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Malaysia: Skills for everyone

The Star Online (online), 22 December 2013 - A private-public partnership is giving opportunities to youths with special needs to receive vocational training.

JUST like the rest of his classmates, Clement Ooi enjoys going to class.

Clement, who is autistic, attends specially tailored IT classes three times a week and once he finishes in February next year, he will obtain a Malaysian Skills Certificate (SKM).

His mother Annie Kam said Clement likes working with computers.

“Previously, his knowledge of computers was more on searching for his interests on YouTube but now that he has learnt how to use Microsoft Office tools to make PowerPoint presentations and develop websites, I can see him practising his new skills at home,” she said.

Like Clement, Janet Lee said her son, Tay Kuan Ting who is a slow learner and dyslexic, loves to attend the classes which are being held at Sunway University.

“He travels here by himself or he will ask Annie who lives near us, for a ride.

“I can see the improvement in his character and how he enjoys using Microsoft Word to type out the song lyrics he likes,” she said.

Both Kam and Lee hope that the programme initiated under the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) can continue.

“Perhaps Pemandu can look into providing employment too. They are able to handle data processing with supervision as they are hardworking and don’t complain,” said Kam.

Lee said she is thankful to Pemandu and Sunway for ensuring that youth with special needs are given opportunities to learn and gain employment.


A skilled option

According to Pemandu Education National Key Results Area director Tengku Nurul Azian Tengku Shahriman, a special education needs lab was held in October last year to identify initiatives to address issues in the area.

“The Special Education Needs (SEN) Vocational Programme was proposed as an initiative under the private-public partnership to create opportunities in vocational education for youths with special needs,” she said.

An estimated 95% of people with disabilities are unemployed. Untapped potential from those with disabilities results in sizeable GDP loss for the country.

Under this initiative, Tengku Nurul Azian added, the Government will sponsor students with special needs to pursue vocational programmes in private institutions.

Participating institutions will not only provide courses which lead to SKM certification but also ensure that students acquire industrial placement.

When told that parents of several youths with special needs attending the classes at Sunway hoped the programme would continue, Tengku Nurul Azian said it would continue next year; with additional seats offering diplomas in Patisserie and certificates in Food and Beverage being bought in Berjaya University College of Hospitality for 70 students.

“We will also be buying seats for 40 special education needs’ students to undertake the Certificate in Pastry at ATI College in Sabah,” she said.

Tengku Nurul Azian said government sponsorship in selected private institutions such as Sunway International Business and Management was introduced this year under the SEN private-public partnership initiative as an immediate solution to address the issue of SEN students having limited career opportunities and to get the ball rolling on such initiatives.

In addition, she said the Education Ministry has bought seats for a total of 220 students in five states, offering vocational courses such as culinary arts and computer systems.

The first intake commenced in November and among the institutions selected are Suria College of Hospitality in Johor and International College of Yayasan Melaka in Malacca.

“Moving forward, the ministry will continue to conduct assessments of institutions and offer sponsorship to SEN youths in various institutions to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to be self-sufficient,” she said.

Sunway International Business and Management director Kanendran T. Arulrajah said the programme which was presently eight months, should be extended to one year as the first few months were used to enable students to be comfortable using computers as not all had been exposed to them.

On the possibility of a further partnership with Sunway International Business and Management under a SEN programme in the future, Tengku Nurul Azian said Pemandu would review the proposed programme and revise content or schedule of training to ensure that the programme provides better learning outcomes for the students.

She said part of the selection criteria for private institutions under the SEN private-public partnership is the ability of the institution to provide industry placements or internships.

Sunway International Business and Management, she added, has committed to providing SEN students with industry placements or internships upon graduation from the course.

The programme for the SEN students are fully sponsored and the criteria for selection are to have proof of disability such as an OKU (special needs) card or letter from a registered medical practitioner, be between the ages of 17 and 25, and to fulfil course entry requirements of the education institution. Learning should be fun

Sunway International Business and Management IT consultant Melvin Poon has been working with the youths with special needs in the specially tailored class since July.

“It has been challenging and everyone learns at a different pace so I provide more attention to those who need it,” he said.

One of the students with special needs from the class, Sharifah Alia Syed Sahabudin said she enjoyed the classes.

“I am learning different things such as Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word,” she said.

Student Lee Wei Meng said he liked learning to use PowerPoint presentations while Chee Siew Chong enjoyed the classes.

“I want to learn more and look for a job,” said Siew Chong.

Meanwhile, Kam said her son wants to attend class everyday.

“When he asked me what he should wear, I thought he was regressing but actually, Melvin is teaching them to dress in office attire so he (Clement) wanted me to help him decide what shirt to wear,” she said.

Elvin Lee said his son Adam, who has hyperthyroid, was now more confident thanks to the classes.

“I wish the programme can be extended as I see him enjoying the classes. He didn’t like to read before but now he revises what he learns at home,” he said.

CK Chan said his son Keng Yew, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is now more sociable and confident. “He looks forward to the classes to learn and mix with his friends,” he said.


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