Malaysia is not alone in having a skills gap between what employers want and what the education system is providing.
When the Malaysian economy was dominated by manufacturing and agriculture, it was enough to read, write and count. Manual and factory work doesn’t really require much more. Rote learning is ideal for that kind of environment – structured work doing repetitive tasks.
But with services becoming increasingly important –76.3% of growth last year came from services – language and social interaction skills are more required than ever. The workplace is more connected, more socially interactive, more intellectually challenging, and competition much fiercer. Has the education system kept up? There have been changes, but the rate of adaption is I think probably too slow. Heck, companies themselves are having trouble keeping up with the complexities of business today.
Hence we get this dichotomy of better exam results but reduced employability. I’ve no doubt there is a quality issue as well, especially given the rapid expansion of the education system to cater for ever larger age cohorts. But framing educational reform as an attempt to do the same thing but better, is I think doomed to failure. Education has to adapt to changing employment needs, which means we have to do things differently, not just better.
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