Need for higher education blueprint
The tertiary study sector needs its own blueprint to drive innovation and complement the new education plan.
Ready for change: Teacher trainees holding copies of the National Education Blueprint 2013 - 2025. Just as the blueprint seeks to tranform the education system from preschool to secondary school-level, the higher education blueprint must have elements of equity, efficiency and quality. – File photo
EDUCATION is key to socio-economic progress. Some countries such as Germany even provide free education up to the highest level.
That explains why the German industry remains competitive in many technology-driven business. We have also invested heavily in education. However, we still struggle.
Lately however, rising costs have emerged as a major concern in higher education.
The cost to deliver tertiary courses has increased substantially. How do we fund such an increase? It would be challenging to raise income tax as is done in some countries.
Even the GST, despite its many benefits, has created unease. It may be time for universities to not only diligently monitor costs for better management but also create income-generating opportunities. The current business model needs rethinking.
The rising cost is only one aspect of the need to change.
According to the latest U21 report the country’s big spending in higher education has not truly translated into improved efficiency.
The U21 report is now widely used as the reference for higher education benchmarking.
It assesses higher education in 50 countries across four dimensions which include resources, environment, connectivity and output.
On output, we have not fared well. Although our universities receive more from the government than the universities in the UK, we are far behind them on output.
On connectivity, an important pre-requisite of innovation, we are at number 35, while the UK is at number three.
Overall, the assessment which was provided by the U21 report put us at number 28 while the UK is at number eight.
The US is still at the top for the overall assessment. Many among our educationists believe the U21 ranking is more objective and provides a better way of assessment.
The quality of our graduates as measured by employability, remains a challenge. There is somehow the skills mismatch with those required by industry.
Thinking skills is one and communication is another. Can these be attributed to the rote learning that is the current practice in schools?
The government’s Form Three Assessment (PT3) is an effort to enhance the higher order thinking skill among students in schools. Many educationists have hailed PT3 as the right way to go. We should not just be looking at the number of As as a measure of student success.
The universities should also do away with the rote learning approach to teaching. This is still widely practised unfortunately.
We now live in an innovation-driven global economy. As an important knowledge centre, universities can make important contributions to the nation’s innovation strength.
The KPIs of universities will have to recognise the new demand of innovation. Research at universities will have to reflect the right balance between applied and fundamental research. At the moment, the emphasis is too much slanted towards fundamental research.
There is an over-obsession with publications in peer-reviewed international journals.
Though patent generation has been of late one of the KPIs, market driven research is still low. The link with industry is still low.
There is the urgent need to create a vibrant communication platform with the business community.
Both need to speak the same language. Universities should engage the industry in designing curriculum.
They must also consult industry on ideas for applied research. We need to create a system where industry experts are invited to teach at universities and where academics can spend their sabbaticals working in the business sector.
There is no denying that the implementation of the government’s education blueprint is timely. It is however more focused on the preschool to post-secondary education.
The higher education sector may need its own blueprint to complement the current education blueprint.
It should adopt the same five dimensions of aspirations of access, quality, equity, unity and efficiency.
Access means higher education must be made available to the population. It must match or even exceed the international level of excellence.
But most of all, we should strive for cost efficiency and productivity of higher education. With its own blueprint, there is no reason why our higher education cannot match the best in the world! The business model of higher education should prepare for change.New blueprint to ensure a holistic education
KUALA LUMPUR: An integrated cumulative grade point average (CGPA) for students to ensure universities produce balanced graduates is one of the initiatives in the new Higher Education Blueprint to be launched next month.
Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said students would be measured not just on their academic performance but also on their leadership skills and involvement in co-curricular activities.
“At the moment, if we talk about a CGPA of 4.0, it means a student is good academically but with the integrated CGPA, we aspire to produce a balanced and holistic graduate with entrepreneurial skills,” he said after a closed-door briefing on the new Higher Education Blueprint.
Elaborating further, Education Ministry secretary-general II Datuk Seri Dr Zaini Ujang said the integrated CGPA initiative was being discussed in principle.
“To implement the integrated CGPA would involve each university’s senate,” he said.
Idris said the integrated CGPA initiative at the higher education level was a continuation of the school-based assessments (PBS) at school level which aims to produce students who are all-rounders.
“This is to ensure a seamless integration with the Malaysia Education Blueprint (which covers schools) and the new Higher Education Blueprint,” he said.
Under PBS, students are continuously assessed and graded from Bands One to Six.
They are also gauged on sports and co-curricular participation and undergo psychometric tests to better identify their interests.
“We are the only country to use psychometrics as a whole,” he said.
Idris said other initiatives in the blueprint included ensuring the curriculum at universities were relevant.
“This includes getting chief executive officers to teach in public universities for 30 hours a year.
“So far, (AirAsia group chief executive officer) Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and (Khazanah Nasional group managing director) Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar have agreed to do so,” he said.
Idris said the Higher Education Blueprint, which was expected to be launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on April 7, included parts from the previous National Higher Education Strategic Plan.
“To ensure the higher education blueprint is relevant, we have met with over 8,000 people including parents, students, university staff and those from the industry through various methods such as town hall sessions and via e-mail,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said in December last year that the ministry was open to suggestions from the public on the education system, particularly in the higher education sector, as the feedback, ideas and views of various stakeholders would be taken into account in preparing the blueprint for higher education.