Archive for the ‘Colleges / Universities - Issues’ Category

UM, UMK prepare for online admissions interviews

Thursday, May 28th, 2020
Interviews with UM will commence on June 2 and will be held for 21 programmes offered by the varsity’s Academy of Islamic Studies, Faculty of Built Environment, Faculty of Dentistry, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine,  Faculty of Science, Faculty of Business and Accountancy, Faculty of Languages and Linguistics as well as the Sports and Exercise Sciences Centre and Cultural Centre. - NSTP/File picInterviews with UM will commence on June 2 and will be held for 21 programmes offered by the varsity’s Academy of Islamic Studies, Faculty of Built Environment, Faculty of Dentistry, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Business and Accountancy, Faculty of Languages and Linguistics as well as the Sports and Exercise Sciences Centre and Cultural Centre. – NSTP/File pic

THE Student Admission Division (UPU) at the Higher Education Ministry last week released the list of Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) and equivalent applicants called for interviews for programmes in the 2020/2021 academic session at public universities and higher education institutions.

Due to current travel restrictions imposed through the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), what would customarily be face-to-face interviews or screening sessions held by the respective institutions would now be conducted fully online from June 1 to July 21.

For Universiti Malaya (UM), it would be the first time such a method is being employed to screen potential candidates into its bachelor’s degree programmes.

This, according to its deputy vice-chancellor (Academic & International) Professor Dr Kamila Ghazali, is deemed to be the most suitable method given the current pandemic situation albeit for some programmes that are being offered, and not all.

“In UM, even prior to the current new normal, not all programmes require interviews to be conducted as part of the selection process. Approximately 25 per cent of the total will require interviews. So those programmes will incorporate online interviews for the coming session. Shortlisting is done ahead of time based on the various set criteria which may include a good personal statement, references and top predicted grades,” she explained.

Kamila said interviews are important for some programmes; for example, Law, Languages, Education, Medicine, Dentistry and Business as they may provide insight on a candidate’s suitability for a programme.

“In addition, only in interviews can oratory and communication skills be assessed. Performance based programmes like the Bachelor of Dance, Bachelor of Drama and Bachelor of Music also require interviews which may entail a demonstration of a level of performance in the field,” she said.

Interviews with UM will commence on June 2 and will be held for 21 programmes offered by the varsity’s Academy of Islamic Studies, Faculty of Built Environment, Faculty of Dentistry, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Business and Accountancy, Faculty of Languages and Linguistics as well as the Sports and Exercise Sciences Centre and Cultural Centre.

Professor Dr. Kamila Ghazali.Professor Dr. Kamila Ghazali.

“Some faculties will provide sets of questions to the candidates. They will need to record a three-to-five minute video based on the questions which will be sent back to the faculties to be evaluated. Others will conduct real-time online interviews with respective candidates,” said Kamila.

“There are various applications which can be used by the candidates — such as Skype for Business, Whatsapp, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. Another possibility is to record their videos and they can downscale the size by using applications such as Handbrake Open Source Video Transcorder or they can do a time lapse video by using,” she said.

As to the number of interviewers per panel, Kamila said there is no set number and that it would depend on the faculty and programme. “The average time for each interview is around 10 minutes. But since it will be done online, there will be flexibility given as it will depend on factors like the Internet connection.

“Online interviews should be no different from the face-to-face interviews. It is designed to determine the candidate’s potential to study in Universiti Malaya. So, they need to be precise and to the point. They should be able to highlight their most important qualities and most importantly answer the questions intelligently, with clarity and confidence,” she said.

At Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK), this year would be the first time for interviews to be conducted fully online to screen and select potential students into five programmes that are being offered by its Faculty of Architecture and Ekistics, Faculty of Entrepreneurship and Business, and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

“We have conducted online interviews in the past, but only for a few selected and isolated cases where the potential students couldn’t come for face-to-face interviews. This year’s move is to adhere to the CMCO standard operating procedures for social distancing to flatten the curve of the spread of Covid 19,” said UMK deputy vice-chancellor (Academic & International) Professor Dr Mohd Rafi Yaacob.

Asked how many seats are being offered for the programmes that require online interviews as prerequisite to admission, Mohd Rafi said the information is confidential but it sufficed to say “usually the ratio is 1:4 where out of four applied, only one respondent will be called for interview”.

Professor Dr Mohd Rafi Yaacob.Professor Dr Mohd Rafi Yaacob.

As to technicalities, he said for online interviews UMK will be using Google Meet. There will be one to five interviewers on each panel for each session and it is expected that the duration for each interview will be between 20 to 45 minutes.

“Candidates will be evaluated on personality, interest, creativity, maturity, readiness, ability to articulate according to the specific and general needs of the programmes applied. It will be no different from face-to-face interviews,” Mohd Rafi assured.

Selection results for STPM or equivalent applicants for admission into the bachelor’s degree programmes at public universities are expected to be announced on August 18.

All application results would be available through and UPUPocket, which is an application that could be downloaded on mobile phones or devices. The status of application and appeal decisions could also be checked through UPUPocket.

By Rozana Sani.

