Sixth biggest education exporter by 2020? Part 2

By

By meeting the needs of industry, we indirectly meet the development needs of the country.

 Have the programs that Taylor’s offered over these many years, mapped the development needs of Malaysia or has there has been little correlation?

Taylor’s Education Group runs three categories of education businesses namely International Schools that offer education programmes from kindergarten to Year 13, Taylor’s College offering Pre University programmes and Taylor’s University which offers undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

As the Taylor’s Education Group grew over the years, our strategy and direction have always been closely linked to the development needs of Malaysia. In the case of Taylor’s University, programmes offered are developed to meet industry demands and needs.

The involvement by the industry is a significant part of our curriculum development. Their input is critical in ensuring the relevancy of our curriculum to industry needs, and producing industry-ready graduates for the industry.

As a result, Taylor’s University has a strong link with various professional bodies with an Industry Advisory Panel (IAP) at every school/faculty. The IAP panel provides advice and consultation on curriculum development to ensure market relevance, updates on trends and challenges of the disciplines, provides industry internships and trainings for students, offers input on how to increase employability of graduates and also collaborates on research with us. By meeting the needs of industry, we indirectly meet the development needs of the country.

The establishment of Medicine School and School of Education at Taylor’s University are also in line with the development needs of Malaysia.

But, there is hardly any private sector involvement in technical education even though as a nation, Malaysia needs lots of technically trained workers. Why do you feel this is and where does Taylor’s stand on this?

The infrastructure and facilities set up for a technical school is very expensive.  Currently, most technical education providers are vocation schools under the Ministry of Human Resource and Community Colleges under the purview of the Ministry of Higher Education.  The tuition fees for these institutions are heavily subsidised.

In an unsubsidised environment, students will be required to pay high fees due to the high cost of offering such programmes. This poses a major financial challenge to students as the majority will require financing and at the same time, post-graduation, there are limited high-income job opportunities in the local market.  More often than not, the low remuneration may not be able to cover the cost of studying.

In countries like Germany, Australia and Japan, highly skilled & technically proficient workers are respected and they earn incomes compatible with university graduates, some earning even more if their skills and technical background are in great demand.  This class of workers are definitely needed as our economy industrialises. When there is market demand in the form of attractive remuneration for technically skilled work force, we will naturally see growth.

However, industry will only pay if the workers’ skills can match the productivity and proficiency that the industry requires. Therefore, this is a chicken and egg situation. A possible way to move forward is to have the government initiate joint collaboration between government, education institutions and industry in developing this area of education.

“Brain drain is a global issue and it is certainly not exclusive to Malaysia.” Dato’ Loy Teik Ngan, Group CEO of Taylor’s Education Group.

 

Is education still an attractive business in Malaysia, despite there being around 300 educational institutions and with the government focusing on bringing in foreign institutions into Malaysia, with Iskandar Malaysia being a clear example of this?

There are a lot of higher education institutions. However, most of them are very small. For there to be growth for all of them, it would require a continuing increase in the number of foreign students.

The government has identified education as one of the 12 National Key Economic Agenda (NKEA) that will drive Malaysia’s economy over the next ten years. With the support and incentives from the government, provided the education institutions are of good quality, we stand a good chance to attract more foreign students to come study in Malaysia.

The founder of one new university tells me that consolidation will happen in the industry and there already are murmurs of this. Of course Ekuinas is a clear example of this. What are your thoughts?

Size does matter in education. Institutions that are small would not be able to invest in campus, systems, facilities, equipments, laboratories, resources and new teaching and learning capabilities. Consolidation can provide merged entities the scale necessary to enable investment. However, the industry is segmented into different tiers with distinct pricing structures resulting in diverse product and curriculum offerings and so the usual benefits from consolidation may not be that easy to be realised. What could well happen is that the bigger and better funded institutions with better reputations continue to grow and gain at the expense of less able ones.

Would you say that Malaysian talent has always been in demand globally or is this a recent phenomenon?

Brain drain is a global issue and it is certainly not exclusive to Malaysia. The migration of talents from third world and developing countries to developed countries is a common phenomenon due to better lifestyle and standard of living. It will continue to be an issue to Malaysia until we can resolve the attractiveness of our job market to lure the return of Malaysian professionals from overseas.

 What makes Malaysian talent so attractive to companies outside of the country?

