Each year, roughly 3,000 university students in Malaysia shift their focus away from essential science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, representing about 5% of the 60,000 students studying these disciplines. The primary force driving these decisions often hinges on high financial costs associated with these courses and the absence of sponsorship opportunities, thus compelling students to opt for alternative routes.
Associate Prof. Nik Hisyamudin Muhd Nor, Director of the Strategic and Risk Management Office of Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM), explains that while this shift isn’t alarming yet, it could carry significant implications for the relevant industries due to the high demand for graduates from these fields.
It’s not surprising that most students are more inclined to enroll in IT-related programs, considering the assurance of job availability after graduation. However, the necessity for technical proficiency across industries remains paramount, and a shortage of such skills could stifle industrial growth.
The Ministry of Higher Education’s statistics from 2021 indicated that out of 181,901 students admitted to public universities across Malaysia, 23,262 pursued science, mathematics, and computer science fields. Engineering, manufacturing, and construction drew 37,020 students, while health and welfare attracted 8,031.
Wan Amsyar Hadie Wan Mahadi, the President of the National Student Consultative Council (MPPK), highlights the problem of limited exposure to programs and subjects. Students may choose unsuitable courses, facing the dilemma of switching to any available course or starting anew at a different university. Encouraging this trend could adversely impact critical industries and the country’s overall progression, as the decrease in STEM graduates could result in a manpower deficit.
Often, students who switch disciplines tend to opt for social sciences, humanities, literature, or communications programs, primarily due to the availability of slots. Unfortunately, these disciplines are often seen as a last resort for students who struggle in technical courses, thus portraying them negatively.
These trends underline a significant need for addressing the issue at its root: increasing sponsorship and funding opportunities, providing extensive course and career exposure, and revising the perception of non-technical courses.
The transition from technical to non-technical programs among Malaysian students can be viewed as a reflection of deeper underlying issues that necessitate immediate attention from academic institutions, policymakers, and industry leaders alike.
This article is based on news from the Malaymail website.