Archive for the ‘Colleges / Universities - Issues’ Category

What is A Levels

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

A-LEVEL is a pre-university programme offered in Malaysia that’s based on the UK education system. Otherwise known as GCE Advanced Level, you can take this course after completing your SPM and before pursuing a degree at university.

How long does it take?

The programme is 15 to 24 months long, depending on when you start your studies. It is 100pc exam-based. Unlike  SPM where students usually take 9 subjects, you only need to take a minimum of 3 subjects.

Students whose English is average or below average will find the A levels tough. It requires you to analyse and apply logical thinking when answering exam questions.

You will also find that the learning material is more in-depth compared to other courses, such as Australian Matriculation (SAM/AUSMAT). In fact, many A-Level graduates say they have an easier time completing their first year in university compared to their peers!

A-Level consists of two parts:

(i) Advanced Subsidiary (or better known as AS Level), and

(ii) A2 Level

AS Level is the first half of the programme and forms the foundation of A-Level. A2 Level is the second part of the syllabus, covering more complex topics in the subjects that you have chosen.

You will typically take exams at the end of each level, with each level contributing 50pc towards your final grade. That is to say, 50pc from AS exams and 50% from A2 exams.

Your final results will be a grade of A* to E for each subject taken. The maximum score is A*A*A* for 3 subjects, and A*A*A*A* for 4 subjects.

Why take the A Levels?

(a) A-Level is recognised by many universities worldwide

A-Level is a widely accepted entry qualification into universities in UK, Australia , New Zealand, Singapore, etc

(b) It keeps your options open

While Foundation programmes may limit you to certain degrees at certain universities, A-Level allows you to pursue a wide range of degrees upon successful completion.

(c) It gives you deep knowledge in your chosen subjects

(d) Instead of having to juggle with five or six subjects, A-Level allows you to focus on only a few subjects and gain in-depth knowledge in your chosen subjects.

(e)  There is a wide range of A-Level resources available

Materials such as past year papers, marking schemes and revision questions are readily available everywhere for A-Level. Your college will supplement you with sufficient resources for your exam, but if you don’t think it’s enough, the internet is filled with resources for you to go through!

Who should take the A Levels.

  • If you are academically-inclined with an analytical and inquisitive mind
  • If you prefer 100pc exam-based assessment
  • If you are looking to gain in-depth knowledge in a few subjects, as opposed to studying a wide variety of subjects
  • If you are looking to pursue competitive degrees (e.g. Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry) or aiming to gain entry into top tier universities, especially in the UK

Who should NOT take A-Level.

  • If you dislike being assessed based only on exams
  • If you prefer classroom interaction, coursework and assignments

If you plan to pursue degrees such as Hospitality & Tourism, Architecture and Design that are more practical-oriented

Remember that A-Level is considered one of the more academically challenging courses, due to its focus on analysis and application of knowledge.

As such, although most colleges require you to have at least 5 credits (1 credit is a C or above) at SPM or equivalent However, it recommended that you have at least 5Bs, with good grades in Math and English.

What Subjects Should You Choose For A-Level?

Practical Tips to Choosing Your A-Level Subjects

Choosing your subjects can be difficult, as many colleges in Malaysia offer a variety of subjects and combinations. Some subjects open doors to more degrees and professions than others, so it is important that you choose the right ones.

As a guide, here are some tips on how to choose your A-Level subjects:

(i) Choose subjects that you will likely enjoy – When a particular topic interests you, it becomes less of a chore to study. Also, it is always easier to excel at something when you enjoy doing it.

(ii) Choose subjects that suit your strength – Every subject is unique and involves a different skill set. Some subjects require creativity or essay writing, while others may challenge your analytical and critical thinking skills. To do well in this programme, play to your strengths!

(iii) Choose subjects that you need to enter a particular degree / career path.

If you already have an idea of the university degree you would like to pursue after A-Level, here is a list of degrees with the recommended subjects.

Choice of subjects

Degree Recommended subject
Accounting, Business,Economics, Finance Accounting, Law, Business, Mathematics,Economics
Actuarial Science Mathematics,Economics,Physics, Law
Biochemistry, Biomedical Science, Nutrition Chemistry, Biology,Mathematics,  Physics
Computer Science Physics, Mathematics
Engineering Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics
Law Mathematics, Economics, Law,

English Literature, Accounting


Dentistry & Pharmacy

Physics, Chemistry,Biology

What If You Have Completely No Idea What You Want to Study?

If you studied Science subjects in SPM and scored good grades, choose Mathematics and Chemistry, and either Biology or Physics. This will keep your options open and allow you to pursue a wide range of degrees upon successful completion of your A-Level.

Should You Take 3 Subjects or 4 Subjects?

It is usually recommended you take 3 subjects instead of 4 subjects, since it is always better to focus and concentrate on fewer subjects. In fact, most universities only require you to take 3 subjects.

However, if you are planning to study abroad and aiming to get into top tier universities (especially in the UK), there are times where it may be advantageous to take 4 subjects.

Where Can You Study A-Levels in Malaysia?

A-Level is generally offered at private colleges and selected MARA colleges in Malaysia. There are many colleges offering A levels in West Malaysia. However, if you intend to study in Sabah, check-out the colleges that offer A Levels

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Seek holistic solution to higher education financing

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
The analysis from PTPTN chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan and his team is first class; they should be given credit for seeking public views on these proposals. FILE PIC

WAN Saiful Wan Jan, chairman of National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN), is fast becoming Malaysia’s very own Theresa May — a very good person with a seemingly impossible job!

Rightly admired for his honesty and insightful thought-leadership, Wan Saiful and his team at PTPTN have done an excellent job in laying out the current PTPTN loan crisis — which is bigger than 1Malaysia Development Bhd — and the suggestions so far from stakeholders on how to solve it.

The main problem is that the task given to Wan Saiful and his team forces them to focus on only one option — to make students repay the debt. This aim is bound to fail and the honest and forensic analysis by Wan Saiful’s team makes this crystal clear.

We must be fair and acknowledge that the proposals presented in the PTPTN website come from stakeholders and not from PTPTN or Wan Saiful himself.

They lay out clearly what stakeholders have suggested along with PTPTN’s assessment of the implications for everyone concerned. They are truly terrifying and make Barisan Nasional (BN) look like the defaulters’ friendly grandmother — a terrifying prospect for Pakatan Harapan (PH) politicians and supporters alike.

For those who have not seen what some stakeholders suggest a brief summary may be informative.

The first proposal is to defer payment for defaulters earning RM2,000 per month or less. This would help 26 per cent of defaulters but would not by itself solve the non-payment problems for those earning more than RM2,000 per month without additional enforcement measures.

The second proposal is to defer payments for defaulters earning less than RM4,000 per month, which fulfils PH’s election pledge. This would leave PTPTN waiting between six to 15 years for repayments and cause its debts to rise to an eye-watering RM100 billion by 2040.

The third idea stakeholders have proposed has already been rejected. This is to link repayments to salary, which last time suggested that those earning RM8,000 per month or more should pay 15 per cent of their monthly income by repaying their loans. This idea is so bad for Pakatan that we can only guess that it was suggested by those dreaming of a BN victory in the 15th General Election!

Stakeholders’ suggestions then move on to more punitive ideas which punish not just defaulters but also their parents, siblings and the universities where they studied.

The fourth idea is to raid defaulters’ salaries, a proposal which some have already rejected, arguing that it is not only immoral but also potentially illegal.

Next comes idea number five which is to bankrupt defaulters if they fall behind on repayments. This idea was possibly suggested by lawyers who see piles of income in litigation fees.

Idea number six denies the lawyers their cash-cow but reintroduces the much-hated travel bans albeit in a different form.

Restrictions on the renewal of passports, driving licences, business licences and even road tax were proposed. This will put an end to graduate entrepreneurs and a massive increase in illegal road-users. It doesn’t end there, however.

Within the same proposal were calls for public shaming of students and visiting the sins of defaulters on their siblings by denying family members PTPTN loans in default.

The seventh idea continues this theme by forcing debt repayments on unsuspecting “guarantors — read “parents”. So much for family harmony.

