faculty and repeal the one-size-fits-all KPIs. Universities will be divided into clusters to create synergy and collaboration to no longer move alone. Autonomy is given to universities and their clusters to determine their respective KPIs.

Empowering students at higher education institutions had been and would continue to be given emphasis, said Maszlee.

Dr Maszlee Malik speaking at the Education Minister’s Mandate 2019 ceremony in Universiti Putra Malaysia. PIC BY ROSELA ISMAIL

Among the first attempts was the abolition of Section 15(1)(c) of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, which restricts the involvement of students in political activities on campus. This cancellation is in line with the government’s intention to lower voters’ age limit to 18 years.

“In addition, through continuous collaboration with the administrators of public universities in the country, we are working to create a Students’ Union, which has long been buried in the history of the country. Through the union, students will have more roles, opportunities and responsibilities in the decision-making process at each university,” he said.

The third direction – collaboration – will see the ecosystem of intellectuals be made more vibrant.

“This can be done through a mentor-mentee relationship between senior professors and new lecturers to realise more schools of thoughts in their respective fields. In this case, the universities should not be alienated from the reality of life. To prepare our students to become public intellectuals to handle tasks as society’s troubleshooters, universities must create collaborations with all the appropriate parties, such as schools, polytechnics and vocational colleges. A lot can be done by public universities to help local communities, including giving training to improve the quality of the teaching and learning process in schools,” said Maszlee.

In addition, universities also need to collaborate with other parties to create endowment from the waqf and zakat institution, as well as alumni.

“Use tax incentives to activate financial endowment through alumni. The alumni of the public universities are also asked to return to their alma mater to help out as is the case with international leading universities,” Maszlee urged.

A more drastic and comprehensive internationalisation effort will be mobilised, he said.

“Most importantly, academics of the public university should be referred to internationally in their respective fields and no longer just be jaguh kampung. High-quality work must be produced and translated, and the process of translation must be actively executed; rebranding and marketing must be organised more effectively at the global level. We also need to increase the mobility of professors and staff outside the country as well as have more academics from overseas visiting and serving in our country,” he said.

As for TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training), he said the ministry would continue to improve institutional capabilities and systems of TVET to remain competitive and meet market expectations.

“The ministry will implement a harmonised accreditation system with quality assurance for enabling student mobility in TVET institutions, including those in the Malaysian Technical University Network (MTUN).

“MTUN should also be moving towards the Fachhochschule system in Germany and measured with the production of technical graduates and the resolution of technical issues, and not merely producing publications.

“We will improve the quality and delivery of TVET programmes to improve the skills of graduates through an industry-led approach, eliminating duplication of programmes and resource, increasing cost effectiveness, and expanding TVET funding to increase enrolment,” said Maszlee.

“At the same time, the ministry is in the process of resolving the issue of recognising qualification from vocational colleges that will allow them to have equal opportunity to pursue higher education.

“This requires that vocational colleges be placed parallel with the other institutions of TVET to be in line with the industry’s direction,” he said.

Polytechnics and community colleges will also not be left out from reformation efforts to be carried out this year.

“Networking and joint ventures between the two institutions with the industry, particularly big and renowned companies, is a priority to ensure the marketability of graduates in technical fields.


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NUTP: The issue is to reduce irrelevant work.

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

PETALING JAYA: The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) thanked Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik for listening to teachers and taking heed of their unnecessary documentation workload.

NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan said the issue is not to reduce the workload but to reduce irrelevant work.

“This will enable teachers to have more time to teach, have face time with students, to learn about the students’ ability through continuous assessment and also for the teachers to have more interaction time with the parents.

“The idea is to always make sure that teachers are doing what they are supposed to do and not get distracted,” he told The Star.

He added that there may still be problems faced in the future with the abolition of the excessive paperwork but “the keyword is to constantly engage and check if we are going in the right direction”.

Senior English teacher A. Leela said she can foresee that teachers will be less stressed with the new initiatives in place.

She said teachers can now concentrate on teaching students rather than all the “unnecessary paperwork” they have to do.

