Let’s change mindset that local grads are not competent
Wednesday, 12th April 2021 – Kuala Lumpur
Associate Prof. Dr. Hafriza Burhanudeen
The writer is an academic associate at the School of Education and Humanities, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak.
The quality of higher education institutions and their core activities are increasingly the subject of discussion and scrutiny.
Much intellectual debate, ad nauseum at times, has been fraught with the proliferation of stark discourses about academic excellence, the quality of teaching by faculty members and the level of students’ academic achievement and the supposed link of all three factors to the employability of graduates.
The debate about academic excellence and quality in teaching and learning must continue to persist to levels where “Energy, Imagination, Knowledge and Enlightenment” thrive in academia without boundaries in place of ignorance among university students.
Away from the lecture halls, many graduates have what it takes to conquer and survive a gruelling interview session with potential employers that will demand other attributes deemed central to a successful tenure in the workplace.
In universities, the implementation of policies congruent with instilling quality in the teaching and learning processes has been the norm to demand that the university curricula provide for the vast potential of scientific and humanistic inquiry in the fields of study.
Further entrenched in the spirit of policy-making and implementation is the constant endeavour to link with relevant industries to facilitate employment opportunities for students and emphasis on in-house and outreach activities to provide students with soft skills and other tools needed for their participation in the workforce.
Nonetheless, the issue of unemployment among graduates lingers in the real world.
Needless to say, universities should not be the whipping dog for every perceived failure among graduates. Some, when faced with the eye of the storm, tend to distance themselves from the issue by playing the blame game.
Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child.
Yet, the same villagers seem strangely silent when it comes to placing some blame on the lack of drive and initiative among the students’ themselves — members of the adult community in their right — to acquire, to internalise and practise the knowledge imparted on their own accord without others breathing down their necks.
This vision is not a utopian one. Many academicians can vouch for the presence of students who decide to assume responsibility for their own learning and take it upon themselves to improve their self-confidence, self-
respect and critical thinking skills with self-generated passion and enthusiasm in class assignments, lectures and tutorials.
Such forms of self-awareness and maturity among university students must be encouraged as well in a no-nonsense approach by those in academia and others concerned about collaboration with academic input.
In doing so, we can begin the process of denying some students the habit of continually blaming the system, their parents, teachers and lectures for their own lethargy and laziness.
Perhaps when students are made to feel that they have no choice but to be the adults that they are, only then will the interest for lifelong learning will be imbued in their character, and in-house sessions on improving soft skills would be more constructive in its objectives.
Finally, the politics of quality and academic excellence are rife in public universities.
By this, we mean the concern for quality from admission right up to graduation.
Yet, our vision and energy will come to naught if there is no support from leaders, both political and business, about changing the mindset that local graduates are not competent and their high academic achievement is doubtful because they graduated from local universities.
This mindset is a crucial issue of credibility that we have yet to confront. Until we do this with sincerity, the issue of quality and academic excellence in higher education will be infused with criticism and comment. Until we do, local universities may never be perceived to be on a par with their foreign counterparts.