KL studying Singapore’s junior-college system

MALAYSIA planned to implement aspects of Singapore’s junior-college system and training programmes of technical institutes in the Republic, the Malaysian Education Minister, Datuk Amar Dr Sulaiman Daud, said yesterday.

The lecture-tutorial system of junior colleges, and courses in robotics and try automation taught in Singapore’s institutes are likely to be introduced in Malaysian schools and polytechnics in the next two or three years, he told reporters at a press conference at the end of a two-day visit to the Republic.

Dr Sulaiman, who led a four-man delegation to Singapore to study its education system, had earlier called on Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and met Education Minister Lee Yock Suan.

“Sometimes there is a tendency for people to look to places like America, England, Australia and New Zealand to learn from their experiences when it could be right under our noses,” he said, referring to Singapore.

“I find the education system here very good. We have to look into it.”

Students completing their secondary education in Singapore can apply to enter a junior college for a two-year pre-university course.

Dr Sulaiman, who visited Anderson Junior College on Monday, said that the junior-college system gave students the “flexibility” of proceeding to university, teaching or taking up technical-related jobs in the industrial sector after completing their studies.

“In the light of increasing demand for trained manpower in our industries, we have to ensure that our students derive certain benefits which can be put to use after finishing their studies,” he added.

Malaysia’s Deputy Education Minister, Dr Fong Chan Onn, had said last November that the country’s sixth-form classes in secondary schools were too general in their academic orientation. Students lacked specialisation.

Sixth-form students sit for the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) level which is the Malaysian equivalent of the GCE A levels.

There are about 65,000 of such students in Malaysia, forming less than 2 per cent of the total school-going population of four million.

Said Dr Sulaiman: “The STPM will continue for a while until such a time when we may have to consider doing away with it.

“Our intention is to introduce the junior-college concept into our education system but it may not be exactly like the Singapore model.”

He found the lecture-tutorial system invaluable for students planning to go to university.

It allowed for independent study and research. The emphasis on physical education in colleges was a plus.

In addition, junior colleges here offered good facilities.

He did not indicate how many such colleges would be set up in Malaysia, adding that the government had to get enough teachers if the system was introduced nation-wide.

Dr Fong had said last year that the government would set up 20 junior colleges at a cost of M$240 million (S$142 million) over the next five years.

He had said that the colleges would focus on science and technical-related subjects at the STPM level.

Dr Sulaiman, who visited the Singapore-Japan Institute and Singapore-German Institute yesterday, said Malaysia could alsotap the Republic’s expertise in technical training for its own polytechnics and vocational institutes.

In particular, Malaysia was keen on adapting courses such as robotics, electronics, manufacturing, software, industry automation and design, which are taught in the Republic’s polytechnics and technical institutes.

Malaysia might invite Singapore officials to lend their expertise in these areas, he said.

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