Idea number eight punishes success by denying first-class graduates their loan waiver and the next idea punishes universities by denying them PTPTN loans if they underperform on the national ratings system and neither really addresses the problem on non-payment.

Finally, idea number 10 comes as a form of light relief following the other suggestions by increasing the interest rate paid by students from the one per cent they currently pay to perhaps the five per cent that PTPTN borrows the money at in the first place.

This would save the government around RM1.7 billion per year but raises the question — why would defaulters be more likely to repay loans at five per cent when they are currently not repaying them at one per cent?

We must not misunderstand this process. The analysis from Wan Saiful and his team is first-class and although they may not get a loan exemption, they should be given credit for telling the truth. They should also be given credit for seeking public views on these proposals — an exercise in active democracy that should be emulated in other policy debates.

The real problem is that as long as the debate on PTPTN reform focuses on the single aim of making defaulters pay, this problem will rumble on. PTPTN will become more unstable, students and parents will be more and more worried and universities will continue to struggle with uncertainty about future finances.

We must set aside the “make students pay” mantra and open up the debate to look for a sustainable and holistic solution to higher education financing.

This solution must examine diversifying finance for higher education within a portfolio of alternative income sources which balance government support and loans with income from research, development and commercialisation, endowments and system reform.

By Geoffrey Williams.

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What is a Foundation programme?

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Students who were not offered a Government Matriculation Program want to obtain a Pre-U qualification so that they can enter a Private university.

Usually students don’t want to take the STPM because they were told that it is a very tough examination to pass. Even if you re-sit, you cannot pass the STPM.

At least that is what students  hear from their friends.

They don’t want to take the A levels because for the past 11 years they were learning all the subjects in Bahasa Malaysia.

They know that A Levels is in English. They will have a tough time passing A Levels – according to their peers.

So, what options do you have? Well, just take the Foundation Program and join the degree program the following year.

That is the current trend among students.

You have all kinds of Foundation Programs available, such as:-

Foundation in Business

Foundation in Arts

Foundation in Law

Foundation in Engineering

Foundation in Natural and Built Environments (FNBE)

Foundation in Science (for entry into Bioscience/Culinary Science/Medicine/Pharmacy/etc.)

Foundation in Computing

Foundation in Information Technology

Foundation in Communication

Foundation in Design

You name it and there will be a Foundation Program tailor-made for you. Even if you completed your SPM in the Arts stream, you can still switch to do a Foundation in Science.

Once you complete it, you can do Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Computer Science, etc.

What are the Advantages of pursuing a foundation programme ?

1.    You will study the subjects that are specific to the course you plan to take at degree level. If you are going to study Medicine, your Foundation Programme will be in Science.

If you intend to do a Degree in Information Technology, your Foundation Programme will be in Computer Science.

2.    A Foundation Programme is an instant Pre-U. You don’t have to study for 2 years like STPM and A Levels. It is quicker than other pre-university programmes.

3.    A Foundation programme will cost you approximately RM 10,000 to complete. It is the cheapest route to a degree. Some Colleges and Universities even offer FREE Foundation Programs provided you do a degree with them.

4.    The Foundation Programme is not an external examination.

The assessment style is usually a combination of coursework, continual assessment and a final exam, but the weighting of each assessment depends on the college

What are the disadvantages ?

1.    Once you have started on a Foundation Programme you cannot switch programmes. If you are taking courses such as  Foundation in IT, Music, Business, Architecture, etc. you will not find it easy to switch majors.

2.    The Government Universities do not recognize the Foundation Programme offered by Private Colleges and Universities. So the chances of you going back to Government Universities is practically NIL.

3.    Other colleges and universities,  both locally and abroad, may  not automatically recognise the foundation programme you have completed.

Career Tips

It looks like the more Pre-U choices you have, the more confusing it would be – both for students and parents.

The best advice would be to know all about the Pre-U program before you enroll.

Once you have enrolled there is no turning back and your money will be burnt. Remember, it is also very difficult to get any loan for Foundation Programmes. You need to find your owns funds.

by K. Krishnan.

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Harmonising public and private higher education

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019
Some 1.3 million Malaysians are pursuing tertiary education. The tertiary enrolment growth scenario demonstrates the Education Ministry’s deep commitment in bringing the country on a par with the highest tertiary enrolment levels in Asean today.

