In addition, the standard of English is declining among the younger generation. Thus, the public and parents have to re-question the purpose of education. Today, universities teach careers but without the broader function and purpose. A university degree should not be functioning only to build a career but also to contribute to good citizenship and to improve the quality of life.
Universities should review their curricula to produce graduates who are more marketable and do not require Government expense to retrain them.
Without a doubt, education plays a central role in the pursuit of economic growth and national development. If we want to predict the future of our nation, we should look at what is happening in schools and classrooms.
Parents and employers have raised their concerns on our education system. Is the system able to adequately prepare young students for the challenges of the 21st century?
Comparing the achievement in performance bands and education spending per student, Malaysia lags behind Thailand, Chile and Armenia who have similar but lower levels of expenditure per student. Countries like Singapore and South Korea and cities like Shanghai spend more on students, thus they have high performing achievements.
Through the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, the Government has outlined six attributions for students if they are to become globally competitive. These are knowledge, thinking skills, leadership, bilingual proficiency, ethics and spirituality, and national identity (KTBLEN for short).
Specifically, the Malaysia Education Blueprint: Higher Education 2015-2025 outlines key strategies to produce graduates who are able to create their own business and enterprise. It includes six approaches:
1. Embed entrepreneurship elements across curriculum
2. Provide a conducive environment and ecosystem for student entrepreneurial development
3. Enhance the competency and capability of academics
4. Enhance the involvement of industry players and entrepreneurs in the learning and teaching process
5. Increase entrepreneurial intention among students, and
6. Develop an integrated system to assess student’s knowledge, values and 21st century skills.
Graduate employability matters due to the high national budget allocated to education. The allocation is increasing year by year. As such, it would be a waste of resources if the graduates cannot contribute to economic output. In 2000, for example, the education sector received about RM12.9bil or 22.85% of the Federal Government budget.
Some actions have been taken to address the issue of jobless graduates. In 2004, the Higher Education Ministry called for double major courses at universities, expecting that more opportunities in wider scope of works would be obtained.
What factors contribute to graduate unemployment? Basically, it is due to mismatch between the skills obtained by students and qualifications required by industry, and the oversupply of labour in an economy.
More precisely, a study by Md. Zabid Haji Abdul Rashid in 2003 for the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) listed seven personal and six non-personal factors that influenced graduate unemployment.
The personal factors include lack of work experience, work skills, English proficiency, self-confidence, academic merit, networking and personality.
The non-personal factors are cost of finding jobs, transportation access, information on available vacancy, intensity of competition, relative mobility, and poor networking.
It is interesting to note that employers highlighted that youths do not have good work attitudes and thus they lose their jobs. Lack of work ethics among youths leads to a low drive to achieve success, and low team spirit and work preparedness.
To face the challenges in their future work environment, it is important to equip students with the knowledge-based society and professional skills.
Education institutions, especially colleges, must reconsider the relevance of the programmes offered. The challenge is to prepare students with enough competencies, skills and flexibility after their graduation.
We should also remember that, according to the Theory of Cultural Values (TCV), the value of work in a person’s life and its attitudes are influenced by specific cultural values of the society. Thus, it is not suggested to blame the youths, as they are the products of the system.
To be more creative and enterprising towards work, youths must be exposed to more practical curriculum in the educational system to bring them closer to real-life employment experiences.
Ahmad Faizuddin International Islamic University Malaysia The STAR Home Opinion Letters 10 August 2015