Rethinking tertiary education in Malaysia

Alexander Goh


LETTER | In the context of Asian culture, education determines a person’s intelligence and ability. Especially when the person is equipped with excellent English language skills, it is a definite plus point as it is often associated with social status.

Upon graduating from secondary school, those who have an average result are mostly recommended to continue to pursue higher education while those with a below-average result are often affected by the environment where they are perceived to have the incapability for further study. Therefore, they are convinced to take up an early entrance ticket into the workforce.

For those who decided to go for university education, they will stumble the crossroads of either going to a private institution or public institution. The end goal to be achieved for both is the same which is getting an education credential though what differs would be the cost, experience and total duration.

It takes up to a minimum of three academic years to earn a bachelor’s degree. Every two to three months, the billing statement will be sent to their account. In order to reduce the financial burden of the family, some students are forced to work part-time along with their studies.

However, having an undergraduate education status does not guarantee an occupation in the current time. As digital technology evolves to its peak, the industries are heightening up their requirements and demand to screen for all-rounder talents.

Two major issues faced by the younger generation of graduates in Malaysia now would be their soft skills and hard skills. Generally, the prime soft skills would be communication skills and teamwork. Both of these skills are correlated and it determines the role and contribution of an employee in a company. Whereas for soft skills, English language proficiency is an important consideration as for most companies, it is the medium of communication for business conduct.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a more severe issue. The Industrial Revolution 4.0 has been a widespread topic across all industries but has our tertiary education been able to keep up?

Throughout the entire three years spent in the university, half of the total subjects require a good memorisation technique to remember all the obsolete theories and history for the purpose of passing the examinations. The examples we learn from the textbooks (typically imported textbooks) might not be local practice.

In addition, not all courses require their students to attend the compulsory internship. This further increases the gap of understanding in the working environment and preparing the students for real-work situation. A three-month internship with a single company clearly could not provide enough time for the students to learn and improve themselves in the workplace.

Furthermore, the universities’ students still need to go through general studies or better known as “Mata Pelajaran Umum”. A better suggestion would be to replace these subjects with more relevant subjects to the current demand of the industry such as providing insights into current technology adoptions in Malaysia and how to make use of data.

Many may argue that university education is providing indirect knowledge and it up to how the students learn, interpret and apply the knowledge learnt. Nevertheless, the graduate unemployment rate evidently keeps showing a steady increase and things needs to change.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Share this story


By posting a comment, you agree to our Terms & Conditions as stipulated in full here


Foul language, profanity, vulgarity, slanderous, personal attack, threatening, sexually-orientated comments or the use of any method of communication that may violate any law or create needless unpleasantness will not be tolerated. Antisocial behaviour such as "spamming" and "trolling" will be suspended. Violators run the risk of also being blocked permanently.


Please use the report feature that is available below each comment to flag offending comments for our moderators to take action. Do not take matters in your own hands to avoid unpleasant and unnecessary exchanges that may result in your own suspension or ban.