The implementation of industrial training in tertiary education in Malaysia: Objectives, realisations and outputs in the case of foreign language students

Abstract

The large range of jobs that Malaysian undergraduates of foreign languages are often employed in after completion of their studies (education, tourism, banking, business, management, etc.) is not necessarily related to their major field of study. This situation often makes it difficult for lecturers to develop a comprehensive professional training for their benefit. In the early 2010s, unemployment rates of Malaysian undergraduates were increasing, although the job market was quite flexible. In order to improve students’ employability, Malaysian universities decided to restructure their curricula. Industrial training, or Latihan Industri (LI), became a new mandatory requirement for all future undergraduates of the new programmes from 2011. LI aims to match students’ academic training with the needs of the private sector. However, most companies were not prepared to accept the first influx of trainees from all types of programmes (sciences, social sciences or the humanities) in 2014. Consequently, many students could not find an appropriate LI position in the field they were studying, and were placed in positions for which they were poorly prepared. At the end of their LI, students had to submit a logbook of their activities as well as provide a final report in which they were asked to evaluate their experiences. A content analysis of these reports from four foreign language students who did their LI in different sectors (finance, education, industry and retail) provides interesting insights into the different skills required by Malaysian employers, irrespective of their sector of activity. The analysis of the reports raises the question of the adequacy of the academic training of foreign language students for the Malaysian job market, and the transferability of their acquired language skills to their new work environment.

Résumé

Formation industrielle supérieure en Malaisie : objectifs, réalisations et résultats chez les étudiants en langues étrangères – La vaste gamme de débouchés que trouvent la majorité des étudiants malaisiens en langues étrangères après leurs études (enseignement, tourisme, banque, commerce, gestion, etc.) n’est pas obligatoirement liée à leur discipline principale. Ce fait rend souvent difficile aux professeurs la conception d’une formation professionnelle intégrale dans leur intérêt. Au début des années 2010, les taux de chômage des diplômés malaisiens étaient en hausse, alors que le marché du travail était assez flexible. Afin d’améliorer l’employabilité des étudiants, les universités malaisiennes ont décidé de restructurer leurs programmes. La formation industrielle dite Latihan Industri (LI) a été dotée à partir de 2011 d’une nouvelle exigence impérative pour tous les futurs étudiants des nouveaux programmes : faire concorder la formation universitaire aux besoins du secteur privé. La plupart des sociétés n’était cependant pas préparée à accueillir en 2014 la première vague de débutants issus de tous les types de programmes (sciences, sciences sociales et sciences humaines). De nombreux étudiants sortants n’ont donc pu trouver un emploi correspond au domaine de leurs études, et ont été recrutés à des postes pour lesquels ils étaient peu préparés. À la fin de leur formation, les étudiants doivent soumettre un journal de leurs activités ainsi qu’un rapport final comportant une évaluation personnelle de leurs expériences. Une analyse de contenu des rapports de quatre étudiants en langues étrangères ayant accompli leur cursus dans divers secteurs (finance, enseignement, industrie et commerce de détail) livre des aperçus intéressants sur les diverses compétences exigées par les employeurs malaisiens, indépendamment du secteur d’activité. L’analyse de ces rapports soulève la question de l’adéquation de la formation universitaire en langues étrangères au marché du travail malaisien, et de la transférabilité de l’acquis linguistique de ces étudiants à leur nouvel environnement professionnel.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Editor’s note: Following the Napoleonic wars (1803–1815), the Malay archipelago in Southeast Asia was divided into British and Dutch territories by a treaty in 1824. After a period of administration by the East India Company, the British territories were made a crown colony in 1867. Situated on the Strait of Malacca, the Straits Settlements, which were dissolved in 1946, comprised four trade centres, Penang, Singapore, Malacca and Labuan.

  2. 2.

    Editor’s note: Malaysia’s population is composed of several ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese, Indian and others, resulting in a multitude of spoken languages. While the official language is standardised Malay, and English is a recognised second language, many other languages are used in daily life, especially Tamil and several varieties of Chinese, but also a number of creole languages, local tribal languages etc. The language of instruction in most national schools is Malay, but there are some schools which operate in Chinese or Tamil, with English being taught as a compulsory subject in all schools. The “Upholding Bahasa Malaysia, Strengthening English Language” policy, which was introduced in 2009, promotes bilingualism, aiming to improve students’ proficiency in English. The policy includes a “Dual Language Programme (DLP)” and a “Highly Immersive Programme (HIP)” (MoE 2016, pp. 63, 66).

  3. 3.

    Editor’s note: This refers to ISO norm 9002, a certification entitled “Model for quality assurance in production, installation, and servicing” which was last revised in 1994. It has since been replaced by a number of other ISO norms. For more information, see ISO (2009).

  4. 4.

    ICC comprises five components (savoirs): (1) intercultural attitudes or savoir être; (2) knowledge or savoir; (3) interaction skills or savoir apprendre/faire; (4) cognitive skills or savoir comprendre; and (5) intercultural awareness or savoir s’engager (Byram 1997, pp. 50–53)

  5. 5.

    Editor’s note: Latin proteo = form-changing + philus (from ancient Greek philos) = loving. In plain English, proteophilic competence thus means the appreciation of diversity (Dervin 2006).

  6. 6.

    All student quotations were translated into English by the author.

  7. 7.

    Editor’s note: The author is referring to Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) in Serdang, Malaysia.

  8. 8.

    Editor’s note: The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) describes foreign language proficiency at six regular and three plus levels: A1 and A2 (basic users), B1 and B2 (independent users), C1 and C2 (proficient users) and A2+, B1+, and B2+) (CoE 2011).

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Correspondence to Régis Machart.

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Régis Machart—Deceased.

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Machart, R. The implementation of industrial training in tertiary education in Malaysia: Objectives, realisations and outputs in the case of foreign language students. Int Rev Educ 63, 103–122 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11159-017-9623-8

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Keywords

  • higher education
  • industrial training
  • foreign language
  • Malaysia