Datuk Dr Rahmah Mohamed. Pix by NSTP/Ahmad Irham Mohd Noor

WORKING adults and undergraduates can soon look forward to alternative pathways to a PhD qualification.

The Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) is in the midst of carrying out an implementation study of the next phase of the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) programme where work experience could be translated into a masters or doctoral degree, or speed up the process of getting a PhD.

Defined as a systematic process involving identification, documentation and assessment of prior experiential learning, the programme thus far has created access to certificate, diploma, bachelor’s degree and masters degree study programmes to individuals with working experience but lack or are without proper academic qualifications.

MQA chief executive officer Datuk Dr Rahmah Mohamed said the agency is targeting to introduce APEL T-8 and APEL Q next year that would give access to PhD level qualifications.

“MQA is currently conducting further study on the plan to implement APEL T-8 for the purpose of entry to Doctoral Degree level in Malaysia. This study involves observation on policies, methodologies, and assessment instruments used by foreign Higher Education Institutions (HEIs),” she said. She added APEL T-8 is an extension of APEL A, which provides higher education opportunities based on a person’s working experience.

At the moment, the general policy on APEL T-8 is that candidates must be Malaysian citizen; aged at least 35 years old; possess a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent in the related field; have five years working experience in the related field; and pass APEL T-8 assessment.

“The study on APEL T-8 is expected to complete in the year 2020 and the implementation will be due after the development of the assessment instruments,” said Rahmah.

She said MQA has also begun to develop policies on the implementation of APEL Q and the assessment instruments this year. APEL Q awards masters and doctoral level academic qualifications without requiring class attendance.

“The policy development process is expected to complete this year, while the development of the assessment instruments in 2020. The implementation of APEL Q will be due after both tasks have been completed,” she said.

Already in place is improvement of current policy that enables direct entry from bachelor’s degree to doctoral degree following compliance to a set of requirements.

These include students must have a first class bachelor’s degree or equivalent; or obtain CGPA of at least 3.67 or equivalent from TVET or academic programmes. They will have to undergo rigorous internal assessment by the respective higher education institution; and obtain senate’s approval and accepted for doctoral candidacy.

“For this to happen, there should be a mentor-mentee relationship between the student and his lecturer/ supervisor/ tutor at the bachelor’s degree level that would be able to identify and guide the student to the next level onwards,” said Rahmah.

She said the purpose of the various initiatives is to ensure there is a growth in the number of postgraduate degree holders, in line with the country’s aspiration of becoming a high income nation.

“The rise in number of postgraduate degree holders would be reflective of this aspiration. Malaysia need the human resources of this level to push the agenda. While this would push them in their careers, it would also add value to employers,” she added.

She was speaking at the sidelines of the inaugural Flexible Education Seminar (FlexEd) 2019, which was co-organised by the Malaysia Higher Education Department and MQA.

Themed “Imagineering the 21st Century Learning”, the seminar is aimed to provide exposure to all stakeholders on delivery methods available in flexible education, and to provide opportunity for higher learning institutions (HLIs) to share experiences in implementing flexible education.

The two-day event was divided into three sub-themes: Recognition of Prior Learning; Industry Revolution 4.0-Infused Academic Programmes; and Industry Infused Academic Programmes.

Rahmah said APEL is seen as a key avenue in providing flexible education.

At the seminar she also shared that MQA this year has introduced a new client charter where the accreditation process for new programmes proposed by education institutions be shortened so that they can be introduced in a speedy manner.

“The Provisional Accreditation Process which previously takes three months and three days is now adjusted to nine weeks, while Full Accreditation Process which took seven months is also reduced to nine weeks,” she said.

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