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Select groups of students to be allowed back in campuses in stages from July 1

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Postgraduate students required to conduct research on campus can now resume their work with immediate effect, says the Higher Education Ministry.

However, this is confined to those who need to be physically present in laboratories, workshops, design studios or need to use specific equipment only available on campus.

As for everyone else, online learning will continue until Dec 31 and face-to-face teaching is strictly not allowed until then.

The Higher Education Ministry also said another five groups of higher education students would be allowed to return to campus in stages after the conditional movement control order (MCO) between July 1 to Oct 1.

The ministry said certificate, diploma and Bachelor’s degree final year and final semester students who needed to perform clinical work and practicals requiring laboratories, workshops, design studios or specific equipment could resume their courses at their respective campuses on July 1.

“Final semester and final year students who do not have proper Internet access and are in an unconducive environment for online teaching and learning can return to campus as early as July 1 to use the campus’ infrastructure for online learning,” it continued.

Special needs students in technical vocational education and training (TVET) courses at polytechnics and community colleges who require face-to-face teaching because of learning difficulties could return as early as August 1, it added.

As for the new 2020/2021 students, the ministry said they would also be allowed to begin their studies on campus.

The ministry said new diploma and certificate students at polytechnics and community colleges could begin as early as July 1.

The same start date applied to foundation, certificate, diploma and Bachelor’s degree students at public higher education institutions, it added.

“Foundation and diploma students at public universities can begin as early as August 1.

“New undergraduate and postgraduate students at public universities and higher education institutions (can return) as early as Oct 1.”

The ministry added that online teaching would continue until Dec 31, stressing that face-to-face teaching was strictly not allowed until then.

It directed all higher education institutions to adhere to the standard operating procedures for all academic activities on campus, prioritising safety measures and social distancing.

“This is subject to instructions from the authorities from time to time,” it continued.

The directive follows a decision by the special meeting of ministers on the implementation of the MCO to approve the Higher Education Ministry’s proposal on campus academic activities on May 16.

Call for reduction in university fees

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020
The National Muslim Students Association (PKPIM) has urged the Higher Education Ministry to reduce public institute tuition fees. -NSTP/File picThe National Muslim Students Association (PKPIM) has urged the Higher Education Ministry to reduce public institute tuition fees. -NSTP/File pic

KUALA LUMPUR: The National Muslim Students Association (PKPIM) has proposed to the Higher Education Ministry to reduce public institute tuition fees amidst ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Its president Ahmad Farhan Rosli said the recommendation was made as majority of public and private universities were currently conducting classes online due to the pandemic.

“They are using personal tools for classes right now, none of the university’s infrastructure or facilities are being used. Plus, majority of the university students are from B40 and M40 households, and they are undoubtedly affected during the current outbreak.

“PKPIM understands that every university has the right to make its decision regarding the issue, but we think online learning issue involves almost all public and private universities.

“As such, the Ministry should issue a policy to reduce the tuition fees for current semester at all public universities,” he said in a statement today.

Meanwhile, PKPIM also appealed to the Government to maintain the subsidy for higher education at public universities.

“This is important to ensure that there is no increase in tuition fees for new students who will begin their studies in the new year 2020/2021.

“This is also aimed at ensuring that the opportunity to pursue higher education is not compromised and affordable, especially for those from the lower and middle income households in today’s difficult times.”

By New Straits Times.

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Making learning effective

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

LEARNING becomes more constructive and fruitful when lecturers incorporate real-world challenges and industry expectations based on their experiences, according to students and graduates.

Kiritaran Gunasegran, 23, said a lecturer with such experiences is able to better articulate theories and effectively relate them to actual practice.

During his time as an undergraduate at Taylor’s University, such lecturers helped improve his understanding on the subjects.

“It allowed me to grasp in detail a theory’s limitations and its applicability to the challenges out there.

“It’s more effective because it improves our understanding of the subject matter and exposes us to the working world.

“As students, we can then think of more innovative ideas that can be catered to the industry. Our solutions will be real and practical — we no longer propose ideas that revolve around assumptions and theoretical limitations, ” said the Kiritaran, who recently graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

When a lecturer dives into their own industrial experiences, they present real life scenarios and challenges they went through, he added.

Recalling how his lecturer once shared about the difficulty in colour matching between the accessories of a car and the body of the car itself, he said it helped his class understand the challenges that come with using the naked eye to do colour matching work.

“He also shared with us how this challenge is addressed in the automobile manufacturing industry.

“Someone who has not been in the industry would not have been able to present this point of view and it is an important thought process to share with aspiring mechanical engineers.”

As a graphic design student, UCSI University student Hong Li, 22, said it is an advantage to learn from lecturers with rich industry experience.

Her lecturers gave insights on how the creative industry works and presented real-life challenges faced by working designers.

“They’d also teach us how to implement the theory part of our subjects into practical use such as design thinking, creative and critical thinking, as well as marketing strategies and segmentation.

“I found it effective as we indirectly gain exposure from the industry. These lecturers are able to guide and prepare us for our journey into the working environment and to be capable employees.

