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Enhancing the building blocks of skills and knowledge

by Alan Dexter, bizhive@theborneopost.com. Posted on May 27, 2012, Sunday

As the nation transforms itself into a hi-tech, high income economy, the onus is on the country’s education system to provide quality education not just in the local context but also on a re¬gional and international basis. On the road to progress the state of Sarawak is graced by strong education providers that have all carved out a specific place for themselves in the challenging scenario.

BizHive Weekly takes a look at the forerunners of education in the state, Curtin University, SEGi University College, LimKokWing and Kolej Sunway Kuching and their endeavours to promote themselves as universities of distinction, as a regional hub as well as centres to avoid brain drain out of the country.

 

Brushing up on skills and knowledge

The nation’s ambitious plans of transforming itself into a hi-tech, high income economy in a relatively short number of years is a challenging one. None of these plans will bear fruition unless there is a solid base of skills and knowledge.

The Malaysian tertiary education sector under the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) is a component of the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and is currently constantly under the limelight.

In its bid for rapid progress, the government recently launched ‘Strategic Plan for Higher Education: Laying the Foundation Beyond 2020’ intended to outline the measures and strategies that will place the nation on the map as a preferred  international centre of educational excellence.

At present, according to MOHE, the nation’s tertiary education system is host to an estimated 942,000 students of which 50,000 are international students from over 100 countries across the globe.

Historically, the education sector has always enjoyed the highest national development budget which symbolises the commitment of the government towards a skill based and knowledgeable workforce.

According to the Department of Statistics, the nation had a population base of 28.3 million as at 2010. According to MOHE there were 20 public universities, 469 private institutions, 30 polytechnics and six higher institution centres of excellence to date.

These higher education institutions (HEI) offer a wide range of tertiary qualifications at an affordable cost. There are also various higher educational institutions from the UK, US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and New Zealand which offer twinning and ‘3+0’ degree programmes through partnerships with Malaysian colleges and universities.

The main agenda of the MOHE included to ensure at least two national universities were listed among the top 100 universities in the world, and one of the universities was listed among the top 50 universities in the world.

To develop at least 20 international accredited ‘Centres of Excellence’ for research, copyrights, publications and research co-operations. To ensure at least 75 per cent of lecturers in public institutions of higher education hold a Doctor of Philosophy degree or its equivalent, and 30 per cent of lecturers in polytechnics and community colleges hold a master degree or its equivalent.

Others were to produce competent graduates to meet the needs of the national and international workforce with the aim that 75 per cent of the graduates would secure jobs in the relevant fields within six months after graduation.

Thus, the country’s education system is constantly evolving to face up to the challenges by providing quality education – not just in the local context but also on a regional and international basis.

On the road to progress, Sarawak state has not been left out and are the graced by strong education providers that have all carved out a specific place for themselves in the challenging scenario on the way to transformation.

The state government’s on-going strategy to make Sarawak the preferred regional education hub is starting to pay off jointly with the efforts of  the private institutions of higher learning that have chosen the state as their base of operations.

According to the Sarawak State Planning Unit (SPU) under the Chief Minister’s Department, the manpower requirements for Sarawak in the coming years will be angled towards skilled and semi-skilled workforce, which included those in managerial positions.

It revealed that coporations and entrepreneurs investing in Sarawak wanted their investments to be properly managed by highly trained professionals to ensure that the projects bore fruit. This, combined with the state’s emphasis on human capital development, would ensure that Sarawakians played an active role in meeting these manpower requirements.

The creation of high-value quality jobs would also ensure high remunerations for Sarawakians with the right skills and training. In the long term, Sarawak’s strategy was to build capacity in training and education institutions, so that in the next five to seven years, locals could fully take up the skilled jobs created in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), while at the same time offer incentives for local youth to pursue higher education.

In order to build the capacity, investments would be made in schools, colleges, technical universities, and vocational training institutions. There would also be emphasis on industry collaboration for joint promotion in training institutions, curriculum development, facilities development and research, the SPU elaborated.

However, the SPU noted that some provisions would be made in the case of shortfalls in the supply and demand of trained and skilled vacations, whereby the gap could only be filled by foreign manpower, particularly in the short run.

According to RHB Research Institute Sdn Bhd (RHB Research), the high awareness and appreciation for quality education, along with the rising income levels supported the rising demand for private tertiary education.

This led to an enrolment of seven per cent for private institutions between 2002 to 2010. The attractiveness of the programmes offered by the private institutions as well as the entrance of prestigious foreign private universities into the country had further enhanced prospects for the private education sector.

When SCORE is fully realised in 2030, it is expected to increase Sarawak ‘s gross domestic product (GDP) by five times with its annual turnover projected to grow from RM23 billion in 2006 to RM118 billion in 2030 according to RAM Holdings Bhd group chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng.

In addition, per capita income is targeted to rise from RM23,193 to RM84,077 while the number of jobs created is expected to increase from 900,000 to 2.5 million over the same period.

BizHive Weekly takes a look at the forerunners of education in the state – Curtin University, SEGi College Sarwak, Limkokwing Borneo and Sunway College Kuching – and their endeavours to promote themselves as universities of distinction, as a regional hub as well as centres to avoid brain drain out of the country.

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