But before that, I thought I should add my personal opinion on the comment which was made by one of the readers here, which claimed that the other two speakers aren't qualified to discuss issues relating to the private education industry. The key reason was their apparent lack of academic credentials, despite their long experience in the industry.
Let me state categorically that if there's anyone who potentially lack qualifications to discuss the private higher education industry, it would be me. Despite a basic degree obtain from a prominent university, I've zero experience in the academia. And with the exception of having interviewed many candidates from the private colleges, I may not have the in-depth experience of the industry like the other panellists.
While Dato' Peter Ng, President and Vice-Chancellor of Universiti College Sedaya International and Tan Yew Sing, President and Founder of Inti College International are both more businessmen than academics, but that certainly doesn't disqualify them from providing their input and share their experience on the private higher education sector.
In fact, I found during our roundtable discussions, they were remarkably restrained by not attempting any self-serving promotion of their own private colleges. I can't remember a single instance whereby they cited their own colleges as examples of whatever points they were raising. They were also fairly open and honest with regards to the potential shortcomings of the industry. Of course, they will try to put things in a more positive light, but who wouldn't? That's the reason why I believe the producers invited me to be part of the panel isn't it? To act as some sort of a counterweight to ensure a good balance in views expressed by the panelists. But I certainly came off the programme with increased respect for the 2 fellow panellist, despite certain differences in views.
OK, back to the topic. Some of the key issues I managed to raise pertains to the quality of the local private education institutions of higher education.
- Insufficient academics and lecturers of good quality
For example, many private colleges engage foreign lecturers from developing countries and many students have complained with regards to the quality of these lecturers, in particular with regards to their language abilities. In addition, many of the private colleges also engage fresh graduates without any significant experience. Many of these graduates didn't graduate from top schools or have achieved top results to become competent lecturers.
- Entry requirements which are set too low
There are too many private institutions of higher learning which accepts students with entry requirements which are too low. The world's top universities accept only students in the top percentile of entry requirements, local institutions need to adopt a more qualitative approach to become truly world-class. For example, many highly technical and rigourous courses such as engineering held by private colleges accept students without a pass in Additional Mathematics, which would have been a minimum entry requirement for other top universities.
- Course content too shallow
I've interviewed many fresh graduates from local private and public institutions. Many of these candidates graduated with twinning degrees granted by the local private colleges. In the case of hiring computer application developers, I found many candidates with these degrees unsuitable, despite apparently good results due to the shallow content of their courses. For example, many computer science degree programmes are carried out without any significant practical programming classes!
- 3+0 Degree Programmes
I've blogged many times with regards to 3+0 degree programmes here. I disagree with the attempts by private colleges to market such programmes to students with the incentive for the latter to complete their degree faster. It is obvious that such degree programmes will only result in the students learning less, resulting in longer term negative impact on the students. If the top universities in the world like Oxbridge and the London universities require at least 18 months to 2 years in preparatory A-Level courses, what makes these degrees more special that they don't have such pre-requisites? Are the students enrolled more intelligent and talented such that they can skip the extra preparatory programmes?
Well, those are my thoughts in a gist. The above aren't all the points which I mentioned during the programme, but are what I thought is more important anyway. Obviously there are plenty of points to further blog about, as well as further substantiate or to be put into context. Hopefully the Roundtable would have raised pertinent issues from both sides of the fence and lead to, in its own small way, the betterment of education in Malaysia. So, remember to catch the next 2 episodes of the programme on the following consecutive Sundays at 10.45pm, Astro Asia Entertainment Channel. ;)