Historical background of higher education Ever since the Federation of Malaya gained independence in 1957, theMalaysian education system has been developing so as to unify the nationstateand to promote economic growth. The Education Act of 1961,which followed educational reform efforts such as the Razak Statementof 1956 and the Rahman Talib Report of 1960, has governed the moderneducation system in Malaysia. These educational reforms correlated withsocioeconomic conditions.
In the early 1970s, the New Economic Policy(NEP 1971), or Bumiputera Policy, was implemented. The NEP aimedto bring about a better balance in enrollment among the different ethnicgroups in Malaysia. 1 It resulted in a steady increase in the number ofBumiputera students in Malaysian universities. Furthermore, since theearly 1970s, the Malaysian government has sought to make more effectiveuse of the nation’s Malay human resources in the process of economicdevelopment, and the percentage of Malay students at every educationallevel has increased steadily.
Basically, the Malaysian education system follows a 6-3-2 structure,with six years of primary school, three years of lower secondary school,and two years of upper secondary school (see Appendix 1). Eleven yearsof basic education are provided to all citizens. However, the highereducationsystem has been limited to the elite citizens of the country. Performance in the public examination, known as the SPM (SijilPelajaranMalsyaia/Malaysia Certicate of Education), which is taken after theeleventh year of school, determines whether FormIV students can enterpost-secondary education (matriculation, or six Form).
Until the mid-1990s,the Malaysian government encouraged students to study overseas in theU. K. , the U. S. , Australia, or Japan. The 1st phase of the establishment of public universities started in1969 under the Universities and University Colleges Act. During this time,UniversitiSains Malaysia (USM 1969), UniversitiKebangsaan Malaysia(UKM 1970), UniversitiPertanian Malaysia (UPM 1971), and UniversitiTeknologi Malaysia (UTM 1975) were established (see Table 1).
Moreover,four public universities were established during the second phase (fromThe Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) was created on 27 March 2004 to take charge of higher education in Malaysia which involves more than 900,000 students pursuing higher education in 20 public universities, 33 private universities and university colleges, 4 foreign university branch campuses, 22 polytechnics, 37 community colleges and about 500 private colleges. The MOHE’s mission is to create a higher education environment that will foster the development of academic and institutional excellence.
It is in line with the vision of the government to make Malaysia a centre of educational excellence and to internationalise of Malaysian education. Higher educational reform and the roles of private universities in the mid-1990sIn the mid-1990s, four educational acts were implemented: the EducationAct of 1995, the 1995 Amendments to the University and UniversityColleges Act of 1971 (1995 Amendments to the UUCA 1971), the PrivateHigher Education Institutions Act of 1996 (PHEIA 1996), and the NationalCouncil on Higher Education Act of 1996 (NCHEA 1996).
With theimplementation of the Private Higher Education Institutions Act of 1996,the private sector increased its involvement in providing tertiary education(Malaysia 2001). The Act allowed private institutions of higher educationand foreign universities to establish franchises and degree courses. Inparticular, private-sector universities were encouraged to offer science andtechnology courses in order to increase enrollment at higher-educationalinstitutions and to produce a greater number of highly skilled graduates(Malaysia 1998: 122).
Six private universities, Malaysia Multimedia University (MMU), UniversitiTenagaNasional (Uniten), UniversitiTeknologiPertonas (UTP),UniversitiTunAdbul Razak (Unitar), International Medical University(IMU), and UniversitiIndustri Selangor (Unisel), began offering degreelevelcourses in engineering, business studies, medicine, and multimedia.
Since that time, the number of private universities has increased, as seenin Table 2. IT-focused universities from both public and private sectors,such as Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), UniversitiKebangsaan Malaysia(UKM), Multimedia University, and UniversitiTenaga (Uniten), operatein the MSC (see Table 2).
Their challenging cases will be examined as follows:the case studies of the Malaysia Multimedia University as the newlyestablished core university of MSC at 1st; second, the Malaysia NationalUniversity as the traditional university which might have some difficultiesin attempting the new challenges; and third, University Malaysia Sarawak(Unimas) which shows a need for distance learning because of its locationon the island of Borneo. Malaysia Multimedia University (MMU) as a pioneerMalaysia Multimedia University (MMU) was established as the core institutionof the MSC in July 996, and was the 1stst private university to begiven accreditation by the government. MMU has two campuses that offerfaculty in several fields: technology, IT, creative multimedia, and administration at the Cyberjaya Campus in the MSC; and technology, informationscience technology, business, and law at the Malacca campus. There are9,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students, including foreign studentsfrom 31 countries (e. g. , Brunei, Sudan, Bosnia, Malawi, Tanzania, India,Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, China, Thailand, and Guinea 4)enrolled in MMU. MMU uses English as the language of instruction.
Knowledge-Campus (K-Campus) projects of UniversitiKebangsaan MalaysiaNot only newly established universities, but also the nine historical universities(public universities established before 1994) conduct IT-relatedprojects. All nine public universities have embarked on open- or distancelearningprograms (Siowek-Lee and Rinalia 1998). UniversitiKebangsaanMalaysia (UKM, Malaysia National University), one of the most prestigiousuniversities in Malaysia, formed a special ICT committee to implementthe blueprint of ICT projects and established the Faculty of Information.
