Archive for the ‘Colleges / Universities - Issues’ Category

Of brick and online learning spaces

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

Photo: Bernama

As the online semester comes to a close, there are many different feelings that go through the minds of academics.

While conducting online classes, we are reminded on a daily basis of the number for COVID-19 victims that has fluctuated during this Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO). This RMCO was supposed to be imposed till 31 August 2020, but with the steady stream of double digits of late, the condition is still worrying.

New vocabulary

If COVID-19 came up with terms we didn’t know, now we have terms such as – flattening the curve, pandemic, mortality rate, cluster, hotspots or red zones, lockdown, stay at home or movement control order, social distancing, contact tracing, reproductive numbers and zoonotic diseases.

The world of academia also has its share of new vocabulary during COVID-19 – online classes, Internet instability, Zoom or Microsoft teams, Facebook live or Discord, private breakout rooms, personal meeting ID, webcams, webinars, marking online and Digital Open Days.

I believe many academics will agree with me that the online semester that is ending soon was nothing but intense. Intense with the keeping up with the semester, intense with the number of Zoom/Teams sessions for live lectures and/or tutorials. Some even used Facebook ‘live’ or for the gamers at heart, Discord. Believe me when I tell you, if there was a technology out there that would help the delivery of classes, the chances are, most of us have tried and used it. And don’t even get me started on the recording software and devices.

The marking online was equally intense (intense being the operative word here). Gone were the days where you could laze on the sofa armed with a red pen and scribble your comments. Now you actually have to conduct your markings on the documents itself and make sure feedback was on time. Of course most of us managed in due time with the steady stream of assignments coming in, in order to guide the students through different phases of the semester. No doubt, some of us would also need a new pair of lenses before heading into the new semester.

Well at least I no longer have comments from the students that they don’t understand my cursive handwriting as I scribbled red ink all over their assignments. I used to tell the students that I have a different font that runs with my brain and my hand is too slow to catch up. They used to laugh at me but took that in stride.

Online classes

It’s also a different story when we just look at these online classes from the lecturer’s perspective. What about things that the students don’t quite understand from the delivery of online classes? Questions were in abundance and that would only mean that you had to take time to answer queries from different learning platforms. Hence, the need for rules of engagement, as we’re not online like 7/11.

The broadcasting kids that I had this semester were pretty laid-back so it was fun teaching them. I could imagine how much ‘funner’ it would have been doing this particular class face to face. I did tell them that I was from the old school of thought and that seeing them and doing discussions in class physically was preferred. But despite the challenges, they came out on top with fantastic projects.

So as I bade my students good luck for the upcoming semester, of course the burning question was “will next semester will be online too?”

Return to classes

A few days later Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad announced that higher education campuses would fully reopen in October, while 30% of private higher education institutions could start returning from July, in line with the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities’ request.

Universities have already started to plan this out with social distancing for classes, labs and studios. Face masks, sanitisers and temperature sensors need to be in place before all universities are opened for face-to-face lectures as per normal in two months’ time. That would be a different kind of challenge as we go forward with the global classroom of a combination of brick (face-to-face) and online learning spaces.

I was chatting with an old friend recently and he gave me this analogy for COVID-19. He said the pandemic is akin to driving a car. You need to be careful when you drive but you can never foresee accidents that are caused by the other drivers. It’s the same thing with COVID-19; you can be careful and follow all the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) but if other people don’t do the same, we would be infected anyway.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also reiterated this when he said, “We’re asking everyone to make the decisions about where they go, what they do and who they meet as life-and-death decisions – because they are. It may not be your life, but your choices could be the difference between life and death for someone you love, or for a complete stranger. We all have a part to play in protecting ourselves and one another from COVID-19″.

So stay vigilant coz it’s still out there, lurking at every corner. And to all my fellow academics, it’s time to renew your licences for the next round of classes.

By: Bernama.

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Quality foreign education in pandemic times

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

The majestic Putrajaya Lake presents students with a fabulous view while studying at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia

THE Covid-19 pandemic has to be the first widespread pandemic in the modern era to have disrupted progress at all levels across the entire globe.

