Sunday, 14 July 2013

Malaysia's education system not in sync with workforce development

It was recently brought to my attention that students in Malaysia's IPTS are will be required to undertake Islamic and Asian Civilisation Studies. In my professional opinion, it is a policy that does not reap many benefits (if any) for the future development of the country.

Malaysia's education system has been plagued with problems that have damaged the workforce development. Problems include:

1. High unemployment among fresh graduates - many employers are becoming unsatisfied with the quality of graduates. Many were found to lack communication, management and professional skills.

2. Lack in productivity - evidenced from the very low income that graduates are earning. Many graduates are employed to perform menial and unskilled jobs. Output per worker is small resulting in employers willing to pay less.

3. Workforce mismatch - The skills mismatch between employers and worker is one of many reasons leading to high graduate unemployment. Malaysia has produced many 'skilled' workers in IT, science, and professional graduates that were aimed to increase R&D and raise productivity in our key leading sectors (i.e. services, high-tech export manufacturing). However, the absence of quality leading institutions to absorb and lead such initiatives has resulted in high unemployment.

4. Irrelevant education provision - One important lesson any workforce policy makers need to understand is that the aim of an IPTS is to increase student enrolments and business profits. It is not in their business plan to develop the right workforce/graduates that will magically chart a strategic development policy for the country. Hence, workforce facilitation / intervention is extremely important. Singapore workforce development model is an example of a strategic plan to deliver the right workforce education to in line with the country's development plan.

5. Skewed selection of students - One of the key to increase productivity is to let student work on their natural strengths. Not all the brightest students in the country are given opportunities to study course of their choice. Many bright students lack the financial means to undertake courses of their choice, although they are most likely to succeed and advance further in their fields. However, the non-meritocratic way of awarding scholarships and university entrants have led to the second- or third-best in line undertaking enrolments in prime subjects. Problem is the country will experience a brain-drain, as seen through the many skilled and talented Malaysians living abroad. And the development of the country is left to the second- or third-best. 

My point is there are so many workforce issues to consider in the country. Making an argument to standardise education by introducing Titas should be among the least of the priority.

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