“I had a lecturer who emphasised the importance of designers being multi-skilled and able to constantly adapt to technological changes. This will set us apart from others in a competitive hiring environment, ” said Hong, who recently completed her Graphic Design degree.

Thanks to her lecturers’ practical input, Hong who is already working now, engages effectively with her clients, and is able to understand their needs and wants better.

National swimmer Lim Kit Sern, 23, had a lecturer who worked in a brokerage firm before venturing into academia.

This, the third year Finance and Investment student said, was a plus point as his lecturer had first hand knowledge of investment in stocks and charting, hence teaching them the tips and tricks before entering the stock market.

“We also had the experience of trading using a virtual account.

“It was useful and practical knowledge which I can utilise to sharpen my skills with. This is something that will add to my credentials when I embark on my future career path.”

Kit Sern, however, said that it is up to a lecturer if they were willing to share additional knowledge with students.

There is no added value if lecturers with rich experiences do not transfer that knowledge to students.

Mohammad Arif Ramly’s lecturers compare what they teach during lessons with what is happening in the industry.

As lessons are more theory-based, comparisons to the industry’s needs, expectations and challenges help a student see how the theory can be applied practically, he added.

“It makes the class more interesting and it grabs our attention and focus. I believe that learning from other people’s experiences is better as it prepares students before they join the industry, ” said the third year Universiti Putra Malaysia Bachelor of Agriculture Science student.

Lecturers with field experiences, he said, tend to evaluate them based on their understanding of the subject, problem solving skill and theory application in real-life situations.

Their focus is not just on the examination and assessment results, and their classroom lessons are more effective and engaging, Mohammad Arif added.

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Industry practitioners bridge knowledge gap

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

Lecturers who join academia with relevant academic qualifications and work experience are a boon to students

THE industry-academia relationship isn’t a new one.

While industry experts remind higher education institutions to produce students with real-world skills, varsities have had various programmes over the years to do just that.

But merely encouraging students to enrol in apprentice-based programmes is not enough, experts insist.

More needs to be done. Varsities need competent lecturers with industry experience to transfer real-world knowledge to their students.

In a document launched early this year, the Education Ministry called on private higher education institutions (PHEIs) to bring in more teaching staff with industry experience or to improve the quality of their programmes.

Dubbed ‘The Way Forward for Private Higher Education Institutions: Education as an Industry (2020-2025)’, the document had also recommended PHEIs work closely with industries to set-up industrial scale facilities on campus for teaching purposes.

“There is diversification in the quality of teaching staff with proper academic qualifications in PHEIs.

“Faculty members in PHEIs are largely those with postgraduate degrees, which show that PHEIs will continue to provide quality higher education to its students, ” the document read.

It is vital for universities to align themselves seamlessly with the needs and developments of industries, Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh said.

The Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) president explained that it’s crucial for universities to also have a body of instructors and lecturers with solid industry experience.

“Their real life experiences are invaluable in providing the depth required to achieve learning outcomes and competencies sought after by employers.

“Varsities cannot exist in silos and define their purpose in their own convenient ways.

“They must realise that they have bigger responsibilities to students who have enrolled in universities to pursue a chosen field of study which will lead them to attaining a qualification with the sole purpose of fulfilling their career aspirations.”

Employers look towards universities to supply talent with the requisite levels of knowledge and competencies to perform on the job.

Private universities especially, Parmjit said, will not be able to sustain their operations in the long term if their graduates’ employability track records are dismal.

The alignment with industries, he added, is pivotal if universities aspire to ensure that their graduates are employable and marketable.

He noted that for private universities, they are neither funded nor aided by the government and are entirely dependent on the fees paid by students.

Therefore, they have to continually ensure that their courses and programmes are relevant to industry needs both locally and globally.

It is also essential for universities to remind students throughout their studies, Parmjit said, of what employers expect from them once they graduate.

“Academic staff play a very important role as they are expected to develop students to be ready for the industry, and to be able to translate theory to real-world practice.

“For this to happen effectively, the staff themselves must have first-hand experience of what it’s like to work in the industry.

What the Lecturers say.

Industrial exposure is crucial for lecturers

”Dr Siva Kumar Sivanesan uses his seven years of experience working in the engineering industry as a catalyst for his lessons.

Armed with 15 years of experience as an educator, the Taylor’s University School of Computer Science & Engineering head teaches subjects such as Engineering Statics, Dynamics, Engineering Mathematics, Theory of Machines, Manufacturing Processes, and also supervises post-graduate students.

From witnessing the processes involved in employing technology that allows for efficient creation of systems and products, and being involved in the design, implementation and operation stages of manufacturing lines, to montioring the mass producing television sets, he has done it all.

“These served as a platform for me to witness real time implementation and application of science and technology.

“Being able to describe in detail and channel the minds of young learners to align with industrial needs are among the many factors that have allowed me to create an environment that makes learning fun and thought provoking.”

Industrial exposure, he said, is crucial for those aspiring to enter academia, as it will serve as a platform to gauge the level of a student’s readiness in academic and interpersonal skills before they step into the real world.

It encapsulates the nurturing of soft skills such as effective communication, teamwork, and leadership qualities.