It has impacted economies around the world, crippled most thriving industries and even killed off businesses that depend on the physical presence of customers.

As schools and campuses are particularly vulnerable when there is a rise in epidemics, it comes as no surprise that these establishments were directed to cease operations to stem the spread of Covid-19.

But education, if stopped for too long, can show negative social and economic effects in society in the long run and can be deemed an essential. It is however an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence during times of emergencies.

In fact, some agencies or organisations are arguing that education should be considered an essential service.

An article calling for teaching to be considered an essential service written by the Global Partnership for Education chief executive officer Alice Albright and Education International general secretary David Edwards, makes the case for education to resume as soon as possible.

They wrote: “The longer schools are closed, the harder it is for children to stay engaged and the greater the risk that the poorest and most marginalised will drop out altogether.

“This has lifelong consequences: The World Bank estimates that the cost of lost learning for this generation of students may already exceed US$10tril in lost future earnings.”

And now that Malaysia is in the fourth month since the movement control order was declared by the Government and although we are experiencing a gradual opening of schools and higher learning institutions, the fear of contracting the virus still lingers.

With many countries such as the UK still combatting the pandemic, Malaysian students who plan to pursue their tertiary education abroad would have to defer their plans indefinitely.

Although this spells bad news, it also ushers in many other alternative opportunities – one of which is studying in a locally based foreign institution like Heriot Watt University Malaysia.

World’s first Mechanics Institute

Established as the world’s first Mechanics Institute in 1821 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Heriot Watt University has since garnered a prodigious history, as it is highly ranked across key university league tables.

Recently it was placed among the top 300 universities worldwide by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020,314th in the world, 38th in the UK and seventh in Scotland by the QS World University Rankings 2020. It is also the 35th in the UK and sixth in Scotland by the Complete University Guide 2020, among others.

The university has an expansive global outlook that is demonstrated by its longstanding dedication towards providing the highest standards in education to students around the world.

The university is thus poised to be an excellent choice for those who aim to study overseas, but whose plans were upset by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 1.9ha lakeside Heriot-Watt University Malaysia campus provides a gateway to the university’s many international campuses around the world.

Study and see the world

As early as the 1990s, Heriot-Watt pioneered a distance-learning programme that allowed students all over the world to study for a Heriot-Watt University degree.

In 2004, the university branched out of the UK with a Dubai campus, the first overseas campus in the Dubai International Academic City and by 2011, it opened its first purpose-built campus.

Then in 2014, the university spearheaded a purpose-built Malaysian campus – Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM) – in Putrajaya, to cater to the rising intake of international students that hail from the Asian region.

In order to make this 1.9ha state-of-the-art lakeside campus the first “green campus” in the country, about £35mil was invested in the development.

HWUM’s well-equipped library is one of the many resources avenues for students.

HWUM offers foundation courses, undergraduate and postgraduate-level programmes in Accounting, Actuarial Science, Business, Construction Management, Data Science, Energy, Engineering, Enterprise, Finance, Human Resource Management, Marketing, Project Management, Psychology, Quantity Surveying and Renewable Energy.

Even now, a HWUM student can revisit the wish of studying overseas and fulfil that dream, as the university guarantees flexible campus transfers to its Dubai or the main one in Edinburgh whenever the current situation improves.

With its truly global campuses, the academics function as a team and deliver the same courses with the same content across all campuses, therefore enabling students to be able to travel and study without interruptions.

All Heriot Watt University campuses the world over now follow the newly implemented Responsive Blended Learning, a flexible approach that lets students begin their academic year on schedule, wherever they are in the world.

The academic year would begin with high-quality online support and learning, appropriate for times like these. However as health and wellbeing conditions improve, more face-to-face activity will be integrated back into the programmes at all its campuses.

Students who had planned to study locally would still benefit from the university’s global outlook as they can still teach, learn and socialise with students from around the world.

Cutting-edge learning methods

HWUM has also integrated technology that allows students to track their progress real-time, via analytics. They have direct access to their own performance and where they stand so they can better manage their study activities.

Similarly, most of HWUM’s learning activities are online, making it easier for students to take full control. All these data are secure and non-intrusive.

