Britain sets sights on shared solutions with Malaysia throughout the education sector.
BRITAIN’s educational links with Malaysia, already on a firm footing, is set to move several notches up with both sides exploring fresh initiatives.
Five offshore British university campuses have already been set up in Malaysia starting with the University of Nottingham in 2000.
The other four university campuses here are Newcastle University Medical School, University of Southampton Engineering School, University of Reading and Herriot-Watt University.
About 60 British tertiary institutions already have links or collaborative arrangements with their Malaysian counterparts.
There are almost four times as many Malaysia-based students studying British higher education programmes than Malaysians studying in Britain.
About 15,000 Malaysians are currently studying in Britain, with another 58,000 individuals (including non-Malaysians based in Malaysia) either studying for British degrees or undertaking British professional qualifications in Malaysia – which is more than any other country in the world.
Building on success
British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell (pic) says the education sector has been a great success story for Britain in Malaysia and her country wanted to build on that.
Britain, she stresses, has what it takes to help Malaysia achieve its aim of becoming a regional hub for higher education.
Posted here last October, the envoy says the recently-launched Malaysia Education Blueprint (Higher Education) provides an avenue for Britain “to be part of the delivery solution.”
“This is something that we want to work very closely with Malaysia. Britain can be part of realising the vision and ambition that is in the Education Blueprint and I commend Malaysia for drawing it up,’’ she adds in an interview at her residence in Kuala Lumpur.
Treadell says while Britain remains a leader here in the “traditional model” of education - Malaysian students heading to Britain – the development of British universities investing in campuses here will drive Malaysia’s ambition and vision to become a regional education hub.
“Whether it is Newcastle University, Nottingham or Herriot-Watt or any of the other British campuses here, they’re here as much to benefit from Malaysia being an education hub for Asean and the Asian market.
“If you look at their student body, there is a proportion that come from elsewhere in Asia. There are not just Malaysian students,’’ she points out.
Treadell says the other model that a number of universities here and colleges are developing are MoUs and collaborations with British institutions.
One possibility is studying for a British degree here and doing a summer school on campus in Britain, she reveals.
“About a month ago, I went to the Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) in Setapak to celebrate their relationship with Sheffield Hallam University.
“These models of collaboration at tertiary level between Malaysian and British institutions are seeing even more Malaysians studying in Malaysia for British degrees,” she adds.
The partnership between TAR UC and Sheffield Hallam was established in 1999. Since then more than 10,000 TAR UC students have graduated with a Sheffield Hallam degree.
Touching on collaboration at the secondary school level, Treadell says the decision of Epsom College and Marlborough College to expand here to deliver a British public school experience in an English curriculum in Malaysia is significant.
“There is certainly a demand for this here in Malaysia,’’ she stresses.
Epsom College opened a boarding and day school in Bandar Enstek, Nilai, last September. Marlborough College is located in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor.
On collaborations with the Malaysian Education Ministry (MOE), Treadell says the British Council project to train 2,000 English language teachers across 600 schools in Malaysia was being escalated.
“This is to improve the quality of Malaysian teachers in delivering English as a second language, improving the quality of the curriculum, and quality of their teaching.
“It’s about Malaysian English teachers in Malaysian public schools going through a programme with the British Council to improve the quality of their teaching and the quality of their English,” she elaborates.
Treadell foretells of a new frontier for Britain in Malaysia – addressing weaknesses in teaching the English language at the primary level.
“We have been focusing on the secondary level so far, but by that time you’ve missed out on where you can make a critical change.
“So there are people expressing the view that it should include the primary schools (to address the English language weakness). That will have to be a new frontier, but certainly it will be a business that we want MOE to want to have.
“The British Council or other British providers will be very happy to do it,’’ she adds.
On what could be done at the primary level, Treadell says the measures “will have to be very targeted.”
Making the connection
Treadell says one of her priorities here will be to “make a connection” between the business and education sectors.
“That’s one of the things I want to focus on here, as the link between business and education is really important,” she stresses.
For starters, Treadell has been hosting monthly breakfast sessions at her residence with the top 24 British companies in Malaysia such as Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC, Jardines, Tesco, Dyson, BAE Systems and Weir Group, “matching” them with key Malaysian ministers.
The ministers covered so far include International Trade and Industry Minister (Miti) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala, who is also the Pemandu CEO.
With Mustapa, Treadell says issues discussed included barriers to business “so that he can hear what the actual experience is of British businesses which are looking to expand.”
“These British companies have invested and created tens of thousands of jobs in Malaysia. If you want more investment and expansion of that business here in Malaysia, it is important for the Trade Minister to hear what their experience is like,’’ she adds.
With Idris, Treadell says the emphasis was on education skills and employability of university graduates.
The envoy reveals that she and the 24 companies have offered to give lectures at universities about what is being looked for in terms of young talent.
“This is so that people are work-ready and employable. There is nothing better than an authentic business person talking about how they run a company, and what they are looking for in their employees,’’ she contends.
The 24 businesses have signed up to support the CEO Faculty Programme under the Education Blueprint, where CEOs go to universities to speak and interact with students, Treadell adds.
“It’s not just about us lobbying about the things we like and don’t like...it is actually about being part of the solution.
“I’m not a business person but I’ve done a lot of work with businesses in my previous positions in India and New Zealand, and as director of trade and investment in the North West of England.
“I’ll be very happy to go along with part of this programme, for us to share our knowledge and experience. Also because this is a partnership between British interest in Malaysia and the British Government,’’ she reasons.
Treadell says Idris was very supportive of the idea of partnership, with British companies in Malaysia being part of the CEO Faculty programme.
“The British companies can also help with regards to policies on skills, and technical and vocational training, and are willing to offer apprentice places within their companies here to create opportunities for the young who don’t get to go to university,’’ she adds.
Treadell says for British companies which have already expanded to Malaysia, the challenge is on how to grow their base into a regional outfit.
“If you take our five university branch campuses, they have made a conscious decision that it is not just about a campus for Malaysia but rather the wider Asian market,’’ she points out.
Treadell says Idris so liked the breakfast session approach that he has agreed to make it a twice a year event for him.
“This is our new approach in working together on shared solutions. I genuinely believe in this new model of partnership,’’ she says.
The envoy says similar sessions will be held with more Malaysian ministers and key personalities, with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Economic Planning Datuk Seri Wahid Omar and Miti secretary-general Datuk Dr Rebecca Sta Maria among those on the list.
Eye on Blueprint
With an eye on the Education Blueprint, Britain is preparing to offer its expertise on all spheres of education, covering technical and vocational training as well.
“There must be opportunities in technical and vocational training, as not everyone needs to go to university. Some people just need really good skills training,’’ says Treadell.
The envoy backs her point by citing Malaysia’s construction boom: “You need electricians, plumbers and people who know how to build brick walls.”
“There must also be apprenticeships for people to learn a technical trade. Welding, for example. This is another area where we can help.
“We know the Germans are very good at it, but we also can offer our expertise,’’ she says, adding that the Education Blueprint presents that opportunity for Britain to do that.
“We want to be part of the delivery solution here,’’ she reiterates.
With so much on the plate and a lot more to ground to cover, Britain has designated 2016 as the Year of Education for Britain in Malaysia.
Treadell says British expertise, whether in technical or vocational training, or English language teaching, will focus on Malaysia.
“It is going to be a bit of a campaign for us. There are already five British universities here. Potentially, other British universities will be keen to see what is in the Education Blueprint.
“As I said, Britain wants to be a part of realising the vision and ambition that is in the Education Blueprint. I think it is going to be very exciting,’’ she concludes.