With the announcement of the upcoming 11th Malaysia Plan 2015 today, we’re excited to see what the Malaysian government has planned in its commitment to being a world-class economy – and leading regional education hub. Just last month, Malaysia’s higher education sector received a boost with the launch of The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015 – 2025 (Higher Education). This landmark blueprint was launched in Kuala Lumpur by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, where he emphasised three critical themes, known as the “Three B’s”:
Focus on offering world-class quality higher education to attract international students and nurture domestic talent
Vision for Malaysia to be in the top one-third of global leading destinations for higher education and to increase the rankings of local universities in world rankings
Graduates of Malaysian universities to achieve ideal balance of being equipped with skills (ilmu) and good morals (akhlak), to be put into practice
New times, new priorities
Speaking on the creation of the blueprint which took two years to complete, Education Ministry Secretary General II Dato’ Seri Ir Dr. Zaini Ujang said that the publication was the result of 10,500 people collectively represented by stakeholders, school administrators, unions, alumni and also students with 14 chapter-writing teams and 20 lead authors. Replacing the previous blueprint done in 2006, The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015 – 2025 (Higher Education) reflects the changes that have since passed and therefore needed to be updated (including changing the target to host 250,00 by 2025, instead of 200,000 by 2020). Professor Zaini continued,
“[The] blueprint is crucial to outline what is new in higher education. We didn’t want to use what we planned back in 2006 because much time has passed since then. There have been a lot of new developments and so we [needed] to update our strategies. [For example,] many people [now] learn through mobile devices. Students already have this ‘machine’ – their handphones. So, we have to leverage on it.”
The blueprint also highlighted the challenges Malaysia’s higher education system faces with regard to domestic and global labour markets that must be overcome including:
1) Graduates with poor English-language proficiency and lacking in critical thinking and communication skills
2) Lack of links and support between academia and industry, especially in research & development and commercialisation
3) Systemic shortcomings that hamper the efficiency and financial sustainability of the system
Targets for 2025
Japan – 1%
Korea – 3.9%
Indonesia – 3.1%
Thailand – 3%
Singapore – 6.4%
Over the past decade alone, enrollments into higher education institutions have jumped by 70% to 1.2 million students today. Among ASEAN countries, Malaysia is only behind Singapore and Thailand for Master’s and PHD enrollments. Following the positive traction Malaysia has achieved over the years, The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015 – 2025 (Higher Education) has set key milestones to achieve by 2025:
1) Boost international students enrollment to 250,000 students
2) Boost tertiary enrollments rate from 36% to 53% and higher education enrollment rates from 48% to 70% via focusing on opening up technical and vocational education & training (TVET), private institutions and online learning
3) Increase graduate employability rate from 75% to 80% by 2025
4) Increase ranking of local universities
- One university in Asia’s Top 25 universities
- Two universities in Global Top 100 universities
- Four universities in Global Top 200 universities
- Five universities in Asia’s Top 100 universities
5) Improve Malaysia’s current ranking of 44th place to Top 25 in 50 countries under Universitas 21
A progressive higher education system
Recognising the importance of vocational and technical skills in the economy and modern learning technologies that are giving better access to higher education and improving student outcomes, the blueprint calls for an “entrepreneurial mindset.” among students and institutions. The desired outcome is to produce graduates that not only seek jobs, but possess a drive to create jobs.
The blueprint also highlights an expanded set of educational option for students, with greater emphasis on lifelong learning programs and practical vocational and technical training. Technology will also play a more important role in classrooms to enrich the learning experience and enable personalised learning to improve learning outcomes. As such, learning will undertake a mixture of blended learning tools.
Public and private higher education institutions that meet standards in a national regulatory framework can rejoice as well as the blueprint has softened government controls over the higher education system. This means greater decision-making for higher learning institutions in areas such as curriculum, hiring and financial matters. The increased autonomy will hopefully allow institutions to be more responsive to economic and global educational trends. This move also hopes to see institutions establishing strong industry relationships while incorporating best practices and industry thinking into their programmes.
International student mobility integral to the plan
Following the last report in 2014, there were 103,000 international students enrolled in higher education institutions in Malaysia in 2013, an increase of 80,750 students from 2009. The measure of success for achieving 250,000 international students enrolled in Malaysian universities in 2025 would mean that Malaysia’s higher education infrastructure have adapted adequately to produce qualified “talents” comparable to those from developed knowledge economies. Malaysia’ Prime Minister Najib reaffirmed this when he said:
“Any nation wishing to compete internationally will say it is about talent. So, our education must generate talent, and to get what we are setting international benchmarks, aiming to be best among the top one-third of nations in the world. All we do will have global benchmarks, so Malaysia’s standards will improve… [We aspire] to be among the best!”
It is promising to see Malaysia stepping up its efforts to seriously improve the country’s standing as a leading education hub in the region. There has been a lot of discussions and debates surrounding the weakening state of Malaysia’s quality of education over the last decade. Therefore, seeing supporting numbers of increased interest by international students to study in Malaysia, increasing autonomy to higher education institutions as well as a incorporating a progressive learning system is an exciting and promising vision by the government.
The following months will be very telling as we expect to see how the government plans to roll out and execute its blueprint vision on a regional level as well as to educational stakeholders. I’ve always believe the success of any idea, plan or strategy boils down to the execution, and in this, it is no different. We are hopeful and positive that The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015 – 2025 (Higher Education) will bring about a positive change to the industry and country, and together with the initiatives of the 11th Malaysia Plan 2015, it is our hope that the country will move towards the vision of being a leading developed, knowledge economy by 2020.