Multi-disciplinary degree to prepare for working world

THE demands on graduates entering the working world are different today.

Other than recruiting those with deep and specialised knowledge, employers are also on the lookout for employees who can hit the ground running, solve problems on the fly and multi-task. They want those who are versatile, resilient and eloquent, have multi-disciplinary knowledge, and the list goes on.

And these are the traits that Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) aims to mould in its undergraduates.

The university’s newly-unveiled Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies (BSLS), which will commence this September (the first semester of the 2018/2019 academic year), has what UKM terms as a future-focused curriculum — one that is cross-disciplinary with flexible study structure.

Conducted by its Pusat Citra Universiti, the degree exposes students to solid multi-disciplinary lessons in humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and the arts, subsequently allowing them to pursue diverse careers ranging from manufacturing, tourism, human resource, finance and takaful; all the way to logistics, communications and public service.

UKM Vice-Chancellor Professor Tan Sri Dr Noor Azlan Ghazali outlines the uniqueness of the BSLS programme.

“The norm is when a student enrols in a degree course, he will go straight into a specific field of study. The four-year BSLS programme has a different approach.

“You tell us what you want to be, and we will guide you to your goal. That means our role is more focused on helping students realise their dreams.

“In this programme, we no longer have too-rigid borders, but can craft a degree that cuts across faculties,” said Noor Azlan.

To illustrate this, he gives the following example: “Say a student wants to enter the halal food industry, there is the halal, food science and marketing components to study. He can pursue all three components in one degree programme. The faculties teaching the components will sit down with the student to enable him to complete that degree.”

The BSLS is born out of Pusat Citra Universiti’s general studies programme.

It is in line with the Higher Education Ministry’s recommendation for UKM to incorporate liberal studies and multi-disciplinary education in its programmes.

The university management had set up a task force to carry out research and workshops in 2012, roping in multinational companies, small-and medium-scale enterprises, government agencies, non-government organisations, students and lecturers for feedback.

Among the areas of discussion was the main attributes that every student should have.

As a result, the university came up with four compulsory courses for — Basic entrepreneurship and innovation, Islamic and Asian civilisation, Ethnic relations and soft skills — which they must pass.

There are also Citra Education courses under six domains, which students from all faculties can choose to take.

The six domains are ethics, citizenship & civilisation; language, communication & literacy; quantitative and qualitative; leadership, entrepreneurship & innovation; science, technology and sustainability; and, family, health and lifestyle.

“For other degrees, students have been taking these courses as components of their programme in the last four years.

“But this year, the courses are to be taken as part of a degree programme for students enrolled in BSLS.

“It is a ‘buffet’ programme. You enter into a guided ‘buffet’, where you decide on the courses you want to take, and we come and coach you,” said Noor Azlan.

The BSLS is a “2u2i” (two years university and two years industry) programme that takes four years to complete. Each student will be guided by an academic adviser.

The first year is focused on completing 30 credits of compulsory courses, which include data analysis and management, as well as the Pusat Citra Universiti courses, said centre director Professor Dr Khaidzir Ismail.

“We have chief executive officers coming over to give talks to provide students exposure on various businesses and industries.” — Khaidzir Ismail, UKM Pusat Citra Universiti director


For the second year, students will focus on an area of specialisation that fits their personal and career goals.

“Students will undergo a psychometric test before choosing a major, and will be assigned a mentor. We have chief executive officers coming over to give talks to provide students exposure on various businesses and industries,” Khaidzir said, adding that Pusat Citra Universiti will be coordinating the logistics and scheduling with faculties.

During the third year, students will undergo community or industry-based training.

“There will be several industrial stints to expose students to working life in companies or communities,” said Khaidzir.

In the final year, students will undertake an industry-based project, community-based report or produce a thesis.

Khaidzir said five per cent of the BSLS programme involves exams, presentations, pitching and competitions.

Twenty-five per cent is face-to-face learning and the main component of 70 per cent is self-study through independent projects, field studies, laboratory learning, e-learning, problem-based learning and experiential learning.

Noor Azlan said the entry requirement is very flexible.

“You can enrol with any of the following qualifications: Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, matriculation or a diploma. We are also opening this programme to international students,” he said, adding that there are 100 seats available.

He believes universities have to change the way they conduct their degree programmes to suit market demand.

“I see this as the shape of degree programmes in the future. There will not be anymore teaching of courses and knowledge that are narrow.

“As for the first batch of BSLS students, we will look after each one like a newborn and guide them,” he said.

