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Education Excellence Hub - Sharing Malaysia's Success

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By:Mohd Hisham Abdul Rafar

KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) -- As Malaysia inches closer towards the ambitious Vision 2020 target it has set for itself, a journey that saw it evolve from an agrarian economy into an industrialised country and then a knowledge-based economy with rising income levels, it suddenly finds itself the centre of much attention.

A number of countries want to understand how Malaysia achieved this enviable feat, and are encouraging their own citizens to pursue their studies in Malaysia. In the life of any nation, 56 years is just a blink, but Malaysia has achieved all of this in such a short span of time after becoming an independent country.

"The key was education. Not only does education build the mind and helps hone the thought process to help a country progress, but it also makes the citizens work harder and move in tandem with the government towards a brighter future.

"An appropriate and good education also results in the multiracial citizens of Malaysia working together to sustain the unity and stability of the nation," said Deputy Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs and Alumni, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Datuk Dr Junaidy Abu Bakar to Bernama.

As a result, Malaysia has emerged as a knowledge hub. That seemed only sensible, Dr Junaidy said, because many countries see Malaysia as an example of how to succeed in the education sector to meet their nation's goals, and therefore want their citizens to study here.

Students in pursuit of education will not only bring back knowledge, but will also gain an experience in ensuring prosperity for their own respective nations.

"Moreover, Malaysia is generous in sharing the knowledge to help other nations prosper (in keeping with the dictum, let thy neighbour prosper), a unique policy introduced by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose successor is Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak," he said.

Under Najib's leadership, Malaysia's commitment to serve as an international educational hub of excellence has achieved further momentum, a position that is set to solidify as the country prepares to assume 11th place in the world, based upon the number of foreign students studying in the country.

Such an achievement owes itself to the country making its mark across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines - Tourism and Hospitality, Health Services, Islamic Banking and Business, Engineering, and Science and Innovation.

This across the board progress has succeeded in attracting international students to participate in a world-class, quality education that meets their current needs.

Since 2000, the number of students who opted to continue their studies at the public and private institutes of higher learning in Malaysia quadrupled, from 26,569 to more than 100,000 last year, proving that Malaysia has always been a destination of choice for international students to continue their studies. This is attributed to the higher education liberation policy, a part of the National Higher Education Strategic Plan (PSPTN). By 2020, Malaysia wants to achieve the entry target of 200,000 international students.

TOTAL UNIVERSITY

The Malaysian higher education liberation policy has also attracted many well-known foreign universities to open their campuses in the country.

The fact that the country has private institutes of higher learning has helped widen access, with the public institutes of higher learning not remaining the sole providers of education.

Till January this year, Malaysia had 481 private institutes of higher learning, of which 37 were universities, 20 were college universities, seven were foreign university branch campuses, and 417 were private universities. Compared to this, the public institutes of higher learning totalled some 20.

The increase in the number of private institutes of higher learning helped in liberalising the higher education sector, and exponentially attracted local and foreign students in huge numbers, thus creating a global environment.

According to QS World University Ranking statistics this year, the University of Malaya is ranked at number 167 out of 700 universities worldwide, while the National University of Malaysia (UKM) claimed number 269, and Malaysia Science University (USM) and Malaysia University of Technology (UTM) both shared the number 355 slot.

LIBERALISATION POLICY

Vice Chancellor Malaysia Northern University (UUM), Prof Datuk Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak, hit the nail on the head when he pointed out how, apart from helping the country gain accolades internationally, the national higher education liberalisation policy also helps reap rich dividends in monetary terms.

Clearly, good educational policy making also means good politics, and good business. The Vice Chancellor said citizens should be proud that Malaysia is recognised by the international community for its quality education.

"Therefore, if we do become an international education hub, surely it will enhance the nation's image, producing for the world academicians, scholars and quality figures.

"Therefore, if we want outsiders to come to our country to gain knowledge, we must reach a specified level and be able to apply modern and new knowledge," he told Bernama.

The V-C, who also heads the Politics, Security and International Relations Cluster of the National Professors Council, said as Malaysia becomes a knowledge hub, it will also make the country a master in the fields of science, technology and economy.

"There is no use achieving the developed nation status if our level of knowledge is still low. The citizens' knowledge level and the nation's prosperity must progress in tandem," he said.

BIGGEST EXPORTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION

The use of taglines, such as 'Quality education at affordable cost', also mirrors Malaysia's strength and commitment as an international and regional educational centre of excellence.

Targeting a stupendous increase in student enrolment by 2020, the local public and private institutes of higher learning are currently developing a wider variety in the fields of studies offered, to fulfil the increasing demand for quality higher education.

For Malaysia, the mission is clear: to become the largest exporter of higher education. Right now, it is collecting funds and expertise to develop a world-class education system.

At the Budget 2014 presentation last October, Najib said the government has allocated RM10.5 billion for the social sector, including training, health, welfare, housing and community development.

Najib noted that in order to empower the public and private institutes of higher learning to produce quality graduates ready to fit into the job market, the government will enact various programmes, including raising the status of research-class universities by allocating RM600 million in research grants.

The government, said the premier, will also continue the MyBrain 15 programme to assist with payment of study fees at the post-graduate level, especially for corporate executives, by allocating RM110 million, and will establish a Malaysian Citation Centre to not only help strengthen locally published scholarly publications, but also to help researchers publish their articles in renowned international journals.

PSPTN PLAN

The march of globalisation also demanded the institutes of higher learning, and the entire educational eco-system, to evolve, in keeping with the emerging scenario.

Only the products of such dynamically responsive institutions will have the innate ability to adapt to a fast changing world.

The PSPTN has four phases, beginning in 2007 and continuing through 2020, and outlines seven main core areas: widening access and increasing equity, enhancing the quality of teaching and learning, strengthening innovation and research, empowering the institutes of higher learning, intensifying internationalisation, creating a lifelong culture of learning, as well as strengthening the ministry's system of delivery

The PSPTN has been enacted with a vision to transform the higher education sector, to make Malaysia an International Educational Excellence Hub.

-- BERNAMA