“A happy teacher can definitely perform better in teaching and will concentrate better on their students,” she said.

This will lead to more enjoyable classes and a higher rate of school attendance, she said.

“If students and teachers are happy then successful learning and teaching will take place,” she said.

Fellow English teacher L. Shamala said she was glad the ministry was addressing the teachers’ workload issue.

Describing the initiatives as a “real relief”, Shamala said teachers would be able to concentrate on their “core business” – teaching – and be freed from the hassle of preparing reports and documents.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said teachers’ paperwork issue was being addressed as it was the main complaint she had heard from teachers.

“Parents have also complained that teachers aren’t able to teach properly because of all this paperwork.

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Ensuring graduates have soft skills

Sunday, January 20th, 2019
The EmPOWER programme is aimed at creating holistic graduates who are capable of enhancing their human capital, social capital, economic capital and emotional capital. — 123rf.comThe EmPOWER programme is aimed at creating holistic graduates who are capable of enhancing their human capital, social capital, economic capital and emotional capital. —

The challenge facing academic institutions is that “soft skills” are “hard” to develop and difficult to measure

HOW ready for work are our young people? A recently published Khazanah Research Institute report titled “School-to-Work Transition of Young Malaysians,” identified a number of mismatches between educational outcomes and employment market requirements.

“Employers rate soft skills and work experience above the academic and professional qualifications that are emphasised by Malaysian education and training institutions.”

The survey also found that “young people themselves recognise that academic qualifications are inadequate and acknowledge that they lack the soft skills and work experience that are necessary for getting a good job.”

Employers are seeking “soft” skills including “strong work ethics, good communication skills, creative and analytical thinking, challenge solving skills, acting as a team player, positive attitude, learning from criticism and working under pressure.”

The study went on to recommend the development of policies to encourage academic institutions to teach such skills.

The last two decades have seen increasing importance being placed on the development of soft skills. This has accelerated recently as an increasing number of cognitive-based technical tasks are being performed by computers and smart systems. This has left humans with what they can, supposedly, perform better than machines; soft skills.

The challenge facing academic institutions is that “soft skills” are “hard” to develop and difficult to measure.

The current education system was born after the first industrial revolution and is based on the factory and standardisation techniques where students are taught, in relatively large groups, standard materials and are tested using the same exam papers.

Addressing this challenge requires new and innovative thinking that examines how we define education and measure students’ educational success. This will start by recognising each student as a unique individual with a unique potential and different talents, needs and capabilities.

The other aspect of the challenge of developing soft skills is that they exist within the realm of “tacit knowledge”, ie knowledge that can only be acquired experientially, requiring a high level of motivation and self-awareness on the side of the students, and demanding a very different style of teaching and delivery by universities.

At Heriot-Watt University Malaysia, we have developed a structured programme to build soft, employability and life skills in all our students. The programme, which we have named EmPOWER takes the students into a four-stage developmental journey of knowing and leading self, leading teams, leading communities and leading enterprise.

The programme has six domains, namely

1. Global Citizenship, Leadership and Impact;

2. Emotional Intelligence, Resilience and Happiness;

3. People Skills;

4. Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity;

5. Critical Thinking and Decision Making; and

6. Employability and Industrial Relevance.

The programme is aimed at creating holistic graduates who are capable of enhancing their human capital, social capital, economic capital and emotional capital. Students work with their personal tutors and the EmPOWER programme instructors on personalised projects and learning experiences to develop their soft skills alongside other necessary technical and academic skills.

The acquisition of the soft and life skills is documented and certified using the “EmPOWER Transcript” that every student will receive together with their academic transcript.

This both cultivates self-awareness among the students and provides employers with an evidence-based record of the attainment of these skills.

The “School-to-Work Transition of Young Malaysians” study also found that “while employers use online advertisements and informal networks to recruit the workers they need, young people look for jobs through public employment services, job fairs or open interviews.

Informal recruitment channels can have cost-saving advantages but penalise poor, disadvantaged job seekers who have limited social networks and also restrict the selection pool of employers.

