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Journal of Modern Accounting and Auditing, ISSN 1548-6583 June 2011, Vol. 7, No.

6, 615-620

Entrepreneurship Education in Malaysia: Nurturing Entrepreneurial Interest Amongst Students

Sabarudin Zakaria, Wan Fadzilah Wan Yusoff
Multimedia University, Malaysia

Raja Hisham Raja Madun

Universiti Tenaga Nasional, Malaysia In its effort towards becoming a developed nation in the next decade, Malaysia has incorporated its education system with National Higher Education Action Plan initiatives to produce a next generation of populace who are no more dependent on the government for various aids. For the past decade, creation of entrepreneurs through a formal education has become the mainstay of the local Higher Education Institutions (HEI). Pursuing of an entrepreneurship education by means of a degree programme has emerged as one of the popular choice among undergraduates as an option for rewarding and full time career. Because of this, there has been an increased demand for entrepreneurship education and training in Malaysia to nurture entrepreneurial characteristics. The national agenda is to encourage the younger generations to be nurtured into becoming job-creators rather than job-seekers once they leave the educational system. Given this trend, HEIs need to undertake some policy changes, including faculty or school overall legislation and the development of alternative specialized programs, to be more accommodating to future entrepreneurs. This paper provides an insight into entrepreneurship education, as one of the programs that can generate interest among undergraduates to enhance entrepreneurial characteristics in order to create good entrepreneurs. Keywords: entrepreneurship, students, education, training, Malaysia

Malaysia embraced the descent of knowledge economy with much apprehension and trepidation. But once the initial confusion abated, several national level economic agenda were developed in the last decade to prepare its population against the challenges brought about by the dynamisms, and uncertainties brought about by the consistent changes in the global environment. One such agenda is to ensure that its populace are adequately trained and developed to face those challenges with tenacity instead of looking to the government for the rescue. In order to start such training from an early age, Malaysia in the last decade of 1990s saw the introduction of various entrepreneurship programmes and initiatives to facilitate the transformation towards making Malaysians into becoming a nation of self-reliance. The most significant initiative was the introduction of entrepreneurship education at tertiary level. By then, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in countries across several continents
Sabarudin Zakaria, lecturer, Faculty of Management, Multimedia University. Wan Fadzilah Wan Yusoff, dean, Faculty of Management, Multimedia University. Raja Hisham Raja Madun, lecturer, Faculty of Business and Accountancy, Universiti Tenaga Nasional.



like Austria, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Singapore and the UK had launched novel academic programmes revolving around entrepreneurships (McKeown, Millman, & Sursani, 2006). Since its introduction was in the late 1990s, entrepreneurship education has been charting an unprecedented growth and still remaining unabated. This is evident from the plethora of research outputs, which justifies the importance of entrepreneurship education in making the youths develop an entrepreneurial attitude (Faudziah & Habshah, 2006). Consistent with any other developing countries, Malaysia has managed to generate considerable interest in area of entrepreneurship among the public and private sectors alike. Corresponding changes in the local economic environment, like recession which effect many bigger companies in the 1990s, globalization and developments of small scale enterprises have help to propel the importance of entrepreneurship (Nurmi & Paasio, 2007). The encouragement and call by the government of more participation in entrepreneurship among younger generations opened up new opportunity and the inclination to venture to this untapped but potential sector. As such, the need to train and educate young people in this area became crucially important. The main objective was to encourage them to become job-creators instead of job-seekers upon leaving the educational system (Jesselyn & Mitchell, 2006). Such effort managed to show some levels of success from the diminishing in the preference of academically educated people from traditional channels to employment to increasing interest in new career possibilities as entrepreneurs (Nurmi & Paasio, 2007). This new development and the believe that life security and wealth creation is more secured and guaranteed if the proper guidance and support is made possible especially in the form of training and development. Thus, this study provides an insight into entrepreneurship education, as one of the programs that can generate interest among undergraduates to enhance entrepreneurial characteristics in order to create good entrepreneurs.

