Challenges of University Education

Beyond his professional life, Dr. Vong's own experiences in education have had a profound effect on his personal development. His tertiary education taken in the UK and Malaysia and later in Australia and US, and his experiences within different education systems have made him question the way things are done. He pinpoints a number of key issues: the responsibility for funding is one. "The 'consumers' of graduates [by which he means employers] must contribute to educational funding. Education must be a public/private partnership and business must be involved."

We talk more specifically about the way in which education is delivered. "The quality of teaching in emerging countries is tremendously uninteresting." He argues strongly for a need to "distil creativity into teaching". He also sees significant value in the idea of using simulations to teach, particularly within a vocational context. "If you want to learn branch banking, let's build a simulated bank branch".

Our conversation moves on to the role education plays in developing individuals for the workplace. There are some core attributes that need to be embedded into education at every level. "Everybody must be taught communication skills, writing and speaking, in whatever discipline they study". Beyond this, there should be greater emphasis on developing "determination and discipline, although these things can be influenced and mentored but not taught".

There should also be a much greater focus on advice and support around career pathways. Certain students know what they want to do, but for those who don't, you need to provide career counselling. A career path, based on the employment environment of the country, should be mapped out before tertiary education which would enable the necessary mapping of needed skills and behaviours, thus making education more vocational." It also highlights the need to communicate the realities of working life to individual students in order to help them make the transition between education and employment. "You have to manage the expectations of graduates so that they understand the necessary skills and behaviours and related difficulties of doing a job."

We finish by talking about the role employers can play. Against the backdrop of the global economic crisis, and within the context of changing employment realities where job or even career moves are increasingly frequent, employers are wary of investing in training, due to a focus on short term results. "You need to think about new ways of doing things. Why not have contracts between employers and employees which require staff to return fees for any education paid for by their employer if they switch companies before a certain period of time?" Another approach would be to place the onus on the recipient employer: "You put a system in place that requires one company to compensate another for the training costs invested in the staff joining a company".

Part of the problem for employers is that companies don't understand or are unable to quantify the long-term benefits of investment in training and education. "Employers don't know how to measure return on education; you need to tie in jobs to training after linking training to KPIs."

Although he is positive about the future, he concludes that action is needed. "It's time for a change. We need to focus on circulating best practice through developing pilot projects. Then based on the success of the pilots, we need to scale these up."

(Excerpt taken from


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