Archive for the ‘Colleges / Universities - Issues’ Category

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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Private higher educational institutions need to take part in rating system

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018
Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said that the ministry wouldl make it compulsory for IPTS to go through the Malaysian Quality Evaluation System for Private Colleges (MyQuest) and Rating System for Malaysian Education (SETARA) rating systems, which were set up last year. Pic by NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will make it mandatory for all private institutions of higher learning (IPTS) to be rated.

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said that the ministry wouldl make it compulsory for IPTS to go through the Malaysian Quality Evaluation System for Private Colleges (MyQuest) and Rating System for Malaysian Education (SETARA) rating systems, which were set up last year.

She said that MyQuest was established to rate private colleges while Setara was made to measure the achievement of universities and university colleges.

“What we are looking into is to make it mandatory for all IPTS and IPTA (public institutions of higher learning) to participate in either SETARA or MyQUEST so that we can have a more comprehensive rating.

“It would make it easier for (prospective) students to make the best decision in choosing quality IPT (institutions of higher learning) to further their studies,” she said at the Dewan Rakyat today.

She was answering a supplementary question from Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali (PH-Bersatu-Bagan Serai) on how the government could measure the quality of newer IPTS, among others.

Teo noted that around 206 IPTS took part in MyQuest and 71 universities and university colleges took part in Setara since last year.

Earlier in reply to the main question from Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh (BN-Umno-Besut) over the global ranking of Malaysia’s IPT and how the achievement is measured, she said that the QS World University Rankings 2019 showed that Universiti Malaya’s ranking had risen from 114 to 87.

By Hidir Reduan Abdul Rashid.

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RM7.35bil Samurai bond to fund education, transport sectors, not repay national debts, says Kadir.

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

PETALING JAYA: The RM7.35bil Samurai bond issuance, which the Japanese government has offered to guarantee, is not intended to repay Malaysia’s existing debts, says Datuk A. Kadir Jasin.

The Prime Minister’s media adviser said the money raised will be used to fund the education and transportation sector and visit exchanges between Japan and Malaysia.

He said if there is confidence in the government owing to its excellent economic achievement records and sound administration, this will enable it to secure loans domestically and from abroad.

Instead, if a country had a poor track record or if the government had ulterior motives in taking up loans such as seen in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, then it would be harder to secure loans domestically and internationally.

“If under the old government we secured huge debts in dubious ways especially from China, now we managed to get a special loan with a low-interest rate,” he wrote in his capacity as National Journalist Laureate in his column in Sinar Harian published on Sunday (Nov 11).

He said that the government may borrow domestically or from abroad at a lower interest rate to repay the debts left by the previous administration.

“Considering the financial situation of the government that is ridden with debt and liabilities of more than RM1tril, restructuring of loans is one of the challenging duties in the financial and economic administration in the next coming years,” he wrote.

In June, Malaysia asked for a yen loan during Dr Mahathir’s first meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to help resolve the government’s debts.

By Fatimah Zainal
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Japan to set up three universities in M’sia.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Three Japanese higher-learning institutions have revealed plans to establish branches in Malaysia, said the Education Ministry.

Its minister Dr Maszlee Malik said they include Tsukuba University, one of the oldest and most comprehensive research universities in Japan, Nippon Designers School and Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University.

“It is estimated that Tsukuba University would start its operations in 2020, while Nippon Designers School could start operating as early as next year,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Dr Maszlee, who is currently on a three-day visit to Japan starting Monday with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said the ministry has started seeking potential locations for the establishment of the new universities and will aid in easing the process of establishment, registration and intake of students.

“The plans are in line with Dr Mahathir’s Look East Policy which he started in the early 1980s,” Dr Maszlee said.

He noted that Dr Mahathir, who was conferred an honorary doctorate from Tsukuba University, said establishing Japanese universities is important for Malaysians as it enables them to not only learn Japan’s values and work ethics, but also expose them to its education system and culture.

