Trends in Geospatial Education for Working Professionals

Trends in Geospatial Education for Working Professionals

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Abdul Rashid Bin & Mohamed Sharif
Universiti Putra Malaysia
[email protected]
[email protected]

Abstract:
Malaysia is well positioned to take full advantage of the capabilities of the geospatial science and technology. Geospatial education is available at the polytechnics, Universities, training centers in the private sector and also within government agencies. Polytechnics generally award diplomas while the universities provide training at the bachelors and post graduate levels. This article will outline the structure of the geospatial courses available in the country offered at various levels of education.

The far sightedness of the country’s planners had ensured that sufficient number of Malaysians, particularly academicians, received the right training in the geospatial discipline from some of the best schools in the world. As a result of this visionary thinking, Malaysian universities and main geospatial agencies have the core group of personnel to provide leadership and training to students interested in pursuing academic degrees in the geospatial arena. Today, Malaysia is beginning to attract a significant number of students from abroad who come here to pursue Masters and PhDs in the fields of geosciences.

Basic Education Options
At the bachelor’s degree level, UTM and UiTM are the main players that help provide the nation with well trained and educated graduates who form the bulk of the workforce. In addition to these locally trained graduates, a minority group of Malaysians who studied geospatial courses abroad also form an important group of contributors to the industry. The local educational institutes play a positive role in producing the technicians, technical assistant, and geospatial engineers/surveyors at the bachelor’s level. As this group of new graduates enters the workforce, there are opportunities for them to further enhance their knowledge and skills if they choose to pursue a fulltime higher degree. However, the realities of today’s competitive work environment does not allow for a large number of staff to pursue higher education on a full time basis. There is thus, a need for fresh thinking into the formulation of special programs to cater to needs of the workforce. One such program is the Masters in RS and GS offered after office hours and during the weekends at the Universiti Putra Malaysia. Such programs allow the employees to improve their knowledge, skill, and competitive levels while holding onto to their full time salaried jobs.

In addition to this, mature students also have the opportunity to explore new projects which have a potential for their company or to extend one of the projects undertaken at the office to a Masters level research project. This not only helps the company where the student works but also paves the way for practical projects to be brought into the academia. Government agencies and the industry too gain as they do not “lose” employees to full time post-graduate education. On the contrary, the employers gain as these mature students become better workers with the state of the art knowledge and training received in the Masters program. Considering this scenario, we certainly need to explore how to make such Masters program viable and suited especially for the working students. Some of the major factors that impact a program of this nature are discussed below.

Location of Program: The program for the matured students needs to be within a reasonable traveling time from the workplace/homes of the maturated students. Students should be able to get to their classes within a reasonable amount of time after office for the evening and night classes.

Time of Courses: The courses should be held during the weekend. In circumstances where there are a significant number of students from organizations, then prior arrangements maybe made for special teaching camps, where teaching contact hours for a traditional semester may be covered in a shorter period.

Funding Arrangements: Government funding in terms of study loans with long term repayment period, grants to universities to conduct teaching for professionals and low interest rate private sector funding will be a boost to the success of these programs for the matured students.

Institutional Relationships: Healthy and positive relations between the government/private agencies with the universities will see a healthy growth in the professional matured students program since employees at the government/private agencies will have a sense of confidence that their education is being valued by their employers. University lecturers will also be able to gain primary data sources to aid their research projects.

Keeping in view the fact that the Malaysian government is actively pursuing the IT agenda, especially with the support given for the Multimedia Super Corridor, it is envisaged that greater support and enthusiasm for the Professional Masters program will lead to more internationally competitive Malaysian geospatial products .