The mismatch of job search and recruitment methods clearly affects the smooth functioning of the labour market.”

The EmPOWER programme addresses this through encouraging and supporting students to build strong networks and enhance their social capital throughout their years at the university, given the strong links between networks and employment.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution with its continuous disruption of the job market is here to stay. More jobs and tasks that are cognitive and technical by nature will be automated.

It makes sense that our policies, our institutions and our business organisations shift their human development goals towards growing the “human skills” that machines are unable to perform. This is the only sure way to future proof humanity.

The economist Thomas Sowell said: “Life does not ask what we want. It presents us with options.”

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What lies ahead in 2019 for higher education?

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019
(File pix) Diversity and education for all.

WITH Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the May 9 general election last year, the education landscape saw the merging of the Education Ministry, once the caretaker of school-level matters, with the Higher Education Ministry under the leadership of Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik.

The merger is the platform for the planning, implementation and management of strategies and operations, from pre-school to higher education and lifelong learning in a continuum.

Diversity and education for all is the ministry’s mission as evidenced by the June 2018 intake at public universities, polytechnics, community colleges and public skills training institutions.

Out of the intake of 182,409 post-sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) candidates, 17,338 places were offered to those from the B40 group, 299 to the disabled, 348 to Orang Asli and 1,225 to sports athletes. The trend of offering education opportunities at the tertiary level is expected to continue.

The education Ministry also pledged to make technical and vocational education and training (TVET) as students’ first choice of studies in the next five years.

Maszlee said TVET empowers every level of society towards equitable development, poverty reduction and economic prosperity.

However, several issues must be addressed, including strengthening the governance of TVET for better management, harmonising rating systems across both private and public TVET institutions, and enhancing the quality and delivery of TVET programmes to improve graduates’ employability.

The Budget 2019 speech revealed that the Education Ministry received the lion’s share with an allocation of RM60.2 billion, emphasising the critical importance of education for the nation’s progress.

The 2019 budget made substantial allocations for scholarships including a RM2.1 billion boost to the MARA education scholarships Programme and RM17.5 million over the next five years to the Malaysia Professional Accountancy centre (MyPAC) to produce more qualified bumiputera accountants.

Yayasan Peneraju Pendidikan Bumiputera received RM210 million for three of its programmes — Program Peneraju Tunas, Program Peneraju Skil (technical and vocational skills programmes) and Program Peneraju Professional (professional certifications in finance and accounting).

To ensure there are funds for those seeking to pursue tertiary studies, the national Higher Education Fund Corporation is reviewing its repayment mechanism.

Its chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan said the review is expected to take six months before it is presented to the Cabinet for approval. The entity is actively holding meetings with various parties including community leaders, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to obtain relevant information and input before the draft is prepared.

With the abolishment of section 15(2)(c) of the universities and university colleges Act 1971 last month, students have the freedom to take part in politics on campus. This will further expose undergraduates to the democratic system and foster active participation in the governance of the country. Starting this year, student unions will be set up to develop students’ ability to manage their affairs on campus and empower them to lead the nation.

File pix) Rahmah Mohamed, MQA chief executive officer

Enhancing the quality of education

As an education hub, Malaysia is a popular destination for local and international students because of the quality of academic programmes provided by higher education institutions in the country which are accredited by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

MQA chief executive officer Datuk Dr Rahmah Mohamed said its accreditation is widely accepted in Asia, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom and Europe.

“We are recognised as a global brand. If a student graduates from a MQA-accredited programme in Malaysia oraMalaysian institution, they can work in any of these countries,” she added.

For this year, MQA plans to train qualifications officers from countries which require accreditation of programmes such as the Pacific Islands and those emerging from war as well as nations which do not have such agencies.

It will also introduce standards for micro-credentials. Micro-credentialing is the process of earning a micro-credential, which is like a mini degree or certification in a specific topic. To earn a microcredential, you need to complete a certain number of activities, assessments or projects related to the topic “We are looking at enabling individuals to earn credits from short courses organised by higher education institutions, accumulating those credits and ending up with a diploma or degree,” added Rahmah.