Source: NST


Commercialising invention not a one-man show

ONE element of successful innovation constantly overlooked is commercialisation. Effective monetisation of an innovation is integral to sustainability and growth, not just for businesses, but also the whole economy.

At the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, i-Teams, a programme under its Engineering Department, brings together students and the university’s groundbreaking research to develop commercially-viable strategies and build university-industry links.

Last month, Zurina Moktar, a Malaysian undertaking her PhD at Cambridge, presented a case study titled “Cambridge i-Teams: Commercialising innovations while empowering budding entrepreneurs” at the 6th International Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship 2018 (ICIE) in Washington, DC.

The conference was co-hosted by University of the District of Columbia, Georgetown University and George Washington University.

At the conference, the Third Innovative Youth Incubator Awards competition became a platform to showcase innovative institutional incubators and similar initiatives that focused on the development of young entrepreneurs. After three rounds of judging, Zurina’s presentation and case study won first place for excellence in Student Incubators.

She competed with five finalists from five other universities: the University of Twente (the Netherlands), Ryerson University (Canada), University of Central Lancashire (UK), University of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa) and Jomo Kenyatta University (Kenya).

A decade-old programme, i-Teams Cambridge was founded by serial entrepreneur Amy Weatherup in 2006 and inspired by the i-Teams MIT at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

Zurina holds the position deputy programme director/support manager for the i-Teams. Her main role is to assist Weatherup, who is the programme director, in organising and coordinating the programme.

“Anyone from the university who is a technology inventor with entrepreneurial interest, wants to know if his newly discovered technology is commercially viable or is seeking access to useful market research can engage i-Teams.

“We will help the inventor to recruit a team of seven students from various academic background and one industry mentor. They will help the inventor to determine the best route for technology commercialisation.

“Through this, the inventor saves time and energy to focus on the most viable market for his or her new technology to be commercialised in,” said Zurina, who graduated with a Degree in Biodiversity Conservation and Management from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu.

Previously, she said, entrepreneurial opportunities within the institution were limited and mostly designed for students in the business school.

“When students apply to take part in i-Teams projects, they are grouped as a team for a term or nine weeks to assess the commercial prospects of a new technology.

“They will interact with real customers in relevant industries, guided by the technology inventors, a dedicated industrial mentor, facilitators and the i-Teams programme director. At the end of the programme, their findings are presented to business and academic experts.

Zurina said the programme had benefited students and researchers.


“We can certainly learn from the best practices to enhance the existing incubator or similar initiatives in Malaysia.” — Zurina MoKtar, iTeams Cambridge deputy programme director


“Students gain hands-on experience in investigating potential markets for a new technology. They brainstorm real-world applications of the invention and investigate their ideas by contacting external industry experts. In the process, they gain a taste of the processes needed to turn a lab technology or new concept into a commercially-viable product, as well as learn a wide range of skills.”

Researchers, on the other hand, are given early feedback from potential partners and customers on the innovation.

Since 2006, i-Teams Cambridge has worked on more than 125 technologies, involving more than 800 students and 40 business mentors. Fifty projects have gone on to create spin-off companies, several of which have received significant investment funding. Some of the spin-offs have involved original members of the student i-Teams, and other projects continue to be actively commercialised prior to the spin-off stage.

In other cases, the i-Teams have helped to make a rapid decision to stop commercialising a technology, allowing the researchers to re-focus their efforts on projects with greater potential.

“We can certainly learn from the best practices to enhance the existing incubator or similar initiatives in Malaysia. i-Teams is a proven approach for extracting the latent value of a newly-discovered university technology by getting students and industrial mentor involved in the commercialisation pipeline.

“The quest to commercialise any new technology is not a one-man show, nor is it straightforward. New technology needs challenges and iterations. Hence, it is never too soon to get other people to tell us what they think about our invention because when we get too emotionally attached with our own invention, it is hard to visualise the potential of the technology beyond its immediate applications and realise where the blind spots are.

“We explore new ideas and prospects by interacting with other people outside the confines of our workspace,” said Zurina, who completed her Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Conservation Leadership at the University of Cambridge.

For her Phd, she is researching the commercialisation of invention resulting from university research and its business model implications. Her research interests are on intellectual property commercialisation, intellectual property business model and green patent.

“As part of my MPhil, I have been involved with the United Nations Environment Programme — World Conservation and Monitoring Centre work through the accomplishment of a project to develop a Capacity Development Needs Assessment Tool, which has been operationalised in multiple projects within the centre.”

