Friday, May 19, 2006

A look at our community colleges

I've wanted to blog about this particular issue for some time but haven't found an opportunity until now. This post is prompted by a recent article in the Star which reported the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein as saying that "the Government will try to absorb all unemployed graduates with teaching qualifications and place them in new schools, community colleges and polytechnics". (italics mine)

I have been suspicious of the role of community colleges in the Malaysian context ever since they were proposed a few years back. The original plan was to have one community college in each parliamentary constituency (I don't think this has changed but it will take a long time before this target can be reached). This alone smacks of 'pork barrel' type politics whereby the location of these colleges is dictated by political reasons (which political leaders' constituencies get chosen, punishing opposition constituencies) rather than academic demand.

The purpose of community colleges is to confer certificates and diplomas to students who might not be very academically inclined and have failed to gain entry into the local universities or other institutions of higher learning. They offer courses which are more hands-on and practical in nature. The ratio or 'nisbah' of practical ('amali) to theoretical ('teori') training is 75%:25%. Examples of such courses include automotive studies, fashion, electrical technician, computer support, hotel catering, food processing and quality control, just to name a few.

Aren't some of these courses more suitable to be taught in vocational institutes? Can't vocational institutions be upgraded so that they can offer certificates as well as diplomas? Or couldn't polytechnics offer some of these courses instead of establishing these community colleges?

Those arguing on behalf of the community colleges would stress that community colleges stress more on the practical whereas polytechnics stress more on the theoretical aspects. My response would be this - how likely is it that polytechnics would end up training potential mechanics who can then apply their 'theoretical' knowledge as a designer in a car manufacturer? In other words, are polytechnic diplomas really as 'theoretical' as they make it out to be?

The other argument for community colleges is that they service the needs of the local community, hence the name. This argument probably has greater merit. Some potential students might not be able to afford to live away from home to attend a private or public institution of higher learning. Private colleges probably won't want to be located in relatively rural areas which is where most of these community colleges can be found. They can also cater to specific community needs which is why hotel catering is taught in the community colleges in Kuantan and Melaka but not the one in Jitra, Kedah.

The question is, do we really need a community college in every single parliamentary constituency (there are currently 219 parliamentary constituencies, not including new ones recently created in Sarawak)? I doubt it. There are currently 34 community colleges in Malaysia across all the states. A list of them can be found here.

Incidentally, those who are interested in more information on community colleges can visit the website here. Ironically, it has a fancy flash intro but I couldn't get consistent access to the content.

This brings me full circle to the Star article. The fact that these community colleges are going to be staffed by recent university graduates whom nobody else wants to employ is worrying. How many university graduates are trained in the field of fashion design or automotive studies? Will they be asked to teach practical courses which they don't have much knowledge in? I suspect that this is likely to occur. So what we'll end up having are poorly resourced community colleges (and you thought our public universities had poor facilities) with graduates that couldn't get jobs anywhere else and don't have the necessary skills to teach the required courses attended students who couldn't get into public universities or polytechnics.

This sounds more like social welfare policy to me rather than post-secondary education.

21 comments:

dracula77 said...

I agree with Kian Ming..Their plan to community college in every parliamentary constituency is completely political rewards...There's no way they can absorb those unemployed graduate to teach in community college as local university graduates are not trained to do practical work, they are more on theory! Well, I guess in next few years there will be heaps of community colleges in Kelantan..:-))

Gov need to think/study why do we have so many unemployed graduates? Is it because of 'lousy course' they took at university?not presentable? or because gov just want to have more graduates to fulfill vision 2020?

Anonymous said...

Troble is with these politicians and the 'higher forces that may be' never study an issue comprehensively and holistically. Always doing things on impromptu and ad hoc basis...no wonder we got so much of these problems...

And now they are telling we are 'producing too many teacher graduates!
Whole fault is it?
Blame it as usualon PAS and DAP and opposition. Start the silly ' witch hunting and hunting for scape goats.

When will they ever learn?
When will they admit their mistakes?
I think those responsible for the fiasco need a " total brain transplant ' or a cranio-rectal' surgery

Anonymous said...