Besides that, Dr Maszlee also announced that the ministry has plans to provide a nutritious breakfast scheme for the B40 group and hopes to inculcate a culture of cleanliness and discipline among children from pre-school till higher education.

“This is the result of my three-hour-long visit to Itabashi Daiichi Elementary School, a public school located in Tokyo, which allowed me to see first-hand Japan’s education methods which produces youngsters with good character,” said Dr Maszlee who visited Takeshi Sakamoto, the mayor of Itabashi City Hall on Monday.

“Sakamoto expressed enthusiasm to strengthen the relationship and cooperation between the two countries, especially in tourism and education. He is also keen on having sister city status.

By Lee Chonghui
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Dear Minister…

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018
Potgieter wants to empower teachers.

Potgieter wants to empower teachers.

ON May 20, Elmarié Potgieter penned a heart-felt, open letter to Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik. Her Facebook post has since garnered over 2,800 shares on the social media platform – on top of the hundreds of personal responses received.

Since 2011, the education consultant has been working on large-scale transformation projects here including Khazanah National’s Yayasan Amir Trust Schools Programme to improve accessibility of quality education in government schools, and Genosis – a Malaysian education model to develop future-ready youngsters. She shares her views on the state of our education system.

> How did the open letter come about?

I was sitting on the couch and just thought I’d reach out to the minister. I never thought it would go viral. It wasn’t meant to criticise. I had seen so much having been in the system. I was frustrated because we have so much potential waiting to be realised.

> Teacher education is your passion. Why?

I was 20 when I started teaching in South Africa. My mother was a teacher but I never wanted to be one. Now it’s my passion. I’ve seen wonderful teachers here but training, practical strategies, empowering them to do what they’re supposed to do, and getting them to go back to the curriculum to see what’s there instead of looking at other people’s interpretation of it, are needed. The system doesn’t give teachers a sense of ownership. Amazing things happen when teachers are given the right personal development and trust by the schools. Singapore’s doing away with exams. Hooray. This is what’s needed but parents here don’t trust teachers to assess a child outside of the general exam. So we’re back to exams as the only way of evaluating a child’s success. We’ve to focus on teacher training and leadership development. Maybe our teachers need more learning assessment and formative learning practice training. The ministry tells teachers what’s expected but there’s not enough support on how to do it.

> Are parents doing enough?

Schools have to involve parents more. Parents don’t trust teachers because they don’t understand what’s happening in class. Treat them as partners. What can you contribute? Can you discuss this with your child at home? Communicate regularly with parents and they’ll understand better.

> How should teachers be trained?

The preferred approach internationally is to have generalised teachers who teach three or four subjects like English, Art, Science, and Math – at least from Years One to Three. At primary stage, subjects can be integrated and taught as themes – like seasons. Children can learn about the theme in Bahasa Malaysia, English, Science and Math lessons. This helps them develop socially, emotionally, and creatively.

One teacher doing several subjects also promotes bonding. At that age, kids need to feel secure. A generalised teacher can get to know their strengths and areas that need improvement better so knowledge can be integrated across the curriculum. Now, children go to school, and they have all these different teachers teaching them. They sit at their desks, copying from the book, memorising from the board, doing tests and studying for exams. Many go through the school and are functionally illiterate. They can recognise the ABCs but not necessarily understand the concepts and thinking skills. Also, teachers spend so much time moving from class to class that how much of the period is really spent teaching?

> Let’s talk about the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

The blueprint has great ideas and it’s a fantastic document but implementation is a problem. When big decisions are made, cascading them down to teachers is hard. Sometimes teacher training gets diluted. Other times, the system doesn’t allow its implementation. Content’s not the problem. It’s a system issue. Go into any school and the first thing you’ll see at the reception area is a countdown clock to the exams. If exams are still driving what happens in schools, that means teachers still feel like their performance is measured by the children’s UPSR and SPM results. But you can’t blame the teachers or the schools. High UPSR marks gets you a good place in a high-performing, or a fully residential school, so that you can score in the SPM. And, that’s how the child gets a bursary sponsorship or gains entrance into university.