The teaching of soft skills to students can only be effectively executed, he believes, if a situation based on real time industry related challenges is carried out in the classroom.

“Academia serves as a platform for students to build and sustain the growth of knowledge, skills and attributes.

“When academia gets ‘too academic’, real world solutions mooted by learners from such an environment become vague and hard to perceive.

“Developing solutions for real world or industry challenges today require more rigorous analysis of norms and uncertainties which cannot be statistically calculated.”

Academia should remain academic intensive, he said, when the fundamentals underlying a certain concept is put forth.

However, it needs to widen its scope and include aspects such as emotional intelligence and soft skills.

At the time he left engineering for academia, Malaysia’s manufacturing sector was significantly impacted due to the rapid growth of trade globalisation.

Many countries manufactured products at lower costs while complying to strict quality requirements that grew rapidly.“There were also swift changes in the production of display devices.

“These were among the catalysts for me to consider academia.

“But the main pull factor was my ability to teach and my passion to delve deeper into the application of science, focusing on the niche areas of Engineering, ” he shared.

Sharing realistic experiences is an advantage

It’s an advantage to be able to share personal and realistic experiences with her students, Dr Chin Phaik Nie said.

This is especially so with students who do not have working experience or those at the early stages of their career.

The Universiti Sains Malaysia Graduate School of Business senior lecturer has worked in various multinational corporations involved in the manufacturing and sub-contracting secrtors for nine years.

She has an additional 10 years of voluntary work experience with NGOs in dealing with children and teenager’s with special needs therapy.

“It is not only work-related experiences, but also the life experiences that we as lecturers have accumulated from our working life, that make us better educators.

“Most of my students work in multinational corporations and having been in such corporations, the understanding of the big picture and how things work in factories allow me to relate to their work better, know them better, be empathetic when it comes to their work schedules.

“I get to create more relevant examples, and explain the applications of theories in their actual working environment, ” she explained.

Chin, who holds a doctorate in Economics, said having these skills as an educator is an advantage, she said, as it has trained her to be disciplined, detailed, firm and quick in decision making. It also equips her with good presentation skills.

This in turn allows her to improve her teaching methods and impart knowledge more effectively.

Explaining how she made the jump to academia, she said it was the death of her colleague that spurred her to become an educator.

“It made me think about what I really want to do until the day I retire and after much consideration, I entered academia in 2017 when I joined USM as a full time researcher and lecturer.

Staying industry- relevant

”Becoming a lecturer was a calling for Dr Chong Ka Leong. He had already spent eight years in the hospitality industry when he made the career switch.

Growing up with learning difficulties, the Sunway University School of Hospitality Assoc Prof and programme leader wanted to help students who are weak learners.But before he dove into the teaching world, he wanted to ensure that he had the relevant industry experience first.

“I did not want to join academia without having practical knowledge and industry experience; it is important for us as lecturers.

“We teach according to global standards and ideal practices. But teaching according to international benchmarks do not necessarily mean that the knowledge is suitable for the local scenario.

“Having industry experience fills such knowledge gaps. We must be able to relate whatever is taught to the local scenario so students are able to understand the challenges better. We must strike a balance and relate theories with the practical world.”

The advantage of having both academic qualifications and industry experience, he said, will help educators stay industry-relevant.

This ensures that lecturers will are able to produce graduates who embody sustainable values and business ethics and are industry ready.Over the years, academia has been criticised for being “overtly academic”.

This is a term Chong disagrees with but he does not blame industry practitioners.

“It serves as a reminder to academicians to continue staying connected with the industry be it through direct involvement via projects and research, or indirectly through case studies, collaborations and internships.”

The pros of staying academic focused is that educators are research informed, in touch with global good practices and able to continue educating students about ideal business work ethics and sustainable values, he said.

However, the cons that come with it, Chong said, is that academia will continue to be labelled as impractical, and be perceived as producing inflexible graduates with unrealistic and critical mindsets and an inability to adapt.

Academia-industry work hand-in-hand

Mohamed Jamil Ahmad retired in 2011, armed with over 34 years of experience in the urban planning industry.

After his retirement, he was invited to deliver part-time lectures by Universiti Malaya at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning Faculty of Built Environment.

He is currently an Associate Professor at the department.

“While most of my colleagues and contemporaries have sunk into retirement doing things they had dreamed off in their working life, teaching and disseminating knowledge in urban planning has always been in my ‘shopping cart’.

“Imparting essential urban planning knowledge to young students of the Built Environment course has been very fulfilling and satisfying.

“Practical experiences add colour to your lectures and sharing sessions as lessons can be interpersed with real life examples. More often than not, this creates extra value in your presentation during lessons, ” he said.

By giving real life practical experiences, he said, the “authority” and “authenticity” in the deliberation will make an academic’s lessons more interesting and believable.

Having this extra skill is important because as a former industry practitioner, he said, educators will be able to achieve better academic results and add value to their students’ pursuit of real work experience.

“You also tend to be more apt at problem solving and imparting street smart qualities on your students. Going into academia also opens up new doors for your career as you are now part of a global community of researchers and scientists.”

For urban planning to improve, a cooperative relationship between industry and academia needs to be established and flourish.

