PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is well ahead of achieving its target of having 50,000 foreign students by 2010 as it already boasts a foreign student population of over 32,000.
Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, however, cautioned operators of both public and private institutions of higher learning against complacency in the light of growing competition from neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Thailand.
“Singapore is a country that we have to especially be cautious about. It is gaining ground,” he told reporters after opening the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities National Higher Education Conference here yesterday.
“There is no measure for being a regional centre of education excellence, but judging by the number of students who are choosing to study here, I would say we are on the right track,” he said, pointing out that a year and a half ago Malaysia had about 20,000 foreign students.
“In a short time, that figure has gone up by 12,000. It is a great achievement,” he said.
Commenting on the strategy to open education promotion offices overseas, as contained in the economic stimulus package announced last week by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Musa said it would be an extension of the ministry’s plan to have education attachés based at Malaysian foreign missions around the world.
Met at the conference, Deputy Director-General of Education Datuk Hassan Hashim said Malaysian education promotion offices would be set up in the Middle East, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and South Africa by the end of the year.
The offices, he said, were expected to assume roles similar to that of the British Council, in the way it promoted British education in overseas markets.
The Star reported in August last year that a body dubbed the “Malaysia Council” would be set up at foreign missions worldwide, beginning with Jeddah.
Asked about this, Hassan said the planned office in Jeddah would be moved to Dubai which was deemed to be more strategic.
“In Vietnam, we hope to have an office in Ho Chi Minh City for students from Indochina,” he said.
The two-day conference, themed Future of the higher education industry: Issues and challenges for nation-building, will identify and study problems in the industry and plan for the implementation of solutions.
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