Reshaping Malaysia’s tertiary education system

Adjustment of the curriculum has to be made in order to prepare the coming workforce for the challenges ahead.

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Published by Malay Mail, image from Malay Mail.

The tertiary education system in Malaysia needs an overhaul in order to reshape it in such a way as to meet the industrial need of the country and to prepare its workforce for skills and expertise that will support the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

To begin with, adjustment of the curriculum has to be made in order to prepare the coming workforce for the challenges ahead.

In 2019, the Department of Higher Education has dropped 38 programmes in 19 public universities such as sports psychology, creative technology and animation which are deemed to be irrelevant to the current situation.

According to the Higher Education Department director-general, Datin Paduka Siti Hamisah Tapsir, there is an attempt to ensure that all academic courses in public universities are completely relevant to the in-demand jobs in the future.

But a study conducted by the Ministry of Education Malaysia’s Graduate Tracer Study portrays that 21 public-sector universities and 38 private-sector universities generate about 51,000 graduates a year, but almost 60 per cent remain unemployed a year after graduating.

This is because some of the programmes offered are no longer in demand and the graduates will have to patiently wait for any job openings in this fast-paced economy which will require different skills and knowledge from the one that they had studied.

As a result, many graduates are still unemployed and some of them have to bite the bullet by changing their career fields to meet the needs of the current industry.

Associate Professor of Universiti Utara Malaysia, Dr Hariharan N. Krishnasamy was spot-on when he mentioned that the increase in unemployment is due to the widening gap between the product of the learning institutions and the expectation of the industry in terms of technical and soft skills.

Plus, most graduates are also “underemployed” because the requirements of the current industry are forcing them to go along with it.

Although dropping programmes is one of the good attempts to prevent the situation from worsening, some of the courses such as the electrical telecommunications, engineering and mathematics may need to be reconsidered.

This is because some of them are actually related to the 4IR, for example, the electrical telecommunications course that is currently needed for the development of 5G as it involves the electrical and computer engineering.

It also reflects the relevance of the programme as the development of 5G is a starting point towards the development of other technologies such as autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things.

As mentioned by the director general of Higher Education Department, the lecturers are required to redesign and introduce new programmes regarding the 4IR.

But other authorities should empower the efforts by analysing the problems of the irrelevant programmes and suggesting the suitable programmes or electives to be introduced.

The skills needed for the 4IR should be enhanced such as the technical skills, entrepreneurship and workforce readiness so that the young generations would not be left behind as we move towards the 4IR.

Being aware of the elements of 4IR and how the 4IR will impact the country, the programmes and the subjects offered by the universities also need to keep pace with the technological changes in the future.

This is where the related authorities should emphasise the suitable programmes so that the young generation will meet the job demands in the future.

As Information Technology (IT) lays the groundwork for key emerging technologies important to 4IR such as Big Data Analytics, the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the universities also should provide the students with the technical and theoretical skills of IT.

Besides, the universities need to embed introduction of 4IR courses into the curriculum to equip students with general 4IR knowledge to build a good cooperation and integration among future experts from different fields.

The relevant programmes of tertiary education that should be our focus are IT, Robotics, Advanced Engineering and 3D Animation for example.

In terms of the irrelevant programmes, they need to be restructured by incorporating suitable subjects to meet the 4IR challenges so that the programmes will become more relevant in the future.

The marketability of graduates in these programmes in term of getting employed after graduation should also be looked into.

Sometimes when graduates of good and relevant programmes find some difficulties in landing a job, it’s not so much that the programmes are irrelevant to the industrial need of the nation. Rather, the graduates themselves are not technologically-savvy in getting employed.

An AI-driven job portal, Adnexio, could easily discover the best match for a job by learning the details of applicants. Perhaps, the government should take a look on this attempt and expand it to encourage graduates on using the technology because some graduates are still unsure about the right jobs for them.

That is why the system is believed to be able to reduce youth unemployment and underemployment through a good career match for the graduates depending on their qualifications, skills and experiences with the requirements of the career opportunities.

Restructuring the curriculum in this manner is not only sustainable but also help to achieve the objectives of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

Not only that, a better system for Malaysia’s tertiary education will meet one of the goals of Sustainable Development Goals which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Nowadays, becoming a university graduate no longer guarantees you a job but it may be accomplished through a continuous effort of rebuilding the higher education towards fulfilling the future demands.

It may also be applicable to the curriculum of primary and secondary education to expose students at a young age to the 4IR’s future challenges as the related authorities should “strike while the iron is hot.”

On the contrary, the related authorities must take precautionary measures so that it would never jeopardize the most important pillar in nation building when education is seen as merely for quantity-based commercial reasons as mentioned by the director general of Higher Education Department.

More importantly, the commitment of all and sundry towards nurturing important job skills and providing suitable programmes for the younger generation as well as fighting youth unemployment in Malaysia is required for the future viability of the nation’s workforce.

Farhan Kamarulzaman is Research Assistant at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

Bahasa Melayu

Diterbitkan oleh EMIR Research.

Sistem pendidikan tinggi  di Malaysia memerlukan pembaikpulihan untuk membentuk semula sistem bagi memenuhi keperluan industri negara dan mensiap-siagakan tenaga kerja dengan kemahiran dan kepakaran yang bakal menyokong Revolusi Perindustrian Keempat (4IR).

Sebagai permulaan, penyelarasan kurikulum perlu dilakukan sebagai persiapan bakal tenaga kerja dalam menghadapi cabaran-cabaran mendatang.

Pada 2019, Jabatan Pengajian Tinggi telah menggugurkan 38 program di 19 universiti awam seperti psikologi sukan, teknologi kreatif dan animasi yang dianggap tidak relevan dengan keadaan semasa.