Unemployment among graduates is a problem with many countries including fast growing economies like China and India. But I agree fully with Kian Ming that vocational courses cannot be taught by graduates who have no hands-on experience in the subjects. It is also true that many of the graduates may not fit into the curriculum of the community colleges. How do we solve the problem with unemployed graduates from the community colleges? Many of the local universities, public or private, are offering MBA programs to recent graduates with no working experience. Thus there will be a large number of unemployed MBA graduates as well in a year or two. We must not create a problem to solve a problem. Recently a desperate mother asked me about the prospect of graduates of actuarial science. She heard that actuaries can get job easily and make big money. I was tongue-tied when she told me that her son had got a C5 for mathematics in the recent SPM.

Anonymous said...

A bit OT, but since anon above brought up the discussion about parents and their influences in their child's education, I would like to add my experiences as well.

I've seen too many parents pushing their kids to take "sure rich" courses like medicine, biotech, accounting, etc. Even engineering or law, once prestigious professions, are now looked down upon. Only just yesterday I was at an education fair, and I see so many parents that were asking on behalf of their kids, while their kids just stand silently beside. And all that I encountered had a common trait. All these parents were asking about med courses and what are the minimum grades to get in.

The recent Star education fair had an overflow of parents/students attending talks on med school. So much so, even the papers wrote about it. How many really truly wants to be medical doctors? Only God knows.

Anonymous said...

Actually where got prospects in doing biotech degrees here. You just end up being salesmen. There is not enough number of industries or sophistication that need that much biotechnology graduates.

As far as I can see the demand for biology graduates are in fields such as microbiology and biochemistry where they are sought after in various industries, factories, hospitals, laboratories.
If you take biotech now..you are guarantee to die in poverty.
Pleaese dont believe the' ribbish propaganda' about biotech demand! Prove it with figures! Scan the advertisements in the newspapers....who needs biotech graduates....

Anonymous said...

Something to add on medic.

What so great about medic. You are 24 hours on call. Look at most clinic where you open from 8 to 9/10. What type of life is this. Business/economics is different work while holiday as long as you have a note book.

dracula77 said...

I agree with anon Sat May 20, 07:16:07 PM..
For God sake, this is another gov's propaganda, "biotech"..When Najib was Education minister, he stressed on Engineering until we over produced engineering graduates. End up so many of them become teacher, sales engineer etc. and even unemployed until now...at that time even "University Pertanian Malaysia" (UPM) wanted to change their name to "University Putra Malaysia" as "Pertanian" word did not show their engineering or ICT courses...We have very small industries in Biotech sectors, it's a very slow development...please do not influenced our young generation to gamble on this related courses.1-2 years ago, Hishamuddin said we did not have enough teachers, what is actually happened? Did we once again over produced education related graduates? Or they actually absorbed more unemployed graduates to do their education diploma, and end of days they have over supply teacher...

Anonymous said...

That is why I think our education planners need to do something about their cranio-rectal symptom...or have a total brain transplant

Anonymous said...

One of the grandest houdini's tricks pulled out of the biotechnology hat is the importance of PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY.

If you observed carefully, everytime Plant Biotechnology is heralded in public, it is represented by pictures of plant tissue cultures of plantlets grown on solid agar media in conical flasks! It looks dramatic! But whoooaaa!!! think about it carefully...It is not a new development of the decade. I used to do tissue cultures in such fancy flasks in the early seventies as part of my practical in the university. Havent we progressed at all from that point in time? Are we still bogged down in the pool of mud of deception? Will we still be showing the same progress years from now?

It is indeed strange, as far I am concerned our universities are not moving with times in terms of biotechnolgy?
In the west, taxonomy and biological departments stressing on taxonomy are closing down. Yet we are still wallowing in the mud hole of self deception.

When will ever wake up from the syndrome of self deception?

Courses or departments which are no longer popular are not changed in its substance but instead in name and forms. We are giving hype sounding words and names, mostly ending with technology as the suffix. What we are doing is keeping on pouring the same old stale wine into new bottles.

Do we still intend to trick our selves in this web of deception? When will we ever learn?

Anonymous said...

