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GIS education in Malaysia

Abdul Rashid Mohamed Shariff
GIS and Spatial Modeling Program Manager
Institute of Advanced Technology
Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia
[email protected]

Helmi Zulhaidi Mohd Shafri
Lecturer, Faculty of Engineering, UPM, Malaysia
In developing countries, the utilization of such advanced technologies differs from one country to another. In Malaysia there is a strong need to pursue the areas of spatial information science education, as the expertise and skills gained in this field would be crucial to support the rapid development of the country. The job prospects for such graduates, within the Malaysian scenario are excellent

The rapid growth of the market and exploitation of the newly-emerged geoinformation technologies provide a number of challenges in terms of the education of professional engineers and scientists and users of the technology. The beginning of the spatial information education in Malaysia can be traced back to the establishment of Land Surveying departments in several universities such as Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM). UiTM offers a course at the undergraduate level leading to Bachelor of Surveying Science and Geomatics (Hons.) at its Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Surveying. There is no Master course available in spatial information science at UiTM. On the other hand, UTM offers a much more diverse range of degrees related to spatial information science. They are run at the Faculty of Geoinformation Science and Engineering, which is the biggest academic faculty on spatial information science in Malaysia with five departments (Geomatic Engineering, Remote Sensing, Geoinformatics, Property Management, and Land Administration and Development), two Centres of Excellence (Institute for Geospatial Science and Technology (INSTEG) and Centre for Real Estate Studies (CRES)) with about 90 academic staff and 1500 students (undergraduate and postgraduate).

Education at Postgraduate level
Despite having no specific department or faculty offering an undergraduate qualification in spatial information science, UPM, being a broad-based University with 13 different faculties and 6 research institutes, has developed GIS and spatial information expertise in several areas. GIS and spatial education is relevant to several faculties such as Engineering, Science, Agriculture, Forestry, Landscape and Ecology and increasing interest now is evident from the faculty of Medical and Health Science. UPM is one of the leading postgraduate teaching and research centres in Geoinformation with its own range of subjects. Formal courses are offered at the Faculty of Engineering at the Bachelors, Masters and PhD levels. An interesting aspect is that courses can be shared across the university.

UPM, which is the sole university with agricultural focus, has developed spatial applications for the agricultural sector, particularly on precision farming, image analysis for quality control of plantation products, management of agriculture and fisheries using remote sensing. Towards this end, the UPM management had approved the setting up of the Spatial and Numerical Modeling Laboratory in 2002 as a specially focused group to lead this area of research. Recently, UPM has acquired L-band receiving station and is now receiving NOAA AVHRR and GMS data daily from its station based at the Laboratory of Spatial and Numerical Modeling, ITMA. Current areas of spatial research are Oil Spill Management, Fish Forecasting, Forest Fire Fighting modeling, Optimal School Siting, GPS-Inertial Mapping Integration. There are a host of applications being constantly researched and developed at UPM: Oil Spill Detection and Management System, Fish Forecasting, Precision Faming, Oil Palm Plantation Management from Space, Cell Phone Signal Strength Mapping, Forest Fire Modeling, Crime Mapping, GIS for Disease Mapping (Mohamed Shariff and Krishna, 2003). There is a clear need at present to constantly update professionals through Masters level courses.