After completing her MPhil, Zurina interned at the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations in New York. She also worked at the National Institute of Public Administration Malaysia as a training consultant and was temporarily attached with the Innovation Agency of Malaysia.

Source: NST

AI solutions for human problems

A search on the Internet on artificial intelligence (AI) produces various results. But in general, the term AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence processes by computer systems.

Recognising AI’s capacity to influence both business and social settings via innovative solutions, several universities in Malaysia have focused on producing a diverse range of AI-related research papers and patents in recent years.

One of the focuses on AI by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, for example, through its Centre for AI and Robotics (CAIRO) — which was established by the varsity’s Malaysia Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT) in 1997 — is machine vision.

“Applications such as pattern recognition using machine vision are very much needed in various industries. Some examples are applications such as license plate recognition system, tropical wood species recognition system, product grading system, and biometric system,” said MJIIT dean Professor Dr Ali Selamat.

He said at CAIRO, intelligent robotics were also an area of focus and robotics vision was the element that made robots intelligent.

A vision system enables autonomous robots to do path planning and path following, as well as avoid dynamic obstacles. CAIRO also works on various autonomous guided vehicles, with a focus on smart manufacturing.

“Apart from machine vision, CAIRO also uses AIs for control, optimisation, scheduling and fault diagnosis. One of the applications developed by Cairo is on power transformer fault diagnosis, which provides utility companies an intelligent tool for preventive maintenance of their power transformers,” he said.


Other than research at CAIRO, advancements in AI in deep learning are applied in various disciplines.

“We are bringing AI technology into the classroom. Students can gain access to various open platform Als for solving real engineering problems, such as Google’s TensorGlow or big data analytics,” he said.

Ali said CAIRO was also working on new AI technologies, such as deep learning neural networks, and looking at the prospect of using the technologies for applications in optimisation, control, fault diagnosis and pattern recognition, among others.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) has been actively looking into AI development since 2001, said vice-chancellor Professor Aini Ideris.

According to her, AI research and development at the university was undertaken by researchers from its Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Computer Science and Technology.

UPM has established research groups to focus on intelligent and control system design, intelligence system engineering and intelligent computing, as well as smart farming technology.

“The AI-related subject matters we focus on at UPM include algorithms, models, robotics and intelligent systems — all of which are emerging technologies in AI,” she said.

“As AI research has seen positive development, UPM is looking forward to applying AI technology to the field of agriculture for the benefit of humanity. In addition to that, UPM is moving to being more translational in its research approach,” she said.

Among projects that reflect this is the Continuous Operating System for Microalgae Culture Optimised for Sustainable Tropical Aquaculture (COSMOS), which facilitates the establishment of an energy-efficient mass-culture system of high value microalgae using recycled nutrients from aquaculture pond sludge.

University Malaya (UM) prides itself as the only university that offers a Computer Science programme specialising in AI, and has a Department of Artificial Intelligence under its Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology, that was formed in 1997.

The fundamental AI subjects focused by the faculty are machine learning, numerical methods, image processing and natural language processing.

“Natural language processing (NLP) is used to analyse text, allowing machines to understand how people speak. This human-computer interaction enables real-world applications, like automatic text summarisation, sentiment analysis, topic extraction, named entity recognition, parts-of-speech tagging, relationship extraction, stemming, and more.

NLP is commonly used for text mining, machine translations and automated question answering,” said Professor Abrizah Abdullah, dean of the faculty.

“Image processing gives improved information for human interpretation and processing of image data for storage, transmission, and representation for machine perception. Image processing is a technique to enhance raw images received from cameras/sensors placed on satellites, space probes and aircrafts or pictures taken in normal day-to-day life for various applications. Medical image processing is a huge field, mainly due to the digitisation of medical images,” she said.

Abrizah said the main research area that the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology is currently active in is deep learning, a sub-field of machine learning.

“Research topics for deep learning include all types of big data analytics applications, especially those focused on computer vision, NLP, language translation, robotics and medical diagnostics.

“In the past, we have worked with the Royal Botanic Gardens in the United Kingdom to study how deep learning can be used in plant classification.

“We have also investigated deep learning models to teach a machine to synthetically draw paintings from famous artists, such as Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso,” she said.

Other AI-related research works are in healthcare and medicine, medical big data/data mining, medical image processing, text analytics/NLP and robotics.

“Some industries in Malaysia rely heavily on foreign workers simply because they do not attract Malaysian workers. These industries usually involve manual labour and are considered 3D (dull/difficult, dirty and dangerous) industries. Robots are more suitable for these tasks, which may also be life threatening in certain cases.

