In an environment characterized by rapid advance in ICT, globalization, liberalization, and greater reliance on knowledge for value creation, Malaysia has planned to leapfrog into the post-industrial age by leveraging ICT as a strategic lever for national development and global positioning. Malaysia had achieved its independence in 1957. Since then the country has implemented nine five-year economic development plans. Believing in the philosophy that economic development should not be left entirely to market forces, Malaysia had focused on the eradication of poverty, restructuring of society, equitable growth and investment in human capital as its key national goals.
The New Economic Policy (NEP), 1970–1990, and the National Development Policy (NDP), 1991–2000, formed the bench-mark of all policy and plans for the country. In 1991, Malaysia launched a program called “Vision 2020’’, which laid out a plan to build a fully developed, knowledge-rich Malaysian society by the year 2020 through the development of the ICT sector and the use of ICT to increase global competitiveness. Lessons from several researches indicate that well crafted government policies can make a difference in a country’s economic and social development. However crafting the right public policy can be a huge challenge, particularly for a developing country. The development of the ICT sector presents a unique opportunity to build technological innovativeness that can accelerate the economic growth. However, it also presents significant challenges of developing a sound technological infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce, economic openness, and broad social participation. Malaysia had setup the National Information Technology Council (NITC) in 1995 to spearhead, the development of information technology in the country. Thisgained further momentum with the development of Multimedia Super Corridor in Putrajaya a high-tech environment and infrastructure for IT companies Malaysia’s leadership recognized the need for a comprehensive policy and cooperative partnership to achieve its development objectives and its ambitious vision. The Vision 2020 liberalized educational policies were introduced leading to a more democratic, privatized, and decentralized educational system. With respect to elementary and secondary education, the country has shifted its focus on the provision of basic education for all to the provision of quality education for all in the 21st century. Changes were also introduced in higher education and training systems, permitting the establishment of private universities and branch campuses of foreign universities and efforts to provide financial assistance to students. In the non-formal educational sector, there was an increased emphasis on human resource updating and meeting individual and business needs for job advancement and higher wages. At he same time comprehensive policies were developed not only to accelerate the growth of the ICT sector but also to encourage ICT use in various sectors of the economy and development including education
The thrust of higher education
Currently, Malaysia allocates an average 20% of its development budget for education. This amount ranks very high compared to many other countries and reinstates Malaysia’ vision to become a knowledge powerhouse in the region.
In 2004, the government formed the Ministry of Higher Education to oversee tertiary education in Malaysia. The education sector offers a variety of higher educational programs as well as professional and specialised skill courses that are comparatively priced and of excellent quality. In the late 1990s, following the amendment of the Education Act in 1995, The Private Higher Education Act 1996 was introduced. Malaysia has been able to improve its education standard with the support of its private sector over the last couple of decades. While some of this has been in the form of private collaboration for setting up universities others have been through industry-academia collaboration in project-based training programmes. Several major corporations were icensed to run private universities including Telekom’s Multimedia University, Petronas Universiti Teknologi and Universiti Tenaga Malaysia. Two distance learning universities were also created: Universiti Tun Abdul Razak and the Open Univesity of Malaysia. The liberalization of education had also led to the trend of reputable universities from the UK and Australia setting up branch campuses in Malaysia. These include, Monash University, Australia, The University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, SAE Institute, Australia and Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. Currently, Malaysia has 72 public tertiary education institutions, which comprises of 12 universities, 6 university colleges. For private tertiary education institutions, Malaysia has 11 universities, 11 university colleges, 5 branch campuses and 532 colleges. Atpresent the total number of students registered in tertiary institutions is about 732,000 and expected to be doubled in the year 2020. After the vision 2020 was formulated, al universities in Malaysia are urged by the government to focus more on the fields such as science and technology.
Internationalisation of Higher Education
The Private Higher Education Act of 1996 allowed many private colleges in Malaysia to offer programmes whereby the student does part of his degree course in Malaysia and part of it in the other institution, this method is named “twinning”. Thus students can do their foreign bachelor’s degree programmes at these colleges in Malaysia, which have an interinstitutional collaborative arrangement with host-universities from overseas. Universities from USA, Canada, Australia, France, Germany and New Zealand offer twinning,