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|
Deputy Director, Centre for Academic Development, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic & International), Universiti Putra Malaysia, UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
Director, Centre for Academic Development, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
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