“Any potential research in this area would be the development of robots that would result in modernising and mechanising some of the tasks in these industries, thus encouraging and attracting more local participation,” she said.

Source: NST

Secret to confidence

NOW that the 2017 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and Sijil Tinggi Peperiksaan Malaysia results have been released, move forward along the path you wish to go on with your achievements.

Even if your results are not what you hope for, it is not the end of the world! There are options. You may be diverted from the path but you can still reach your destination.

The dreaded interviews await those who are aiming for medical school or scholarships, bursaries and loans. The key to aceing an interview is simple: confidence. However, when you’re a walking ball of nerves with an entire zoo in your stomach, confidence does not come easily. I have attended quite a few interviews and want to share the secret to confidence and how to achieve it.

Firstly, do research. Blind confidence without anything to back it up is called ignorance. Make sure you find out all you can about the organisation, its aims, organisation structure, its offer and the terms and conditions, and expected qualities of the interviewee. Will there be a panel of interviewers? You can find out most of these things either at the official website or from previous scholars and current employees. Take note of deadlines and documents for applications, then submit them ahead of time. Call up and double check that your documents have all been received. Know the location of the interview, how you are going to get there and the time you need to set off from home. Dress smartly and conservatively, opt for light or pastel colours which are easy on the eyes. They may seem like silly little details, but getting them wrong can put unnecessary stress on you, especially on the day of the interview.

Now that you’ve got the bases covered, you need to focus on preparing for the interview. Compile questions commonly asked at interviews, which you can get from sources online and from past interviewees. Different organisations have slightly different questions depending on the qualities they are looking for, so you’ll need to tweak your answers. Give thought to how you will best answer the questions. You can write the answers down, but don’t memorise them. It will just make you sound stiff and unnatural at the interview. You want to sound polished and eloquent, not rehearsed or robotic.

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the questions, find a few trusted friends who have gone through similar interviews and speak well in public. Ask them to conduct a mock interview with you and give you honest feedback. One of my teachers, who conducts oral examinations, did a mock interview with me. The experience of anyone whose job profile involves conducting interviews, for example, a human resource manager, is helpful. Do not be shy to ask your parents’ friends and colleagues who can provide insight. Ask them how they will answer the questions, as it can open up new perspectives for you, but do not copy their answers. Your answers should reflect you as a person. Do mock interviews a few times until the answers roll off your tongue easily.

Lastly, the biggest secret to confidence is that you don’t have to feel confident. No one, myself included, can be 100 per cent calm when facing something as daunting as an interview. The trick is to convince the interviewer that you are confident even if you are not. Start by acting the part: walk in with confident strides, look the interviewer in the eye and greet him with a smile. Sit with your back straight and hands in your lap. The first question is usually a simple one, such as introducing yourself. Speak clearly and slowly, do not be afraid to take your time. After a few minutes, all the practice and preparation will kick in and you will start feeling more comfortable. You will find your nerves slowly relaxing, and even if any unexpected questions come up, do not panic. Always maintain good eye contact and a clear voice. By maintaining your composure despite inner chaos, you project confidence. The act will eventually become the reality.

So even if you’re shy or inexperienced, confidence is not impossible. It takes time and effort, but it can be cultivated.

The writer is a doctor at Hospital Enche Besar Hajjah Khalsom, Kluang in Johor. The secondary school national champion of the inaugural Spell-it-Right competition in 2008, she is passionate about education and sharing her experiences of her journey in medicine. Email her

Source: New Straits Times

Transforming classroom learning

SITUATED 150km away from Sibu is the small town of Daro in the district of Mukah, Sarawak where the majority of its residents work as farmers and fishermen.

To get to Daro, one needs to cross two rivers by ferry. The journey takes two to four hours depending on the queue at each river.

The place sounds remote, with the exception of one feature — the use of technology for teaching and learning.

At SK Ulu Daro, teacher Khairul Azlan Mohd Faizul and his pupils are no strangers to computers.

Initially, Khairul Azlan who has been teaching maths and English for four years, found his lessons repetitive and his pupils were not showing much interest and excitement in class.

“I knew I had to do something to get them focused and interested in my teaching in class. Since the pupils were rarely exposed to technology, I decided to bring them to the computer lab for a change,“ said Khairul Azlan.

Wan Juliana Wan Asharuddin and the team she coached are the second runner-up under the Decomposition category for the Educator’s Challenge.

