Faculty of Education - Theses

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    Malaysian higher education and the United States as a model: policy borrowing or policy learning?
    Abdullah, Arnida ( 2013)
    Higher education plays an important role in many developing countries. Graduates are being equipped with professional knowledge and skills to fulfil the demands of the labour market in a knowledge economy. Developing countries tend to adopt models of higher education organization from developed nations, especially those that are world leaders. Progress in science and technology and national wealth itself point to the success of these systems and suggest that they represent a suitable and feasible path to take. Malaysia is amongst those developing nations that have looked to advanced economies to provide a model of mass higher education which would raise educational levels and national income. But has a process of policy-borrowing achieved both the growth and the equity that governments have promised? Has the expansion and diversification of higher education in Malaysia created more equitable access for all students in order to ensure that increased higher education is undertaken by a wide range of population who have the ability and motivation to succeed? This study aims to contribute to policy learning in higher education in the developing world (as distinct from uncritical policy borrowing). It focuses on Malaysia’s efforts to learn from the US experience. The findings of this study may assist the Malaysian policy makers in designing new improved policies to widen access in higher education and to further strengthen Malaysian higher education sector. In the first section of this thesis, a review is made of US efforts to expand higher education, while improving equity. Two barriers to participation in higher education – school dropout rates and low achievement among young people who do graduate – are examined in greater detail. This then leads to a key discussion on the types of higher educational institutions in the US, their enrolment patterns and the challenges faced by each institution. At the end of this section, the findings that developing countries can learn from the United States’ experience are highlighted. In the second section, the study focuses on Malaysia. It starts with historical overview pre independence, focusing on economic, social and educational developments. The growth and structural transformation of the Malaysian economy are also examined and compared with educational attainment. Trends in primary and secondary public education expansion and challenges facing this public system are then discussed, leading to a detailed discussion on the development of the Malaysian public and private tertiary education sector. The findings presented in this study show that the challenge for Malaysia is not to become like the USA, but to learn from the US experience and to develop its own strategic plans for higher education that fit with the social and economic needs of the country. The study suggests policy directions to making higher education in Malaysia more effective and equitable, which includes strengthening and improving Malaysia’s public schools, enhancing the quality of higher education and assisting students from disadvantaged families. Such initiatives may assist Malaysia to become the best provider of higher education in the South East Asian region and a high-income developed country by the year 2020.