Well, it appears that making the displeasure known with regards to the manner in which these colleges have been conducting themselves in their marketing and promotion campaigns might just be having an impact. It was reported in the New Straits Times on Saturday last week, that the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said the ministry was considering punitive action against operators of colleges and universities who publish or broadcast "misleading or deceptive" advertisements.
The ministry, said Fu, has been receiving an average of 20 complaints a day, mostly about private institutions of higher learning.It was made known that under the Private Higher Education Act, offenders can be fined RM50,000 or jailed six months for offences such as promoting higher learning institutions without approval, making false sensitive statements and providing false and misleading statements during promotions.
"The current procedure is to issue a directive to stop the misleading advertisement by withdrawing or amending the advertisement immediately... Usually they will comply and that’s it; no action is taken against them. We cannot continue to be so lenient because then they will never learn their lesson. We have to act, especially against repeat offenders."
It is great to hear that the Ministry is planning to act against the offenders, and I do hope to seriously see action being taken for I've seen too many advertisement in the past 2 months of student recruitment that I was getting a tad nauseous.
On top of that, it is hoped that the Ministry will take a more pro-active stand in determining the definitions of when a college can use the terms such as "world-class" in their promotional materials. As far as I'm concerned, almost every single private college in Malaysia have the term describing themselves in one way or another. These colleges should not be allowed to get around promotional guidelines by using terms which are difficult to verify and are meant solely for the purpose of recruiting more guillible students.
The main concern I have in this case is the fact that the Ministry of Higher Learning is playing an increasing role in promoting the private education sector in order to attract a greater number of foreign students into the country. Such a role appears to be in conflict with a clampdown on potentially misleading and deceptive advertisements as it is likely that the inistry will tolerate a certain level of "creative" marketing in order to promote Malaysia as a "world-class" education sector.
I don't have an answer to how the above conflict can be resolved. However, I'm of the opinion that the importance of ensuring that our Malaysian students are not misled is of greater importance than that of increasing our foreign student population by another 50,000. It is also possible that the "commercial" promotion of the private education sector to foreign students by led by the Ministry in charge of Tourism, like the apparent policy in Singapore. Irrespective, let's hope to see progress in the regulation of the private sector education market in Malaysia.