THE next thing on the agenda of the Malaysian Education Promotion Council (MEPC) is to bring the World Education Market (WEM), or an Asian chapter of it, to Malaysia in the not too distant future.
Founder and head of MEPC, Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing, says an Asian equivalent of WEM is necessary for developing countries in Asia to benchmark themselves against each other while witnessing first-hand, the developments in education, and in particular the use of technology in education, in developed nations.
“It is important to attend conferences like WEM which show us the advancements by developed nations in the West. However, because of the disparity in systems and standards, it is hard for Asian countries to benchmark themselves against their Western counterparts.
“On the other hand, developing countries in Asia as well as Africa and the Middle East have many similarities, for instance, economic similarities. If an Asian WEM could be organised, these nations would be able to benchmark themselves against each other,” opined Lim.
MEPC, he adds, has been lobbying to host WEM (or an Asian equivalent) for the past two years and will continue to do so.
“The Malaysian Government is investing a lot of money in education and we have a very vibrant private education scene. With our vision to become an international education hub and the infrastructure in place, what better venue than Malaysia to host the WEM? Not only is it affordable, it is an emerging education hub,” says Lim.
Established in 2000, WEM is a marketplace showcasing the latest in education – from resources to technologies from all around the world. Over the four days, participants will be able to sit in for the conference talks, visit the exhibition area or the marketplace and network with potential partners, international counterparts and suppliers of educational technology.
“At WEM, you can see cutting-edge education technology and also the latest in research and training. Being at WEM is important, as it will impress upon Malaysians that we cannot afford to be left behind.
“It is very difficult to put this point across ? to explain to Malaysian education providers how others have gone forward so much. It is imperative that they go and see for themselves.
“When I was there (at WEM) two years ago, I saw a demonstration of technology-enhanced teaching at grammar school (equivalent to primary education) level. A lesson about the human body and its functions was brought to life as students could, through the use of a mouse and computer, 'go into' the various organs of the human body and see how they function. By actually 'experiencing', they will learn and remember better and faster,” Lim relates.
This year, the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) is heading a delegation to WEM 2003, which will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, from May 20 to 23. Members of the delegation so far comprise the Multimedia University, Open University Malaysia, LimKokWing University College of Creative Technology, Sedaya International College and Universiti Utara Malaysia.
For the first time, Malaysia will be part of a national pavilion, one of the main features of the exhibition.
“It is good that MDC has come on board and we (MEPC) must thank them as it shows strong government support. However, it is a shame that only five institutions have come forward to participate. I think what is lacking among Malaysian institutions is a long-term commitment to research and development.
“Participating in events like WEM definitely costs money and many are not willing to spend because, unlike student recruitment exercises, this will not bring in immediate tangible results. But we have to change the Malaysian mindset; we must create our own knowledge and build our own competitiveness. We cannot keep on importing foreign knowledge and know-how all the time,” he said.
Citing the United States as an example, Lim says private education in the US has overtaken government-funded institutions due to two glaring reasons – private education institutions are more liberal and they keep bringing in new technology.
“This however is not the situation here. Most private institutions are not interested in knowledge and are not willing to invest money and time in research.
“In fact, this is the time we should develop ourselves. Times are relatively good for private education institutions and we should not be complacent,” he opines.