In another move to strengthen its education sector, Malaysia is upgrading 78 vocational schools into colleges. The move will produce 13,000 skilled workers in four years’ time.
This is being done under the Education Ministry’s vocational education transformation programme, according to New Straits Times. These colleges will provide diploma qualifications through the pioneer programme that began seven months ago.
Currently, the schools offer basic vocational education which was only a stepping stone for the pupils to further pursue their studies, the ministry’s technical and vocational education division director, Ahmad Tajudin Jab, said.
Ahmad said the ministry would look forward to collaborating with private colleges, especially in high impact fields such as oil and gas, biotechnology and renewable energy.
He also said the new vocational colleges would admit former PMR students from next year. Penilaian Menengah Rendah (commonly abbreviated as PMR; Malay for Lower Secondary Assessment) is a Malaysian public examination taken by all Form Three students in both government and private schools throughout the country.
Technical schools would maintain their traditional functions, and students would learn basic vocational education there before they could go into specialised fields such as engineering and architecture in universities, colleges and polytechnics. The ministry has stressed having robotic studies as a subject in technical schools as it was “very suitable and appealing for technical students.”
Background on Malaysia’s growth plans
In 1995, the Malaysian government was faced with a situation where 20% of Malaysian students studied abroad, as reported by the Guardian. This cost the country an estimated US$800 million, nearly 12% of Malaysia’s current account deficit. Malaysia became one of the top countries sending its own students to study abroad.
Faced with such a predicament, the Malaysian government embarked on a programme to turn Malaysia into a fully developed knowledge-based economy. To that end, the Malaysian government sought to partner with foreign higher educational institutions to offer more educational opportunities for Malaysians on their own soil. The ultimate aim was to make Malaysia a regional hub of higher education in south-east Asia.
In 1996, as outlined by the World Bank, in an effort to increase access to higher education for both local and international students, Malaysia promoted the creation of domestic private colleges which were allowed to offer the first two years of a degree programme. The last two years and the qualification had to be offered by a foreign institution through a twinning programme arrangement.
Fifteen years later, most of the original 2 plus 2 twinning programmes have changed into 3 plus 1 or 4 plus 0. In addition, there is still a choice of 2+1 twinning degree programmes (with Indonesia, USA, UK, Jordan, Poland, Australia and India), credit transfer programmes for foreign bachelors’ degrees (with UK, New Zealand, Australia, China, Canada, USA, Indonesia and Czech Republic), and 3+0 foreign bachelors degree programmes (UK, USA, Australia, Switzerland, Canada and France).
The costs of the programmes are significant. For instance, the estimated tuition fees per course for 3+0 business degree programmes at private colleges range from US$13,400 to US$23,400.
Malaysia steaming ahead to meet its goals
Clearly, Malaysia is going all out to establish its reputation as a regional hub for higher education and meet its goal to become the world’s sixth-biggest education exporting country by 2020 with a target of 200,000 international students.
There are now 3,218 imported programmes, five branch campuses and the number of international students has doubled in less than five years to 70,423 foreign students in 2008 and over 80,000 by 2010. Malaysia currently has more than 93,000 international students from more than 100 countries, with 150,000 targeted by 2015 and 200,000 by 2020.
As ICEF Monitor outlined in a previous article, (which we recommend reading for additional details) the government’s efforts to become renowned as a study destination include:
- ongoing developments at EduCity Iskander and Kuala Lumpur Education City;
- partnerships and research/scholarships collaboration with UK universities (and others);
- building of academic and industry-linked specialties;
- work in community engagement;
- marketing support.
“Ranked as the world’s 11th largest exporter of educational services, the government is counting on the increased demand for quality education from students in existing and new markets, like the Middle East, China and Africa,” said higher education minister, Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin.
Empowering the nation’s youth
The Malaysian government is also looking inwards at its own population in order to cultivate an engaged youth community and strengthen the country from within.
Youth, who comprise 45 percent of Malaysia’s total population (or 12.5 million people), have a major role in determining the nation’s future, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on his blog.
“It is inevitable that the nation’s future will eventually be in the hands of the youths, whether the national well-being and prosperity enjoyed by all Malaysian citizens will continue in future, depends on you [youths] as the inheritors of the national leadership.”
Najib said towards this end, the government had ensured that all initiatives for youths would involve the principles of engagement, participation and empowerment, with adequate allocation to protect the generation.
The Prime Minister said a total of RM200 million had been allocated solely for skills training of youths who were out of the educational system through programmes such as “Strategic Action Youth 1Malaysia” or “SAY 1Malaysia.”
“A RM200 million allocation was provided under “My Creative Venture Capital’ to provide youths capital to start businesses based on new ideas and innovation, while a macro loan scheme through Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia is in place to encourage female youths to go into business,” he said.
In addition, New Straits Times has reported that the Prime Minister has also declared next year as the Year of the Volunteer, announcing a host of measures, including a RM100 million fund, to support youth volunteers.
He said “a great wave” of youthful vigour was about to sweep the nation, as he introduced the 1Malaysia For Youth (im4u) concept to celebrate young people and the spirit of volunteerism.
Under the concept, an im4u Board of Trustees, to be chaired by Najib, will be set up to oversee programmes and initiatives.
The initiatives, Najib said, included Dana Sukarelawan 1Malaysia (DRe1M), a RM100 million fund that would provide seed money to give young volunteers a head start in their volunteerism efforts.
“You can do it your way, for your causes, according to your likes and interests, whichever way you think is best. Whether it’s setting up tuition classes for Orang Asli children, cleaning up the beach or repainting your neighbourhood flats, we will assist you,” he told the 50,000-strong crowd of young people.
This latest announcement is yet another example of what ICEF Monitor reported on just last week in its piece “The rise of the volunteer sector in Asia Pacific.”