Thus, both need each other, he added.

Decision making in urban planning must be evidence based, and planning policies and products need to be tested from time to time to remain relevant.

Universities must prepare and undertake empirical research into formulating future planning methodologies, he said.

“The industry needs to provide funding towards that end as there isn’t enough research-based studies being funded by the urban planning sector.

“There are many university-industry collaborations in the fields of technology, medicine and science, but there is a lack of similar collaboration in the social sciences.”

While Mohamed Jamil’s focus is on teaching, he is still involved in the urban planning industry in an advisory capacity. He does consultancy work and is a co-opted exco member of the Malaysian Institute of Planners.

He is also a member of the Federal Territory Planning Urban Planning Appeal Board.

The benefits of having academic staff with strong industry experience:

  •  The output of projects, case studies and assignments given to students would be closer to the work expected by industry.
  •  The ability to share their own real-life experiences, anecdotes and insights as to what employers expect of graduates – not just in core skills areas, but also in terms of professionalism and ethics.
  •  The continuous enriching and evolving of the course curriculum and content.
  •  The relevant exposure of students to real world problems to meet industry expectations.
  •  The ability to go beyond text-book knowledge to a more functional knowledge when they design classroom activities or projects.Source: Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh and Malaysian Society for Higher Education Policy and Research Development deputy chairman Prof Dr Rosna Awang-Hashim.
  • Public and private varsity lecturers with industry experience share their insights with StarEdu on the importance and need to complement academic qualifications with real-world experience.


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Importance of practising anti-Covid-19 measures

Thursday, May 21st, 2020
(File pic) The reopening of schools and universities is a hot topic globally. -NSTP/EFFENDY RASHID(File pic) The reopening of schools and universities is a hot topic globally. -NSTP/EFFENDY RASHID

THE reopening of schools and universities is a hot topic globally. Some argue it should be done gradually so that students keep in touch with education before they lose it all. For sure, this must incorporate the strict discipline of breaking the transmission of Covid-19.

However, the “mantra” is beginning to lose its novelty and influence. It has by now become cliché because it is not rooted in education. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the use of “social distancing” as one of the mantras is just educationally unsound, when what is required is “social solidarity” and “physical distancing” instead.

So schools must come to the rescue if the practice of breaking the Covid-19 circuit is to be meaningfully embedded. More so among the younger pupils, who are less aware and therefore must be well trained.

The best place to do this is in a live schooling environment, where social solidarity can be nurtured.

Doing this virtually has its limits, educationally speaking. Similarly with the “hand washing” mantra. Unless this is properly learned, the exposure to the risk could be substantial for students.

Still, this is just one of the many practices that must be instituted if a high standard of hygiene and sanitation is to be maintained. Here, we are talking about a very organised way of teaching and learning that involves real-life demonstrations.

It ranges from casual eating habits to toilet etiquette. Indeed, the latter is a real challenge considering the notorious habits Malaysians are known for.

But keeping hands sanitised is just one aspect. The rest will remain completely “submerged” in the consciousness level and must be awakened through education in schools. This is in view of the fact that cleanliness and hygiene is not part of the six student aspirations in the Education Blueprint; it could easily fall by the wayside over a period of time.

Mental hygiene is now recognised as the next potential “outbreak” if social solidarity (read: mutual emotional psychological support) fails to be realised as part of much-needed education — made worse by the wholesale misplaced adoption of social distancing (read: isolation, loneliness).

Reportedly, a mental illness crisis is looming as millions of people worldwide are surrounded by death and disease, and forced into isolation, poverty and anxiety by the pandemic, according to United Nations health experts.

“The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil — they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” says Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organisation’s mental health department.

“The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently,” she notes.

Psychologists claim that more children are anxious and increasing cases of depression and anxiety have been recorded in several countries.

Sad to say, cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene have not even surfaced as frequently and prominently in the education sector compared with the parroting of the need for online learning or home-based education as the so-called new normal.

There seems to be a serious disconnect somewhere in the failure to see the big picture where cleanliness and hygiene is key! This means by the time Covid-19 becomes endemic (as predicted), the community remains even more vulnerable because we have by then become complacent without the essential education and tools to protect ourselves and community.

So get on with it through schools.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

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Applications are open for Asean Data Science Explorers programme

Thursday, May 21st, 2020
Leong Zhuan Kee (second from right) and Peh Wei Li (second from left) from Monash University Malaysia were crowned national champions last year.Leong Zhuan Kee (second from right) and Peh Wei Li (second from left) from Monash University Malaysia were crowned national champions last year.

THE Higher Education Ministry (MOHE) is calling for tertiary students across Malaysia and other Asean countries to apply for the Asean Data Science Explorers (Aseandse) 2020.

The programme, a collaboration between Asean Foundation and multinational software corporation SAP, aims to harness the power of data to help solve the region’s most pressing developmental issues.

In a statement, SAP Malaysia managing director Hong Kok Cheong said: “The aim of this initiative is to galvanise youth activism among students in Malaysia and throughout Asean by increasing their information and communication technology (ICT) competencies.

“We hope this effort would encourage students to think creatively to deliver impactful data-driven recommendations and solutions,” he said.

