Set­ting na­tional education stan­dards

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SETARA - By IAN JEROME LEONG

RECOG­NIS­ING the im­por­tance of higher education, Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Tun Razak, in his fore­word to the Malaysia Education Blue­print 2015- 2025 ( Higher Education), said education has been key to Malaysia’s rapid de­vel­op­ment as it has pro­vided cit­i­zens with the knowl­edge, skills and com­pe­ten­cies that have pro­pelled the na­tion’s growth and pros­per­ity.

How­ever, he warned that if the coun­try is to achieve its goal of be­com­ing a de­vel­oped na­tion by 2020, there is a need to in­crease both ac­cess and qual­ity of higher education within Malaysia.

In line with the Govern­ment’s ini­tia­tives to make Malaysia a re­gional higher education hub, the Higher Education Min­istry too has iden­ti­fied piv­otal fo­cus ar­eas to sup­port th­ese ef­forts, such as defin­ing clear cri­te­ria for in­sti­tu­tional ex­cel­lence that will en­sure the stan­dards of ter­tiary education.

Tasked to im­ple­ment a ba­sis for qual­ity as­sur­ance of higher education and set the ref­er­ence point for the cri­te­ria and stan­dards for na­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions, the Malaysian Qual­i­fi­ca­tions Agency ( MQA) first in­tro­duced the Rat­ing for Higher Education In­sti­tu­tions in Malaysia ( SE­TARA) in 2007.

Mea­sure­ment cri­te­ria

Since SE­TARA’s launch, three sub­se­quent rat­ings have been re­leased – the most re­cent and cur­rently used rat­ing was pub­lished in 2013.

This rat­ing ex­er­cise, which is tar­geted at stu­dents, par­ents, teach­ers and aca­demic so­ci­ety, mea­sures the qual­ity of teach­ing and learn­ing at the un­der­grad­u­ate level in par­tic­i­pat­ing univer­si­ties and univer­sity col­leges around the coun­try.

SE­TARA rates each in­sti­tu­tion based on three generic do­mains:

In­put – Ad­dress­ing fac­ulty and stu­dent tal­ent, phys­i­cal and fi­nan­cial re­sources and gov­er­nance

Process – Fo­cus­ing on aspects re­lated to the qual­ity of cur­ricu­lum

Out­put – Mea­sur­ing grad­u­ate sat­is­fac­tion and the qual­ity of grad­u­ates based on in­for­ma­tion, such as mar­ketabil­ity, grad­u­ate at­tributes and em­ploy­ers’ feed­back

Th­ese in­sti­tu­tions are then clas­si­fied into six dif­fer­ent tiers – Tier 1: Weak, Tier 2: Sat­is­fac­tory, Tier 3: Good, Tier 4: Very Good, Tier 5: Ex­cel­lent and Tier 6: Out­stand­ing.

Cur­rent rat­ings

Out of the 53 higher learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions that par­tic­i­pated in SE­TARA’ 13, 42 in­sti­tu­tions were awarded a Tier 5 rat­ing while the re­main­ing in­sti­tu­tions re­ceived a Tier 4 rat­ing.

This marked an im­prove­ment from SE­TARA’ 11 as seven in­sti­tu­tions were re­clas­si­fied from Tier 4 to Tier 5 and the only univer­sity pre­vi­ously rated Tier 3 was re­clas­si­fied to Tier 4.

Prof Dr Mohd Zamri Yu­soff, deputy vice- chan­cel­lor of stu­dent affairs, alumni and man­age­ment at Univer­siti Te­naga Na­sional, be­lieves SE­TARA of­fers the op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery univer­sity to gauge its re­spec­tive education stan­dards and there­fore build on their cur­rent rat­ings.

Al­though all in­sti­tu­tions re­ceived ei­ther a Very Good or Ex­cel­lent rat­ing, the ab­sence of Out­stand­ing-rated in­sti­tu­tions sig­nals the need for all Malaysian univer­si­ties to iden­tify their weak ar­eas and en­hance their teach­ing meth­ods, pro­cesses, man­age­ment, aca­demic pro­gramme, cur­ricu­lum con­tent, and teach­ing and learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Spe­cial course recog­ni­tion

In ad­di­tion to SE­TARA, the Dis­ci­pline- Based Rat­ing Sys­tem ( D- SE­TARA) was de­vel­oped to rate the qual­ity level of teach­ing and learn­ing of spe­cific clus­ters of dis­ci­plines at the un­der­grad­u­ate level.

Fo­cus­ing on the four dis­ci­pline clus­ters of en­gi­neer­ing, health sci­ences, hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism, and medicine, den­tistry and phar­macy, the D- SE­TARA rat­ing was awarded based on team meet­ings, stake­hold­ers con­sul­ta­tion, data col­lec­tion and ver­i­fi­ca­tion, anal­y­sis and re­port writ­ing be­tween MQA and the par­tic­i­pat­ing in­sti­tu­tions.

The cur­rent D- SE­TARA rat­ings in­clude 25 in­sti­tu­tions par­tic­i­pat­ing in the dis­ci­pline of en­gi­neer­ing, 15 in medicine, den­tistry and phar­macy, 14 in health sci­ences and seven in hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism.

Each of th­ese in­sti­tu­tions was awarded a Tier 3: Good rat­ing or higher for their re­spec­tive cour­ses.

Only one in­sti­tu­tion – Tay­lor’s Univer­sity – has a Tier 6: Out­stand­ing sta­tus for its hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism cour­ses.

Signi cance or all stake­hold­ers

Speak­ing on the im­por­tance of rais­ing the qual­ity and stan­dards of lo­cal education, MQA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Datuk Prof Dr Ru­jhan Mustafa said, “With in­creas­ing costs and global ac­cess and com­pet­i­tive­ness, stu­dents, par­ents, em­ploy­ers and fun­ders de­mand to be as­sured of qual­ity out­comes of higher education.

“In­deed the de­mand has gone be­yond ful­fill­ing thresh­old min­i­mum re­quire­ments and to ex­ceed them. It is crit­i­cal for in­sti­tu­tions to make qual­ity and stan­dards in­sti­tu­tion­alised and rou­tinised com­po­nents of their pro­vi­sion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Malaysia Education Blue­print 2015- 2025 ( Higher Education), be­tween 1990 and 2010, the en­rol­ment in higher learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions in Malaysia rose sig­nif­i­cantly with in­takes for bach­e­lor’s and post­grad­u­ate de­grees mul­ti­ply­ing six­fold and ten­fold re­spec­tively.

Be­hind only to Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land, the high num­ber of en­rol­ments also places Malaysia as one of the main cen­tres for post­grad­u­ate ter­tiary education in South- East Asia.

Thanks to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the SE­TARA rat­ing, prospec­tive stu­dents, both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional, who are look­ing to fur­ther their stud­ies are now able to com­pare the qual­ity of var­i­ous univer­si­ties on an un­bi­ased and equal plat­form – thus not only ce­ment­ing Malaysia’s place as a lead­ing education desti­na­tion but also driv­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of cre­at­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of knowl­edge­able and skilled pro­fes­sion­als who will lead Malaysia to be­come a de­vel­oped coun­try by 2020.

The Rat­ing for Higher Education In­sti­tu­tions in Malaysia ( SE­TARA) mea­sures the qual­ity of teach­ing and learn­ing at the un­der­grad­u­ate level in par­tic­i­pat­ing univer­si­ties and univer­sity col­leges around the coun­try.

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