National Policies

Knowledge, and its management, is becoming more and more prominent in today's world, simply because we are able to distribute it faster and at far cheaper cost. The very existences of sophisticated Internet applications are able to convey huge amounts of knowledge from one point of the world to another, within seconds. Unlike traditional media (television and radio) the Internet is interactive. Suddenly, we are able to receive and process chunks of knowledge and use it to create new value. And this knowledge can be shared very easily with others, no matter where they are.

In a knowledge environment like this, we will determine our "wealth" by how we use our brain, and how fast it gain, manage and apply knowledge Alvin Toffler (1996) indirectly supports this point by saying that, the present illiterate are those who cannot read and write but the future illiterate will most likely be those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. Covey (1989) wrote that knowledge is basically a theoretical paradigm. It governs what to do and why doing it. Skill is basically the methods or How to do it. Attitudes are model, theory, perception, assumptions and our frame of reference.

It is basically the way we 'see' things-not in terms of visual sense of sight but in terms of perceiving, understanding and interpreting. Even as students now, this means that by the time of graduation, the economic system would already have changed. And we should fully be prepared to not only be a participant in the K-economy, but also be an active contributor to it. It is also in school that we can inculcate positive values towards knowledge and learning. Innovation in education has been continuously targeted since Independence in 1957.

What is certain is that further changes will still be needed in the light of the strengths and weaknesses of the present education system. The immediate and long term education strategies and reforms in Malaysia are very much influenced by the National Development policy, particularly the nation's economic and social policies. In the context of the changing world and as a result of the advances in science and technology, Malaysia has no alternative but to remain competitive in global economic activities, whilst at the same time guaranteeing domestic growth and development.

Operating within these parameters, issues pertaining to equity, access and democratization of education, education quality, efficiency, as well as values, education will continue to be geared towards enhancing the quality of life of our children and generations to come. Malaysia also has a long-term vision – "Vision 2020"- which calls for sustained, productivity-driven growth, which in turn requires a technologically literate, critically thinking workforce prepared to participate fully in the global economy of the 21st century.

At the same time, Malaysia's National Philosophy of Education calls for "developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonious. " The advancing economy has created a demand for skilled knowledge workers and professionals. Skilled labour is still in short supply, especially in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector and manufacturing industries.

Therefore, several additional efforts have been made to increase ICT literacy. In surging towards a more globalize economy, Malaysia spearheads the information age through the aggressive promotion of Information Technology (IT). It has embarked on e-education, borderless marketing, electronic commerce and digital broadcast through the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project. Currently, e-learning is sweeping across the training and education industry, creating a chain reaction that is revolutionizing the way people learn at work, in school and at home.

Nevertheless, almost all universities in Malaysia have incorporated new skills such as information and knowledge management, as well as programming applications, into their education and training curriculum. With the rapid deployment of ICT, it will be necessary to accelerate the learning process and innovate through the effective application of the acquired knowledge. Another challenge that the country will face is in the area of R&D. Innovation is one of the keys to success in a K-Economy, and it is R&D that determines innovation.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the proxies generally used to represent the production of new ideas and innovations are R&D expenditure and the number of patents. Based on some available relevant statistics, it is apparent that Malaysia currently has a relatively low share of IT skills in the labour force, in terms of K-skills in R&D per million of population and the ratio R&D investment to GDP. The level of internet penetration also varies between the states in the country.

By implication, there is a gap in development and a potential problem of IT diffusion. To address this gap, there is an urgent need to improve accessibility to the ICT infrastructure for the majority of the population, be it urban or rural. There is a need to ensure rural access to IT equipment and services in order to ensure that they will not be left out. The major challenge for the country is to train teachers to be more innovative and computer-literate in order to produce quality human resources.

Teachers need better instructional strategies to cope with students who do not perform well in demanding classes. Toward this end, definite steps must be taken, because teaching is not like building a house or cooking a meal. There is no blue print or recipe for reaching every child in every lesson. Some students will absorb and retain information better by reading on their own or listening to their teachers, others will learn better by working out their ideas with their peers, and some by actually doing something that requires the application of that knowledge in a real world context.

Therefore, teaching methods need to be diversified in the sense that teachers will play the role of 'a guide on the side' rather than the traditional 'the sage on the stage'. "Applied learning" should be incorporated in both schools and universities wherein students are capable of using what they have learned in a real-world context. One advantage of applied learning is to capture students' interest and consequently motivate them by showing the relevance and usefulness of what they have learned.

It can be a very effective way to motivate the students to learn complex academic concepts. Accordingly, there is also an additional need for the students to be empowered and to feel responsible for their own education. Thus, the students will have to be taught the art of acquiring more knowledge on their own and they will have to be stimulated to do things in different ways, so that they will become proactive rather than reactive, willing to take risks and learn from mistakes.