FIRST IN CLASS

Malaysia 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Y.B. Dato' Seri Idris Bin Jusoh, Minister of Higher Education, on the internationalization of higher education, STEM, and priorities for the future.

Y.B. Dato’ Seri Idris Bin Jusoh
BIOGRAPHY
Y.B. Dato’ Seri Idris Bin Jusoh was appointed Minister of Higher Education at the Ministry of Higher Education, in July 2015. Prior to this, he was the Second Education Minister, Chairman of Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA), Chief Minister of Terengganu and a Deputy Minister of Entrepreneurial Development. Y.B. Dato’ Seri Idris Jusoh is also currently Member of Parliament for the constituency of Besut, Terengganu, his hometown. He holds an MBA in Finance from the University of New Haven, US, and a degree in Social Sciences (Economics and Management) from Universiti Sains Malaysia. He studied Arabic at the University of Jordan in 1994 and has attended Advanced Management Programs (AMP) in Harvard (2001) and INSEAD, France (2008), and the Leadership in Developing Countries Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2009.

Malaysia is part of the global trend toward the internationalization of higher education, with a number of prestigious foreign universities having set up branch campuses here. Why have they chosen Malaysia?

In order to set up campuses you need lecturers, which requires the level of local talent that we are capable of providing. They also need students who are willing to pay, and we have that here as well. Students come in from China, India, and Indonesia, and the economic growth rate here of 5-6% is strong. We are promoting ourselves as an educational hub for the region; this is an appealing proposition for both students and staff, and we also enjoy solid government support. Our national bank (Bank Negara Malaysia), in collaboration with the MIT Sloan School of Management will be starting the Asian School of Business this fall, and we also have many schools in the private sector that are witnessing growing.

What role do exchange programs play in fostering bilateral relations between Malaysia and other countries?

Exchange programs are extremely important. We have students who come here from all over the world, including about 150 from the New Zealand and Australia, and we hope to see even more. We welcome students who attend summer study courses first as a tester for more lengthy study. Students from Mexico also come here, and we hope to attract more students from European countries. We have many students coming in from Australia in a reciprocity program we are keen to advance. Currently, there are about 104,000 international students studying in Malaysia. Out of this amount, 29,000 are pursuing postgraduate studies. This is encouraging as it shows that we have quality offerings and that international students, many of whom are sponsored, see Malaysia as a choice destination for advanced levels of higher education.

What can be done to promote the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)?

Science has to be encouraged at the high school level in order to promote learning in college and university. STEM promotion will help advance industries and research to where they need to be. Right now, we have a 40:60 ratio between science and the liberal arts, and we want to shift the balance further toward the sciences. Here the sciences are not a male-dominated subject, and we have an overall female ratio of around 70% at universities. At the Ministry, our Director General is a woman, and has two deputies who are both women. And there are many other women in the field as well. It is not as easy for women to achieve leadership positions, but it does start with education and we proud to have capable leaders at the forefront of the Ministry who are amazing women in their own right.

What will your priorities be over the next 10 years?

Ensuring that we realize the goals of our Higher Education Blueprint 2015-25 through the 10 shifts identified will be where most of focus lies over the next 10 years. Right now our main focus is on producing holistic, entrepreneurial, and balanced graduates. Ultimately, what we do are for the students and they are our top priority. We deliver this through the integrated CGPA or iCGPA, a concept that we have been developing for the past six years, and which our professors have been testing out. In four to five years, the program should be fully integrated. Another area of focus is making sure that we have industries on campus. We want industries on campus to start teaching our students, and we want 30% of our lecturers to be people from outside. Our CEO Faculty Program works to make classes more relevant, and this is an initiative which we have in our Higher Education Blueprint.