In 2017, HWUM introduced the Positive Education approach to nurture purposeful, impactful, professional and resilient individuals through holistic development.

This takes the form of two extracurricular activities, the EmPOWER programme, which encourages students to hone their soft skills and a youth transformation programme called Fit For Future, which forms part of the freshman orientation and helps students identify and achieve their full potential in their creativity, innovation, critical thinking and communication.

The Fit For Future programme has made great strides online in the last two foundation intakes.

A visit to the Malaysian campus in person will let you discover HWUM’s flexible pathways that are made available to you during these troubling times.

As HWUM’s on-campus Open Day is back in full swing this August 15 and 16, albeit with physical distancing measures, you are invited to come view the exhibition, speak with academics, attend academic talks and tour the campus in Putrajaya.

For more information on the programmes, about the flexible campus transfers and to tour the campus virtually in 360°, go to

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Malaysian research universities in top 200 of QS World University Rankings

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020
All five Malaysian research universities have been ranked among the world’s top 200 in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) 2021 World University Rankings.All five Malaysian research universities have been ranked among the world’s top 200 in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) 2021 World University Rankings.

KUALA LUMPUR: For the first time ever, all five Malaysian research universities have been ranked among the world’s top 200 in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) 2021 World University Rankings.

Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Mansor Othman said the country’s oldest university, Universiti Malaya (UM) was ranked at 59th place, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) at 132nd, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia at 141st, Universiti Sains Malaysia at 142nd and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia at 187th.

He said UM made an 11-spot leap from the 70th placing last year with a 70.1 overall score while UPM

improved from its 160th position to 141st.

Mansor also said that three private universities – Taylor’s University, UCSI University and Universiti Teknologi Petronas – have been listed as the top 500 universities in the world.

“It is the country’s best achievement so far in the 2021 QS World University Rankings which also stated that Malaysia is one of the countries that showed the best improvement. Congratulations to all the universities,” he said today.

Mansor said this at the one-day 2020 National Education and Learning Summit themed “Rethinking Malaysian Education: Gearing Up for the 4th Industrial Revolution” held at the Berjaya Times Square, here.

10 polytechnics also received accreditation from the Asia Pacific Accreditation and Certification Commission (APACC), of which nine were in the top 10 list of 26 countries which received the Gold Award.

Among the polytechnics were Politeknik Ibrahim Sultan, Politeknik Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, Politeknik Ungku Omar, Politeknik Sultan Azlan Shah, Politeknik Kota Baru, Politeknik Kuching Sarawak and Politeknik Port Dickson.

The recognition, Mansor said, showed that local polytechnics were globally competitive and poised to be a benchmark excellence for the Technical and Vocational Education Training streams (TVET) in the Asia Pacific region.

He said the multi achievements proved that the country’s Education Blueprint 2015 – 2025 (Higher Education) was on the right track.

“These successes will continue to place Malaysia as a higher education hub in the region and will help forge collaborations between institutions and world-renowned researchers.

“We must not be complacent with our achievements and the favourable rankings that we have achieved thus far. Yes, the universities are doing well and making positive strides forward, but we have the potential to do better,” he said.

By Dawn Chan.

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Varsities rushing to embrace SDGs is all about survival

Monday, July 27th, 2020
(File pic) Soon universities in Malaysia will resume. -NSTP/ASYRAF HAMZAH(File pic) Soon universities in Malaysia will resume. -NSTP/ASYRAF HAMZAH

SOON universities in Malaysia will resume face-to-face interactions. Preparations to adhere to new safety protocols are going on and everybody will have to adjust to the new normal.

I wonder if university leaders are also reckoning with longer- terms scenarios. I am not really referring to the future of our planet and the responsibilities that institutions of higher education hold in making sure that we will have the foresight and prowess to lay down the foundations for a more sustainable, equal and just world.

While it is true that many, perhaps the majority, of universities have embraced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I’m worried that for some it has been just a branding exercise, putting up banners here and there on campus and making their websites more colourful with the logo of the SDGs.