Although Internet connectivity at the school was an issue and there were a minimum number of devices in the lab, he saw the transformation in his pupils when he introduced them to technology.

“They were much more focused and it was obvious that they were having more fun learning while taking turns to explore the wonder of computers.

“The experience had sparked curiosity in them. That was when I slowly implemented technology in my lessons,“ he added.

His journey in applying technology in his lessons was just the beginning as he ventured further when he was introduced to the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) programme.


The MIE programme has attracted more than 150,000 educators globally who have joined the Microsoft Educator Community (MEC). Having learnt the fundamentals of applying technology to education, they use Microsoft tools such as Windows, Office 365 and Skype in class.

“For teachers to hack lesson plans, they have to make them better by ensuring that in addition to computational thinking, they carry not only equity for all students but also empower them to be creative and curious” — WAN JULIANA WAN ASHARUDDIN, MARA creative technology and multimedia division assistant director


To be a certified MIE, the educator must earn 1,000 points by completing online courses, contributing lesson plans, participating in Skype activities and connecting with other educators across the globe.

“I was introduced to the MIE programme at a course in Pusat Kegiatan Guru. I was among nine other teachers who have been using technology in their lessons. We were asked to nominate ourselves to be MIE Experts (MIEEs). I was among four teachers from Daro selected to attend a local forum,“ added Khairul Azlan, sharing his first exposure to the programme.

Teachers who become skilled at integrating technology into the classroom can self-nominate to join the MIEE programme. If selected, they will be a part of the exclusive programme to lead innovation in education and advocate and share their thoughts on the effective use of technology in education with peers and policymakers.

At the technology showcase for classroom solutions during E2. (From left) Wan Azrina Muhamad Zuki, Nur Hayati Shahrome, Khairul Azlan Mohd Faizul, Mohamad Haniff Hasan and Wan Juliana Wan Asharuddin (standing).

This year, Khairul Azlan and three other Malaysian teachers were chosen as MIEEs based on the technology-infused lesson plans they had submitted earlier. The other teachers were Wan Azrina Muhamad Zuki (from SMK Kubang Kerian, Kelantan), Mohamad Haniff Hasan (SK Jasin, Melaka) and Nur Hayati Shahrome (Maktab Rendah Sains MARA Kuala Kubu Baru).

As MIEEs, they have the chance to attend Microsoft Education Exchange (E2), an annual three-day event. At the E2, MIEEs share how they integrate Microsoft technologies into the classroom in innovative ways. They also celebrate the achievements of educators who combine content, pedagogy and technology in exemplary ways to prepare students for success in the digital age.

This year‘s E2 event was held in Singapore last month.


Trying to relate a topic on statistics with a global current issue in a lesson gained Wan Azrina the chance to attend E2 as an MIEE.

“I created the Food for Thought project for students to foster awareness on food waste through creative ways. My students had to research the issue before they presented the statistics on food waste problems in Malaysia and globally,“ said Wan Azrina who teaches mathematics and basic computer science at a secondary school in Kelantan,

Khairul Azlan Mohd Faizul (fifth from left) and his team members receiving the second runner-up award under the Abstraction Category. Together with them is Anthony Salcito (second from left).

In the project-based learning approach, students had to create a poster using Microsoft Office, design 2D and 3D food waste tanks using Microsoft Paint 3D and develop a computer game on the same theme.

They then used the Virtual Learning Environment platform to place their work to promote awareness on food waste to other students.

On the other hand, English teacher Mohamad Haniff went big with his lesson to teach primary schoolchildren language and instil entrepreneurship. He was inspired by A. J Juliani (author of Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning), and Karen A. Kruger, one of the teachers who promotes Genius Hour, a movement that allows students to follow their passion and explore creativity in the classroom.

“The lesson is based on the deep learning framework and implemented using an experiential learning model by David Kolb, an inquiry-based learning method by Jerome Bruner and an independent learning model.

“Students were given an opportunity to determine their passion by answering several inquiry-based questions. Then they researched into their interest and planned a project before they shared all these with the public in a showcase event.

“The end products from these students included short documentary videos, clothes collections, water rockets and scientific experiments.“

Through this lesson, he said, his students were not just learning English, they were also using the language in real life. They felt the importance of mastering the language and this motivated them to learn more.

A computer science teacher with six years of teaching experience, Nur Hayati got her students to predict their examination results using Excel.

Wan Azrina Muhamad Zuki explaining her lesson to another educator at the Learning Marketplace.