THE Malaysian higher education sector has been thriving over the past few decades.

There are currently 20 public universities and 467 private higher learning institutions (HLIs) operating in the multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society with a population of 32.5 million.

The provision of public and private higher education has enabled a greater number of Malaysians to have access to tertiary  education. Over the last 40 years, the system has significantly increased tertiary enrolment rates to approximately 44 per cent of Malaysians between the ages of 17 and 23, compared with only 14 per cent in the 1970s and 1980s.

Figures speak volumes especially when it involves the young. Almost 1.3 million Malaysian youths are pursuing tertiary education; 500,000 are enrolled in the 20 public universities and more than 600,000 are registered in private HLIs. The tertiary enrolment growth scenario demonstrates that the Education Ministry is deeply committed in bringing the country on a par with the highest tertiary enrolment levels in Asean today.

Malaysia’s higher education ecosystem started in the 1970’s when most of the public universities were established. Private HLIs only began to be instituted in the early 1980s. They were originally private colleges offering three-year tertiary diploma courses in a limited range of subjects.

During the economic downturn in the late 1990s, private HLIs were allowed to offer franchise programmes from 2+2 to 4+0. By 2010, many private HLIs were upgraded to university colleges and universities. This signifies the ministry’s aims at unleashing and empowering the private HLIs to strive for institutional excellence in all forms.

The growth of the private tertiary colleges and universities would not have been possible without the financial involvement of private corporations. The enactment of the Private Higher Education Institutions Act (PHEIA) 1996 and the amendments made to the Universities and University Colleges Act (AUKU) 1971, the Education Act 1961 and Act 555 on Private Higher Education have also contributed to the increased demands of the private higher education providers.

On the implementation side, private HLIs are no longer an alternative route in providing access to higher education. Their contributions are getting larger by day namely in regards to student enrolment, research, innovative teaching and learning, agile governance and talent planning.

Now is the time to work on the harmonisation of the regulation of the public and private HLIs. At present, there are two separate Acts which govern the higher education ecosystem in the country. Public universities are regulated by Act 30 of the Universities and University Colleges Act (AUKU), whereas private HLIs are governed by Act 555 on Private Higher Education. Some of the dichotomous characteristics between the two providers were previously related to quality assurance matters.

The National Accreditation Board (LAN) Act was passed on Sept 26, 1996 to ensure that high academic standards, quality and control were maintained in public and private higher education. Issues were raised when only private colleges and universities needed to undergo the accreditation exercise despite the focus on both providers.

The existing practice demonstrates that public HLIs are subjected to similar quality assurance exercise by the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA), previously known as LAN. Gaps between the two providers have been reduced and harmonisation of the two Acts governing the providers is happening.

In the past, only public university researchers were allowed to apply and were awarded grants offered by the ministry. Now, researchers from private HLIs have equal opportunities as long as the institutions have attained a satisfactory achievement in the Malaysian Research Assessment Instrument (MyRA) rating. For the record, a number of researchers from private HLIs have managed to bid for national grants. Malaysian universities and college universities are also subjected to a national rating known as SETARA.

Nonetheless, there remains a considerable gap between public and private higher education providers in regards to regulations and governance. Private HLIs are considered to be under less direct government control. They report to the Private Sectorial of the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education which is responsible for the establishment, registration, management, enforcement, and quality of private education.

Despite the application of Act 555 to enforce compliance, private HLIs largely manage their own governance, comparative to the public ones. The entry requirements of the undergraduate, postgraduate students and academics, international student recruitment and many others highlight the dichotomy between the two providers.

Ideally, public and private HLIs should be governed by only one system and regulator as there is only one Malaysian higher education. With or without the abolishment of AUKU, both the public and private HLIs must be harmonised from the current highly-centralised governance system to a model based on earned autonomy within the regulatory framework.


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3,082 students benefit from Foodbank Siswa

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Some 3,082 students have benefited from the Foodbank Siswa programme since its initiation in February this year. Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the national food bank initiative, which targets to help some 20,000 poor students, will be rolled out in 20 public universities by end of this year.