The creation of the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings focused on assessing the work of universities in achieving the SDGs has been a game-changer as many of them were induced to embrace the goals out of fear of being outranked by competitors.

There is nothing wrong with rushing to pursue the goals as long as the administrators of higher learning education realise that this is about survival, because we are on the path of self-destruction and Covid-19 was just a warning of what might come in the years ahead.

From here, the urgency is that universities and likewise all schools understand their important role — not only in educating and researching, but also in pursuing a third call or “mission”, one related to their responsibilities to local communities and their social impact.

Some Malaysian universities have been doing pretty good in the Impact Ranking and the country has been praised worldwide for what its universities have been trying to achieve.

Universiti Sains Malaysia has been ranked first with an excellent 65th position worldwide, followed by Universiti Malaya (80th) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia both ranked in the more than respectable 101-200 band.

They are followed by more local universities in the lower bands, a positive indicator showing the increased interests in the SDGs.

Will these centres of higher educations redouble their efforts and commit to a more sustainable and just world, rethinking missions and visions to reposition themselves as beacons of sustainability and civic engagement?

Do top leaders of these universities understand the high stakes and responsibilities in ensuring that the decade 2020-2030 heralds new and better living patterns? Students should be trained not only to understand the SDGs, but also take action for them. Faculty members have a big role to play, embedding teaching with the goals, attracting students towards micro-research initiatives linked to the SDGs.

Administrators should lead the process, enabling ideas to emerge, creating new units within universities dealing with sustainability-related issues and ensuring their strategic planning mainstream collective efforts towards sustainability and equity.

Sustainability and equity go together because a better world will be one that is sustainable and just too at the same time, and universities have a responsibility in both of them. But can the universities go further?

In the United Kingdom, the UPP Foundation created the Civic University Commission to answer the following question: how can universities serve their place in the 21st century?

The same question should be asked by university stakeholders in Malaysia. As you can see, there is no lack of best practices and innovation.

We need a system-wide change and to ensure that the smallest institutions also get on board while the biggest ones keep embracing even more transformational agenda.

By Simone Galimberti.

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There are always jobs for the flexible and adaptable

Sunday, July 19th, 2020

DUBBED the “Corona Class of 2020”, this year’s cohort of varsity graduates are entering what economists have described as one of the worst global recessions in history.

In the United Kingdom (UK), the Institute of Student Employers, which represents some of the country’s largest employers, found that more than a quarter, or 27%, of businesses, are reducing the number of graduates they recruit this year, and 23% will cut apprenticeship and school leaver programmes.

Locally, the Malaysian Employers Federation estimated that unemployment could hit two million this year.

But even as factors such as student loan debts and unemployment loom over them, there is still room for the “Class of 2020” to not only succeed, but even soar, if they are flexible, adaptable and willing to work hard.

While employment opportunities in some sectors have decreased due to the pandemic, Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh said this was already the case even before the pandemic hit.

“The job market was already changing because of digital disruption.

“The pandemic simply accelerated this disruption and many companies are using this as an opportunity to reinvent their businesses to take full advantage of digital technology.

“The result of this is a transformation in jobs and in the very nature of work, with jobs involving manual and repetitive tasks gradually being replaced by those that are heavily enabled and supported by disruptive technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and fintech.

Parmjit: There will always be opportunities for graduates who are well prepared with the ability to adapt to this digital disruption.Parmjit: There will always be opportunities for graduates who are well prepared with the ability to adapt to this digital disruption.

“So, there will always be opportunities for graduates who are well prepared with the ability to adapt to this digital disruption, ” he said.

Varsities future-proofing graduates has become essential now, Parmjit said, as graduates need to possess a high degree of adaptability, resilience and technological awareness.

This will enable them to cope with the rapid transformation occurring across all sectors.

“Universities will need to continue and intensify their efforts in supporting students to secure internships and job opportunities, particularly in addressing the new opportunities brought about by digital disruption.

“However, this perhaps needs to be done differently with career fairs, internship programmes and placement activities being conducted virtually to address the new normal and to also provide students with access to opportunities globally, instead of depending purely on local recruitments, ” he said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia National Higher Education Research Institute deputy director Dr Wan Chang Da agreed.

