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As mentioned above, there are people affirming that the quality of local graduates improving day by day. According to the Star newspaper (2011), Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin stated that local graduates are just as good as those from foreign universities. He added multi-national companies would not have employed local graduates if they are not good. Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsudin Bardan said there is not much difference between local graduates and foreign graduates in terms of qualification. Local graduates are intelligent and bright as those from foreign. Often, graduates presume that they can easily get a job because they are considered ‘professionals’ after obtaining their degree (The Star, 2011). We have to bear in mind that employers look for performers and not a person with a string of paper qualifications (Ong, 2009). They look for a person with a combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and personal traits (Fulton-Calkins, Rankins and Shumack, 2010). Some of the employability skills needed by graduates to secure jobs are academic skills, personality management skills, exploration skills, and connectivity skills (Mohamad and Hamzah, 2009).
We have to accept the veracity that our local graduates are still lack of some skills unlike the foreign graduates. One of the aspects that we should concern about is the soft skill of our local graduates. Does soft skill really leaving impact on the performance of the local and foreign graduates? Yes, of course. Soft skills include how a person communicates, language level, and obedience. It is commonly accepted that our local graduates are lack of soft skills; especially the level of their English proficiency is still very poor.
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According to Jobstreet.com (2008), local graduates earn twelve per cent lower than the foreign graduates in average. It is also stated that the gap will be more than ten per cent even after ten or more years of working experience. I surmise one of the factors that lead to this situation is the inadequacy of critical-thinking skills among local graduates. Many of the graduates out there do not really know the prominence of critical-thinking at the first place. It might be just a word that they had gone through in the books while in secondary schools or colleges. Though, critical-thinking skill is something substantial as the world is getting transparent and the competition in the workforce is getting higher. In fact, it is required by every graduate who wish to enter the job market. They have to be creative and innovative in order to sustain in the competitive workforce. Unfortunately, local graduates said to be closed-minded and hardly accept the criticism from others. This is worsened by their attitude of ignoring their limitations where presuming that they know more than they actually do.
Last but not least, local graduates are also having limited amount of problem-solving skills. Obviously, this is one of the reasons why local graduates’ quality is still poor and they cannot compete with the foreign degree holders. Subsequent to their limited amount of problem-solving skills, they fail to handle a job or a task independently. They also take longer time to solve a problem compared to foreign graduates who enable to solve it quickly. Malaysian Education system is said to be more on spoon feeding from primary level until tertiary level. In addition, our education system is fully exam-oriented where the students need to memorize and recite what they have studied in the examinations. When they exposed to the real-life situation, which is during working stage, they have to suffer a lot and need more guidance from their managers since what they have studied so far is not really important here.
Even though the quality of the local graduates, both from public and private universities, is equal to foreign graduates in the aspect of education, we have to admit that the employability skills like soft skills, critical-thinking skills and problem-solving skills are lacking in local graduates. However, foreign graduates are trained to be balanced in all the aspects including education and employability skills. Local graduates must change their mindset that education is the only requirement for them to be successful but other skills are ignorable. Remember, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation and well-known by most of the people in the world, is a university drop out. It does not mean I am asking all the students to be a drop out but they have to be aware of what is happening in the world and make themselves viable to the current market besides equipping their selves with knowledge so that they can be all-rounder upon graduation. The government also must take more initiatives to cultivate all-round graduates so that they can compete with the foreign graduates.