“To date, we have 430 supermarkets and hypermarkets nationwide that have stated their commitment to assist the Food Bank Malaysia programme by contributing food supplies,” he said when officiating the Foodbank Siswa programme at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), here, Friday.

“From this list of contributors, we match them according to the locality of the identified recipients.

We hope the contribution will be continuous.”

Saifuddin said the programme would not only instil volunteerism but also help develop organisational skills among students as it is being handled by members of the universities’ student councils.

Foodbank Siswa was the expansion from the Foodbank Malaysia programme, which had benefited some 113,706 households nationwide since its inception on December last year to March this year.

The programme is conducted through two methods – Food Pantry and Central Kitchen – in campuses.

The Food Pantry is a dry food item storage room handled by student associations. Qualified students can take the food items based on a schedule.

The Central Kitchen distributes cooked food items to the recipients.

UMS was the ninth university to launch the programme after it was initiated in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Cheras, Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Penang, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Skudai, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), UTM Kuala Lumpur and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

Meanwhile, UMS vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr D Kamarudin D Mudin said the Foodbank Malaysia programme will benefit some 433 students from the B40 group in the campus.

“Hopefully it will at least ease the burden of these students so that they can put more focus on their academics,” he said.

UMS, he said, has provided various assistance to students, especially financial aid.

“However, we are aware that we cannot afford to cover the needs of all the needy students.

“To this end, such initiatives like the Foodbank with the cooperation from various quarters will be a good starting point to help students facing the increasing cost of living, and ease their burden as well as to help resolve the issue of ‘belt-tightening’ among students.”

During the same event, Maybank Islamic had also contributed RM60,000 to be distributed among the needy students in UMS.

By Ricardo Unto.

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Universities need to focus on genuine quality, not obsess over rank.

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019
Years ago, Wan Ardatul – more popularly known as “Dr Amani” – whose background is in electrical and biological engineering, led a team of 28 scientists, technologists and engineers on a NASA (the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) astrobiology project focused on testing how living cells respond to no-gravity environments.

Although doing well in America, she opted to come home to Malaysia to do her best to contribute to her homeland.

Sadly, some years later, it turns out her journey is not going so well.

I suppose we should not be surprised, given that those same problems describe Malaysian politics and government as a whole quite well.

Dr Amani did not mince her words when describing public universities as essentially being run by dusty mandarins who appear to be more interested in form than substance, and that these same mandarins determine who gets funded and who doesn’t.

In the whole frustrating interview with Dr Amani, one issue that stood out in particular was the manner in which universities have become obsessed with rankings.

In true “smart” Malaysian fashion, universities have figured out how to game the system.

It’s not a very complicated process. You figure out the indices that inform the rankings, and then you just redirect all your efforts and resources to scoring well on those indices.

Should these indices be well chosen and well designed, perhaps all would be well and good.

As it is however, this seems far from the case.

The recent article about Dr Amani also pointed out that Malaysian researchers are estimated to have published 50,000 research papers to date, higher than their regional counterparts. This accounts for the rapid rise of many Malaysian universities in global rankings.

The same article however also quotes QS, a global education consultancy, which said that many of those 50,000 papers constituted unproductive research with little industrial or real life use, despite an increase in ranking.

It feels like this last comment really hit home. It will come as no surprise by now that more Malaysian institutions have decided not to care what is on the inside and how “useless” it is, as long as the outside “looks good”.

It is however particularly distressing that this is happening at the highest institutions of learning in our nation. If universities cannot set an example with regards to the integrity and purity of intellectual pursuit, then this rot can only be expected to spread from the top down.

I have met people who were held back year after year from completing their PhDs, even after they had completed all the requirements, simply because a PhD student that had not graduated could still be called upon to write papers for the department – free labour, in other words.

This in turn stemmed from the extreme pressure from above to keep publishing papers – no matter the quality – so that the university would continue to rise in rankings.

To some, this was the only thing that mattered.

For a long time, our universities were shackled by shameful adherence to the will of political masters. This stunted intellectual growth, and put a big chunk of academia closer to lapdogs than to intellectual titans.