Varsities, he said, play a massive role in developing students holistically.

They must have the ability to survive in times like these, building their entrepreneurial skills, taking risks and seizing opportunities, he added.

University efforts

Higher education institutions are doing all they can to ensure the employability of their graduates.

For years, Malaysian varsities have provided students with career counselling facilities.

Understanding the anxiety graduating students are feeling, higher education institutions are stepping up to provide the right support.

This year, Taylor’s University will see some 3,000 students graduating.

An internship is a compulsory credit-bearing module that all Taylor’s students have to undergo as a pre-graduation requirement.

Its Career Resources and Employer Relations (CaReER) head Izwal Mazlan said the varsity has shifted its services online in a bid to adjust to the new normal.

New content has been developed on different categories of topics that will help students’ employability and job hunting strategies.

Izwal said the content is shared across various online channels like emails, student portals, social media platforms and mobile apps.

“Some of this content includes networking opportunities, job openings, recorded webinars, online articles and videos, and virtual tools like templates, checklists and databases.”

Among the programmes offered by CaReER are professional development webinars, virtual tours and office visits, e-career talks and virtual interviews.

“Covid-19 made on-campus career fairs a challenge so we are working with our external career partners such as Talentbank, TalentCorp, Graduan and Seeds Job Fair to promote digital careers and internship fairs for our students.

“We encourage them to attend so that they don’t miss out on opportunities just because of the pandemic, ” he said.

While some employers have been badly affected, Izwal said others continue to be active by virtually engaging with the varsity to look for talent.

Rose: Our students have requested career consultation and advisory services, which we now provide virtually.Rose: Our students have requested career consultation and advisory services, which we now provide virtually.

Sunway University has also moved to virtual platforms to work with its different faculties in starting internship preparatory workshops.

Sunway Career Services head Rose Madonna Devaraj said the varsity brought in employers and trainers to conduct workshops on interview skills, grooming, how to write curriculum vitaes and prepare students for their first jobs.

“We also conduct a pre-employment briefing before they are done with the final semester. This is where we do a survey to understand their needs and what they are looking for.

“Our students have requested career consultation and advisory services, which we now provide virtually.

“From now onwards, the university will be utilising our career portal to help students navigate their internships end-to-end.

“They will apply for internship opportunities and confirm their placements through the portal.

“Once students start their internships, supervisors, along with Career Services, will check in with the different employers to track our students’ progress and how they are being supervised, ” she explained.

From the feedback they’ve received from various industries, Rose said there is a decrease of between 10% and 30% in permanent hires.

The hotel and tourism industry, she said, has been hit the worst, propelling Sunway University to provide support by sourcing for internships and job leads.

“We’re also seeing some industries and organisations such as those in e-commerce and manufacturing hiring in a higher capacity during this period.

“It’s important for those of us in Career Services to advise students to think differently and look at opportunities beyond their areas of studies, and to consider the different forms of employment, whether it’s an extended internship or contract-based opportunities, to get their foot in the door.

“This can lead to different kinds of prospects.”

So far, 922 students have graduated from Sunway University.Another 1,215 are expected to graduate by the end of the year.

INTI International University & Colleges posts job placements and internship opportunities on their learning management system – Blackboard.

This will be shared with all students who are due for internships, its chief executive officer Tan Lin Nah said.

Tan: Job placements and internship opportunities are posted on our learning management system called Blackboard.

Tan: Job placements and internship opportunities are posted on our learning management system called Blackboard.

“During the movement control order (MCO), our Career Services team organised virtual recruitment drives, as well as our first virtual career fair, where more than 100 employers participated and promoted jobs in their companies.

“Virtual interview sessions were arranged for students who had submitted their resumes for jobs and internships, and who were already shortlisted by employers, ” she said, adding that jobs that are in demand are those that leverage on technological know-how and skills, as Covid-19 and the MCO have served as catalysts for organisations to adopt digital transformation.

Expectations on the quality of graduates entering the workplace will be higher than before as organisations are more selective of their hires and are more prudent in the roles they are looking for, said INTI International College Kuala Lumpur chief executive Anis Laila Yap Abdullah in a statement.

