SCHOOL leavers with one credit in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination can now apply for entry into certificate-level programmes at private higher education institutions. Previously, the minimum requirement was at least two credits.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh said the change takes effect immediately. “We find that more than 50% of youth aged 17 who enter the workforce do so without any training or skills. We hope that more students will now be able to be trained in some skills with the new ruling,” he told reporters before his post-cabinet meeting.
Welcoming the decision, Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) secretary-general Dr Lee Fah Onn said the move would open up opportunities for these students to receive some professional education.
“They are broadening access for this group of students. This is something the government has been talking about,” he said.
National Association of Private Education Institutions (NAPEI) president Dr Mohamed Thalha Alithamby welcomed the move, adding that once these students were trained in skills, they could replace foreign labour.
“If these students enter the workforce with no skills or training, they may find it difficult to get jobs. This in turn could lead to social problems,” he said.
Dr Mohamed Thalha said he hoped private higher education institutions would receive written approval for the move from the relevant agencies soon.
Binary University College president/chief executive officer Joseph Adaikalam said he was concerned with what would happen after these students finished their certificate programme.
“Once they have obtained their certificates, will they be able to go on to diploma-level programmes? The current minimum entry requirement for a diploma is three SPM credits,” he said.
On another matter, Dr Shafie said Prof Yusuf Abu Bakar from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris would lead a taskforce to look into the predicament of the 80,000 unemployed graduates.
“The taskforce will assess the abilities of the graduates to see which jobs are suitable for them. They will then be retrained,” he said.
Dr Shafie added that the Ministry is looking into the possibility of closing one polytechnic or community college to enable the unemployed graduates to be retrained there.
On Monday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi described the graduate unemployment rate as serious and called on all parties to cooperate to overcome the problem before it got out of hand.
He had said the government was looking at the possibility of reviving the retraining scheme for unemployed graduates to help them secure jobs.
Dr Shafie said his ministry would work with Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn and Entrepreneurial and Cooperative Development Minister Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin to tackle the problem.
”We will work together to help these unemployed graduates. We will also speak to the private sector on what they need,” he said, adding that most of the unemployed graduates were from social science fields.
Dr Shafie said the private sector would also be invited to come in during the formulation of universities’ curriculum.
This is to prevent a mismatch between the graduates produced by local universities and the needs of the private sector.
On another matter, Dr Shafie said private higher education institutions that had been upgraded to university college status must stop offering the 2+1, 2+2, 3+1, 3+0 or 4+0 franchise programmes after five years. “They must offer their own home-grown programmes,” he added.