Malaysia Eyes First AI Polytechnic, Minister Calls for TVET Reform

Malaysia Eyes First AI Polytechnic, Minister Calls for TVET Reform

Kuala Lumpur: The Higher Education Ministry is exploring the establishment of a dedicated polytechnic focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI), according to Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, the ministry's leader.

"A study is underway to determine the feasibility of setting up Malaysia's first AI polytechnic," Zambry revealed after closing the 15th International Conference on Islamic Economics & Finance (ICIEF) 2024.

This move coincides with the planned arrival of a branch campus from the University of Tsukuba, a prestigious Japanese institution known for its AI research center. "The university will begin offering its programs at Universiti Malaya this year," Zambry added.

Focus on Upgrading TVET

Zambry highlighted the need for a comprehensive curriculum reform across all educational levels, from preschool to university. He pointed to a recent visit to Japan, where discussions were held with officials from the National Institute of Technology, Tokyo College (Tokyo Kosen), to understand their curriculum and explore ways to enhance Malaysia's Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system.

Japan boasts over 50 such institutes, churning out more than half a million graduates equipped with high-level TVET engineering skills.

Zambry remarked. "One of our ministry's key priorities is revamping our education system to provide students with clearer pathways for choosing their fields of study."

He emphasized the need to dismantle the perception of TVET as a secondary educational path. “The stigma that TVET is a second-class education must be eliminated,” he added. The Japanese, he said, do not look at TVET as second-class education unlike how it is in Malaysia.“

By the age of 15, students have the option to transition from regular schooling to a technical school, without the pressure of selecting a specific field at a young age. They recognize the immense value of high-quality TVET programs."

Collaboration is Key

Zambry stressed the importance of fostering a strong foundation in science, mathematics, and cutting-edge technologies. This, he believes, is crucial for shaping well-rounded and empowered citizens who can contribute meaningfully to the digital economy as creators, not just consumers, of technology.

“(But) while more focus on the latest technology is needed, we must not forget that collaboration is key," he cautioned. “It is by fostering collaboration that young minds can learn to develop businesses and social entrepreneurship initiatives that address the critical social and environmental issues of today and tomorrow,”

With the rapid pace of technological advancements, Zambry underscored the need for stronger partnerships between universities, industries, civil society organizations, and government agencies.

“Innovation manifests when multiple disciplines intersect. This will accelerate the pace of discoveries and holistic solutions to challenges we face in an increasingly interconnected and dynamic world. “Interdisciplinary collaboration is what will drive universities and colleges into incubators of change. “We must work together across different sectors, regardless of borders, to share the knowledge and resources we hold for the benefit of everyone involved. “No single entity has all the answers, and it is by bringing together academia, industries, and policymakers that we can cultivate global citizens who are equipped to address the complexities of our time and to implement solutions that benefit the economy and the environment,” he added.

The ministry, he reaffirmed, remains committed to supporting collaborative research, particularly in niche areas like Islamic economics, which often receive limited industry attention.

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