“This means that students will need to work hard to acquire the skills – especially those focusing on digital literacy, adaptability and decision making – so that they stand out in this highly competitive job market.

“While securing a role may take longer, companies like DELL, Exabytes, OYO Malaysia and TDCX, which were part of INTI’s virtual career fair, advised students and graduates to use this downtime to build their talent and portfolios through independent projects or short-term work.

“These insights have helped students to realise they need to keep moving forward.”

INTI International College Kuala Lumpur organised its first virtual “Business Week”, aimed at connecting students to current industry trends, challenges and expectations during the pandemic, she said.

“As students aren’t able to return to campus yet, we decided to take our “Business Week” online and give our students the opportunity to build their employability by learning from industry professionals who had to lead organisations during the MCO.

“Hearing our partners share their organisational realities, challenges and solutions gave our students insights into running businesses during tough times.

“This will better prepare them to be future business leaders themselves, ”

A total of 4,500 students from six INTI campuses will be graduating this year.

Noting that many students have had their job offers rescinded or delayed, while many employers have yet to make decisions about recruitment for the remainder of the year, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia is tackling the issue by collaborating with global businesses in a programme designed to help students kickstart their careers.

“Future Made for Success 2020” is a 10-week virtual enterprise programme that incorporates mentoring and an enhanced package of career support to help students begin their careers, said the varsity in a statement.

A series of industry-sponsored scholarships, worth 30% of the tuition fees, will allow students to consider 30 different Master of Science postgraduate courses which builds “in-demand” skills through subjects like Data Science, Renewable Energy Engineering, AI, Robotics and International Fashion Marketing.

“With a focus on talent and innovation as key drivers for recovery, the varsity aims to actively address post Covid-19 socio-economic challenges and propel long-term sustainable growth.

“We are bringing together leading businesses and student talent from our global campuses to tackle the immediate challenges and opportunities.

“By collaborating across disciplines and connecting with highly respected industry partners, we have high hopes that the programme will deliver practical solutions with global impact, ” Heriot-Watt University Enterprise and Business deputy principal Dr Gill Murray said.

Izwal: Some of our career services content includes networking opportunities, job openings and recorded webinars.

Izwal: Some of our career services content includes networking opportunities, job openings and recorded webinars.

The enterprise development programme, she said, will teach graduates about the commercial feasibility of solutions, develop their understanding of business operations and enhance their knowledge of sales, intellectual property and finance.

By supporting and developing the future workforce, the collaboration is building a pool of talent which will help to support the economy during the current crisis and beyond.

“We are particularly interested in attracting graduates from the fields of Business Management, Data Science, AI, Robotics, Software and Energy.”

BAC Education, said its managing director Raja Singham, is taking a two-pronged approach to nation building through the development of digital skills among Malaysians in order to increase growth and create employment.

Its Digital Enterprise and Employee Programme (Project DEEP), a collaboration with the Social Security Organisation and the Human Resources Development Fund, will train 1,000 Malaysians in digital skills.

The programme is designed to encourage foreign investment, empower underserved communities, bridge the existing skills gap, and increase access to education.

“It’s important to hire and train workers for the jobs of the future at a time when everyone needs to work hand in hand to help the economy.

“Public-private partnerships are the way forward and I hope that more companies would come forward to work with the government to create jobs and help our fellow Malaysians get through these challenging times, ” he said in a statement.

The group will harmonise its efforts with the government and its corporate allies to help unemployed locals and fresh graduates achieve employment and be prepared to meet the challenges of automation and digitisation in the workforce.

“We need a collaborative and innovative approach between all the stakeholders – government, as well as private sector employers and employees – if we are going to have any real success in reducing unemployment.

“We will be establishing more partnerships with employers and employment agencies to provide them with digital economy-ready talent.”

Through Project DEEP, enterprises can reskill and upskill existing employees, as well, to ensure their businesses are agile and adaptive to future technological advances, he said.

“By bridging the skills gap and empowering their staff with the right training and knowledge, enterprises will stay ahead of digital disruption.”


