TECHNICAL and vocational education and training (TVET) is not only meant to fulfil the human capital needs of the industry, but also to provide social mobility opportunities to the marginalised.
Higher Education Ministry Polytechnic Education director-general Prof Dr Mohd Ismail Abd Aziz said about 80% of students in polytechnics are from families in the B40 category.
“Many people enrol in TVET courses because they’ve missed the opportunity to enter university.
“This isn’t because they are not smart but it’s because they come from difficult backgrounds,” he said.
For those who are less academically inclined, he added that, the TVET pathway still allows students to gain professional certification, obtain decent jobs and move up the social ladder.
He explained that students can pursue their certification at one of the 105 community colleges in Malaysia before continuing their diploma at a polytechnic.
From there, they can study for their degrees in university and even continue right up to PhD level.
During the recent Going Global 2018 international conference, Prof Mohd Ismail said Malaysia is actively promoting TVET as the educational pathway of choice to its citizens.
He said one of the aspirations of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) is to have academic and TVET pathways valued and cultivated equally.
Under the Economic Transformation Programme, Malaysia will require a 2.5-fold increase in TVET enrolment by 2025.
Presently, there is an undersupply of TVET workers in 10 of the 12 National Key Economic Area sectors.
Prof Mohd Ismail was one of the presenters during the “What Skills Do Learners Really Need?” during the conference.
He said that the ministry has also been actively and continuously engaging with the industries to find out how TVET institutions can fulfil industry needs.
“We ask them what it is they want from the education institutions? What do they want in the curriculum? What type of graduates do they want and when do they want them?” he elaborated.
He said that industry representatives also come to the polytechnics to teach students.
They have also given their input and helped design our programmes, he added.
The Malaysian polytechnics and community colleges have a very good employability record.
“Around 95%, which is the expectation set by the Higher Education Ministry for our TVET programmes,” he added.
“The industries expect students coming out from our TVET institutions to be able to start work immediately after completing their courses.”
There are many industry-led components to ensure TVET graduates are highly employable.
One of them is work-based learning, said Prof Mohd Ismail, where the students spend a year or more working in the industry to gain experience.
There are about 16,000 industry partners working with the ministry to improve and promote TVET education in Malaysia.
Based on their discussions, he said the industry has asked that students coming out from TVET institutions be holistic, entrepreneurial and balanced.
To achieve this, Prof Mohd Ismail says all 37 polytechnics, 105 community colleges and 20 public universities have implemented the Integrated Cumulative Grade Point Average (iCPGA) system to gauge student outcomes.
The iCGPA assesses students across eight domains of learning outcomes including knowledge, social responsibility, communications, leadership and teamwork, problem solving skills, entrepreneurial skills, as well as values and ethics.
With these skills, combined with the “hard skills” they learn at the TVET institutions, these students are ready to meet the needs of the fourth industrial revolution, he added.
During the Redesigning Higher Education for 4.0 Industrial Revolution - The Asean Experience session, Higher Education deputy secretary-general and chief information officer Datuk Dr Kamel Mohamad said the Higher Education Ministry wants to recognise the importance of TVET professions.
“Right now we are promoting TVET no longer as a second choice,” he explained.
He added that the government has taken various initiatives to promote TVET including the formation of the Malaysia Board of Technologists to recognise technologists and technicians as recognised professions.
The ministry, he added, has merged the department of polytechnics and department of community colleges to ease collaboration among the departments.
At the same talk, Asean Secretariat deputy secretary-general for socio-cultural community Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee said Asean is also trying to give TVET the recognition it deserves and a special working group has been formed “to push TVET to a higher level within Asean.”
He added that these are all part of efforts to prepare the region for the fourth industrial revolution.
“It’s not just the priority of the higher education sector.
“We recognise that we have to look at this issue from an integrated point of view and are also working closely with the labour and economic sectors,” he said.
Over 800 leaders from around the world attended the opening of Going Global 2018, the world’s largest highest education conference.
The conference, organised by the British Council and co-hosted by the Higher Education Ministry, took place in the Asean region for the first time earlier this month.
Malaysia is the first country to co-host Going Global in South-east Asia.
“It’s an enormous pleasure to have worked with the dynamic Higher Education Ministry in Malaysia as co-hosts,” said British Council Malaysia director Sarah Deverall.
“I would like to express my gratitude for their inspiring vision and practical support to make Going Global in Malaysia a reality.
“Malaysia has a dynamic education environment and a growing reputation as a higher education hub,” she added.
This year the conference, themed “Global connections, local impact”, attracted participants from 63 countries.
Malaysia has the largest number of delegates with approximately 290 participants, followed by the United Kingdom with 253 participants and Nigeria with 78 participants.