“Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart; intelligence is not information alone but also judgement; the manner in which information is coordinated and used.” – Carl Sagan
In response to a recent article titled “Malaysia’s public universities falling behind”, there is a need to address certain allegations and distorted facts brought forth in the article.
The first issue highlighted in the article was the ranking of universities in Malaysia. The ministry has time and time again stressed that ranking is not everything. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that when our universities, both public and private, are doing so well, it will attract global attention, hence the rankings.
University rankings are published every year, therefore it is not right for one to say that public universities are doing better than private universities and vice-versa. If a particular university drops in terms of ranking, it does not mean that they are falling behind. It just shows that other universities are improving and excelling at a greater rate.
Both public and private universities play important roles in the country’s growth. They evolve together. Initially, the formation of private higher institutions in the 1980s was to complement public institutions as the number of students pursuing higher education at that time was increasing.
However, over time private colleges and universities continued to excel locally and internationally, making their way in university rankings as well. For example, Utar made its way into The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019, after Universiti Malaya. This was made possible due to the policy and way forward set for private higher education institutions by the government.
We celebrate the fact that private universities are making their presence known as are public universities. The recent World University Rankings 2020 (QS WUR 2020) showed that the top five Malaysian universities are the five research universities with Universiti Malaya consistently leading the way.
In QS WUR2020, Malaysia’s oldest university leaped from 87th place to 70th, a great achievement for the Malaysian public university. We are happy to share that our private universities have also made it into QS WUR2020, where UCSI University has jumped from being ranked at 481 in 2019, to 442 in 2020 ranking. This itself has proven that both public and private universities are indeed portraying their global prominence.
Ranking is the people’s perception of how our universities are placed on the global platform. It is not the only aspect that the government is looking at. Not focusing and stressing on rankings alone, the education ministry has provided internal instruments for both public and private universities to ensure that the quality of higher education offered is sustained, among which are Setara and MyQuest.
Setara is a rating system that is aimed at improving the quality of teaching and learning at public universities. MyQuest is a similar instrument that looks into the performance of private universities. These rating instruments are part of the initiative put forth by the ministry to assure continuous quality improvement for both public and private universities.
The ministry, in line with the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (HE) or MEB (HE), has carried out initiatives and programmes to ensure that we produce future-proof talents who will meet the industry’s demands. This includes a fluid and organic curriculum introduced by the ministry as a step in ensuring our students will be able to access knowledge wherever they are and whenever they want, without being too confined to classroom environments like before.
Our education system has definitely evolved and transformed in accordance with current market demands. Due to the transformation in Malaysian higher education, the graduate employability rate has increased to 80%.
We wholeheartedly welcome the comments made and articles written on Malaysia’s higher education. The comments and articles show that people are interested in and care about our higher education system. We thank those who have made the effort to write about Malaysia’s higher education.
Let us work together as Malaysians to shape a generation that can thrive and succeed in any environment or circumstance. Let us together put our hearts into educating the future. As Aristotle said, educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.
Siti Hamisah Tapsir is director-general of the Higher Education Department.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.