When a good education isn’t enough

EVEN before the Covid-19 crisis, a survey by the QS Intelligence Unit suggested that students see employment prospects as the most important benefit of attending an internationally-recognised university, far ahead of other benefits such as quality of education or the student experience.

Employability, according to Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment, is likely to be an even more important factor after the crisis, as students prepare for an increasingly competitive labour market.

“With graduate jobs in short supply, the insecurity of the ‘gig economy’ and the awareness that more and more professions will be affected by automation, prospective students need to know that their education will give them the skills they need for success,” it said in a statement early this year.

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In Malaysia, the 2021 graduate employability rate stood at 85.5%.

Parents and prospective students, Academy of Professors Malaysia Cluster of Education chair Prof Dr Rosna Awang-Hashim shared, expect to be able to get a job relevant to what they studied upon graduation.

“This has become more crucial to them as the competition in the local job market is getting tougher. More so now with many who lost their jobs during the height of the pandemic reentering the employment market,” she told StarEdu.

Prof Rosna, who is also an educational psychologist at Universiti Utara Malaysia, said with the scarcity of jobs these days, students are questioning the need for a tertiary education.“They think, ‘why invest a lot of money going to university only to end up jobless and drowning in debt?’

“But students must understand that a university degree does not mean they will get a job in their chosen field or that they will have to go into the field they studied.

“More importantly, it is to prepare them for a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world,” she said, adding that the role of higher learning institutions goes beyond training talents for a particular job — universities and colleges are also responsible for grooming individuals to be more critical and able to reason and articulate their thoughts well.

Advising students to do their homework and choose wisely, Prof Rosna said a university’s reputation, and not just its rankings, are important to employers when they are considering potential candidates.

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