May 9th, 2012

The As have it

Students believe top marks in examinations translate to success in life

WHAT'S in an A? In an examination-oriented culture, an A can be everything. In countries like Malaysia, where competition for university entrance and scholarships is stiff, straight As can usually secure one the course and university of choice, and a bursary for that entire course. Having gone to the right university and taken the right course, the lucky graduate is then presumed to be set for life. And in most cases, this might indeed be the case.

But does this mean there is magic in an A? In itself, no. Yet, for every examination result and university entrance season, much is made of the A -- including whether or not education standards have gone down; whether marking standards have declined; or whether the A carries the same high value as it once did. Others argue that straight As alone won't carry a student far if not coupled with equally impressive co- or extra-curricular activities.

All these concerns are valid, because academic qualifications have high currency in this country. But more than just an indication that the student knows the subjects well, straight As are the result of being very focused and very hardworking. For even if education standards have gone down (and there is as yet no proof of this, only speculation) the fact is that to be in the 99.99th percentile of a class of over 400,000 in any given year, is no mean feat. Consider all the joys and distractions in the life of the average 16 or 17-year-old; push those firmly away and focus on the books and lessons. To be able to do every single exercise in all the revision books available, and doing them so many times, that, when the examinations do come, hold no surprises for the fully-prepared student -- when all the while life beckons, begging to be lived! -- is evidence of the degree of discipline that is needed in gaining straight As.

Of course, there are many more things that are needed for living a good and fulfilling life. Being resilient, flexible, and adaptive to changes, having "soft skills", a rounded personality, a varied and active social life, are also crucial. Parents wanting to bring up successful adults would do well to ensure that their children understand that life has many layers and dimensions, and living it well requires the ability to interpret and adapt to all the different facets life presents. So, to advise one's children that "As aren't everything in life" is correct. But this should not distract from the fact that hard work is a very important value; and there should be no shame in having it.

Source: The New Straits Times Editorial 06 May 2012 

Desperately seeking IT grads

TALENT HUNT: The need for Information Technology workers is acute and experts say the sector offers good career prospects for Malaysian youth

MOHD Syamil Afiq Mohd Fadzil has been playing computer games since primary school. So, choosing a career related to Information Technology (IT) was a natural progression for him.

 “I enjoyed being around the computer and playing with it, which is why I wanted to find work that is connected to computing,” says the 24-year-old, who graduated this year with a Diploma in Information Technology from Kuala Lumpur Infrastructure  University College.

Judging by recent statistics, Malaysia certainly needs more young people like Mohd Syamil Afiq to fill vacancies in Information and Communications Technology (ICT).


A student pores over a Facebook account. As technology becomes part and parcel of students’ life, they see little difference between being a user and a producer

The MSC Malaysia Talent Supply Demand Study 2010-2013 — Final Report reveals that the number of IT graduates has declined by 0.6 per cent and will not be enough to meet industry’s demand next year.

The problem stems from a mismatch between the number of available IT graduates and what industry really needs, says Rototype International chief executive officer Harres Tan.


Students from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology show off the software they created. The industry needs a large pool of graduates as it is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 10 per cent

If this persists, vendors will not hesitate to “scale down (their) business or move to where the talents are”.

Tan, who is also an adviser to the National ICT Association of Malaysia (Pikom), said this at the recent launch of the Industry Advisory Board (IAB) of HELP University’s Department of Information Technology.

IAB members comprise senior industrialists, IT professionals and academics.

Chaired by Tan, the board was established to strengthen ties with industry and ensure that IT programmes offered at the university arm students with relevant skills.

HELP University vice chancellor and president Datuk Paul Chan Tuck Hoong says the launch “would facilitate linkages between the institution and industry to provide internships for undergraduates and graduates, and expose students to entrepreneurial projects”.

The ICT industry is one of the fastest growing segments of Malaysia’s economy.

According to Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), the sector is likely to grow at an average annual rate of 10 per cent, creating some 160,000 ICT jobs by 2015.

As Muhammad Imran Kunalan Abdullah, MDeC general manager (Head of Talent), puts it: “Having enough employable IT graduates is crucial for industry, so the notion (that it is hard for IT graduates to get jobs) is untrue.”

Yet he cautions that the high demand for IT graduates does not mean that every student with the qualification will find jobs.
“We need to find out if they are of quality or not,” says Muhammad Imran.

To be employed, IT graduates must be adept in 10 skill clusters, among which are software development, database and networking and security.

“Each has different sub-skill sets. It is a fast-moving industry where what is required now can become obsolete after a few years,” he adds.

The lack of interest in IT among secondary schoolchildren is a worrying trend.

The MSC Malaysia report showed a decline of 11 per cent in the number of students pursuing the subject at tertiary level. This is not surprising as out of 100 teens who attended MDeC’s ICT boot camp, only five showed interest in such careers. Satish Ganesh, for one, seems unfazed by the fact that he stands to earn a starting salary of more than RM2,000 a month as an IT graduate.

His short stint in IT during the long school holidays three years ago did not develop into a passion for the field.

“It was a part-time job troubleshooting minor computer problems at a transport company,” says the fifth-former.

“Getting the job was a coincidence because my friend alerted me to the vacancy and I wanted to fill my time during the break,” adds Satish, who spends an average of four hours a day online checking his emails and Facebook account as well as reading about wildlife.

He did consider an IT-related career for a while but lost interest in the idea when he joined the Junior Cadet uniformed body in school.

“I love the discipline and order of the uniformed body and I’m aiming for a career in that direction,” he adds.

 Muhammad Imran is not surprised by Satish’s change of heart.

“Everyone is an expert at using technology at that age. It is already a part and parcel of their life, so they don’t see the difference between being a user and a producer,” he says.

 IAB co-chairman Ganesh Kumar Bangah says that the board can concentrate on “getting students to dream of building a future company like Apple or Google in Malaysia”.

“Social content e-commerce is not well recognised compared to pure software development (in Malaysia) but it is growing fast and students can tap into this,” he adds.

He cites the example of social games services developer Zynga, which produces Facebook game applications such as FarmVille and has 240 million users on the social networking site. The company is now worth about US$15 billion (RM45 billion).

Ganesh is confident that those who take advantage of the social content market will enjoy good pay.

“(Social content e-commerce) is consumer-driven, so a company (involved in this) can grow exponentially,” says Ganesh.

IT course providers must ensure their curriculum is up to date, if more Malaysians were to become social content producers, says Tan.

“By collaborating with the board, HELP University will be able to keep its teaching staff and students up to speed on the developments within the IT industry.

“IT is still one of the most financially rewarding careers and its graduates are still very much in demand, provided they have the right skill set,” he adds.

Source: The New Straits Times Issues Learning Curve 06 May 2012