It may still be too early to tell whether this culture persists under the new government, but if Dr Amani is to be believed, the obsession of form over substance appears to have remained.

Even as the debate about the degree to which meritocracy should inform university admissions continues, there should be no doubt that universities themselves must be the one place in which the meritocracy of ideas reigns supreme.

This is not to advocate some blind and hateful disdain of all seniors and authority; far from it. This is only to say that if only seniority and feudalism is allowed to determine the direction of our universities, then Malaysia will always be stuck as an intellectually third rate country – no matter what the rankings say.

The only way to bring about genuine improvement in Malaysian universities is to truly make them a free marketplace of ideas.

Unbridled intellectual exploration must not only be allowed, it must be encouraged. Research funds should be given based on merit alone, with little regard if any to seniority, bureaucracy, and patronage networks.

Only then will Malaysia’s true potential be unleashed, and the best, globally competitive, ideas emerge from our highest institutions of learning.

By Nathaniel Tan
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Developing skills in varsities

Sunday, March 31st, 2019
Universities help graduates apply their knowledge in their jobs. – NSTP/File pic

A University explores the sciences, humanities, social sciences and the fine arts, as well as helping graduates apply their knowledge in their jobs.

A university moulds cerebral and technical skills. The emphasis between these two depends on whether they are technically inclined with focus on practical skills or are theoretical with emphasis on verbal and textual articulations.

These skills enable students to develop and fathom knowledge through constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing them into meaningful expressions, as well as the skill of applying data to hypothetical and real-life situations.

Different disciplines emphasise different knowledge, which is the result of man’s interactions with the environment.

These disciplines also examine man’s ingenuity in using his imagination and creativity to use the environment to create a conducive environment.

The humanities and social sciences involve understanding and creating awareness of human living experiences through theoretical models that use data to create algorithm for a conducive living environment.

Or creating awareness of human experiences — his belief, values and norms — through written narratives.

In the visual and performing arts, human experiences are abstracted and dramatised to create a larger-than-life situation.

Dramatic discipline requires performing (acting) and writing skills as well as the skill to create a physical and cerebral visual composition on stage.

Dance, on the other hand, focuses on developing high-level techniques in using the human anatomy to create forms and shapes, gyrations, horizontal and vertical bodily configuration in static and moving trajectories.

Kinetic energy is dispersed through bodily movements to create articulations and patterns; a high level of muscle memory is required to execute the movements.

Music requires a high level of playing techniques and cognitive perception as well as muscle memory.

Different instruments require different playing skills, but musicians must possess the ability to read music as well as develop cerebral and muscle memory.

In science and engineering, technological and cerebral skills are applied for functional purposes to develop and solve human needs for a conducive environment.

And medicine is a discipline that uses its skills for people’s wellbeing.

In all cases, the university imparts knowledge to cater for various trades.

But skills development depends on the nature of the educational environment, which includes students, teachers and the mode of knowledge transmission.

Optimum skill development occurs in an environment in which the ingredients of the educative process interact synergistically.

What is important is the culture and passion of seeking knowledge not to pass exams but to develop one’s skill and thinking process.

It is also important that the quest for knowledge is not only to better oneself but to also contribute to the community. This would require a receptive recipient and a passionate transmitter.

To change from a passive to an active mode of teaching and learning, a new method of knowledge transfer must be put in place, one that does not only give the knowledge but also the skills of critical appraisal and application of the knowledge.

An integral part of this mode of learning is reflection in which one views knowledge in whole and its parts and analyse their architectonic structure through deconstruction and reconstruction.

It means that understanding their structural framework and components would allow for their reconstruction through reassembling the components in different configurations.

This allows for the development of scholarship and expertise.

Central to scholarship is the ability to fathom manifestations of knowledge and its structural framework.

Scholarship is attainable only when there is an interaction in the transfer of knowledge between the provider and receiver that is geared to develop inquiry, scepticism and disbelief.

Thus, our education system needs to include reflection, exploration, discovery and articulation in the learning process to enable students to better serve the nation.


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Value of part-time work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you absolutely should.


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‘Verify programmes to ensure degrees are recognised’.

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Greening the campus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this is not so, said Aini.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With a campus population of 33,041

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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