So varsities could be a key driver to change things. If varsities look at interview portfolios as an avenue for students to present and show off their skills, and consider the SPM results as only one factor for admission, maybe then we can start de-prioritising exams.

> What more can we do for early education?

Not enough attention has been given. We’re not talking about colouring within the lines here, but many parents don’t prioritise early childhood education so when kids go to school, teachers are faced with two groups of students – one that’s attended pre-school and have the basic literacy skills to take up the curriculum, and a larger group who has never had any formal pre-school training. The foundation must be laid even before the primary years. There are windows of opportunity in a child’s brain when certain synapses are formed and it’s very hard to create those new connections later on.

> How’s the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) aligned curriculum working out for us?

It’s good to benchmark your English performance against international standards but the textbook is very inappropriate. Children struggle with context. They’re talking about topics and a pre-knowledge that our students do not have. There’s great confusion among the teachers too – whether they should follow the textbooks, lesson plans given by specialist coaches, or integrate the two systems. There’s a fear of doing the wrong thing. There are many contradictory instructions. Teachers feel lost. There’s much talk about 21st century learning but there’s no clear conceptualisation about what it means.

> How are we doing with technology in education?

Teachers are given smart phones so they can access the Frog Virtual Learning Environment platform. Some log on and just let the app run. Many haven’t even taken the phone out of the box because they don’t know how to use it. Children aren’t allowed to bring their mobiles to schools. There’s so much fear that they’ll do bad things but isn’t it better to educate them about what’s right and how to use this very powerful tool? You can’t have IT in the classroom if you don’t have a device and Internet connectivity. But how you integrate IT in your teaching is also important.

We can do better

Education consultant Elmarié Potgieter’s suggestions in her recent open letter to the ministry:

> Education Ministry departments

Communication and alignment between existing departments is sorely lacking. As a result, schools are inundated by different projects and data management systems that result in a huge administrative burden, miscommunication and confusion. A leaner, empowered workforce will ensure huge savings and efficiency.

By Christina Chin
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Going beyond exams

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018
Genosis training for teachers, school improvement specialist coaches, district education officers and Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia lecturers in Putrajaya.

Genosis training for teachers, school improvement specialist coaches, district education officers and Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia lecturers in Putrajaya.

TO cope with the intensified demand for a highly skilled, progressive, and adaptable workforce, the creation, updating, and application of knowledge, is vital, says Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) CEO Naser Jaafar.

Our students, he feels, can become global-minded Malaysians with a high level of empathy and cultural understanding, and are able to play a big role in the 21st century world and beyond.

Enter Genosis – a pilot project that will be rolled out in 10 schools – SMK Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, SMK SS17 Subang Jaya, SMK Sungai Burong and SMK Pengkalan Permatang (Selangor); SMK Bandar Baru Sri Sendayan and SMK Warisan Puteri (Negri Sembilan); SMK Putrajaya Presint 11(1) and SMK Putrajaya Presint 18 (1) (Putrajaya); and SMK Keramat Wangsa and SMK Puteri Ampang (Kuala Lumpur) – next year.

The pilot phase, which ends in the year 2021 is jointly funded by AIM and its education arm, Genovasi Foundation (GF). For the future, AIM and GF are looking at models like public private partnerships or social impact funding.

Rite Education managing director Elmarié Potgieter, who leads the design of Genosis, explains the aim of the programme.

“We wanted to take design thinking, inquiry-based learning, and the International Baccalaureate (IB) to create a framework for Malaysia, but one that could also be adopted by other countries.”

Education experts were brought in to look at what we had. And, Potgieter was pleasantly surprised to find that all the necessary elements were there – investigation, exploration, cross-curriculum work, and concepts. The problem, she found, was that teachers didn’t know what to do.

