Will the difference make a huge impact on career path?
FOR a very long time, studying abroad was an option purely for the deep-pocketed elite. Apart from the cost factor, many families chose to send their kids overseas because of the cultural wealth and better job prospects that came with it. Fast forward to today, many still choose to send their children overseas to pursue their education. Thanks to rising affluence, more families are able to send their kids abroad. But are the benefits of studying some thousands of miles away versus just down the street so drastic that it’s really going to make a huge impact on one’s career path?
The main issue to consider when studying abroad is that it requires more financial support and planning. Lee, a 30-year old information technology graduate from the United States admits that the biggest issue about studying overseas is the cost. “Studying overseas can be really expensive. Accommodation and food is denominated in a currency that’s probably higher than ours. Furthermore, most countries do not allow foreign students to work, so you need to have money before you arrive in the country or have someone from home supporting you. “However, having a foreign qualification helps to make your resume stand out compared with the rest,” he says.
Dinesh Kanavaji, 31, is a practising lawyer in Malaysia who studied law in Britain in the late 90s. His two-year course cost him about £15,000 a year or about RM90,000 annually given the high exchange rate at the time. “At the time, the tuition fees cost about £10,000 annually. Accommodation and food cost about £4,000 or so, this of course, provided that you lived at a campus hostel rather than elsewhere. “Ultimately, it was a character-building experience, having to be able to live, cook and travel on your own,” he says, adding that studying abroad also provides a unique opportunity for language and cultural immersion.
Dinesh also feels that the standard of education offered overseas is higher. “The standard is higher over there. The lecturers are experienced and well trained, comprising doctors and professors that have written a few books. Many of the lecturers locally are quite young.” He also says the education in Malaysia (as far as law was concerned) was very academically-driven. “In Britain, they make you work and figure things out for yourself, creating a heightened level of maturity.”
Dinesh’s wife Melissa Ram, 32, studied her Bachelor of Jurisprudence degree in law entirely in Malaysia and is quick to admit the cost benefits of studying locally. Compared with Dinesh, her four-year course (plus one year of A-Levels) cost just RM20,000. “It probably would have cost me three times more if I had studied overseas. “Also, you don’t have to worry about getting home-sick and can meet up with your friends any time,” she says. Melissa however admits that the level of education in Malaysia (especially in law) was not up to par with the standard offered overseas. “I participated in a legal workshop that was conducted by solicitors from London and could immediately feel that the quality of their training was far superior.”
She says law degree graduates in Britain that studied for the bar exam (which qualifies a person to practice law) were subjected to hands-on training while the Malaysian equivalent of the bar, the CLP (Certificate in Legal Practice), is purely academic in nature. “Those who do get the opportunity to study overseas should go,” Melissa says. Chan, 29, a local engineering graduate, says studying locally provided him with flexibility to do whatever he wanted during semester breaks. “During your semester breaks, you can find good temporary employment at places such as McDonalds or a shopping complex for instance without the need to worry about work permits or the language. He adds that food is also cheap and abundant in Malaysia compared with many other countries.
Who do the employers prefer?
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsudin Bardan says there is generally a preference for foreign graduates by employers. “It’s because foreign graduates are more proficient in English and have better thinking skills. They are more mature and independent than local graduates. “In terms of qualification or technical ability, there’s not much difference (with local graduates). However, when it comes to soft skills, foreign graduates have the advantage,” he says. A spokesman from the Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management also concurs that there is a preference for foreign graduates. “Multinationals, especially, are more keen to hire foreign graduates because they carry themselves better.
They speak well and with confidence during the interview. “Local graduates (who are more weak in terms of soft skills) don’t express themselves well enough in front of the interviewer, who would think that the interviewee is just not prepared for the job.” He also says that there is a general perception that the standard of Malaysian education is more inferior when compared to the standards in other countries. “A lot of people have criticised the standard of our education, which has clouded the minds the way that employers think. The environment has to change. People and politicians should change this perception.”