“Students collected data at, analysed their examination results and used the Count IF function in Excel to predict their next semester‘s results.“

At E2, these teachers showcased their activities with their students at the Learning Marketplace and took home inspiring ideas from others.

For the first time, a Malaysian was selected as an MIE Fellow to represent the country at E2. MARA creative technology and multimedia division assistant director Wan Juliana Wan Asharuddin was chosen for her dedication in working with Microsoft and educators to transform classroom learning.


The E2 is an event to not only recognise and celebrate educators but also to collaborate and share their experiences with MIEEs from all over the world.

Participants are divided into 53 teams to compete in the Educator‘s Challenge. Each team selected and hacked an existing lesson plan (chosen from five given) according to one of the four categories of computational thinking: Abstraction, Pattern Recognition, Decomposition and Algorithmic Thinking.

“Computational thinking is a way of pondering on problems similar to mathematical and scientific thinking,“ explained Wan Juliana, who has coached MARA teachers to become MIEEs since 2016.

“It is the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solution in such a way the computer can effectively carry out.“

She added, decomposition, for instance, is useful in helping to determine the unknown as the process involves breaking down a complex problem or system into smaller and more manageable parts.

“Decomposition means breaking things that make up the larger problem into smaller pieces. For example in teaching the order of adjectives, there is a pattern to construct a sentence according to the correct order,“ she added.

“For teachers to hack lesson plans, they have to make them better by ensuring that in addition to computational thinking, they carry not only equity for all students but also empower them to be creative and curious.“

As a MIE Fellow, Wan Juliana was also given the responsibility to coach a team to hack a lesson during E2.

“Fellows were briefed on coaching through Skype calls with Microsoft in the United States. We need to not only know the four computational thinking aspects, we were also asked to take the one-hour computational thinking course at the MEC website.“

The team members from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and New Zealand whom she coached were the second runner-up for the Decomposition category at E2. Judging was based on four categories: Communication, Innovation, Collaboration and Equity.

For Khairul Azlan, his trip to Singapore will not be the end of his journey in transforming education in class after his experience working with the all-male team of teachers from New Zealand, France and South Korea.

“We were coached by a MIE Fellow from Singapore. We also used the Microsoft translator app to help with communication as not all members were fluent in English. I learnt so much. It has taught me to cope with different styles of working as well as understanding each member‘s strengths and weaknesses, and supporting each other to complete the challenge in a short time.“

For the challenge, his team was second runner-up in the Abstraction category for the Educator‘s Challenge.

“And prior to leaving for Singapore to attend E2, my school‘s Internet connection was upgraded. It‘s time to explore further,“ said Khairul Azlan, beaming with happiness.


For decades, learning institutions have been touched by technology‘s influence — networking and computer labs, software applications, the Internet, gaming and social networking. Even though technology is an accelerator, it does not enable much change in the classroom.

Microsoft education vice-president Anthony Salcito said: “It is not really about technology but it is how you structure your role as an educator.

“Technology alone cannot build 21st century skills in students without the power of the educator and there is impact when both technology and the teacher are brought together, and recognised for their achievements.

“If an educator embraces the reality that technology is all around us — for instance, how we find information, how we share ideas and then collaborate with one another — he will understand that his role is changing.“

He added that an educator‘s job is not just about delivering content. In inspiring students to pursue their passion, they must also encourage them to use resources appropriately to make the right decisions.

“An educator must further enable students to make these connections; students should not only use resources that are provided by teachers in class.

“When the role of learning expands far beyond the textbook or the 50 minutes of a science lesson, students can explore and be curious. Taking advantage of all the resources for classroom projects expands the role of learning than ever before.

“A great teacher is not necessarily one who uses technology every day in class. He embraces the reality that technology exists in school and outside it. Teachers do not need to be experts in technology to be powered by this new way of learning.

“Opening that role, expanding the potential of how you can extend your lesson plan or conversation in class — that‘s what every educator should do.“

While teaching as a job is secure from replacement by technology and not amenable to automation, Salcito said the approach must change to prepare students for the Fourth Industry Revolution.

“The role of an educator is not diminished by technology. The future of education is already here and you are missing an unbelievable number of opportunities if you are still debating how technology can benefit students.

Source: New Straits Times

An education redesign in progress

WE hear of many cases where fresh graduates are unable to gain employment upon graduation; nor do they have the relevant skills and opportunity to strike out on their own.

This generally occurs when their education and training are either sub-standard, not forward-looking and rendered obsolete upon graduation or cannot be translated into practice at the workplace.

