by David Fuller (Chair, Community Colleges Australia & CEO, WEA Illawarra)
During my recent visit to Malaysia I arranged to meet with the community college sector representatives in Malaysia. Community colleges in Malaysia are government-owned, run and operated, and there are currently 93 in operation.
They are roughly equivalent to our TAFE, ACE, community college sectors all rolled into one. They come under the Ministry of Higher of Education and currently have a Director General who reports directly to the Minister of Education.
I met with the Director-General, YBhg. Dato’ Amir Bin Noor and six of his Directors and their senior staff. We had a very positive discussion about collaboration and sharing of ideas and policy directions, between CCA and his Department. The Director General visited Sydney last year for an official visit with the Minister of Education and was disappointed that they were not made aware of the Australian community college sector and missed the opportunity to visit and learn about us.
Lifelong learning and Community Service Obligation activities are undertaken within all community colleges in Malaysia and there is a keen interest to see that this activity is done well and meets the needs of their local communities. There are some real opportunities for us to share ideas in this area: for example, many Malaysian colleges have been very active in using students to develop low cost housing design and construction within their communities.
There is a very strong push for entrepreneurship and innovation within community college curriculum in Malaysia, and they have targets for students to move into these areas. Annual national student entrepreneurship competitions are held across all colleges and winners are given high publicity profiles.
Just like us they are struggling with what appears to be constant change in course requirements, industry demands, and government/departmental reorganisations. (e.g. the community college sector is due to merged with polytechnics (Diploma level institutions) in a few months. They are concerned about changes, e.g. the impact of bringing in compulsory professional (industry) currency standards for VET staff members. They are very interested in learning about flexible delivery especially in the Higher Certificate levels and how this can be integrated into what is a very traditional face-to-face based VET system.
I was greatly encouraged with this initial visit. While they are constrained by budget restrictions this year the Director General did promise to try to send some Malaysian representatives to CCA’s annual conference in Melbourne in July, which would be a great opportunity for us to meet with some of them and to share ideas.