Malaysia aspires to be the regional education hub of choice by 2020. - NSTP/File pic

For the longest time, studying abroad has been associated with prestige and quality learning.

And, why not? Hundreds of promotions shout the benefits of studying abroad. This notion is ingrained in our schooling teens, even a Year 2 pupil has dreams of learning in a foreign country.

Advantages are aplenty — such as better job prospects, travel opportunities and learning a foreign language. It’s a vast world out there, as Christian theologian St Augustine said, “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page”.

This Leader, however, is not making a case for or against studying abroad. Rather, it wants the masses to reset their mindset — studying locally is just as good, if not better.

Education is the knowledge that is acquired through learning, schooling, enlightenment and cultivation — these can be experienced at our public universities and private higher learning institutions (HLIs) which number more than 600.

Think about the savings that we could make. For instance, a student spends an average of US$40,000 (RM166,000) for tuition and living cost per year studying abroad, but it only costs US$10,000 per year to study here — it’s 160 times more costly to study overseas!

Quality education? Universiti Malaya, the country’s oldest university, achieved top 100 for three academic disciplines, including library and information management, development studies and electrical and electronic engineering under the QS World University Rankings by subject (2019). Other universities also deserve mention.

Why then are our youth reluctant? They are not enlightened about local universities’ strength, says UM corporate communications director Izad Raya. For example, UM has done much in the advancement of teaching and learning, research, publication and innovation. “But we are not focused on sharing and telling the world what we have achieved — the many accomplishments, the amazing research findings, discoveries and innovations. This is not just faced by UM, but other universities too.”

UM is now leveraging on the advancement of communications technology, via the conventional media, social media, the Internet and more, to enlighten the masses.

Izad adds that universities and the media have to work together in educating and shaping the minds of the public on general issues, as well as what universities have done and would be doing. For sure our local universities have a lot to show and more interaction with the masses is needed to spread the word. As a university professor said, “there are lots of gems just waiting to sparkle”.

There is another reason for youths to consider studying locally. Malaysia aspires to be the regional education hub of choice by 2020 — at present, there are some 150,000 foreign students here, and the number is expected to reach 200,000 next year. For every foreign student, the tourism potential is manifold.

Invest in our universities. Businesses and corporates, send your underlings to study locally.

Create and mould talents within the country. There is much to learn from within just as there is from the “outside”.

It would serve us well to recall what ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said: “Without stirring abroad, one can know the whole world; Without looking out the window one can see the way to heaven. The further one goes the less one knows.”

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