Asean Foundation executive director Dr. Yang Mee Eng said: “Aseandse is a perfect platform for youth to contribute their knowledge to come up with data-driven solutions that can help alleviate pressing social and economic issues in the region,”

“By joining the programme, students can also improve their 21st century skills and transform themselves into a globally competitive and future ready workforce.”

The initiative integrates two key activities, which are a series of enablement sessions and a data analytics competition, to achieve its objectives.

Since its inception in 2017, the Aseandse has empowered over 10,000 youth from 262 higher education institutions in the region.

This effort has been recognised by 10 Asean leaders, Senior Officials Meeting on Youth (SOMY), and Senior Officials Meeting on Education (Somed) for its contribution to youth and education development across the region.

In order to take part in the competition, students are required to form teams of two to register for the competition and submit their proposals. Applications can be made at

One participating team from each country will stand a chance to be crowned as the national finalist before advancing to compete in the regional finals.

At the regional finals, the 10 national finalists will be given the opportunity to present their winning ideas to a panel of judges which comprise representatives from the Asean Foundation, SAP and various government officials and selected non-governmental organisations.

Last year at the Malaysian finals, Leong Zhuan Kee and Peh Wei Li from Monash University Malaysia were crowned national champions.

By New Straits Times.

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Universities adjust semester schedules

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020
Semester extensions are being implemented to allow students and lecturers adjust to the new teaching and learning mode.Semester extensions are being implemented to allow students and lecturers adjust to the new teaching and learning mode.

CLASSES at universities have largely resumed after being disrupted by the Movement Control Order (MCO).

However, semester extensions had to be made to allow lecturers and students to adjust to the various aspects of online and remote teaching and learning.

On April 1, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) resumed its classes for the second part of the 2019/2020 second semester, with a four-week extension approved without increasing the overall teaching and learning workload.

Its deputy vice-chancellor (Academic and International), Professor Zainuddin Abdul Manan, said the use of online and remote teaching and learning were used for lectures, assignments and project presentations, as well as practical work, viva examinations, service-learning and alternative assessments and final examinations.

“On student internship training, we have reached an understanding with a majority of companies to allow internship students to work from home, except for a few students who work in the companies’ essential services.

“UTM has also allowed flexibilities for students to withdraw from courses, extend projects or defer their studies to later semesters with various fee discounts and without counting the semesters affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Professor Zainuddin Abdul Manan.Professor Zainuddin Abdul Manan.

After almost a month’s break due to the MCO, which started on March 18, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) continued its classes online from the third week of last month with the semester slotted to end the third week of August.

Its Academic Development director, Professor Dr Nor Aziah Alias, said the university had minimised onsite and face-to-face assessments.

“These are decided and conducted in compliance with professional bodies and the Malaysian Qualification Accreditation requirements,” she said, adding that assessment for courses that required face-to-face assessment was expected to resume next month.

She said some internships and final year projects would resume next month, while those that could proceed via online would continue to do so. She added that student movement into campus was being carefully planned to prevent massive movement and curb the risk of Covid-19 infection.

On April 20, INTI International University and Colleges also resumed its current semester by conducting online classes.

Its group registrar, Ganeshwari Thangarajah, said INTI’s Teaching and Learning Department had worked with the deans of faculties to identify the subjects requiring the move from practical to online assessments.

She said it had identified the best alternative means of assessing students so that they meet the learning outcomes of each module.

“Exams are being curated through online platforms so that students can complete their semesters while taking away the need for students and invigilators to be placed in exam halls,” she said.

Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU) took the bold step to suspend face-to-face lectures, tutorials, presentations and classes in its campus from March 16, and instead, rolled out online classes via its Online Digital Learning platform on March 18

As such, APIIT Education Group chief operating officer Gurpardeep Singh said APU did not have to reschedule its classes.

“However, we have decided to reschedule the starting dates of the new semesters to provide time for the situation to normalise after the MCO and for most students to return to campus,” he said.

For APU students who have to work on their final year projects, they have to do so remotely. They are in touch with their supervisors who guide them. Final year presentations are held via video conferencing, and thus far the method has proven to be effective.

By Rozana Sani.

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Road to success

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

Way Forward: The private higher education sector is set to be revamped with a roadmap specifically created for them. — Photo:

PRIVATE higher education institutions (PHEIs) are doing more than just educating Malaysia’s youth.

The sector has been a big contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and it is set to play an even bigger role in the country’s economy moving forward.

To date, PHEIs are home to more than half of the country’s tertiary education student population. The sector contributed RM31.5bil from tuition fees and cost of living to the Malaysian economy in 2018.

Conservatively, a projected 5% to 6% annual growth could translate to RM65bil by 2025 and RM84bil by 2030.


PHEIs, however, have had to face many obstacles and roadblocks which have slowed down their potential to progress. The ‘Way Forward For Private Higher Education Institutions: Education As An Industry (2020-2025)’ document was meant to address these issues.

In the document’s executive summary, the Education Ministry stated its commitment to ensuring that PHEIs move towards becoming a high impact industry– competitive, innovative, productive, dynamic, progressive and vibrant. This is in line with the government’s vision of shared prosperity.

Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh said there has never been a comprehensive strategic blueprint developed specifically for the the private higher education industry.

The development of the ‘Way Forward’ sends out a very important message – that finally, the industry is being accorded the status as the government’s equal partner in nation-building, he told StarEdu.

Parmjit, who was one of the key industry representatives involved in the drafting of the document, said it was created to enable the industry to fully realise its potential and aspirations in developing the country and in human resource transformation.

“While supporting the industry in enhancing its contributions to the economy as a key provider and exporter of services, the document emphasises that the policy, regulatory and governance landscape of our private higher education sector would have to be facilitative, empowering, impactful and value-driven in order for PHEIs to excel in the local and global context.”

The document, he said, was conceptualised during a workshop involving private higher education industry leaders and senior government officials held in March last year. After rounds of consultations, workshops and writing, the document was launched by the then Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching in January.

At the time, higher education came under the Education Ministry. The Higher Education Ministry was only set up again last month.

Higher education has always been part of the Education Ministry until 2004 when then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi separated the ministry into “Education” and “Higher Education”. The creation of the two ministries then was to ensure both sectors received equal focus as it was thought to be too unwieldy under one. In May 2013, his successor Datuk Seri Najib Razak merged the ministries. But in June 2015, the ministries were again split following a Cabinet reshuffle. The ministries were “reunited” once more following Pakatan Harapan’s win in the 2018 General Election. And the latest divorce came on March 9 when Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin unveiled his Cabinet line-up.

The move was to return the focus to the sector as the country seeks to achieve its 200,000 international students target by this year.


Quick to react

In order for the ‘Way Forward’ to achieve its objectives, there has to be an agile governance system in place, said Parmjit. This is one of the five key areas identified in the document.

The others are institutional sustainability, transformed delivery, innovation and teaching excellence, and internationalisation.

“Only after true reform is achieved through the imperatives and proposals outlined in this most important area, can everything else fall in place,” he said.

In the document, agile governance is said to strengthen the capability and functions of PHEIs and the role of the company in managing quality higher education providers. It enables organisations to make the right decisions, at the right time, with the right information.

Parmjit said this is important so that the institutions are able to fulfil their roles in nation-building as strong and sustainable corporate organisations.

“The swathe of regulations and governance structures imposed under the current law that governs PHEIs are no longer fit-for-purpose.

“An agile governance framework is seen to be the answer to enabling PHEIs to be unshackled from highly prescriptive regulations, thereby enhancing their ability to react speedily to changing external forces and to make the right decisions at the right time with the right information, as is expected of any well-run corporate organisation.”

Another key area defined in the document is institutional sustainability.This will ensure that PHEIs establish a solid financial foundation so that they can be responsive, inclusive and sustainable in an increasingly competitive market.

PHEIs sustainability has been affected by poor student intakes and a drop in international student enrolment. These are the results of unconducive policies such as visa restrictions and changes in language entry requirements.

The ‘Way Forward’ suggests alternative financing schemes as well as public-private partnerships to be introduced to the PHEIs in order to reduce their financial burden. A new financing model for students is also anticipated to boost the student number in the PHEIs in the next few years.

Besides funding, Parmjit said the lack of autonomy is another issue affecting PHEIs’ ability to survive.

The Private Higher Education Institutions Act 1996 (Act 555) and the National Accreditation Board (LAN) Act 1996 — later superseded by the MQA Act 2007 — has been further tightened over the years.

The Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 is the main legislation to regulate the establishment, registration, management and supervision of, and quality control of education provided by private higher educational institutions. Weaknesses in the law may hinder the growth and sustainability of the PHEIs.

“Under the existing regulatory frameworks, PHEIs have not been accorded sufficient autonomy as compared to their counterparts in the public sector.

“For example, the board of governors and senates of public universities are empowered, autonomous decision-making bodies, but the equivalent bodies within PHEIs are still bound by a myriad of regulatory requirements that have evolved over the years, despite there being sound basis for these decisions,” said Parmjit.

Regulatory approvals are required for most major decisions made within PHEIs, he said, and this results in the inability of PHEIs to react swiftly to the rapidly changing external environment, especially market conditions and employer requirements.

Although regulations are necessary to ensure academic integrity and quality of education provided by PHEIs, excessive regulations may stifle innovations.

While regulatory processes must still be in place to guarantee standards are maintained and legal requirements complied with, processes involving regulations and control should be efficient, optimal and lean to get the best performance.

“This is recognised and addressed in the document. One of the strategies outlined is for the respective education agencies to be less regulatory and more facilitative,” Parmjit said.

Education for all

In line with the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, the private education sector is committed towards economic empowerment and social re-engineering.

PHEIs aspire to contribute to Malaysia’s education ecosystem by providing equitable access to quality, international education, and the ‘Way Forward’, said Universiti Putra Malaysia Educational Studies Faculty Assoc Prof Dr Ismi Arif Ismail, will help guide the process to achieving economic goals.

He pointed out that the document has an entire chapter on the commitment towards Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, which talks about inclusivity and access to quality education.

