At themost, college lecturers only have five years to mould students into critical thinking individuals who dare to voice opinions. This is hardly enough time to change students who may be used to playing passive roles during their early adolescent years, says KDU College principal officer and chief executive officer Dr Chia Chee Fen.
“School leavers are used to being spoon-fed notes but lecturers here are trained to guide students to search for their own information,” she says.
Consequently, one of the first tasks the college has to do is to get the students used to independent work as quickly as possible.
Freshmen are not the only ones who find it difficult to adapt. Dr Chia recalls speaking to parents of an engineering student who wanted to know why their son’s lecturer did not provide the electronic components needed to complete a project.
“I had to explain that sourcing for materials was part of the lesson as that would teach students about costing and budgeting,” says the college head.
Even as students and parents get acquainted with KDU’s new teaching style, the college is also running programmes for lecturers who needed to be retrained to emphasise the process of doing rather than just concentrating on the final results in course work and projects.
Other major changes at KDU include the restructuring of various courses in three schools – the School of Arts and Social Sciences, the School of Science and Technology and the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts.
“We want to have inter-disciplinary academic and social exchanges on a regular basis, for example, by encouraging foundation students to mix more with their seniors pursuing degree programmes,” says Dr Chia.
Not only will this make it easier for younger students to pick up tips from the seniors but lecturers of the combined courses can now sit together in revamped staff rooms that are more spacious.
“We have also installed new software that will help lecturers spot possible cases of plagiarism,” adds Dr Chia.
She admits that the changes are not easy to implement or to manage but the ultimate objective is to teach students to take charge of their own education.
“When the students realise that it is their responsibility to learn and proactively go about this, then they will be able to excel, both academically and as individuals,” she says.
“Teaching the students to be independent can only benefit them. It builds their confidence and teaches them to be resourceful,” she adds.
In line with this philosophy, students are encouraged to plan their assignments and work according to parameters they have set for themselves.
For example, if the college organises a trip to an orang asli settlement, the lecturer would help students streamline their research topics but the students would collect their own data, analyse, compile and organise their work for presentation.
KDU College also recently signed a new Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Tasmania (UTAS) which allows Biomedical Science students to transfer to the fourth oldest Australian university after one year of study at KDU. It offers a twinning programme for law students as well.
It is also the first private institution of higher education to run a fully franchised 3+0 Swiss hospitality and tourism degree, a programme from the International Hotel Management Institute of Switzerland.
The college also offers diplomas in Hotel and Catering Management, Tourism Management and Professional Chef Training.
Besides academics, KDU students have fun too. During the last Easter celebrations, the college’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts arranged for nearly 400 student from nine Klang Valley schools to experience an Easter Egg Hunt.
The college’s Mass Communications students also held a photography exhibition – the Joi De Viere: Exuberance of Life Photography Exhibition – which showcased more than 100 black and white as well as colour photographs taken by KDU students.
Organising the exhibition taught the students that photography is an art form that speaks without movements or words.
Final year student and organising president Alan Stevenson said, “Finding the correct angle is the most difficult task.”
But the students’ talent is not limited to static images alone. Last year, they entered a short film competition and won.
“Their theme was on the SARS cases that had everyone running scared. They put together a piece that was both hilarious and educational,” say Dr Chia.
KDU College also has an active Performing Arts Club (PARTS) which recently organised the Urban Battle Hip Hop Dancing Competition.
The club invited local hip-hop act The Tarik Crew to open the event and professional breakdance group Giller Battles to judge the competition. It was won by team Shenobu which collected RM1,800.
Meanwhile about 60 Culinary Arts students get sent to Brunei each year to help prepare for the anniversary celebrations of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s coronation.
“They fact that they get invitations each year tells me they do a good job. I am proud of that,” says Dr Chia.
KDU College is a contributor to the Star Education Fund. For more information, contact KDU College at tel: 03-77288123, fax: 03-77269941 or e-mail: email@example.com.