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UPSI Places Emphasis On Soft Skills For Teachers

By Ali Imran Mohd Noordin

TANJONG MALIM (Bernama) -- Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), a premier educational institution for the last 91 years, has made a tremendous mark on Malaysia's educational realm.

It is the only university in the country that trains aspiring teachers. UPSI is aware that producing teachers with the necessary traits is no easy task, given people's changing aspirations and the increasingly borderless world that we are living in.

"While training aspiring teachers, we have to identify suitable traits inherent in them that are in line with present-day needs," noted UPSI's Vice Chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Zakaria Kasa during an interview with Bernama.

One of the important traits in a teacher is his/her soft skills.

"Delivering knowledge and skills is not a problem today. The traits that we seek in a teacher are not limited to his/her ability to teach, but they also include his/her inherent noble values," he said.

TEACHERS IN THE PAST

Dr Zakaria explained that in the past, teachers were highly successful in their careers as they possessed all the traits necessary for an effective teacher.

"They not only taught students, but they were involved in societal undertakings. When asked to lead the society, they did; and when they were asked to lead congregational prayers, they carried out the task relentlessly.

"Today, people are not impressed by teachers, and they believe that teachers of the current generation are not as capable as those in the past," he said.

One of the efforts undertaken by UPSI to eradicate this problem is to issue a separate certificate indicating the graduates' achievements in soft skills.

Apart from this, UPSI has strengthened its international network and is sending undergraduates overseas to serve as teachers, especially in developing countries.

"To facilitate this effort, UPSI has established a school in Cambodia. The school, apart from training the undergraduates, is also a part of the university's corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme," noted Dr Zakaria.

The exposure to new challenges, according to Dr Zakaria, is an important component of character building and in instilling resilience in undergraduates.

INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

UPSI is hosting the '3rd Asian Round Table of Presidents of Universities of Education (Arpue) 2013' on coming Nov 7 to enhance the skills of teachers.

Arpue 2013, a one-day biennial event, will see the participation of 74 heads of universities.

"This is a new challenge for UPSI. We want to join the regional community in empowering teachers. This event will help enhance UPSI's image," explained Dr Zakaria.

UPSI is the only institute of higher education in Malaysia to be invited to participate in the round table along with representatives from Austria, China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Germany, Great Britain, India, and Indonesia.

UPSI has invited two leading educational figures in Asia, namely Premier Professor Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, Director of the Ethnic Studies Institute of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and Professor Lee Sing Kong, Director and Dean of Singapore's National Education Institute.

Both will give a presentation on the topic 'Empowering Change in Education,' which is also the theme of the round table, based on Malaysia and Singapore's experience.

INTERNATIONAL BEST PRACTICES

"The round table is a platform for heads of universities in Asia to exchange ideas and experiences," said Dr Zakaria.

This round table is in line with the university's goals to internationalise and strengthen UPSI's image.

It is in line with the university's goals to emerge as Southeast Asia's and Asia's 'Leading Education Institution' by 2015 and 2020 respectively.

"We hope that Arpue 2013 will serve as a platform to highlight the best practices in the education system among member states, identify problems, and achieve consensus on global educational issues, especially in helping countries that have been left behind in the educational sphere," he added.

More information on Arpue is available at http://arpue2013.upsi.edu.my.

-- BERNAMA