Human Capital Development: Soft Skill Initiatives at Universiti Putra Malaysia

By Mohd Majid Konting, Khatijah Yusoff and Sidek Ab Aziz.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Malaysia has identified human capital development as the most critical element in achieving its Vision 2020. Human capital development encompasses a holistic acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitude, complemented by soft skills capabilities. Soft or generic skills refer to the cluster of personality traits, social graces, language proficiency, personal habits and teamwork. Accordingly, the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia has explicitly identified seven elements of soft skills. This paper presents initiatives undertaken at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), one of the leading universities in Malaysia, to enhance the students’ soft skills through curriculum design, teaching approaches and assessment techniques. In order to ensure effectiveness of the initiatives, the students were evaluated by self-rated soft skills psychometric assessment instruments at three different levels: entry, intermediate, and exit. The result of the entry study on 3,464 new students of the 2007/2008 academic session showed that the students’ soft skills were moderately high (3.07±0.36) on a four-point scale. In particular, they were strong in lifelong learning and information management (3.18±0.36), moral and professional ethics (3.17 ± 0.31) as well as in teamwork (3.16±0.32). The study also shows that there was a significant difference on the mastery level of soft skills among students of different entering qualifications (F = 11.85, p < 0.01), programs of study (F = 23.39, p < 0.01), participation in school societies (F = 2.48, p < 0.05), participation in uniform units (F = 2.65, p < 0.05), and academic positions (F = 3.77, p < 0.01) during their school days. However, there was no significant difference between their soft skills mastery level according to their gender (t = -0.37, p > 0.05) and their level of involvement in sports (F = 1.66, p > 0.05). Attaining the soft skills is a lifelong learning process. It is a great challenge for the University to enhance the students’ soft skills in order to realise the country’s vision.

Keywords: Human Capital Development, Soft Skills Initiatives, Generic Skills, Lifelong Learning, Education

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.89-98. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 589.045KB).

Mohd Majid Konting

Deputy Director, Centre for Academic Development, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Mohd Majid Konting obtained his PhD in Education from the University of Lancaster, England. He has been a lecturer at the Department of Foundations of Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia since 1982. He served as the Head of Department and Deputy Dean (Academic) of the Faculty. He is a master trainer of Soft Skill Initiatives, Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia. Currently he is the Deputy Director (Policy and Quality), Centre for Academic Development, Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Prof. Khatijah Yusoff

Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic & International), Universiti Putra Malaysia, UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Khatijah Yusoff obtained a First Class Honours degree in Microbiology and PhD from La Trobe University, Australia. Since then she has been a lecturer at Universiti Putra Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1994 and became a full Professor in 2001. She served as the Dean of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences in 2006, and is currently the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and International) at UPM.

Sidek Ab Aziz

Director, Centre for Academic Development, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Sidek Ab Aziz obtained his PhD in Physics from University of Bath, England. He has been a lecturer at the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia since 1989. Currently, he is the Director, Centre for Academic Development, Universiti Putra Malaysia.

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