THERE is growing awareness that universities and colleges must be more engaged with society and responsive to changing community needs.

This paradigm shift in mindset promotes social consciousness among students and affords them experiential learning that will prove invaluable for fresh graduates seeking employment.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said employers value real-life experiences and skills.

“Such students will have an advantage over their peers who have not been involved with community activities during their student days,” he told StarEdu.

Students involved in volunteer work commit time and skills to benefit the community and public, he said, adding that by doing this for society instead of for financial gains, they pick up skills like collaboration, teamwork and problem-solving – all of which are vital for them to succeed in their studies, the workplace, and personal lives.

“Volunteering helps youths build up their curricula vitae (CV) with robust, real-world experiences that will be helpful for them when they complete their studies and search for their dream jobs,” said Syed Hussain.

He said voluntarism builds relationships and strengthens tolerance and acceptance.

It also establishes trust and a sense of belonging in the community, he said, adding that the cultivation of these values is critical to upward mobility.

“Tolerance and acceptance are two qualities needed for a diverse society like Malaysia’s.

“Tolerance and acceptance build the culture of togetherness. We want others to treat us with respect so we must do the same in order to create a harmonious workplace. “It is a pragmatic formula for the functioning of a diverse society and multicultural workplace,” he said, when commenting on the importance of introducing service learning at tertiary institutions.

Aimed at boosting student confidence and civic responsibility, service learning in the Malaysian education system is contemporary and dynamic.

In 2019, the Education Ministry introduced a new component under the Department of Higher Education called Service Learning Malaysia-University for Society, or better known as Sulam.The university curriculum component is a course-based, credit-bearing educational experience, according to the recently published Introduction to Service Learning in Malaysia book by University of Malaya Press.

University students participate in a structured service activity that uses the knowledge learnt in lectures and utilised for community needs to serve in the real world while learning soft skills such as effective communication and collaboration with the community, and making sense of what they are studying in the university.

The values developed through service learning include leadership, creative and critical thinking, helpfulness, independence and tolerance.

“A sense of responsibility towards humanity will be seeded in every student who undergoes the course.

“The students can use their soft skills in engaging with society and learning from society the different facts of life,” the book read.


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