WE have heard often enough about how our graduates lack the necessary skills to function effectively in the workplace upon graduation.
They may have the degrees but employers complain that many of them lack the basic soft skills needed in the real world.
Language proficiency aside, many struggle when called upon to make presentations to their bosses or hold face-to-face meetings with clients.
Employers understand that very few fresh graduates can be up and running from the first day of work, but they are prepared to take their chances on those who show a wide array of soft skills.
That is what the Government is planning to do with the introduction of the integrated cumulative grade point average (iCGPA) pilot programme starting next month.
The aim is to produce holistic, entrepreneurial and balanced graduates who will be readily employable.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh announced on Sunday that some 300 first-year students at five public universities would be part of the programme.
The universities involved are Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan and Universiti Malaysia Pahang.
The number – a mere 0.0075% of the 40,000 students who enrol in public universities every year – has been kept small due to the fact that only one faculty from each university will be involved.
Furthermore, the programme involves the participation of the private sector, including captains of industry and CEOs who will share their experiences, and can be better monitored for its efficacy if the numbers are not too big.
The iCGPA is in line with the first shift of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) in producing holistic, entrepreneurial and balanced graduates.
Under the new system, students would graduate with a complete “report card”, detailing not only their subjects and performance but also the skills they picked up along the way.
These include leadership, communication, entrepreneurial, social and critical thinking skills which are much in demand in the real world.
According to Idris, the concept has been explored since 2009 with the development of the methodology since 2011.
One of the key challenges of any higher education system is to produce graduates who not only excel academically but are also equipped with the necessary soft skills, knowledge, values, leadership and the ability to think critically.
But for the iCGPA to be a success, the Higher Education Ministry would need to decide how these students would be assessed on these skills and if the assessment would be the same at all five universities.
Students would also have to be properly briefed so that the assessment is seen as fully transparent and fair.
Some incoming undergraduates have already expressed their concerns as to how their examiners would grade them. Soft skills, after all, are not so easily quantifiable.
Employers who use the KPI (key performance indicators) to determine the employee’s performance, for example, understand that while the tangibles can be easily rated, the intangibles remain an issue come assessment time.
Be that as it may, the ministry’s iCGPA pilot project should be welcomed by all stakeholders.
This may be a small step, but it is a step forward in preparing our graduates for the real world upon graduation. And employers would surely be happy to employ them because they have the right skills.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.The STAR Home News Opinion Columnists Wednesday August 12, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM