Poised to become global education hub

Thursday May 31, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/5/31/nation/11368511&sec=nation

THE Malaysian higher education sector has grown tremendously in the past decade and Malaysia is fast becoming an educational hub for excellence in the Asian region.

The country today is the world’s 11th largest exporter of educational services with over 90,000 international students from over 100 nations studying at its schools, colleges, university colleges and universities. This has been achieved due to the Government’s dedicated efforts in strengthening competitiveness and championing Malaysia’s international education brand in its endeavours to achieve a high-income nation status by 2020.

Under the stewardship of the Higher Education Ministry, the vision of the Government was to create a higher education environment that fosters the development of academic and institutional excellence in order for Malaysia to secure its position as a global education hub.

The Government has, via the Ministerial Key Results Area (MKRA) initiative of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP), set a list of targets for the Higher Education Ministry to internationalise Malaysia’s higher education sector and position the nation as a leading provider of higher education services.

The establishment of MKRAs itself is a transformational change in the way Government delivery is performed. It is a more transparent and engaging process, one which focuses on ministerial responsibility and delivery. The MKRA and its attendant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are about identifying priorities and setting targets for individual ministers and their ministries.

In this regard, the Higher Education Minister had a range of initiatives which he had to deliver on in 2011 to unlock the potential that the sector holds for achieving developed nation status by 2020.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said: “We will need to build a hub where we can retain local students, build a regional reputation by providing access to high–quality education and training for both international and domestic student markets and thereby create a knowledge-based economy.”

For 2011, the Ministry set a target of attracting 85,000 international students to the growing number of private education institutions, but surpassed this by achieving a 93,000 international student enrolment rate.

The Ministry’s success in this initiative has been characterised not only through achieving the target for student enrolment but also in simplifying and facilitating an administrative environment for the international student community to gain support and ease of entry into the system.

Mohamed Khaled said: “The setting up of the Education Malaysia Global Services to facilitate and administer faster visa processing services for international students offers a supportive environment for students who choose to study here.

“We have also set up an online registration and application portal to streamline all international applications under the Student Application and Registration System (STARS).”

The Ministry also recognised the immense potential and massive social and economic impact of the distance and online higher education sector which has been growing rapidly over the past decade.

Under the Economic Transformation Programme’s (ETP) Education National Key Economic Area (NKEA), a target has been set to increase the international online student enrolment from 7,000 in 2010 to 130,000 in 2020.

The entry of the Asia e-University (AeU), based in Kuala Lumpur, which is set up by 31 Asian countries who are members of the Asian Corporative Dialogue (ACD) is a step towards achieving this. Malaysia has been entrusted by the ACD to be the prime mover of e-education.

To propagate the growth of online education learning, AeU formed an independent and special infrastructure called Malaysia Education Online (MEdO) to provide a platform for expanding international distance learning, offering programmes leveraging on the collective expertise of Malaysian universities, colleges, polytechnics and training institutes. The Ministry has achieved an enrolment of 1,500 international online distance learning students for the year 2011.

One of the big successes in 2011 for the Ministry was the entrance of internationally acclaimed universities through the EduCity@Iskandar. A total of eight international universities namely Curtin University Sarawak, Monash University Malaysia, Nottingham University Malaysia, Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak, Newcastle University of Medicine, University of Southampton Malaysia Campus, Raffles University and Netherland Maritime Institute of Technology have set up their campus here.

Mohamed Khaled said: “As we transition to becoming a high-income economy, the creation of knowledge becomes vital. These universities create access to competitive education programmes for both the local and international student population and a pathway to promote knowledge transfer and create a knowledge generation to drive economic sustainability.”

The thrust towards an innovation-led economy has also brought on the need for high-impact research and the implementation of commercially–viable research and development initiatives by local universities. Under the Minister’s able guidance and collaboration with industry players, the Ministry surpassed its revenue target of RM10mil and hit a RM61.8mil mark for 2011. For 2012, the Minister has set a target to achieve RM30mil for the total income generated from R&D commercialised products.

While promoting the brand of Malaysian higher education has been an integral component of the MKRAs, the Ministry also realised that it was fundamental to create a higher education teaching workforce that has the quality and capabilities to compete effectively on an international platform. Thus, a vision to increase the number of lecturers with postgraduate degrees became an objective for the Ministry.

For research universities, the Ministry set a target of achieving a 70% success rate and achieved a 73% rate. For non-research universities, the target achieved was 34% as opposed to the 28% target set.

Under the Ministry’s purview, programmes such as the Skim Latihan Akademik Bumiputera (SLAB), Skim Latihan Akademik IPTA (SLAI), MyMaster, MyPhD and PhD, enabled the sponsorship of lecturers to obtain postgraduate degrees.

While much has been achieved in 2011, the Ministry has set more comprehensive KPIs for 2012. Guided by a clear and strategic vision, the aim is to continue to reform and structure higher education institutions so that they can meet the rapid demands and challenges of globalisation.

The Ministry intends to reach a 304,000 tertiary student enrolment through its Technical Educational and Vocational Training (TEVT) Programme.

In an ever-changing environment, workers need to constantly improve themselves in terms of knowledge and skills to remain competitive. Lifelong learning as a way of life has to be inculcated in the education system to support human capital development.

As such, the Ministry intends to secure 260,000 students under the Lifelong Learning Students Enrolment rate.

Aside from this, the Ministry also intends to support a higher education environment which promotes a database providing authoritative and high-quality information. To achieve this, a target to increase the number of articles in indexed journals is set at 15,000.

“As we approach the next millennium, it is imperative that we create, foster and sustain a higher education system that responds actively to meet the needs of world knowledge and societal advancement.

“We want to be at the forefront of providing environments that accommodate learning needs and inspire students and educators to attain the knowledge and skills that the 21st century demands of us all,” said Mohamed Khaled.