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PUTRAJAYA, Jan 12 ― Undergraduates in eight local public universities will be able to take a year off from their studies for the first time by this September, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh announced today.
“Starting from September 2017, the ministry will implement the Gap Year 2017 programme for the first time involving eight public universities in Malaysia.
“This programme will provide an opportunity for undergraduates to gain experience in carrying out volunteer work in public agencies,” he said in his speech at the ministry's new year assembly here.
It is understood the eight public universities include Universiti Utara Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.
The “Gap Year” programme is a popular practice abroad among high school graduates, university students and university graduates.
When met after the event, Idris told reporters that these eight universities had agreed to implement the gap year programme, indicating that there “could be more” in the future.
“This university programme, you can do national service or you can go to the industry that you want to work with or you can go and travel around the world...it is open, there are so many ways it can be implemented,” he said when commenting on the wide variety of choices that gap year participants can take.
He said university students could spend their gap year serving the country by working with government agencies, adding that the ministry is currently “working it out” with bodies such as the police, the army and the Immigration Department.
When asked whether the gap year programme would cover post-graduates or those who wish to defer their university enrollment, Idris said it would be for undergraduates who have completed at least their first year of studies.
Last July, Idris had reportedly said the ministry was studying the gap year system which would allow undergraduates to defer their studies and spend the time doing volunteer work and equipping themselves with entrepreneurship skills.
Idris had then said Malaysia needs university graduates to have a more holistic skills set, adding: “We do not want to produce graduates who do not know much after coming out of universities.”
Last October, Idris said the Gap Year programme would likely involve second-year and third-year university students where they can choose to volunteer abroad or locally.
He said participants of the programme would be encouraged to volunteer with government agencies such as the police, Immigration Department and Royal Malaysian Customs Department.
He had then said that volunteer work to help the community ― such as working with non-governmental organisations, working with the disabled, tutoring at refugee centres ― could help university students become more mature.
Today, Idris also announced that the Students Volunteers Foundation (YSS) had in 2016 seen 220 undergraduates being involved in high-impact missions in Sabah, Sarawak, the Asean region and in Europe.
He also announced that 117,823 volunteers had joined the Malaysian Universities' Volunteers Council's (Maskum) programmes last year, adding that he hopes the council would increase the participation of students from public and private universities in volunteer work.