KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia needs to reinvent its education system to adapt to the knowledge economy, which has led to a sharp reduction in unskilled jobs and spike in demand for data analysts.
Tan Sri Andrew Sheng, Distinguished Fellow of Asia Global Institute, University of Hong Kong, said Malaysia needs to retool its education and skills, and experiment across the spectrum, in positioning itself in the new economy.
“Formal education is outdated because of the speed of new knowledge. Companies do not spend on ‘on the job’ training, because of cost cuts and staff turnover,” he said during his presentation at the NCCIM Economic Forum 2017 yesterday.
Between 2007 and 2015, the loss of unskilled jobs was 55% relative to other jobs while demand for data analysts over the last five years has increased 372%.
In the global supply chain, old economy companies are quickly losing their edge as digitisation moves faster than physical goods while unskilled jobs will be quickly replaced by robotics due to the fast adoption of artificial intelligence (AI).
“Moving up the global value chain is about moving up knowledge intensity. If you don’t get smarter you won’t get the business.
“We are already plugged into the global value chain. We are very successful in that area but we cannot stay where we are. Remaining still is no longer an option. We need to move from tasks to value added growth to high value added production. In order to do that, we need to learn to learn.”
Sheng said the Malaysian economy is doing well but faces many challenges, including subdued energy prices, growing trade protectionism, geopolitical tensions and is still very reliant on foreign labour.
“Are we ready for the new economy? The way trade is growing is phenomenal but the new economy’s challenges are great and very complicated politically because technology is great for us as it gives us whatever we want but at the cost of our jobs,” he said.
When education fails to keep pace with technology, the result is inequality, populism and major political upheaval.
“What the new economy tells us is that robotics or AI (artificial intelligence) calls for Education 4.0, which means that we have to learn for life,” he said.
Sheng noted that Malaysia has successfully moved quietly into education services, medical tourism, higher quality foods, all through upgrading skills, branding and marketing.
“But formal education has become bureaucratised, whereas we are not spending enough on upgrading our labour force, prefering to hire imported labour,” he said.
Although Malaysia cannot compete in terms of scale and speed, especially against giants such as China, it can compete in terms of scope with strength in diversity, soft skills and adaptability.
“We are winners … but have we got the mindset?” Sheng questioned.
He said Malaysia must upgrade its physical technology through research and development, harness its unique social technology and digitise its business model in order to create wealth.
While the government can help, he added, true success comes from community self-help irrespective of race or creed, and retired baby boomers who have wealth of experience must mentor the youth to start thinking about the new economy.
Eva Yeong, firstname.lastname@example.org
is a distinguished fellow at Fung Global Institute, chief adviser …
member of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the sovereign wealth fund of Malaysia.
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