FACULTY OF BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT
LEARNING SKILLS FOR OPEN DISTANCE LEARNERS
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Improving the Mastery of Soft Skills among University Students in Malaysia
Recently Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Minister of Education Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin voiced his dissatisfaction towards the current Malaysian education system, and had since conducting a review towards it. This action is taken after the discovery that many students in tertiary educational institutions lack in competency and having difficulties finding a job. Many people, especially employers have known an important element which is missing from most of the university graduates; namely the soft skills. However this particular reason is never revealed to applicants that failed for the jobs they aimed for, and therefore they are left in the dark and never realized what went wrong despite their excellent grades. In many countries including Malaysia, basic education or primary education is mandatory and it focuses on reading, writing and ciphering. Malaysia for example has its own National Philosophy of Education, in which the education serves as the holistic development of individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonious. The Philosophy also dictates that education should be designed to produce Malaysian citizens who are “knowledgeable and competent”, “possess high moral standards”, “responsible and capable of achieving a high level of personal well-being”, and will “contribute to the betterment of the family, the society and the nation at large.” Unfortunately the education system itself does very little in demonstrating the Philosophy that some teachers described it as a philosophy containing “big words that exist merely in theory.” While indeed students learned the basic skills (reading, writing and ciphering), it didn’t help students with developing basic soft skills. Interaction between students, assigning the role of a leader alternatively between students are not done properly that the same students ended up getting the advantage of learning soft skills at an early stage. It is important that university students need to know what exactly soft skills are. Unlike the hard skills which are taught directly and are present in curriculum syllabus, soft skills are more related to an individual’s personality and attitude. This report will discuss the main types of soft skills, and how to improve soft skills among university students. 2
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Definition of soft skills
Before we go further into soft skills, we will discuss the meaning of its counterpart “hard skills”. This is because soft skills complement hard skills, and therefore neither term should be neglected.
HiringSolutions.net (2011) defined hard skills as “specific, teachable abilities that may be required in a given context, such as a job or university application.” Hard skills tend to be specific to a certain type or task or activity, and are usually taught whether in universities or institutions. Examples of hard skills include typing, mathematical ability, and proficiency with software applications.
Meanwhile we get various meanings of soft skills. According to Schulz (2008), soft skill has a varied definition, since the perception of what is a soft skill differs from context to context. He explained that a subject may be considered a soft skill in one particular area, and may be considered a hard skill in another. Wikipedia (2011), however states that soft skills are: “…a sociological term relating to a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people.” On another note, Collins English Dictionary (2009) gave a different definition on the term: “Desirable qualities for...