“In today’s environment, universities cannot work on their own but need to collaborate. If they subscribe to the same set of standards, a course offered by X University for example can be recognised by University Y.

“And University Y can then offer another set of courses to help students accumulate more credits.

“MQA is always looking for academic products that can contribute to the adult environment. Micro-credentials help students learn and earn on they go.”

Micro-cedentials can be offered by both public and private institutions as long as they subscribe to MQA standards.

“We are targeting to have the standards in place within the first quarter of this year followed by a roadshow. I foresee the implementation of micro-credentials will be rolled out six months later.”

The Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning – Qualification (APEL Q) is in the pipeline.

“APEL Q is still at the study stage. A person who has 20 years of work experience will sit a test and his portfolio will be assessed to determine an award of up to a master’s degree, without having to attend classes.”

MQA will conduct a pilot project after carrying out a feasibility study.

“When we roll it out, we will be the most advanced in Asia in terms of such qualifications.”

MQA believes there is a need to enhance the qualification of working adults without the need to be physically at university.

“We need to contribute to the advancement of the country and, to do this, we need to evolve and improve our stature in academics and education.

So, this is what MQA is striving for.”

Focus on skills

More often than not, SPM school-leavers who are not academically inclined are at a loss after getting their exam results.

Their results may not be up to mark to enable them to continue their studies at conventional higher education institutions and they may not even have an interest in academic pursuit. Without training and education, they may not have the skills for a bright future in the working world.

The Education Ministry’s Technical and Vocational Education Division encourages those who are not academically-inclined to pursue TVET as early as 16 years of age.

Division director Zainuren Mohd Nor sees 2019 as the year to strengthen and empower TVET.

The division runs three programmes: Kolej Vokasional (KV), Program Vokasional Menengah Atas (PVMA) and Perantisan Industri Menengah Atas (PIMA).

“The aim of KVs is to produce skilled workers who meet industry need or become entrepreneurs,” he said.

The aim is to get 70 per cent of its graduates employed, 20 per cent to continue studies and the remaining to become entrepreneurs.

“We have signed 775 memoranda of understanding for on-the-job training with the industry. We collaborate with the industry to produce students with skills required by the Industry Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0). We also partner with TVET colleges from, for example, Korea, China and Italy to gain exposure,” he added.

“Diploma Vokasional Malaysia graduates with a 3.5 CGPA can opt for higher studies. Or they can gain work experience and then opt for APEL Q.

“Budding entrepreneurs can enrol in the School Enterprise programme. They can set up their businesses during studies with the help of Companies Commission of Malaysia and relevant cooperatives.”

KV graduates are awarded the diploma as well as Malaysia Skills certificate. Some 96.7 per cent of the 2017 cohort are employed. As of Press time, the statistics for 2018 were unavailable.

As demand for places at vocational colleges is overwhelming, those who opt for TVET education can do so by joining the PVMA programme at day schools. They will be awarded two certificates — SPM and Malaysian Skills Certificate.

“They sit for only three SPM papers — Bahasa Malaysia, English and History — which qualify them to apply for places at vocational institutions.

They will also be awarded the Malaysia Skills Certificate Level 2 which certifies them as partially skilled and they can gain employment or become entrepreneurs.”

Last year, 269 schools ran PVMA programmes with an increase to 350 this

year.“PIMA offers potential school dropouts a chance to learn and earn. They are in school for two days to learn SPM Bahasa Malaysia, English and History, and spend three days working in the industry. Some 116 schools were involved in 2018 while the number is increased to 200 this year.”

Students will be awarded a SPM certificate as well as a letter of testimony from employers.

The State Education Department and the District Education Office select the schools which carry out this programme subject to the availability of the industry in the vicinity of the school. Students, who are selected by school counsellors, get an allowance from the industry and will be monitored by it.

In the Sistem Latihan Dual Nasional programme, students learn at school for six months and attend industry training for another six months.

“I urge society to change its perception of TVET and encourage more industry players to partner with us to develop TVET.