One of the many factors contributing to this is the relatively low cost of hiring of talents from the third world countries and developing nations such as Malaysia, India and the  Philippines, just to name a few. Command of the English and Chinese languages are attractive factors that add favorably to Malaysian talents.

 How has Taylor’s thinking around internships changed over the years and what brought about this change? It used to traditionally be something done after graduating.

A key measure of success for us is to ensure the employability of our graduates. We do this by focusing on graduate outcomes that meet industry needs. This means that the Taylor’s graduates must be ready to hit the ground running upon graduation. And to be able to do that they must learn in an environment that closely mirror real life.

In today’s job market, having a university degree alone is not sufficient for job seekers. Students must possess necessary soft skill to succeed in the working world and most importantly are job-ready even before they graduate, and the answer to it is good internship programmes. Internship training is integral in increasing employability of graduates besides possessing subject mastery, leadership quality and soft skills.

Taylor’s internship programmes provide students with a work-and-learn experience that complements their classroom curriculum. This opportunity will enable them to learn how to apply theories in an industry, explore career options and gain knowledge of the working world. At Taylor’s University, we have a dedicated Career Services team that is committed to providing quality services and programmes to assist students in planning and deciding on career pathways, preparing for job search and interviews, and enhancing their employment opportunities via internship, among many others.

Taylor’s University has put into place various opportunities to produce Taylor’s graduates who can shine in their future workplaces. The university launched its 5-year mission to become “Top Employers’ Top Choice University” by 2016. Among the many initiatives to achieve this mission, the university has put a strong emphasis in developing structured internship programmes for our students. At Taylor’s University, internship is compulsory for our homegrown programmes including Business, Communications, Engineering, Computing, Architecture and Hospitality, Tourism & Culinary Arts.

One thing top universities do very well is to bring in industry people to teach as adjunct professors or their faculty have thriving private consulting business or they are advisors/sit on the board of companies. This then brings in real world business issues into the classroom environment.

  1. What are your thoughts on this?

I think that having people from the industry as adjunct lecturers & professors is a good way for students to learn what is really going on in the real world. For these people from the industry it is also a good way for them to “give back” and help educate the youth. The benefit for these adjunct lecturers is that teaching sharpens their own minds as they prepare & research their lectures before teaching.

Bringing the industry to Taylor’s is one of the key initiatives at Taylor’s University. We place heavy emphasis on the importance of bringing the industry into the campus to give students the insights of the real working world. Case studies analysis allow students to experience actual challenges/scenarios faced by the industries, giving them the opportunity to understand and give inputs based on what they have learnt in classroom.

Besides having the industry people to speak and address students, we have industry advisory panels at all Taylor’s University’s schools/faculties to enable the industry professionals to review our curriculum, ensuring it meets the industry’s demands and expectations as well as update us on the latest trends and developments. The industry professionals also help perform audit and act as external examiners for relevant courses.

In addition to student having to undergo internship, every school too has to play an active role in providing real-life exposure to our students.  The university has invested heavily in applied learning facilities to further enhance the learning process for our students, beyond the standard classroom teaching:

  • Bizpod – where we provide an actual office setting for students to utilize and discuss their business plan with mentors from the industry
  • Legal Aid Centre – pro-bono legal service by Taylor’s Law School students. Students get to practice what they learn in class by providing legal advice for the needy
  • Clinical suite – Medical students get to be in a simulated environment that mirror that of an actual hospital for practical
  • Multi-themed Kitchens/ Restaurants – students get to put theory into practice in the fully equipped kitchen and serving actual customers. We also have a high capacity food production restaurant (Temptations) where we train students to work in a commercial restaurant setting
  • Applied learning hotel (Ruemz) – operated by a group of full-time employees and selected students from the School of Hospitality Tourism and Culinary Arts, students could apply their knowledge into practice during semester break and internship period.
  • Moore Stephens Accounting Office – a Leading Accounting Firm has set up an office at Taylor’s Business School where students work on actual accounting cases for selected SMEs (free accounting services)
  • Increased focus on inculcating service learning where students don’t only immerse themselves in academic activities but also give back to the community. For a start TBS has make service learning a compulsory module in its programme. More school to follow suit.

How has technology changed education, from both a positive and negative point?

