Sustainable Higher Education in Malaysia

01/01/2022 01:53 AM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.
Oleh :
Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad

While preparing for a keynote address that I delivered at the 195 Universities Virtual Conference organised by Medpoint and the Nine Training Center in December 2021, I thought long and hard on the current state and the way forward of higher education, particularly in Malaysia.

Malaysia has developed a strong global brand thus far. It is emerging as an international education hub that offers world-class quality education. At the national level, the higher education pathway is guided by the Malaysia Education Blueprint (2015-2025) for Higher Education.

On a global scale, Malaysia is committed to achieving Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which is a fundamental element of the fourth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4) on quality education. I believe that education is linked to almost all SDGs in one way or another because education is the bedrock of sustainable development.

We have been standing alongside the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in championing ESD through the empowerment of learners of all ages with the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes to address interconnected global challenges.

When Great Minds Come Together

Providing quality ESD involves collaborations between academia, industries, the government, and the community. This is called the Quadruple Helix Model which relies on synergistic relationships between the four parties.

We have had ample success through the implementation of this model in Malaysia. The Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (MoHE) has established partnerships with organisations where our local graduates undergo internship programmes where they may get absorbed into the industries without the need for additional training.

These kinds of collaborations have done well in addressing the challenges faced in society, including graduate employability.

When great minds come together, we can overcome our challenges through synergistic ways.

Our Most Valuable Asset

Malaysia's support for the SDGs in general and SDG4, in particular, has been translated in the newly-launched Twelfth Malaysia Plan that will chart the national development priorities from 2021 until 2025.

The five-year plan underscores the need to develop our nation’s most important asset - our future talent. They must be capable of participating in the labour market while serving communities.

According to the Future Jobs Survey, World Economic Forum 2020, jobs with the highest demands in 2021 rely on digital capabilities, including software development, data analytics, digital marketing, and graphic design.

Skill sets such as critical thinking, problem-solving, ICT infrastructure development, network innovations, and technology solutions are deemed important.

Malaysia has developed a Digital Economy Blueprint where it is projected that by 2025, the digital economy will create 500,000 job opportunities for our labour market and it is estimated that 875,000 micro, small and medium enterprises will adopt digital e-commerce.

To achieve these goals, we need to produce digital talents who have scientific knowledge and technological abilities by leveraging 5G, cloud computing, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence to pave the way for more development in the digital economy.

Keeping Up with Revolutions

Several years ago, we were alerted to the impending Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0). In Malaysia, a specific policy known as the ‘IR 4.0 National Policy’ has been designed. This policy outlines key areas of focus that affect people, businesses, and the government. It supports growth opportunities and addresses the risks that arise from IR 4.0.

In line with this, we at MoHE acknowledge that there are opportunities for digital and electronic information innovation in every sector, including education and the economy.

When the pandemic struck and the first Movement Control Order was enforced on the 18th of March 2020 in Malaysia, we immediately executed digital education to ensure the continuation of classes.

Since then, our higher education community has improved its mastery of utilising digital technology, which is the emphasis of IR 4.0. This has stimulated the development of e-learning modes, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) which can be taken by any interested persons at their convenience.

Assessment tools have been created and used to aid lecturers in conducting their classes. Additionally, learning management systems have been utilised to organise teaching materials, document assessments, and tasks. This facilitates the planning and management of courses at any given time.

Holding onto Humanistic Elements

While we immerse ourselves in IR 4.0, we must also hold on to humanistic elements that are essentially the core of ESD. In Malaysia, we empower students by listening to their feedback and ideas.

MoHE has been organising meetings for Malaysia's National Student Representative Council since 1999. It is a platform for student leaders to table out ideas to the nation's leaders that can contribute to the country’s development agenda.

This method has proven to be effective for the sustainable development of the country. Many of the students' proposals have been successfully accepted for implementation based on their appropriateness and the needs of the current times.

Among them was the improvement in the quality of internet access to facilitate effective implementation of online teaching and learning activities, and the implementation of a reskilling and upskilling career advancement programme, which we refer to as 'PENJANA KPT-CAP'.

Catering to Different Walks of Life

Another method of ensuring sustainable development through quality education is by allowing flexible and innovative methods of providing education.

In the era of vast technological advances, those who have joined the workforce may need to reskill, upskill, or simply gain new knowledge altogether.

In Malaysia, there are opportunities for non-traditional or alternative admission pathways into the Malaysian higher education system. We have a national policy known as the 'Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) for admission purposes.

Based on APEL, working adults can gain admission into universities by leveraging their prior learning experiences. They can also use their experiences to earn credits to shorten their study duration.

Acknowledging the Past while Moving Forward

As the year 2021 drew to a close, we look back on a year that was once again laden with an assortment of challenges. From the ongoing pandemic to the devastating floods in Malaysia, the situation affected all sectors, including higher education.

It was at times like this that Malaysians have proven themselves to be a united family. I would like to thank the higher education community for their vigilance and continued support. May we emerge stronger and better through the trials and tribulations of 2021.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year 2022!


Datuk Seri Dr. Noraini Ahmad is the Minister of Higher Education, Malaysia.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)