“They’re overwhelmed. Everyday there’s a new thing. If you were to measure learner participation and ownership in classrooms, the results would be quite shocking.”

The Genosis teaching guide.

The Genosis teaching guide.

Why Genosis works

Establishing master trainers among school teachers, school improvement specialist coaches (SISC) from district education offices (PPD), and Institute of Teacher Education (IPG) lecturers, ensures effective cascading of information to schools, says Naser.

These master trainers can deliver comprehensive and customised training as they’re very familiar with the school, and understand the positives and challenges, and other intrinsic factors like socio-economic levels and dialects.

Additionally, master trainers, teachers, students, and parents, are connected via the Genosis Education Management System (gEMS).

“The master trainer process exposes teachers to ways they can integrate 21st century skills, tools and teaching strategies, in their classrooms, while balancing direct instruction with project-oriented teaching methods,” Naser says.

All learning materials are online and accessible to teachers, Potgieter adds. And unlike other programmes where trainers come to the school for a few hours and leave, Genosis master trainers are based in the schools so they’re there to guide the delivery long after training is over.

“We’re building capacity in the schools. Learning changes continuously. Training alone doesn’t help. You must see a change in the class. It also comes down to support, and proper performance management.”

Professional development modules are designed as flipped classroom models, and workshops utilise face-to-face and e-learning dimensions, so teachers understand Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) inquiry and project-based learning, Naser shares.

“Student learning is always connected to, and applied in, real-life problems and scenarios.”

Students first

Genosis covers the national curriculum’s mandatory subjects, but also allows students to take optional subjects, Naser says.

With a broader and deeper set of knowledge and skills, students can adapt their understanding for use in any situation.

“Lessons are exciting, engaging and meaningful. Classrooms are more animated. Students are trusted to work independently to find information for themselves.

“They develop critical thinking and creativity while learning to collaborate with their peers.”

The core of Genosis, he adds, is the individual learning portfolio.

Each child has an e-portfolio that will follow them through their secondary years, explains Potgieter.

“The comprehensive e-portfolio will include competency assessments by their peers, teachers, parents and themselves. Tasks linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals showcase their design thinking abilities, to solve problems in the community. By the time they get to Form Five, the e-portfolio will show whether the student can work in a team, has good values, and problem-solve. This e-portfolio can be given to universities as proof of the student’s capabilities,” she says, adding that assessment is not about what you remember, but how you apply your skills.

The e-portfolio will showcase skills like writing, creating, and producing visuals. The process of building the personal e-portfolio is important. No two student will have the same kind of e-portfolio, she says.

“Design thinking starts with empathy so you have to find the problem, define it, prototype it, and review it. It’s amazing what children are capable of but we don’t trust them in the learning process.”

Assessing the pilot project

The ‘Genosis Benchmarks and Beacons’ guidelines will be used to define and improve the implementation quality and to assess teacher and student development and progress, says Naser.

Genosis is in line with the Malaysia Education Blueprint, stresses Potgieter. If this works, it could change Malaysian education.

“We’ve developed hundreds of lessons, projects, and investigations, so teachers know what to do and can eventually prepare their own materials.”

By Christina Chin

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Coping with work while studying

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018
Muhammad Fuad Mohd Nizam taking pictures and videos for Pinnacle Motorsports at the Sepang Circuit during the inaugural round of Formula 3 Asian Championship Race.

WE often hear of university students abroad doing part-time jobs to cover their living and education-related expenses.

Due to the rising cost of living, this trend is also becoming increasingly common in Malaysia, with many university students turning to paid employment to cover study costs.

Apart from the extra income that could help pay for food, accommodation and other education-related and lifestyle bills, quite a number are working for experience. The skills gained from part-time jobs could prove to be a boost to students’ employability in a highly competitive job market once they graduate.

But how does one manage working at part-time jobs during semester while classes are going on? Can one do it without compromising on academic performance?

