UPSI Working On Becoming Leading Education University
From Ainul Huda Mohamed Saaid
TANJUNG MALIM (Bernama) -- The Sultan Idris Education University (UPSI) is set to launch concerted efforts this year to meet its goal of becoming the "The Leading Education University" in Asia by 2020.
Its Vice Chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Zakaria Kasa, in an interview with Bernama recently, said in order to fulfill the mission the university needed to be working on the frontlines of regional education issues in addition to becoming a reference centre for foreign visitors.
Zakaria said UPSI had contributed a lot towards regional education issues, such as taking the initiative to train future teachers from the Indonesian region of Acheh, Indonesia, who had lost many of their educators in the 2004 tsunami.
UPSI, over the last three years, had built a school in Cambodia and sent its graduates there to teach underprivileged children. It has also worked with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka to build a Malay language centre in southern Thailand.
Locally, UPSI leads the effort in providing official recognition for graduates of "sekolah agama pondok" (religious schools) and producing more Mandarin language teachers.
"Becoming a leading university also means becoming a centre for excellence. We therefore try to place ourselves as an institution that acts as a reference centre for other universities in the region.
"For example, UPSI is the university in which southern Thailand and Brunei refer to in the study of the Malay language. Acheh, meanwhile, refers to us in the learning of the methods of teaching and learning in science, mathematics, special education and psychology.
"We are also working towards becoming an institution that serves as a reference point in the formulation of government policies," Zakaria explained.
STEPPING INTO THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA
Zakaria said in the bid to put UPSI on the map, the university is actively networking with universities overseas through organisations like the Consortium of Asia-Pacific Education (CAPEU), the Asian Roundtable of Presidents of Universities of Education (ARPUE), the Asian Teacher Education Network (ASTEN) and the International Student Exchange Programme (ISEP).
"We want to become a leading education university in stages. We are already known locally, so now we want to go international.
"We will start with ASEAN, and then proceed to Asia.
To become a top university we need to network with renowned universities in the country," said Zakaria.
He said in the ASEAN context, UPSI had already forged a close relationship with Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI) with seminars held biannually. UPSI had also signed over 30 memoranda of understanding with various education institutions in the region.
The university is currently working at being accreditised by the TEAC (Teacher Education Accreditation Council) based in Washington, DC, U.S in addition to entering the QS World University Rankings.
"We hope to place ourselves in the top 100 of education universities and to move up the ladder (every year)," he said.
DEVELOPING EDUCATORS OF CALIBRE
Focusing on elevating its name internationally has not deviated UPSI from its main role of producing top-notch graduates and educators.
Among the steps taken to develop quality graduates is to provide future educators the experience of teaching in foreign countries such as in southern Thailand, Cambodia and Yemen. UPSI students also participate in student exchange programmes through ISEP.
"They learn different cultures while overseas. It also helps them in mastering foreign languages. For example, when teaching Arab students in Yemen, they cannot converse in the Malay language as they do here. So they will learn to speak better English and Arabic.
"If they were sent to teach among lesser privileged communities overseas, they would realise that the Malaysian government has actually done well here. If they are sent to developed countries such as the U.S., they would appreciate the amount of development but also notice the shortcomings.
"Without the experience, they would still be working in the "kampung" context when teaching in school," explained Zakaria.
GOING INTO TOURISM
Zakaria said as an institution rich in historical values, UPSI has the potential of becoming a tourism destination in Perak's new district of Mua'lim, which include Tanjung Malim and Slim River.
There are historical buildings in the Tanjung Malim campus that have been gazetted as a national heritage, namely the National Education Museum and the Suluh Budiman Building.
There are also other attractions such as the Rumah Za'ba, Pejabat Karang-Mengarang, the IPSI Building and a bell tower from the era of the British rule.
He also hoped to highlight the artistic talents of UPSI students in activities like batik-making, glass blowing and stage performances as possible tourism activities.
NEW CAMPUS IN TELUK INTAN
A new campus in Teluk Intan is due for completion in another three years, adding on to the present campuses in Tanjung Malim and Proton City.
The campus will house the Faculty of Technical and Vocational Education and offer related programmes such as Agricultural Sciences and Household Economics.
In UPSI's monthly assembly last month, Zakaria called for UPSI staff and students to continue breaking new ground so that the university could achieve its mission in becoming the leading university in Southeast Asia.
"With a staff numbering 1,987 people and over 28,000 students, UPSI cannot look back or rest on its laurels. Instead, it needs to step forward and increase its momentum in striving for success locally and internationally," he said.
The over 90-year-old institution was established in November 1922, during the British rule. It was initially known as the Sultan Idris Training College and later Sultan Idris Teachers College. In 1987, it was upgraded and renamed as the Sultan Idris Teachers Institute before being upgraded to a full university and known as what it is today.
Many prominent Malaysians had emerged from the university, including Malay language advocates and poets such as Ghafar Baba, Awang Had Salleh, A. Wahab Ali, Ali Majod, Kasmani Haji Arif, Hassan Ali, Othman Puteh, Dharmawijaya, Kemala, Suhaimi Haji Mohammad, Shahnon Ahmad, Suratman Markasan, Masuri S.N. and Yura Halim.