The announcement by the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Thursday that all institutions of higher learning would be assessed annually under a grading system is a step in the right direction in promoting Malaysia as an educational centre of regional excellence.
During the Paliamentary debate on the National Accreditation Board Bill in July last year, I had called for all institutions of higher learning, both public and private, to be subject to continuous assessment so that Malaysia could establish a formidable reputation of academic excellence for higher education at the international level. The National Accreditation Board Act applies only to private institutions of higher learning and excludes existing public universities from its ambit of operation.
Najib said the evaluation of the institutes would be based on various criteria including the effectiveness of teaching methods, the facilities provided such as libraries and laboratories, the experience and qualifications of the lecturers and the suitability of curricula.
He said his ministry planned to assess each faculty and department in an institute separately because it wanted to ensure that they were consistent in their efforts to provide quality education. The Ministry would also look at how the evaluation system worked in countries which had already implemented it such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
The Education Minister has not made it clear as to whether the annual evaluation of the institutions of higher learning would be conducted by the National Accreditation Board or whether it would be treated as a separate item to be conducted by the Ministry of Education.
If the annual assessment is to be conducted by the National Accreditation Board, then it should be left to the Board to draw up the criteria for the evaluation process. On the other hand, if the annual assessment of the institutions of higher learning is to be separated from the question of accreditation of degrees and diplomas of private institutions of higher learning, and to be conducted by the Ministry of Education, an anomalous situation would develop arising from certain overlapping of these two activities.
Whether evaluation or accreditation, the process should involve two purposes:
To ensure that maximum benefit is derived from the evaluation, the annual assessment should be conceived as a public, and not a private, process.
As an encouragement to institutions of higher learning, both public and private, to maintain the highest quality of academic excellence, the government should award special research grants to those faculties or departments which top each year’s assessment.