Self deception is part of their comfort zone that they are best in the world but who are they really kidding but themselves. It is sad that they have a huge chip on their shoulders especially with reaching for outerspace as well. Having to borrow Russian technology to do the trick. Sad really sad.

Anonymous said...

Our malaysian astronaut is just a full fare paying passenger! Nothing glorious about it or to shout about

doink said...

One think i notice so far about our "beloved" government is that, they tend to have the "vision" and really putting a lot of "hard work" in the beginning, but after a few months or years, those things initiated earlier was left to rot. Something like Chinese proverb "tiger's head, snake's tail"

What they had boasted or promised earlier were thrown into the dustbin as in they were never mentioned before after a while. Some well known examples are MSC, BIOVALLEY, etc. That is why, after almost 50 years, we are not much different relatively.

Why don't we concentrate and analyse our own strength and put more effort into sharpening our skills before venturing into other areas? Why not one step at a time? A baby crawls before he/she can walks or runs.

What is the point of creating thousands of jobless graduates, and then say that they are choosy about the jobs? You want those graduates to "kutip sampah" or "cuci tandas"? Then don't create them in the first place! They are not supposed to enter universities in the first place after all.

And now, they are acting "kind" by trying to absorb all the jobless graduates. Give me a break. Politicians just know how to fart.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Ninth Malaysia Plan will be successful?

Look at BioValley, MISC and the likes....haiyaaa apa mau jadi
Now they try to replace landfills with Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) which is just a polite expression for incinerator...

Have they ever wondered burning the refuse will emit very serious chemicals and carcinogens such as Dioxins? And to make things worst, once the toxic fumes reaches the air and get dispersed...its difficult to contain...

This are typical of scenic brigde projects..no detail studies, no looking at agreements..in the end we die paying ...

Look at TECHNOLGY PARK. I thought it was supposed to be incubator units for viable projects instead it become some low class education centre offering diploma course in biotech...

Anonymous said...

Have anyone really wondered the quality or academic standard of OUM degrees?
Now they are proposing to open up to 'mature students' who missed the boat in education...but the problem is, even those with LCE or UPSR can enter and get that degree...
I have my doubts if this idea is really plausible...

Anonymous said...

tony, i think u should open a forum as there are a lot of off topic comments here. not very appropriate to discuss in a blog topic. just a suggestion.

casper said...

I think Malaysia needs quality graduate before worrying about creating a large number of diploma holder/graduates.

After fixing the former than only it makes sense to discuss about the latter...

Anonymous said...

I suggest people like Bill Board Hashim, Koshy Pillai, WiraKarnain and those of similar calibre to head these proposed community colleges.
They might be able to make Malaysia community colleges being the top 100 Community Colleges in the world :)~

Anonymous said...

Casper!
Isn't that asking too much under the present education system we are having now?
People are no longer interested in QUALITY but QUANTITY

chain_reactions said...

In a typical fire fighting spirit, our government and ministers shoot first and worry about the consequence later, causing individuals in the country to jump from one shit pot to another shit hole.

To solve the problem of unemployed graduates, the government now proposed to employ unemployed graduates with teaching qualifications and place them in new schools, community colleges and polytechnics. The government simply refuses to understand why these unemployed graudates are unemployable - what are the reasons and tackle them.

No, the government now employs them to create the next chain of problems - employing unemployed graduates with teaching qualifications to produce more unemployed or unemployable graudates of community colleges and polytechnics! Chain reactions!

Three or four years later, the government will employ the unemployed or unemployable graudates of community colleges and polytechnics to teach ???? schools to produce clones of unemployed or unemployable school leavers, thus continuing the merry chain reactions. How wonderful all these are!

Anonymous said...

Goody, goody. Our population will be hitting 30 million soon. Lots of human resources. We will be exporting educated workers, including domestic helps, with university, community college, and polytechnic degrees to foreign lands.

Hope our universities, community colleges, and polytechnics include domestic care, general cleaning, and plantation skills are core subjects.

Anonymous said...

Is KEMAS, Institut Belia Khidmat negara IBKN considered as equivalent to Community colleges? Would this be redundancy?