PUTRAJAYA: The Higher Education Ministry hopes to introduce a free studies sponsorship programme for first-generation students from poor families who are able to pursue studies at institutions of higher learning.
Its minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the matter would be tabled to the Cabinet for approval.
"It is a measure to end poverty through knowledge and skills," he said when speaking at the ministry's New Year Mandate here on Monday (Jan 30).
Mohamed Khaled said the ministry also planned to give the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) a new touch by studying the suitability of turning it into a national trust fund.
"We want to reduce PTPTN's debt burden to ensure its sustainability and make it a national education financing institution that allows all individuals from inside and outside the country to contribute to the funding of the country's higher education," he said.
He said the ministry was also exploring a flexible education by combining face-to-face and virtual elements to take advantage of digital platforms and technology as such an approach would have a significant impact on reducing the cost of education.
Regarding the selection of leadership at institutions of higher learning and agencies under the ministry, Mohamed Khaled said, it would go through a strict, thorough and objective screening process to ensure the positions would be filled by the most qualified and credible candidates.
He said the strict screening would be conducted to reflect the professional, fair, objective and non-political attitude of the ministry in translating the various national policies and programmes.
"The country needs an efficient and excellent higher education sector. This must start with credible and high-performing leadership," he said.
He also called on the ministry's staff to educate students to be on the right track to meet academic standards and intellectual culture.
The ministry, he said, no longer focuses on soft and practical skills but on the need to be equipped with artificial intelligence for managing people and technology.
"Maturity in controlling emotions, multilingual skills, negotiation skills, the ability to lead discussions and work effectively in a team. It's all smart skills," he said.
He also said that a major overhaul would be done to the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme to strengthen the system and ecosystem towards producing more skilled and technologically competent students.
"The country needs many individuals who have skills and technological competence that are future-proof," he added. – Bernama