This scenario in the country takes on more urgency in the face of a fast-changing globalised world prompted by rapid technological advances and the impending impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) took action to circumvent the issues in 2015 via the Malaysia Education Blueprint (Higher Education) 2015-2025 which sought to transform the higher education system to be among the best in the world that will enable the country to compete globally.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh declared in his mandate in January that 2017 is the year of Redesigning Higher Education — a follow-through and continuing of existing efforts designed to produce holistic graduates who are highly employable — resilient, innovative and are present and future-ready for the unpredictable job market.

Education, he said, should be made current, relevant and can translate academics into practical output.

And to have the education that is able to deliver all these, he added that tertiary institutions have to better understand the needs of students in relation to the current state of the world where technology is prevalent. Therefore, there is a need to change the concept of teaching and learning at the higher education level.

This year, the ministry has looked towards embracing technology as a means to jumpstart a paradigm shift in higher education.

Idris also declared 2017 as the year of “translational research” — translating academic research into practical solutions to benefit the industry, academia, government and society.

To inculcate the spirit of volunteerism in undergraduates, the ministry implemented a Gap Year programme at eight public universities to give them the chance to volunteer at government agencies.

The ministry continued to be committed to the mainstreaming of Technical and Vocational Education (TVET), and worked on to improve the quality of TVET to make it a popular choice among students.

All in all, Mandate 2017 focused to improve the overall quality of the higher education system as well as the calibre of graduates from both public and private tertiary institutions.

Students are encouraged to volunteer with agencies like the police for their gap year.


In general, a gap year is a one-year break from studies or work for an individual to pursue other interests, generally different from his regular life or line of work. The term is usually applied to students who take a year (or less, rarely more) away from their studies to better prepare for the workplace.

Malaysia’s Gap Year 2017 programme announced by MOHE early in the year involves eight universities — Universiti Utara Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Sabah. UKM and UiTM were identified to kick-start the programme which began in September.

Under the programme, students take time off from studies to pursue their interests and are particularly encouraged to volunteer with agencies such as the army, police, Civil Defence Department and especially those under the National Blue Ocean Strategy.

It is part of the ministry’s efforts to produce holistic graduates, with good academic results, vast experience in the industry and love for the nation.

Other than gaining experience, the programme is expected help to inculcate patriotism in students. A student allowance for the duration of the programme has been proposed.


The enhancement of the existing Malaysian Research and Education Network’s (Myren) online ecosystem to Myren-X — a 100-gigabit high speed broadband infrastructure — in October is set to be a game-changer for the local higher education sector.

Designed to be a dedicated network for research and learning activities with its own separate and independent gateway to the Internet, Myren-X increases bandwidth capacity at public universities to a maximum of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) and for other institutions under the MOHE, up to 10 Gbps.

It also offers a bandwidth of more than one megabit per second per student.

MOHE deputy secretary general (management) Datuk Kamel Mohamad, who is also its chief information officer, said the higher overall bandwidth speed and bigger capacity under Myren-X allow huge amounts of data to move at higher speed, which is a requirement of teaching and learning activities.

Myren-X also enables big data research and experiments which consume huge network bandwidth and capacity like those in the fields of genome, telemedicine and particle physics.

“Myren-X is expected to further spur the implementation of programmes under the Redesigning Higher Education initiative stipulated in Malaysia’s Education Development Plan (Higher Education). It will facilitate new ways and methods in 21st century teaching and learning such as collaborative online learning, virtual classrooms and Massive Open Online Courses.

“In addition, it will not only allow Malaysians to access overseas education online, but also enable foreigners to access education in Malaysia and bring Malaysian education overseas.

“Researchers in the country can collaborate with research communities as well as have access to international research labs in real-time,” he added.


Realising that Malaysian graduates need the right combination of knowledge and communication skills, and more than academic qualifications alone to compete effectively in the job market, MOHE introduced the Malaysia English Assessment (MEA) which is embedded in the Ecosystem for English Language Learning and Assessment in Higher Education to nurture holistic, entrepreneurial and balanced graduates.

Tertiary institutions play an important role in raising the standard of English of the country’s graduates and future generations, and MEA is the platform to do this.

The MEA has three development phases. The first phase, which started in September, involves the construction of the Higher Education English Language Test Repository system — a “question bank” — developed by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris.

This question bank will be used to construct standard Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) exam questions for the English empowerment programmes in public universities at the end of Semester 1, Session 2017-2018.

CEFR was originally developed to improve language teaching in Europe and it is recognised in practice as the international standard worldwide.

