GOOD PLAN

Malaysia 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: EDUCATION BLUEPRINT

Over the last decade, Malaysia's higher education system has made significant strides. The 2015-25 blueprint lays the groundwork to ensure quality and access continues to grow.

Between 2004 and 2014, Malaysia witnessed a 70% increase in total higher education enrolment to a record of 1.2 million students. A six-fold increase in the number of students enrolled in bachelor degree programs and a 10-fold increase in the number of those enrolled in post-graduate degrees occurred from 2010 to 1990. The University of Malaya, Malaysia's oldest university, was ranked 151st in the 2014 QS World University Rankings (from 167th place in 2013) and entered the top 30 universities in Asia. These indicators are testament to the education sector's continuous improvements.

Refusing to rest on its laurels and to maintain this momentum, the government recently unveiled the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education). This outlines its priorities and goals for the sector for the next 10 years and identifies key strategies to produce better graduates as Malaysia moves toward and beyond Vision 2020. The Blueprint has highlighted ten key priorities, or Shifts, focusing on both stakeholders in the industry—students and academics—and enablers—funding, innovation, and delivery.

At the heart of the Blueprint is the aim to create more holistic, balanced and enterprising graduates. To achieve this, so-called soft skills, which range from ethics and spirituality to leadership skills, national identity, and language proficiency, will be incorporated into the curriculum. A new grading system know as the integrated CGPA (cumulative grade point average) has been devised and is set to be introduced in five public universities, including Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and the National University of Malaysia from September 2015. Increasingly, universities will be offering “2+2 courses," whereby students study for two years followed by two years of practical training, in an effort to bridging the gap between education and the workplace. The government has also introduced the CEO Faculty Programme, under which senior executives from the private sector are invited to lecture at public universities. Companies participating in this program include Samsung, Shell and AirAsia. “Our CEO Faculty Program works to make classes more relevant," said Dato' Seri Idris Jusoh, Minister for Higher Education, adding that “we have 30 big names at the moment coming in to teach at our facilities, and this has expanded over the past few years."

Another key Shift of the Higher Education Blueprint involves raising the profile of technical and vocational education and training (TVET). Malaysia has recognized the importance of vocational skills in the nation's development and in line with the Economic Transformation Program (ETP) is targeting a 2.5-fold increase in TVET enrolment by 2025, in order to supply an adequate workforce to the 12 National Key Economic Area (NKEA) sectors highlighted under the ETP. Industry-led curriculum design as well as improving the quality of teaching staff and delivery will raise the standards of community colleges, vocational colleges, and polytechnics, which in the past have been deemed the less prestigious of the higher education institutions.
Globalized learning also forms part of the Blueprint and is in line with the government's long-standing ambition to transform Malaysia into an international education hub. Malaysia is already part of the global trend towards the internationalization of higher education, with a number of prestigious international universities establishing branch campuses in the country and an increasing number of foreign students enrolling in local universities. Under the Blueprint, the aim is for Malaysia to attract 250,000 international students by 2025.

The new Blueprint reinforces Malaysia's commitment to becoming an educational hub and creating a knowledge-based economy, which is to drive the country's development in the final leg up to 2020. The government must now ensure effective executive of the Blueprint. For this, it has identified three phases of implementation: Phase I (2015) will focus on laying the foundation for the implementation; in Phase II (2016-20), structural improvements will start being implemented to accelerate the pace of change and Phase III (2021-25) will revolve around raising the global prominence of Malaysia's higher education system.