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University agility in the era of Covid-19

Sunday, July 19th, 2020

UNIVERSITIES in Malaysia have been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, but they have been remarkably successful in providing educational continuity for their students.

Since the beginning of the movement control order in mid-March, campuses throughout Malaysia have been empty. Given that universities are crowded environments, this closure was an important public health measure that contributed to the safety of students, staff and the broader community.

Universities have responded with great agility to this dramatic and sudden change in their circumstances. Teaching staff, and the many professional colleagues who support them, moved to new ways of operating in a matter of days.

This agility has provided students with educational continuity in a time of global disruption. The importance of this contribution cannot be understated: despite many sectors of the economy being closed, university students have been able to continue their progress towards graduation and, following graduation, employment. The individual, social and economic benefits of this educational continuity are enormous.

Many universities have been able to respond to this crisis because they were prepared. This may seem surprising, because the Covid-19 disruption was unexpected and unprecedented. But universities are all too aware that we are living in an era of disruption and we have been steadily changing the way we teach, and the way students learn, to prepare for it.

In simple terms, the change has been a move from teacher-centred learning (“chalk and talk”) to student-centred learning. University lecturers are no longer the all-knowing sage who passes knowledge to students in tiered lecture theatres. They are now guides, facilitators, curators, inspirers and collaborators in the learning process.

Online tools have played a very important part in this educational transformation. New Internet-based technologies enable us to engage with students in new ways; new ways of delivering material; new opportunities for student engagement; new approaches to educational collaboration. New technology empowers students to become more active partners in education.

Universities have been working hard for years to provide students with a smart, contemporary and authentic learning environment that will prepare them for the jobs of the future. So, when Covid-19 erupted we had many of the tools and skills that we needed to move to online teaching. It was a rush, and our efforts were far from perfect, but it was an extraordinarily agile response to a public health imperative.

We understand that some students are unable to fully benefit from online resources and we must work with them flexibly and compassionately to ensure that they are not unfairly disadvantaged. Some students also need additional financial, logistical or emotional support and, again, universities have mobilised their resources to help them (supplementing a number of valuable government initiatives).

It would be a great shame if the current debate about university fees failed to focus on the central issue of educational continuity. There is a misperception that online operations are providing universities with windfall savings. This is simply not the case. At my university, operational savings from, for example, electricity, are very modest indeed and are far outweighed by the Covid-19 impacts on both our costs and our revenue.

Our top priority is to provide educational continuity so students can graduate and move into employment. This depends on institutional sustainability. University leaders are working hard to secure these linked objectives of continuity and sustainability.

If institutional sustainability is undermined, so is educational continuity. That would be a disaster for thousands of students who are working hard, in difficult times, to complete their degrees.


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About 20,000 Malaysian students stranded abroad

Saturday, July 18th, 2020
“The government has also provided an allocation, which is not much, but enough to bring back the Malaysian students who are still stranded,”  Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof  (left)  told reporters at a programme with Zone 5 Civil Defence Force (APM), which is made up of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang,  today. - NSTP/ NIK ABDULLAH NIK OMAR“The government has also provided an allocation, which is not much, but enough to bring back the Malaysian students who are still stranded,” Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof (left) told reporters at a programme with Zone 5 Civil Defence Force (APM), which is made up of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, today. – NSTP/ NIK ABDULLAH NIK OMAR

KOTA BARU: An estimated 20,000 Malaysian students are still stranded abroad as countries have closed their borders to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Special Functions) Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof said, today.

He said the government is monitoring the situation and studying ways to bring home all the students in stages.

“For example, for students who have completed their studies, we do not want to delay bringing them home, and the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) will ensure they will be brought home by their respective sponsors.

“The government has also provided an allocation, which is not much, but enough to bring back the Malaysian students who are still stranded,” he told reporters at a programme with Zone 5 Civil Defence Force (APM), which is made up of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, here, today.

Also present was APM Chief Commissioner Datuk Roslan Wahab.

Mohd Redzuan said several crucial issues must be considered to resolve the situation, including legal matters, before the government can carry out a mission to bring the students home.