Technology has enabled us to be able to learn faster, better and more effectively. The evolution of technology has influenced learning and the speed of learning. The technologically-savvy generation of youths, the Gen-Y is, connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week and lives in a world that transcends time and space. Information has to be at their fingertips and all activities happen in real-time. Hence, the conventional teaching and learning method should not be the sole methodology for learning anymore.

Also, things that did not exist before for example, widespread and high speed internet connection, and the social media – which have become the way of life – has liberalized the teacher-student relationship. Today, teachers need to both teach as well as facilitate learning. Learning has also gone outside of the classroom with the advent of technology, making it available anytime and anywhere.

Much has been written about the positives and negatives of use of technology in education. Like everything, too much of a good thing is bad. Conversely, what is deemed bad even have their positives. For example, even television and video games if consumed in moderation has been shown to have benefits.

Technology by itself is neither good nor bad. Rather, it is how technology is used that determines its value. For example, technology can be overused – it should supplement the classroom but not be used as the only learning source, it can take away valuable learning time and educational experiences using technology can become games to students.

How has Taylor’s, as an education group, changed the way it approaches education because of technology?

We are embracing technology as an education enabler and adopted a 3-pronged strategy in our blended learning approach:

  • Formal learning – regular classroom learning/ formal gathering
  • Informal learning – encourage interactivity outside the classroom
  • Virtual learning platform – social media as a means of learning

To support this effort, we are investing heavily in technology infrastructure so that we are technologically equipped to deliver virtual learning. We have also invested in electronic devices that would allow users to be more in control of learning and moving towards more pro-activeness in their learning experience.

In short, we are working towards ensuring all students are exposed to the technology trends by making technology available in the class rooms, in the campus, and in the overall teaching and learning process via introduction of blended program (e-learning).

 For all the things we read and hear about GenY, it seems that many students still end up pursuing courses that are influenced by their parents. Do you think this is healthy?

All the parents whom I know want the best for their child. Out of concern, out of duty and out of love, they will continue to bear an influencing hand in their child’s life for the rest of their lives. This is actually a good thing. It is very hard for anyone to judge whether parental influence or guidance is healthy or not because it depends on the level of exposure and information both the parents and child have in making an informed decision. Whether the influence is healthy or not would also depend on the level of coercion that it applied. I think the healthy way is for both the parents and their child to jointly and carefully make that important decision together because education choices have an impact on the child’s future.

The base criteria for your World Class Scholarships still seems to be very academic based. Why is this grade focus still so important today? When you look at the billionaires in Malaysia, non were top students!

Taylor’s World Class Scholarship (TWCS) is a comprehensive scholarship encompassing world class education from Taylor’s University and internship experience at world class companies. The basis of choosing the scholars is broad based: a minimum of 8As, strong in extra-curricular activities (ECA) with leadership role and the applicants are also subjected to a minimum of 2 rounds of interview with the university and partner company. In the course of the interview, the candidates are judged based on their communication skill and their ability to present their point of view in a confident, coherent and systematic manner, as well as their general knowledge and critical thinking skill. Academic achievement is but one of the many criteria used in the selection process.

TWCS is designed to give opportunity to top Malaysian talents to fast track their entry into the working world through a well-architected education and working exposure. Many of the billionaires in the country are self-made entrepreneurs or have built upon their family’s businesses, some with very little education. This does not however negate the value of having an education. As a responsible education institution our aim is to deliver graduates who are highly sought after by top employers. As a result, we focus on producing well rounded graduates who not only have discipline specific knowledge i.e. strong subject mastery in the field they are going into, but also possess cognitive capabilities which includes critical thinking and problem solving skill, strong competencies in soft skill such as communication, and strong values.

 It kind of strikes me that hardly any Malaysian universities offer programs such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Nanotechnology etc which will prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow. Why is this?

This is actually not true. These programmes have made headway into our Malaysian universities especially at post-graduate level. Most engineering schools offer courses in robotics, and quite a number of researches are being conducted on nanotechnology at public universities. One has even won a few notable competitions in this field internationally.

What are some of the key trends you see today that will affect education as a business?

The increase in the number of new and foreign players in the education industry means that the demand for quality talents has been increasing steadily in tandem with the growth of education institutions. Talent war is becoming more apparent and may pose a huge challenge for the education industry.

The increasing affluence will bring about increased expectations. There will be demand for better facilities and better quality education.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Photo credit: Flickr user archiprezmosis™

Leave a Comment