The chapter states that education has been proven to provide upward mobility to the underprivileged, giving them access to a better life.

PHEIs play a significant role in increasing access to quality education and narrowing the socioeconomic gaps between urban and rural students.

The document states that PHEIs should widen the types of financial aids through scholarships, financial institutions, soft loans, waqaf, zakat and foundations.

“Inclusivity caters to the well-being of diverse groups of students in terms of socioeconomic background,” said Dr Ismi, who is from the faculty’s Development & Continuing Education Department.

Since Malaysia aspires to become a centre of international education, PHEIs must improve their image and branding to become more visible.

There are more international students in PHEIs compared to public universities.

As of last September, there are more than 1.25 million students pursuing their tertiary education in Malaysia, with about 70% of them enrolled in PHEIs.

Malaysia had targeted to have 250,000 international students studying in higher education institutions in 2025.

Problems have plagued the ministry’s efforts to attract foreign students to our shores.

To solve these, the document proposes increasing Education Malaysia’s brand visibility and international recognition as a provider of quality higher education.

PHEIs also have to boost the international students’ experiences in Malaysia by enhancing the ecosystem and amenities. All of these efforts would help attract new markets by increasing marketing support from other governmental agencies.

But costs have to be kept down so that the burden is not transferred to the students. If administrative processes remain bloated, it will lead to inflated fees. This will cause unnecessary burden to some students and their families, thus putting education even further out of their reach.Juggling costs while providing high-quality, high-impact and future-ready programmes, mean that PHEIs need to retain their top-performing faculty and support staff, while strengthening their academic programmes which must be relevant, sought after by students, parents and scholarship providers, and able to produce employable and future-proof graduates.

Focused playbook

A framework for higher education institutions already exists in the form of the Malaysia Higher Education Blueprint 2015-2025 but the ‘Way Forward’ is a more focused, specially prepared guide for PHEIs, said Ismi Arif.

“This document is needed because it is specific. It takes generic strategies in the blueprint that are relevant to PHEIs and tailor-make them to the sector by spelling out how private institutions should respond and accelerate themselves,” added the academic whose core research area is in the higher education sector.

Prof Ismi Arif said the document’s six-year timeline is reasonable for stakeholders to implement the strategies proposed.

“I hope the PHEIs can continue playing their role in the education ecosystem – not as separate entities from the public institutions – but as collaborators of the government to form a synergy that can propel Malaysian higher education to become a significant sector for nation building.”

Paving the Way Forward

Sunday, April 26th, 2020
THE Covid-19 pandemic has hit many sectors – including private higher education – hard.

Like any other industry, private higher education institutions (PHEIs) are sailing through choppy waters.

Faced with the challenges of rising costs, competition from neighbouring countries, and continuity of high-level quality programmes and facilities, these institutions are looking to the government to ensure that a recently launched plan to help the sector regain its position as the region’s leading education hub and a main revenue contributor to the country, is implemented.

Launched early this year, ‘The Way Forward for Private Higher Education Institutions: Education as an Industry (2020-2025)’ charts the path for PHEIs to achieve agile governance, more autonomy and greater sustainability.

It has become more crucial now as the sector attempts to weather the challenges brought on by the virus.

Comprising medium and long-term strategies, the document forms a strong basis to address issues that are facing the sector, Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh said.

“While it is important to take immediate measures to ensure the industry’s sustainability, it is equally important to look beyond the current movement control order (MCO) and the post Covid-19 scenario.

“It is critical to work on the sector’s recovery phase immediately post-Covid-19 and the reforms that must be instituted to ensure that the industry can continue contributing to national development,” he said.

He added that private higher education is a main income generator for the nation, contributing over RM31.5bil in tuition fees and student cost of living to Malaysia’s coffers in 2018.

“Once this pandemic is over, we need to ensure that everything is in place to reboot the economy.

“Education is an important part of a student’s life and we have to give our students the best academic experience possible, even during the MCO.”

Universiti Putra Malaysia Educational Studies Faculty Assoc Prof Dr Ismi Arif Ismail — whose core research area is in the higher education sector — said the trajectory of the six-year ‘Way Forward’ document will be slightly delayed considering the crisis facing the globe.

“However, the beauty of having the document is that there is something that the PHEIs can refer to, reflect and redesign with regard to how they should operate alternatively in order to thrive amidst this crisis and bounce back to continue the excellence.”

Sunway Education Group chief executive officer Elizabeth Lee said people have been talking about the “new normal” once the MCO is lifted and how post-pandemic will be about recovery.

“Tremendous financial hardships are already arising from Covid-19 and empowering PHEIs to educate more Malaysians in a more innovative – and even radical way – will help reduce the government’s burden of providing public higher education for the rakyat,” she said, adding that the ‘Way Forward’ may need to be reviewed and revised.

The ‘Way Forward’, she said, is deeply rooted in IR4.0 but that alone is not enough for the post-Covid era.

“The document has become more pertinent and essential in light of what has happened. But a transformation and radicalisation of strategies outlined in the plan may be necessary before the content is put into action.

“The Higher Education Ministry must be embolden to make courageous decisions which are much needed under the current unique circumstances.”