Professor Dr. Mansor Fadzil, Open University Malaysia, Malaysia
Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.” This quote, attributed to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W., sets the tone in Malaysia’s Blueprint on Enculturation of Lifelong Learning for Malaysia (2011–2020). Published and launched in November 2011 by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), the Blueprint represents the country’s conscious efforts towards making lifelong learning a way of life as well as a representation of national values that can be propagated and passed on from one generation to the next. This is reflected in the document’s guiding principle that lifelong learning is acknowledged as the third pillar of human capital development – alongside the school system and tertiary education – and is considered a crucial step towards making lifelong learning part of the mainstream approach towards education in its broad sense in Malaysia.
Although the Blueprint was published as a government document, in actual fact it is a consolidation of the input and contribution of diverse education and lifelong learning stakeholders from various government ministries and agencies as well as higher education institutions in Malaysia. The uniqueness of this document can be attributed to its holistic approach, which asserts that lifelong learning must encompass more than just formal education. This means that nonformal and informal education initiatives are also given equal attention in the lifelong learning sphere.
The Blueprint describes the present lifelong learning landscape, including a focus on issues and challenges that need to be addressed. Correspondingly, the Blueprint then lists various recommendations to provide Malaysia’s education stakeholders with a lifelong learning roadmap through four broad strategies that aim to upgrade the relevant infrastructure and mechanisms, enhance public awareness and involvement, provide financial support, and ensure continuity and appreciation. Specifically, the Blueprint outlines a total of 21 initiatives under the four strategies. Each initiative has identified the relevant activities and programmes, stakeholders and organisations, as well as the proposed timelines for achieving targets.
Principal among these initiatives is the recommendation to establish a National Lifelong Learning Council (Chapter 3, p. 38) to propel stakeholders towards each of their respective aims and goals. All other initiatives will hinge on the Council’s ability to spearhead the entire nation’s lifelong learning campaign.
The roles of existing post-secondary and higher education institutions are given specific focus. Community colleges are described as having a major role to play, as they were branded as Malaysia’s lifelong learning hubs in 2007. The significance of this move, as well as its mention in the Blueprint, reflects the Malaysian Government’s concern for improving the life of its people through community-based training and education programmes that are conducted by community colleges. Other types of institutions, i.e. polytechnics, conventional public universities and open and distance learning (ODL) institutions, as well as several other government ministries and agencies, are also mentioned.
The essence of the Blueprint is broadly represented by its use of the term ‘enculturation’, which attempts to reinforce Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.’s appeal for education to always be a part of one’s life. Education is thus considered not just as a vocation or an obligatory phase in one’s life, but a culture and a lifestyle. At present, lifelong learning as a buzzword is something that can be said to be relatively new in Malaysia, and the Blueprint is a much-needed starting point if enculturation is to be truly achieved at a national level.
For Malaysian readers, particularly educational stakeholders and those who are in educational organisations, the Blueprint can be taken as a guide to see what roles and responsibilities we have in this initiative. For others, it can be a revealing look at how Malaysia sees itself and where it stands in the context of lifelong learning. The next few years will prove to be an important time when many targets will need to be met. The successful implementation of this Blueprint will show that Malaysia is indeed serious about learning and education; and that the Blueprint can be more than just an interesting read.
Mansor Fadzil currently serves as the Senior Vice President at Open University Malaysia (OUM). He obtained his Bachelor's Degree in Science, Mechanical Engineering from the University of Birmingham in 1981, and his Masters Degree and PhD in Control Systems Engineering from the University of Sheffield in 1982 and 1985, respectively.
He formerly worked as a full-time lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Malaya (UM). During his tenure at UM, he held various administrative posts and was responsible for introducing online learning to the UM lecturers in 1998.
He was also instrumental in the establishment of OUM, Malaysia's first open and distance learning (ODL) institution in 2000. Some of his most recent projects include the introduction of mobile learning, a new assessment instrument, an institutional question bank and a Mathematics resource centre at OUM.