Distance learning: the case of Unimas, Sarawak University Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), which is not located on the MalayPeninsula but on the island of Borneo, established its Faculty of InformationTechnology in 1993. By July 1994, the faculty offered undergraduateprograms in software engineering, information systems, internetworkingtechnologies, computational science, and interactive multimedia. Therewere 34 students at the undergraduate level and a few at the post-graduatelevel in 1994; by July 1995, the 1st Master’s students in IT graduatedfrom Unimas.
The computational science program was introduced duringthe 1995-96 academic year; the joint program in cognitive science, offeredby the Faculty of Cognitive Science and Human Development and theFaculty of Information Technology, began in 1996. Unimas, in collaboration with KolejLatihan Telekom (Telekom TrainingCollege), has begun offering diploma programs in multimedia (businessand computing) and in multimedia technology, which have been accreditedby the LembagaAkreditasi Negara (National Accreditation Board) (1 March2000).
Moreover, the Network Multimedia Education System (NMES) waslaunched in October 2002. In the process of achieving a developed nation status by the year 2020, one of the challenges facing thegovernment is how to provide higher education for all levels of society. One solution is to use technology as anenabler to make available education to the masses. Universities are taking up the challenge by updating thecontent of their programmes but more importantly,utilising the latest technologies to improve the deliverysystems.
One of the most talked about emerging delivery systems is Open and Distance Learning that isfast becoming a viable alternative in providing education to the masses. Open University Malaysia wasestablished on 10 August 2000 in response to the government’s call for the democratisation ofeducation. Although it has the status of a private university, OUM is owned by 11 public universities inthe country.
As an open learning institution, OUM subscribes to the following principles:Flexible entry requirements to provide moreopportunities for all members of the society to pursue tertiary education; A learner-friendly flexible academic system wherethe constraints and needs of working adults are well understood; and Adoption of the blended pedagogy mode toenrich learning experiences. Malaysian higher education reform is progressing rapidly because thegovernment needs to develop highly skilled human resources locally toenable the nation to move toward a knowledge society, in the era ofICT.
Malaysian public universities had been traditionally restricted to theelite; however, they began to be corporatized in the mid-1990s. Privateuniversities have taken on more important roles in expanding enrollmentand maintaining the quality of higher education in science and technologyrelated to ICT. First, higher education reforms toward a knowledge society are affectingaccess and social selection with respect to ethnic and gender equality. Educational policy implemented since 1969 has provided educationalopportunities to a less privileged population, the Bumiputera.
Governmentpolicy can have an effect on aspirations and, thus, the demand forhigher education. This has clearly been the case in Malaysia, which isboth an Islamic and a multicultural country made up of the Malays,Chinese, Indians, and indigenous peoples. The implementation of the NewEconomic Policy (NEP) in 1971, or Bumiputera Policy, attempts to bringabout a better balance in enrolment among the various ethnic groupsand has led to a steady increase in Bumiputera students in Malaysianuniversities.
The government of Malaysia has encouraged Bumiputera studentsto pursue science courses in particular. According to the National EconomicRecovery Plan, in addition to maintaining the Bumiputera/non-Bumiputera ratio of 55:45, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is to ensurethat at least 55 percent of Bumiputera students are enrolled in scienceand technology ? elds of study at institutions of higher learning (Malaysia1998:123). This mandate is in response to the growing need for highlyskilled human resources, both to encourage economic growth and to unifythe nation, following its independence in 1957.
Female Malaysian students earn better grades, in general, than do maleMalaysian students. Yet, female Malaysian students have experienced difficulties in obtaining higher education in the past. Structural and attitudinalbarriers to the equitable participation of women at the highest educationallevels have existed during the last few decades (Aminah 1998:25). Hence,their past underrepresentation was not a result of their inability but rathertheir cultural backgrounds.
As some scholars (Jamilah 1992; Aminah 1994;Fatimah and Aminah 1994; Jamilah 1994; Kamogawa 2003b) have noted,the stereotypical Malaysian way of thinking is that arts and teaching fieldsare suitable for women and that science and technology fields are suitablefor men. Consequently, Malaysian female students have had a tendency tochoose art and educational courses. Higher Education has generated RM 2. 1 billion through 70,259 international students for the year 2008. Ministry of Higher Education came out with the target: 80,000 foreign students by 2010.
As at 15 January 2009, 210 out of 434 private higher educational institutions (PHEIs) and all 20 public universities have been licensed to recruit international students. Most of the international students in public universities pursue post graduate degree courses while those in PHEIs pursue both graduate and post graduate degree courses. In 2005, there were 41,559 international students, of which 7,656 were in public universities and 33,903 in PHEIs. The population of international students made up 6. 4% of the total number of students in institutions of higher education.
The different divisions under the Department of Higher Education will concentrate on their respective areas in improving the quality of education services and ensuring that programmes offered by the public and private higher educational institutions in Malaysia are of high quality and international standards. In their endeavour to achieve these goals, they have established promotional offices in Dubai, Jakarta, Ho-Chi Minh City and Beijing. A Technical Committee has also been formed to make Malaysia a Centre of Excellence. This committee is chaired by the Minister of Higher Education.
A Technical Committee on ‘Edu-Tourism’ was also formed. Other marketing strategies include incentives offered to institutions promoting education overseas; recognition of Malaysian degrees by foreign countries and the establishment of the new national quality agency for both private and public higher educational institutions, i. e. Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA). The ultimate aim of all these strategies is to make Malaysia a ‘favoured’ destination for international and local students to pursue their tertiary education besides making education an important export commodity that will generate foreign exchange for the country.