Second Education Minister Idris Jusoh’s self-appraisal of our higher education as now being on par with those of developed nations such as UK, Germany and Australia, is symptomatic of what I call the government believing its own lies.
My colleagues, Zairil Khir Johari and Dr Ong Kian Ming have each shown how the data does not match the minister’s “syok sendiri” pronouncement of our tertiary education being world class.
I want to further point out a rather obvious problem in Idris Jusoh’s delusion of grandeur.
If we have world class education, why is graduate unemployment high in Malaysia?
The minister must answer, if our local universities are world class, why is it that 40% of local graduates are unemployed?
According to the federal government itself, between 30% and 40% of graduates are unemployed or are in fields that do not match their paper qualifications.
A World Bank report in 2013 revealed that not only was unemployment highest among young Malaysians, unemployment peaked among young degree holders. The report stated that one in five degree holders in Malaysia under the age of 25 were unemployed. (Source: Malaysia Economic Monitor, December 2013, pp 55-56).
In 2014, the World Bank once again warned of the high rates of graduate unemployment, citing Ministry of Higher Education 2013 statistics that out of 220,527 graduates in 2012, 25.6% had not secured a job six months after graduation. (Source: Malaysia Economic Monitor, December 2014, p. 34)
The latest Labour Force Survey report by the Department of Statistics released in June 2014 revealed that one third (31%) of unemployed in Malaysia had a tertiary education. This amount to about 130,000 persons. (Source: Labour Force Survey Report, 2013, p. 143)
Most unemployed graduates are from local public varsities, employers cite lack of skills
A majority of these unemployed graduates are from public institutes of higher education or Ipta. (Source: National Education Statistics: Higher Education Sector 2013, p. 179)
The 2014 World Bank report above also cited a survey by Grant Thornton (2013) where 62% of firms in Malaysia complained of difficulty in finding workers with the right skills even though job vacancies were available. The report concluded that “this scenario suggests that there is a gap between skills supplied by universities with those demanded by employers”.
This conclusion was confirmed by a report jointly produced by Talent Corp, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, and Multimedia Development Corporation released in September 2014, which noted that there was a “mismatch between academia and employers”. (Source: Ready for business: Bridging the Employability Gap. The Malaysian Perspective, p. 5)
Even the government acknowledged the problem of graduate employability
The federal government is very well aware of the problem. The high graduate unemployment over the years has led to various “graduate re-training programmes” by the federal government such as the Graduate Employability Management Scheme, and Graduate Employability Taskforce. These programmes in turn cost billions of ringgit each year.
If we are offering world class education to our children, why they are not getting jobs after graduation? If our universities are on par with those in developed nations, why is our government still spending billions every year to make our graduates employable?
How could Idris Jusoh make such a dishonest claim about the standard of our universities? If the minister really believed in what he said, then we can only conclude that the government is now believing in its own lies. The continual denial of the crisis plaguing our education system by the federal government will only serve to further aggravate the problem. – * Steven Sim is Bukit Mertajam MP.Malaysian Insider Side Views 24 Feb 2015