Muhammad Fuad Mohd Nizam, 20, said it all depends on how one’s priorities are set. The final-year Diploma in Graphic Design and Digital Media student at Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Alor Gajah campus does freelance sports photography during his free time.

“I get offers to cover sports events during the weekend that usually take up three to six hours each. The earnings can range from RM500 to RM1,500 each time depending on the type of event. I usually finish editing the photos just before I go back to campus. In balancing my work, studies and social life, I will always prioritise my studies first. Occasionally I turn away offers when I know my assignments are piling up,” he said.

With spending on printing, research and ideation for his studies in graphic design, followed by fuel for his car and food expenses, Fuad said the income from the freelance jobs come handy, especially towards the end of the semester, when there is a shortfall in funds from his parents.

Prior to sports photography, Fuad designed and created logos or brand identities for small companies.

“Then I found out that my forte is more in photography. My line of studies relates with today’s creative industry. Working as a photographer and sometimes videographer helps me hone my skills and improve my portfolio for future job prospects.

“I have found through research that most creative companies or media companies do require a certain amount of working experience from job applicants. This working experience will definitely help me with that.”

Fuad said for him sports photography has turned into a passion.

“I do not think of it as work anymore. To me, it’s a win-win situation. I get to fulfil my passion and also earn money that will also help me with my studies. Also, the money earned can be used as my savings as well,” he said.

Nur Amira Md Mashor, 21, a third-year law student at Universiti Malaya, puts in 18 hours a week at a fitness studio as the first point of contact for customers.

“My job scope is to open up the studio for the day’s business, signing in members when they turn up and sell packages to prospective new members. I am also required to keep the studio tidy, so I will sweep and wipe the mirrors after each exercise class. However, I do not do heavy cleaning as there are cleaners that come twice a week,” she said.

According to Amira, her working hours does not affect her classes at all as they are all scheduled in the morning.

“I only work around my class schedule. I make about RM600 a month, which helps to cover my monthly expenses without depending on my parents too much,” she said.

Amira believes working while studying will improve her job prospects later as it helps build connections and understanding of the real world, which is crucial to her area of study.

“My working experience started after I finished Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exam. I started working as an administrative assistant and continued even during the start of my degree. Over the past four years, I have worked at various companies, such as a property development company, a chemical trading company and a legal firm.”

Her experience working with a property developer exposed her to issues faced by developers and buyers. Being attached to the legal firm, although just for a short period, gave her an insight of a lawyer’s work.

“Even though my current part-time job is at a fitness studio, it still helps me in a way that I am more comfortable to interact with people and help to build my communication skills.”

She admits that her father is a bit reluctant to let her work during the semester, as he is worried that it will affect her studies.

“I still insist on working part-time as I feel that it helps me manage my time better and be more focused on my studies. It also helps me manage my own finances without having to rely on my parents too much. More importantly, it provides me with real-world experiences, which I feel will be handy for my assignment, and my future work.”

Brothers Mohd Syabil Qadri Shamlin, 22, and Mohd Syahmi Rasydan Shamlin, 21, prefer to work during semester breaks.

With divorced parents, the lads who hail from Sabah and are now residing in Cyberjaya with their mother and other siblings, feel it is their responsibility to help out as much as they can, particularly financially even though they are recipients of financial aid.

Syabil, who is pursuing Syariah studies at Kolej Universiti Islam Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah in Kuantan, Pahang, receives funds from the Sabah Zakat Centre for his tuition fees, while Syahmi, who studies journalism at UiTM Shah Alam, has taken a loan from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation to cover part of his edcation cost.

“Our mother has never failed to give us some allowance, but we know she is going through hard times. So we decided to work while studying. At first, I tried working part time during semester, but it was too taxing to balance work and studies, and I wasn’t able to pay attention class. So I decided to work during semester breaks instead, where I can put in full hours,” said Syabil.

Syahmi, too, decided to do the same. Syabil and Syahmi usually work at eateries during semester break. What they earn generally goes towards food and books, as well as savings.


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