The second phase is the construction of test specifications for formal and informal assessments while the third phase outlines the MEA Guidebook and Test Repository Manual for users.

These developments are expected to be completed in stages by end of next year.

At the launch of MEA in October, Idris said assessment is not only critical to learning as it provides a bridge between teaching and learning, but it can also enhance the latter and drive a student’s educational experience.

MOHE’s aim is to produce graduates who are resilient, innovative and are present and future-ready.



To achieve the nation’s goal of becoming an education hub in the region, MOHE believes it is important to harmonise public and private higher learning institutions rather than have them seen as separate entities. Therefore, it is important that private higher education institutions adhere to a strict set of regulations that will ensure their quality.

Institutions in the private higher education sector consist of diverse types, sizes, capabilities and capacities. There are 487 Private Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs) in the country and this makes regulation challenging. Hence, ACT 555 was enacted in 1996 to regulate the operations of PHEIs.

In order to address the current transformation and challenges in the private higher education sector and facilitate the operations of these private institutions, Idris said it is imperative to amend ACT 555.

The amendment of ACT 555 came into force on Nov 28 and it is expected to lead to better regulatory practice that will allow the improvement of the quality of PHEIs through a performance-based regulation. The Malaysian Quality Evaluation System for Private Colleges (MyQUEST) is an example of a performance-based rating system to evaluate their quality.

MyQUEST informs the private institutions of their performance compared to others which facilitates competition and drives value; enables individual institutions to engage in self-reflection and identify areas of improvement; enables potential students and their parents to make informed choices when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge; and enables stakeholders, such as sponsors, to determine education sponsorships.

MyQUEST also enables the ministry to ensure that private institutions operate within the regulatory framework and meet the goals of providing the best education that Malaysians deserve.

An improved performance in MyQUEST will boost the reputation of the colleges, as well as raise the public’s confidence in the nation’s ability to provide quality higher education.

Kembar sambung ijazah bersama

PASANGAN kembar, Nurul Nadiah (kiri) dan Nurul Najwa menunjukkan surat tawaran ketika tiba pada hari pertama pendaftaran pelajar baharu UTM sesi 2017/2018 di Kolej 9, UTM, Skudai. – Foto NSTP/Hairul Anuar Abd Rahim

JOHOR BAHRU: Selepas tiga tahun bersama di peringkat diploma, sepasang kembar sekali lagi teruja apabila ditawarkan Ijazah Sarjana Muda, juga dalam jurusan sama di Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).

Pasangan Nurul Nadiah Abdul Halim dan Nurul Najwa Abdul Halim, 21, kini menyambung pengajian dalam jurusan Pengurusan Sumber Manusia.

Pasangan yang berasal dari Johor dan kini menetap di Bangi, Selangor itu sebelum ini menuntut Diploma Pengurusan Teknologi di UTM Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur.

Nadiah berkata, beliau bersyukur kerana sehingga kini tidak berpisah dengan adik, Najwa.

“Walaupun kali ini bilik bersebelahan, saya bersyukur. Boleh ulang kaji dan belajar bersama adik, tambah pula kursus sama.

NURUL Nadiah (kanan) dan Nurul Najwa mengemas barangan keperluan di dalam bilik kolej ketika tiba pada hari pertama pendaftaran pelajar baharu UTM sesi 2017/2018 di Kolej 9, UTM, Skudai. – Foto NSTP/Hairul Anuar Abd Rahim

“Cita-cita kami juga sama dalam bidang sumber manusia dan harapan kami untuk mendapat anugerah dekan pada setiap semester pengajian di sini,” katanya.

Sementara itu, Naib Canselor UTM, Prof Datuk Ir Dr Wahid Omar, berkata seramai 6,101 pelajar ditawarkan untuk melanjutkan pengajian ke peringkat sarjana muda dan pascasiswazah di universiti itu.

“Ia membabitkan 4,012 pelajar sarjana muda dengan pecahan 3,612 penuntut tempatan, manakala baki 400 lagi pelajar antarabangsa.

“Bagi pascasiswazah, seramai 1,235 membabitkan 1,015 pelajar tempatan dan 220 pelajar antarabangsa ditawarkan pengajian peringkat Ijazah Sarjana, manakala 854 lagi peringkat Ijazah Doktor Falsafah (PhD),” katanya.

Beliau berkata demikian pada sidang media selepas mengadakan lawatan ke Kolej Rahman Putra, di sini bagi meninjau suasana hari pendaftaran, hari ini.

Sumber: Berita Harian