“We want the industry to provide student placements, taking on a corporate social responsibility approach. The industry can provide facilities and equipment to ensure training is in line with IR4.0.

“Students too need to change their mindset from just being an employee to that of an entrepreneur.”

(File pix) Raja Azura Raja Mahayuddin


The allocation of RM17.5 million over the next five years to MyPAC will go towards its target to produce 600 Bumiputera professional accountants, said its chief executive officer Datuk Zaiton Mohd Hassan.

There are plans to boost Bumiputera education through sponsorship programmes, including collaborating with institutions which provide scholarships specifically for Bumiputeras, particularly students from B40 families, to pursue professional accountancy qualifications.

MyPAC was established in 2015, in collaboration with Yayasan Peneraju, to increase the number of certified Bumiputera accountants.

It aims to create the opportunity and provide the ecosystem for those with the capability and ambition to obtain a professional accountancy qualification.

Through the scholarship programmes, the number of graduates has risen from only two in 2015 to 141 last year, with 2,154 full-time scholars, and 2,654 current scholars.

Nor Dalina Abdullah, one of the earliest recipients of MyPAC scholarship, said she got to know of MyPAC in 2015, which allowed her to complete her ACCA examinations in the same year.

“The scholarship provided me with the means to continue my ACCA education. Its support was instrumental in my passing the examinations,” said Nor Dalina, who works as an analyst at Baker Hughes, a General Electric Company. Her role requires her to interact with her colleagues of different rank, including those in other countries.

“As a founding member of MyPAC Accountants Club, I hope to contribute back especially to MyPAC’s Outreach programme to inspire potential candidates in the fulfilling career as a professional accountant,” she added.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Shafiq Mohd Yusof, Muhammad Hakimie Mat Hat Hassan and Ahmad Fauzee Mohd Hassan attribute their success to Yayasan Peneraju’s three key thrusts—Peneraju Tunas, Peneraju Skil and Peneraju Profesional programmes.

Muhammad Shafiq, from a B40 family in Perak, pursued studies at a private university with aid from Yayasan Peneraju, and he works at a multinational corporation with an average salary of above RM5,000 a month. Muhammad Hakimie, from Terengganu, is trained and certified as a welder, with a salary of RM9,000 while Ahmad Fauzee, who is pursuing the ACCA qualification, ranked first in the world for a subject he took as part ofthe professional certification syllabus.

Yayasan Peneraju chief executive Raja Azura Raja Mahayuddin said a structured scholarship and development programme allows individuals to further studies without financial worries.

“Yayasan Peneraju is thankful for the government’s trust in its efforts in empowering the education of youth especially those from lower income households.

“We are committed to strengthening the Bumiputera community in response to the government’s call to sustain and empower education and human capital.”

As at December 2018, the foundation has helped 23,000 people benefit from education, TVET training (and employment) and professional certification funding and development programmes.

With an allocation of RM210 million under the 2019 Budget, the foundation will be offering more than 7,000 new opportunities this year, including focus of existing programmes on certifications in technology-related fields, professional accreditation programmes for accounting and finance, and a new initiative — Khaira Ummah — for those from religious and tahfiz schools.

There is also the Super High-Income Programme to increase the number of Bumiputeras who earn a monthly income of RM20,000 in specialised and niche fields.

The foundation will focus on target groups — 1,500 youths from challenging socio-economic background with average-to-excellent academic results (Peneraju Tunas); 4,000 dropouts, non-academically-inclined, unemployed youths and low skilled/semi-skilled workforce (Peneraju Skil); as well as 1,600 new and existing workforce including SPM and university graduates, who are aspiring to be specialists (Peneraju Profesional).

Out of the 1,600, it will groom 1,000 professional accountants, chartered financial analysts and financial risk managers annually.

A new programme, Peneraju Tunas Kendiri, which provides opportunities for the disabled, will be introduced this year.

Khaira Ummah will start with two programmes — Huffaz Pintar (SPM fast track) and Huffaz Skil.

“We want to open up career pathways to these group of students through academic courses and technical and vocational education or even to those who aspire to be professionals.”

