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Maszlee: Developing future-proof graduates

  • Pro-student movement group Suara Siswa’s newly elected representatives celebrating after the results were announced in UM.

This is the last of three parts by Education Minister Dr. Maszlee Malik about reforms in the higher education sector.

Part 1: Maszlee: Bringing back university autonomy with academia integrity
Part 2: Maszlee: Bringing Malaysia’s higher education system into global prominence

By Dr. Maszlee Malik

Our last and major goal at the ministry is to develop graduates who can prosper in the 21st century. We hear catch phrases like the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), but the most fundamental aspect of these changes in technology is to impart to students the right skills, abilities and values.

This is not the era of traditional degrees and qualifications. This is the era of flexible education and agile governance. It is the era of research and innovation and talent planning.

To realize this, we have leveraged upon and are expanding and creating critical innovations in the field of education. They include:

a) Big data and machine learning -- to improve and predict graduate employability and skills matching; and for lecturers and researchers to improve on their publications;

b) Micro-credentials -- where the Malaysian Qualifications Agency has expanded their accreditation system to allow for credentials and professional certifications;

c) Our Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) online learning system is also being expanded to allow for a seamless platform between Malaysian students and academia with the larger global academic circles;

d) We are also innovating in trans-disciplinary work akin to a liberal arts system like UiTM’s bachelors in eco-technology;

e) Universities have also formed clusters and niche areas towards strengthening their brands and expertise; and

f) Most importantly, we are working with industry to form co-ownership models that would allow them to co-develop curricula, invest in facilities and training to ensure students are industry ready.

To integrate values into education, we have created new programs for the introduction of philosophy and ethics into universities. Philosophy is very important to open our students’ minds to every realm of knowledge whereas ethics will broaden the students’ horizon.

We have also expanded the Service Learning Malaysia - University for Society (Sulam) program to infuse community service as a part of the learning experience. Furthermore, we are looking into enhancing our Public-Private Research Network grant scheme to give more opportunities for universities to contribute to small and medium enterprises.

Higher Learning Institutions are melting pots of diversity, with students and lecturers from a variety of financial and educational backgrounds. Be it the B40 student looking to education for social mobility, or the working professional studying part-time, or the retiree with a love of learning. We must also make a space for the differently abled.

We have launched the Disability Inclusion Guidelines. This is the first time in Malaysia that we have such a policy. My hope is that this will be a corner stone in our history of inclusive education.

Way forward

I have spoken at length on the various initiatives we have embarked upon. But I will be the first to admit that we need to do more to realize this large ambition of an education system that can be the pride of our nation.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” So please allow me to end this speech with my dream.

My dream is to see our Malaysian universities become global references of knowledge and for Malaysia to become the destination of choice for quality, values-driven, inclusive and international education. I truly and honestly believe that we have what it takes to make this happen.

So to all of the leaders present here today, I say DREAM BIG. BELIEVE in the beauty of your dreams and aspirations, LEARN from others on how to make it happen and KEEP DOING whatever it takes to make them come true.

(Dr. Maszlee Malik is Malaysian Education Minister.)

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