KUCHING: Asian students tend to achieve higher standards than students elsewhere, according to Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus pro vice-chancellor Prof Anthony Cahalan.
The academic – who has been with the state campus for three years – believes university students here show more commitment to their studies, while also having more time to learn.
In developed nations, he said, more students took for granted their higher education opportunities, even though many had to work part time in order to pay for their courses.
“A lot of students in Australia work 20 to 25 hours per week to help them pay for university. That’s not usual here in Sarawak, where students tend not to be working part time. Students here put more effort into their studies because they have more available time,” Cahalan said.
“The commitment is evident. Students in Asia take their education very seriously. Perhaps in Australia some students don’t have that same drive. They might take it for granted.”
Cahalan was speaking to Sarawak Metro on the Sarawak Campus’ planned classroom upgrades for this year when he mentioned how impressed he had been with the academic achievements here.
Swinburne Sarawak had some 40 registered clubs and societies among its students, he said, many aimed at giving back to society. Cahalan was also proud the campus had a student population from 60 different countries, mixing with Sarawakians, who themselves comprised some 30 ethnic groups.
Statistics showed that Swinburne Sarawak graduates were among the most employable.
“About 95% of our students are employed just six months after graduation. That is an amazing rate. Our students work very closely with the industry. Universities are often criticised for being too theoretical – that we can become detached from professions – so here, we try very hard to engage with industries that need more graduate.
“If our students were not gaining additional value from these engagements, then they won’t be so employable.”
Asked about the shortcomings of Asian students, Cahalan said they were generally more reserved than Australian students.
“Yes, they are quieter in the classroom. They don’t speak out as much. But Swinburne being an Australian university understands the importance of the English language. The unemployed graduates in Malaysia are most likely the ones without strong English – that is what the research from the government is showing.
“So we encourage group work, presentations, because these are the soft skills employers expect. We need to grow those skills so that students can feel confident when they go out for job interviews.”
The campus here will soon be spending millions to set up classrooms that resemble scenes straight out of sci-fi movies.
Projectors and screens will be installed on all sides of classrooms under a pilot project. Cahalan said similar high-tech designs, which are in the planning stages, would also be installed at the university’s auditoriums as part of its 15th anniversary plans.
A new layout for classrooms under the pilot project would require students to work in groups. Tables and chairs would be arranged in a “pod like” setting with multiple projectors directed at all corners of the room.