The Health Ministry has an allocation of RM250 million worth of scholarships for medical doctors, paramedics (including medical assistants), nurses and medical students.

Some 40 per cent RM100 million) is allocated for 1,100 doctors per year (compared to 1,000 in the previous years) to pursue master’s degree in various disciplines.

The ministry spokesperson said about 12,000 medical college students will attend basic paramedic courses and 9,000 nurses will continue post-basic nursing programmes.

There are a variety of master’s degree programmes in medicine and health, including Science/Clinical, Research, Education and Public Health at local universities.

In Malaysia, a master’s degree in medicine and healthcare is a stepping stone to a career in medicine (as a doctor) or an alternative career in another aspect of the field.


Looking forward, Raja Azura applauded the government’s efforts in equipping the nation’s future generations with quality education.

The challenge is keeping up with technological advancements and embracing IR4.0 so as not to be left behind.

“Employers’ expectations of employees have moved towards technology-savvy communication skills, which in turn, require tertiary institutions to impart such abilities to students.

“I am hopeful that the higher education can prepare future generations to face IR4.0, which will impact all economies, industries and society at its core.

“It may very well challenge fundamental ideas about what it means to be human as it is slowly blurring the line between the physical, digital and biological, and changing the way we interact with emerging digital technology such as artificial intelligence, analytics and the Internet of Things.”

Raja Azura lauds the spirit of learnability and resilience.

“This is the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt to remain relevant as people who are willing to learn will be agile and are versatile. They will also rank higher on the employability scale in today’s dynamic world.”

By ROZANA SANIZulita Mustafa.

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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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About time for mandatory rating

Friday, December 7th, 2018
(Stock image for illustration purposes) Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said the ministry was looking into making it “mandatory for all IPTS and IPTA to participate in either Setara or MyQUEST so that we can have a more comprehensive rating.”

At long last, the Education Ministry is making it mandatory for all private institutions of higher learning (IPTS) and IPTA (public institutions of higher learning) to be rated.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said the ministry was looking into making it “mandatory for all IPTS and IPTA to participate in either Setara or MyQUEST so that we can have a more comprehensive rating.”

MyQuest was introduced in 2010 to rate IPTS while Setara was set in motion last year to rate IPTA. But not all parties are welcoming the ministry’s mandatory move. Leading the naysayers’ list are some private colleges.

Let’s take the MyQuest rating for 2016/2017 to measure the enthusiasm for the rating system among the private institutions. In the year in question, there were 398 private colleges registered with the ministry, meaning they were prepared to be rated.

Numbers of private colleges in the country are hard to come by, but by Education Ministry’s calculation there are 483. The reluctance to be rated is understandable. To be rated would mean to open themselves up for public scrutiny and bear the risk of being told that they are one-star material or worse. ( MyQuest ranks institutions from six-star to one-star, with six-star being excellent and one-star weak).

For 2016/2017, 48 private colleges received the lowest possible score — one star. That is a worrying number, not only for the colleges but also parents who have to write the fat cheques for their children’s tuition fees.

But parents and students should be pleased with the ministry’s mandatory plan, though Education Ministry’s officials are not able to tell when this would be. Perhaps a public debate may nudge the ministry in that direction.

For far too long, many private institutions have got away by giving very little. Some were fly-by-night entities that were making money by issuing absentee student visas.

A mandatory rating system will put an end to such scandalous business. And possibly even private institutions that operate below the radar of the Education Ministry, if any.

But rating systems everywhere have come under fire. Many — academics, industry experts and parents — ask what exactly do these rating systems assess.

Academics and industrialists say the best of such systems must assess how the universities teach the students and how well these institutions prepare them for life after college. We agree.

These institutions must seek to make students useful members of society. It must be said that a good institution of higher learning is not about how old it is or even how famous it is. If this is so, only universities such as Oxford and Cairo will make the grade.

Reputation counts, but it is not measured in years. Reputation means how well the colleges prepare students for life. A student who is well-prepared for life will live a good life.


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