SOME time is needed to restructure the former higher education ministry as it is now back together with the Education Ministry.
Higher education has always been part of the education ministry until 2004 when former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi split the education ministry up to the education and higher education ministries.
The creation of the two ministries then were to ensure both sectors received equal focus as it was thought to be too unwieldy under one.
Subsequently the two ministries were merged back in 2013 and split up again in 2015.
Following the recent win by the Pakatan Harapan Government, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that there will only be one ministry in charge of all matters regarding education.
Newly appointed Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik believes the merging of the Higher Education and Education Ministries is “not a big issue”.
Sunway Education Group and Sunway University senior executive director Elizabeth Lee says that over the years the two ministries were split to allow more focused attention on the needs and rapid development of the two different areas of education.
“We hope that the same attention, if not more, may be devoted to address the needs arising from the fast changing trends and aggressive competition in the light of globalisation, especially in higher education,” she adds.
She suggests that an executive board comprising representatives from different stakeholders in higher education be set up.
“This is to promote better understanding and communication between the stakeholders, policymakers and regulators and to empower the higher learning institutions to develop in tandem with global institutions and trends,” she says in welcoming Dr Maszlee’s appointment.
On the same wave
UCSI University vice-chancellor and president Senior Prof Datuk Dr Khalid Yusoff welcomes the appointment of a fellow academic as education minister.
Dr Maszlee, he adds, will understand how universities work as he is from academia as well.
“He will be able to put substance to form, bring in meaning to performance and achievement, put values back in higher education and steer the course with confidence,” he says.
Dr Maszlee has impressive credentials that make him suitable for a ministerial role.
“He has a PhD on Good Governance, speaks four languages and has a very active social involvement.
“These will provide the much needed extra dimension in making our universities great and socially responsive.
“The academic fraternity is eager to move forward with him,” says Prof Khalid.
Former International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) rector Prof Datuk Dr Syed Arabi Idid has nothing but praise for Dr Maszlee who is also Simpang Renggam MP.
In fact, he recalls Dr Maszlee as an individual involved in political research that focused on Islam while at the varsity.
“He holds a moderate viewpoint,” he says.
Dr Maszlee has previously served as an IIUM lecturer and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science.
He is a respected academic at home and abroad and gets along well with students and academic staff.
“Education is the bedrock of our nation’s future.
“He is a young minister and he will be expected to provide the solutions to the various issues,” says Prof Syed Arabi.
Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) is looking forward to working closely with Dr Maszlee on talent development.
Its president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh adds that he has known Dr Maszlee from his participation in various working groups.
“I believe he will transform Malaysia into a knowledge-based economy by steering the education sector towards embracing technology to meet with the challenges of Industry 4.0,” he explains.
On the merging of the two ministries, he says that it made “a lot of sense.”
This is to ensure a seamless and synchronised education system from preschool to tertiary studies.
“It supports the Government’s aspirations to optimise on resources and reduce public expenditure,” he adds.
Carrying out the vision
Taylor’s University deputy vice-chancellor and chief academic officer Prof Dr Pradeep Nair says that although Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has removed himself as the Education Minister, he believes Dr Maszlee will be able to carry out the former’s visions for education.
“Dr Mahathir’s vision of making Malaysia the regional centre for educational excellence for higher education have been the true north for almost all private higher education providers.
“We hope Dr Maszlee will remove unnecessary regulatory requirements which have often stifled the growth of private higher education and created an unequal playing field for us,” says Prof Pradeep.
He hopes that private education institutions will get more financial incentives from the Government to make education more equitable and accessible to the larger population.
Prof Pradeep points out that private higher education institutions today make up almost 60% of total tertiary enrolment and can become an even more powerful engine for human capital development.
“Dr Maszlee may be relatively young and new, but his ideas are fresh, daring and untainted by past legacies,” he adds.
IIUM student Hazwan Dani, who studied an Islamic history subject under Dr Maszlee, describes him as a “learned and open minded” person.
“Lessons were enlightening because his knowledge of Islamic history is vast, as well as his general knowledge because he reads a lot.
“He conducts interfaith dialogues with students.
“Once, he invited a Christian friend of his over to class to talk about peace and had an open discussion with us on the similarities of our religion despite our differences.
“So, accusations against him for being an Islamist is not true. In my experience, he was always objective,” says Hazwan who is a fourth year International Relations major, with a minor in Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Heritage.
Describing Dr Maszlee as always punctual, Hazwan says he is techno savvy and up to date. — By REBECCA RAJAENDRAM