A fair like no other

Apart from offering the usual brochures and counselling sessions, the Star Education Fair in Penang drew in the crowds withmore study options andexcitingactivities.

IT PROVED to be by far the most extraordinary event this year attracting over 25,000 people. The Star Education Fair 2011, at the Penang International Sports Arena (PISA), had its visitors both surprised and impressed that it could offer so much more than just brochures and counselling sessions.

With a staggering 120 exhibitors and 252 booths, visitors were spoilt for choice with the myriad of local and foreign study options available.

Most booths, especially those providing vocational skills programmes, fashion design and culinary arts, went all out to showase their “offerings”, last weekend.

While some colleges like the Equator Academy of Arts displayed gorgeous dresses by their students, others like KDU College, the Malaysian Insitute of Baking and Advanced Tourism International College (ATIC), served free finger food, drinks, mocktails and cookies.

The ATIC’s culinary arts school and hospitality students had a live baking session during the fair with an array of delicious cakes, macaroons and bread, up for sale.

ATIC’s culinary arts school coordinator Kariati Ahmad Akhir said they concentrated on healthy food at this year’s fair.

“We wanted to raise awareness about the benefits of bread,” Kariati said.

The bread used for the canapé was made of wholesome ingredients namely, bamboo shoots, spinach, chilli, beet root and pumpkin.

The interesting ingredients resulted in a variety of coloured, nutritional goodies.

Apart from the bread, the culinary arts students were also on hand to make macaroons, cakes and fresh nutmeg juice.

The school’s semester four student, Edgar Sim Shen Chieh, said cooking was not easy but it had been his passion since he was 13.

Sim, 18, is enjoying every minute of his tertiary education.

“I am fond of making French delicacies.

“My lifelong dream is to open my own restaurant one day,” he says.

ATIC human resource manager Johnny Goh said with Penang being a tourism hub, culinary and hospitality courses were popular.

“The career options are wide because you can either work in hotels and restaurants or manage a place of your own,” he said.

KDU College’s hospitality team was also busy preparing delicious ravioli in cream and tomato sauce, cookies and exciting mocktail concoctions of every hue and colour, to keep up with the unending stream of visitors.

On the popular courses, marketing manager Neoh Soon Kean said the response from students was good with at least 10 registrations for its business and design courses within half an hour of the fair’s opening on Saturday.

“We are pleasantly surprised with the exceptionally good response,” he said.

At the Malaysian Institute of Baking booth, the whiff of fresh garlic bread attracted many visitors.

Crunchy, tasty and aromatic, the bread was a hot ‘must-try’ among visitors who waited patiently for fresh batches to come out of the oven.

Some 35 students from KDU College’s Mass-Commers and Double IB clubs kept the crowd entertained with percussion and sketch performances.

Higher Education Ministry deputy director-general (public universities sector management ) Prof Dr Morshidi Sirat, who opened the fair last Saturday, joined the Double IB talents for an impromptu performance.

Double IB also sang the birthday song for fellow group member Muhammad Anas Abdul Malik who turned 21 on Feb 19.

“I’m really happy to celebrate my birthday here especially being wished by Prof Morshidi,” said Muhammad Anas, who aspires to be a successful film producer.

Speaking during the opening, he said the private sector played an important role in driving quality higher education.

“By 2020, private higher education is expected to grow by six-fold.

“Quality offerings by private providers have global appeal and the influx of international students will undoubtedly bring in some much-needed revenue for the country.

“There are currently more than 86,000 international students in Malaysia and the ministry hopes to raise it to 150,000 by 2015 and 200,000 by 2020.”

He said the ministry would work very closely with the private sector to develop the education industry via the Education Malaysia centres and various incentives.

“The federal government has made substantial investments in private higher education providers through the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans and there is more to come,” he said.

Besides obtaining informative materials on tertiary education, lucky visitors took home a host of prizes including a 32-inch LCD television, laptop, video camera, digital camera, MP3 player, DVD players and home appliances in the Spin and Win contest.

The main sponsors for the contest were Standard Chartered Bank and DiGi Telecommunications.

Attractive deals from Dell and Firefly’s 10,000 ‘zero fare’ flight tickets, also drew a huge response at the two-day event.

Meanwhile, participants of the student poll also left happy with Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) tickets, Dominos Pizza, Starbucks and MPH vouchers.

Visitor Angel Chin said although she didn’t win anything in the lucky draw, she went home with “a bunch of stuff” including a voucher and bottle of F&N fruit juice.

“I just filled out a short student poll and got a free food voucher.

“There really was a lot to see as some booths really put in lots of effort to decorate their booths, including having a replica of the London Eye and a motorcycle from the movie Tron.

“Also, there were lots of free, tasty food to sample,” the 16-year-old said.

Study trends

Engineering, medicine and allied health sciences seem to be popular among students looking to further their tertiary education.

SEGi College Penang principal Jeffrey Goh said there was stronger demand for science-based subjects.

“Allied health sciences and medicine are popular subjects this year.

“This is especially so for degrees that can be done entirely in Malaysia because the cost is much cheaper than studying abroad,” he said.

Study International marketing manager Casey Lim was impressed with some of the visitors who stopped by the booth enquiring about undergraduate studies.

“Some have not even sat for the SPM examinations, but have already done their research in tertiary education.

“They had very specific questions.

“It was clear that they had done their homework before coming to the fair,” he said.

Lim agreed that there’s a surge in interest for science-based programmes.

He said medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering and psychology were among the popular areas of enquiry.

“I advise students to go for new niche areas of high-technology specialisation such as material engineering and chemistry with nano technology,” he said, adding that the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and United States were top choices.

Lim noted that post graduate students were more concerned with the quality of the programmes rather than the location.

“University ranking is a big deal to them,” he said.

ASA Overseas Education Specialist director Winnie Tan said many visitors were interested in studying in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

SMK Convent Butterworth Form Five student June Looi, 17, was spotted at the booth enquiring about engineering in the UK.

Looi, who was aiming for nine straight A’s in the upcoming SPM examination, said the fair was a one-stop venue for her to get all the relevant information.

“I came all the way from the mainland because most of the tertiary learning institutions are here.

“I plan to study in the UK because it is part of the Commonwealth, and also because the quality of education there is very good, but I have plans to return and work in Malaysia because it’s my home,” she said.

Hundreds thronged the fair especially for the educational and informative talks on a variety of relevant topics ranging from career prospects to scholarship opportunities.

The talks on studying abroad, options after SPM, allied health sciences, engineering, funding for higher education and medicine saw specialists in the respective fields sharing their expertise with parents and students present.

Star Publications (M) Bhd marketing services (Promotions and Star Education Fund) manager Susanna Kuan said, “I had parents coming up to me after the talk asking about the scholarships available. This is good because the purpose of the fund is to help those who really need the assistance,” she said.

This year, the fund is offering 215 scholarships from its 29 partners-in-education.

The scholarships are valued at RM8.65mil.

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