“For example, does the respective country allow international flights to enter?

“In the United States, where (Covid-19) cases are increasing, we are very concerned and we want to take advantage of its airspace, which is still open, to bring back (Malaysian) students,” he added.


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Higher Education Minister: 15% hostel, activity, admin fee reduction for public varsity students due to MCO

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Students at public higher learning institutions will get a reduction of up to 15% for their hostel, administrative and activity fees, says Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad (pic).

The Higher Education Minister said the discount is applicable for those who are in their second semester of their 2019/2020 academic session.

This is to help reduce the burden of students and their families, especially those who have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, she said.

The Parit Sulong lawmaker said her Ministry had discussed with the Finance Ministry on the issue of university fees after receiving feedback from students, parents and relevant stakeholders.

“From the discussion, the government has agreed to reduce the rate of the hostel, administrative and activity fees in public universities by up to 15%.

“This was done after taking into account the financial capabilities of the government and public universities,” she said in reply to Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin (PH-Hang Tuah Jaya).

Shamsul had asked the Ministry if there were plans to help reduce the burden of students at public higher learning institutions since many have not physically attended classes due to Covid-19.

Noraini said the reduction of fees involves a total allocation of RM72mil, and from that RM20mil will be channelled from the Finance Ministry.

The remaining RM52mil will be from internal allocations of the public universities derived from the savings during the movement control order (MCO) period.

“Some 523,318 students in public universities nationwide are expected to benefit from this decision,” said Noraini.

Noraini said the Ministry is also aware on the challenges of online learning methods due to Covid-19.

Among the challenges, she said, included limited Internet access and wifi coverage, high data cost and some students who don’t have laptops or smartphones.

Realising this, the government has asked public universities to help students by sending the relevant materials via post so that they won’t be left behind in their syllabus.


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Reschedule school exams if any candidate displays Covid-19 symptoms’

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

If a candidate with Covid-19 symptoms is detected, the school must contact the district health office on the next course of action, and must also inform the candidate’s parents or guardian. - NSTP/File pic

If a candidate with Covid-19 symptoms is detected, the school must contact the district health office on the next course of action, and must also inform the candidate’s parents or guardian. – NSTP/File pic

KUALA LUMPUR: Teachers must reschedule examinations if any of their students develop symptoms of Covid-19, said Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

The Senior Minister (Security Cluster) said teachers must also emphasise social distancing, good hygiene, and safety during the assessment process.

“The special Cabinet committee has agreed to the guidelines presented by the Education Ministry on assessment management.

“Among others, the guidelines include the need for school administrations to arrange for a central assessment schedule based on the examination calendar issued by the Education Ministry,” he said in his statement today.

Meanwhile, for public examinations, administrators must take into account the number of additional rooms needed during exams to practice social distancing.

Ismail added that if a candidate with Covid-19 symptoms is detected, the school must contact the district health office on the next course of action, and must also inform the candidate’s parents or guardian.

“The exam’s chief invigilator should ensure that all matters on conducting exams inside and outside of the examination centres must consider social distancing, good hygiene and safety,” he added.

By Hana Naz Harun.

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Learning institutions should teach students importance of Rukun Negara

Saturday, July 11th, 2020
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye. - NSTP/File picTan Sri Lee Lam Thye. – NSTP/File pic

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Unity Foundation has suggested that institutions of learning in the country teach students the importance of Rukun Negara and its noble values.

A trustee of the foundation Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said it was important to explain to the people, especially the young generation, the true meaning of Rukun Negara, why it was formulated and its purpose, in terms of promoting harmony, integration and unity among the races.

“Today’s graduates should be wise, have empathy and noble values, and most importantly love the country.

“Continuous efforts should be made across the country towards fostering awareness on appreciating and embracing Rukun Negara,” he said in a statement here today.

Aug 31 marks the 50th anniversary of Rukun Negara, which was formulated after the May 13 incident in 1969.

The Rukun Negara’s golden anniversary celebration, to be held for three months and jointly organised by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry and the National Unity Ministry, was launched by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in Putrajaya last Thursday.

by Bernama.

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