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Collaborative pathways to strengthen Malaysia’s TVET

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We need to foster closer collaborations between educational institutions and industries to enhance our TVET offerings (Siwawut Phoophinyo - Unsplash)

By Nur Yasmira Husna Ramli, Dr. Suzana Ariff Azizan

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) represents an unprecedented technological shift characterised by rapid advancements due to the fusion of digitalisation and smart automation. Technologies such as cloud computing, cognitive computing, the Internet, and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming industries and creating new job scopes. As we approach this transformative period, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) emerge as essential for preparing the workforce. TVET equips learners with demonstrable skills that translate into economic benefits and sustainable livelihoods.

In Malaysia, TVET is a catalytic policy enabler in the Twelfth Malaysia Plan, underscoring its pivotal role in fostering talent capable of thriving in IR 4.0. Institutions like vocational schools, Industrial Training Institutes (ITI), MARA Vocational Institutes, Polytechnics, National Youth Skills Institutes, and the Center of Instructor and Advanced Skill Training (CIAST) play significant roles in equipping students with practical, technical, and essential skills.

The Malaysian government allocated RM6.8 billion for TVET development programs in the 2024 budget, with an additional RM200 million approved recently, demonstrating a commitment to enhancing TVET quality and relevance to evolving industry needs. This investment aims to create a technically competent and adaptable workforce, promoting innovation and economic progress.

The TVET curriculum incorporates diverse methodologies, including work-based learning, problem-based learning, blended learning, online learning, and project work, to produce graduates with advanced skills tailored to industry needs. However, several issues need attention to attract interest and strengthen the national TVET system.

Effective communication between the government, industry, and TVET institutions is essential for enhancing students’ employability and creating mutually beneficial partnerships. Despite many collaborative programs, a truly win-win collaboration has not been fully realised. The industry often expresses concerns about the lack of clear returns on its investment in collaboration. Enhancing students’ employability through practical, social, and technological skills is crucial. Incentives such as tax reductions, training funding, and wage subsidies for companies participating in TVET, especially SMEs, should be increased to ensure their active involvement and commitment.

This approach aims to make it more attractive for SMEs to invest in TVET initiatives, enhancing practical training opportunities for students. With better support and financial incentives, companies are more likely to provide necessary resources, mentorship, and real-world experience, leading to a more skilled workforce and driving innovation and growth within the industry.

Additionally, the TVET curriculum must prioritise matching graduates with labor market demands, integrating soft skills development such as critical thinking, time management, oral communication, teamwork, and adaptability. The experience of TVET instructors poses a challenge, as they must possess necessary technical skills and professional certification. A shortage of industrial experience among TVET lecturers impedes graduates’ progress.

One major cause of ineffective communication in TVET is the uncoordinated governance structure. TVET providers in Malaysia fall under the oversight of more than ten ministries, along with the private sector and state governments, leading to a lack of cohesion and consistency in TVET programs and policies. Each public TVET provider operates under a different ministry, resulting in varied programs and training standards not uniformly aligned with national goals or industry needs. This fragmented governance leads to inefficiencies such as duplicated resources and mismatched curricula.

To improve governance, adopting a more decentralised approach is essential, with a central coordinating body overseeing TVET programs. This entity would promote better communication and collaboration among various ministries, the private sector, and state governments, facilitate standardised curricula development aligned with industry needs, ensure efficient resource use, and create a flexible and adaptive TVET system. A more cohesive governance structure would enhance TVET program effectiveness, leading to a more skilled and employable workforce prepared for IR 4.0 challenges and opportunities.

Examining strategies from other countries provides valuable insights for enhancing vocational and technical education systems. China, with the largest global enrollment of vocational and technical education students, actively promotes integrating education with production and aligning vocational training with economic and social development needs. Policies enhancing vocational training mechanisms involve coordinated efforts by the government, industrial associations’ guidance, and industries’ active participation.

These initiatives boost students’ technological, social, and communication skills and foster mutually beneficial collaborations. China’s relationships with over 70 nations and international organisations strengthen bilateral cooperation in vocational education, providing broader perspectives and diverse learning opportunities.

Switzerland’s robust TVET system implements the ‘One Mission, Three Partners’ strategy, illustrating a clear division of responsibilities among the federal government, cantons, and industries. Germany’s dual system, characterised by high engagement and partnerships with employers and social partners, including industry associations and non-profit organisations, is another model. Employers, trade unions, and the government play crucial roles in deciding TVET content and form.

Malaysia can adopt similar approaches to enhance its TVET system, fostering closer collaborations between educational institutions and industries, aligning training programs with market demands, and promoting international cooperation. By doing so, Malaysia can effectively equip its workforce to address IR 4.0 challenges and seize opportunities.

The authors are from the Department of Science and Technology Studies, Faculty of Science, Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at suzana_ariff@um.edu.my

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