Menurut Ketua Pengarah Jabatan Pengajian Tinggi, Datin Paduka Siti Hamisah Tapsir, terdapat satu percubaan untuk memastikan segala kursus akademik di universiti-universiti awam adalah relevan sepenuhnya dengan pekerjaan masa hadapan.

Akan tetapi, kajian yang dijalankan oleh Kajian Pelajaran Siswazah Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia menyatakan 21 universiti sektor awam dan 38 universiti sektor swasta menjana kira-kira 51,000 graduan setahun, tetapi hampir 60% masih lagi menganggur setahun selepas tamat pengajian.

Hal ini kerana sesetengah program yang ditawarkan tiada lagi dalam permintaan dan para graduan perlu bersabar menunggu sebarang peluang pekerjaan dalam ekonomi pesat ini yang memerlukan kemahiran dan pengetahuan yang berbeza daripada apa yang mereka telah belajar.

Akibatnya, ramai graduan masih lagi menganggur dan sebahagian graduan terpaksa akur dengan perubahan bidang kerjaya mereka untuk memenuhi keperluan industri semasa.

Profesor Madya Universiti Utara Malaysia, Dr. Hariharan N Krishnasamy menyatakan peningkatan pengangguran disebabkan jurang semakin meluas antara produk institusi pembelajaran dengan jangkaan industri dari segi kemahiran teknikal dan insaniah.

Walaupun pengguguran program adalah salah satu percubaan yang baik untuk mencegah keadaan menjadi semakin teruk, beberapa kursus seperti telekomunikasi eletrikal, kejuruteraan dan matematik mungkin perlu dipertimbangkan semula.

Ini kerana sesetengah kursus tersebut sebenarnya berkait dengan 4IR, sebagai contoh, kursus telekomunikasi elektrik yang kini diperlukan untuk pembangunan 5G kerana ia melibatkan kejuruteraan elektrik dan komputer.

Ia juga mencerminkan keberkaitan program ini kerana pembangunan 5G adalah titik permulaan ke arah pembangunan teknologi lain seperti kenderaan autonomi dan Internet Pelbagai Benda.

Kemahiran yang diperlukan untuk 4IR perlu dipertingkatkan seperti kemahiran teknikal, keusahawanan dan kesediaan tenaga kerja supaya generasi muda tidak akan ketinggalan jauh ke belakang ketika kita bergerak ke arahnya.

Dalam menyedari unsur-unsur 4IR dan bagaimana 4IR akan memberi impak kepada negara, program dan subjek yang ditawarkan oleh universiti juga perlu seiring dengan perkembangan teknologi masa depan.

Memandangkan Teknologi Maklumat (IT) merupakan asas bagi teknologi baru yang penting untuk 4IR seperti Analisis Data Raya, Internet Pelbagai Benda dan Kecerdasan Buatan (AI), pihak universiti juga harus mensiap-siagakan pelajar dengan kemahiran teknikal dan teori IT.

Selain itu, universiti perlu memasukkan kursus 4IR ke dalam kurikulum untuk melengkapkan pelajar dengan pengetahuan umum 4IR dalam membina kerjasama yang baik dan integrasi dalam kalangan para pakar masa hadapan dari pelbagai bidang.

Program pendidikan tinggi yang seharusnya menjadi tumpuan kita adalah IT, Robotik, Kejuruteraan Lanjutan dan Animasi 3D, sebagai contohnya.

Pemasaran graduan dalam program-program ini dari segi peluang pekerjaan selepas tamat pengajian juga perlu dipertimbangkan.

Kadangkala apabila graduan program yang bagus dan relevan mengalami kesulitan mendapatkan pekerjaan, ia bukan kerana program itu tidak lagi relevan dengan keperluan industri negara. Sebaliknya, graduan itu sendiri tidak begitu pintar menggunakan teknologi dalam mendapatkan pekerjaan.

Portal kerja yang didorong oleh AI, Adnexio, dengan mudah dapat mencari padanan terbaik untuk pekerjaan dengan mempelajari butiran pemohon. Mungkin, kerajaan perlu meluaskan langkah ini bagi menggalakkan graduan untuk menggunakannya kerana sesetengah graduan masih tidak pasti tentang pekerjaan yang sesuai bagi mereka.

Itulah sebabnya sistem itu dipercayai dapat mengurangkan pengangguran belia dan pekerjaan di bawah kelayakan melalui padanan kerjaya yang baik untuk graduan.

Penstrukturan kurikulum dengan cara ini bukan sahaja mampan tetapi juga dapat membantu dalam mencapai matlamat Rangka Tindakan Pendidikan Malaysia 2013-2025.

Bukan itu sahaja, satu sistem yang lebih baik untuk pendidikan tinggi Malaysia akan memenuhi salah satu teras “Matlamat Pembangunan Mampan” bagi memastikan pendidikan berkualiti yang inklusif dan saksama serta meningkatkan peluang pembelajaran seumur hidup untuk semua.

Pada masa kini, graduan universiti bukan lagi jaminan untuk mendapatkan pekerjaan tetapi ia mungkin boleh dicapai melalui usaha berterusan untuk membina semula pendidikan tinggi ke arah memenuhi tuntutan masa depan.

Lebih penting lagi, komitmen semua ke arah memupuk kemahiran pekerjaan yang berguna dan menyediakan program yang sesuai untuk generasi muda serta memerangi pengangguran belia di Malaysia diperlukan untuk daya maju masa depan tenaga kerja negara.

Farhan Kamarulzaman merupakan Pembantu Penyelidik di EMIR Research, sebuah organisasi pemikir bebas yang berfokuskan kepada pencernaan saranan-saranan dasar strategik berteraskan penyelidikan yang terperinci, konsisten dan menyeluruh.

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