Literature Review
Entrepreneurship may be interpreted in various ways. For example, Hamilton and Harper (1994) described an entrepreneur as a person who is willing to undertake certain risks in order to take advantage of an invention, while Thompson (1999) defined it as someone who is able to identify and exploit a new business opportunity. On the other hand, academic entrepreneurship according to The Edge (2008), referred to the leadership process of creating economic value through acts of organizational creation, renewal or innovation that occurs within or outside the academic institution that results in research and technology commercialization. According to (Cheng, Chan, & Mahmood, 2009), entrepreneurship studies enable people to be equipped with innovative enterprise skills to grasp the opportunities while, at the same time, entrepreneurs set the pace of the new economy by forging new entrepreneurial activities. As evident from various literatures, emphasis on entrepreneurship education began to gain significance from early 1990s, led by institutions in European, Asian and African countries (Ronstadt, 1987; Yonca & Nuray, 2006). Wyckham (1989) suggested that entrepreneurial support systems be enhanced by university-based entrepreneurial education programs. Since then, education in entrepreneurship has been expended to include the development of an entrepreneurial culture, promote enterprise, create new ventures, and foster entrepreneurial mindsets through education and learning (Kuratko, 2003). This new paradigm has enabled the next generations to see things from a different perspective. Rather than hunt for opportunities in the job markets, they create a mindset to develop entrepreneurship capabilities and self-made wealth. To ensure sustainability of the existing programmes and initiatives, more policies and accompanying mechanisms for entrepreneur support were developed. A significant one was the establishment of the Ministry of



Entrepreneur Development in 1995 by the Malaysian government. This move amplified the commitment of the government to nurture and support any entrepreneurial ventures (International Entrepreneurship, 2006). As anticipated by The Edge (2008), the efforts by the government has managed to show positive results; amongst which, are growth to the organizations, increased in profit and a creation of wealth. There have also been some spill-over effects to the external environment and general economy resulting from increased productivity, improved best practices, creation of new industries and enhanced international competitiveness. This is clearly evident from the National Higher Education Action Plan 2007-2010 spearheaded by the Ministry of Higher Education that include the transformation of teaching and learning to focus on entrepreneurial skills as one of its strategy. Learning from the experience in South Africa where the previous economic structure served by the HEIs channeled students preference towards jobs in the corporate setting (Jesselyn & Mitchell, 2006), Malaysian HEIs began to redefine their roles in supporting the local economy and society (Cheng et al., 2009). The result of such effort was found to be consistent with the findings of Jesselyn and Mitchell (2006) where young people were found to have developed more entrepreneurial dispositions and developed a clear understanding of risks and rewards, teaching opportunity seeking and recognition skills, as well as creation and destruction of enterprises. Recent studies were able to show consistent results in showing the importance of entrepreneurship education in inculcating a spirit of entrepreneurship among the graduates (Cheng et al., 2009). An example where a universitys researchers and executive staff developed a niche program to promote an entrepreneurial climate is from the initiative of University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands in 1984, where students could start a company with the support of the university (Van der Sijde & Ridder, 2008). As an important player in the global business environment from the education perspective, in incorporating entrepreneurship as one of the program or subject offered whether as a full pledge degree or subject as major and specialization, the objective and the outcome should be outline clearly. This is to avoid being in a position of nice to have but in the end the impact of having such program is not achieved. In the long-run, any entrepreneurship program should be able to equip students with innovative entrepreneurial skills that would enable them take advantage of any opportunities that come their way. Such ability would forge new entrepreneurial activities leading to the increased pace of the economy (Cheng et al., 2009). However, this position can only be possible if the program takes an action-based approach where active learning underpins the method of knowledge transfers. That is, the teaching approach should move away from being examination-based where continuous assessment would be the mainstay of student evaluation, such as by having the students engaged in a managing a small business project in campus, or preparing a real business plan and have it presented to professionals like the bankers or an entrepreneurship development committee to get actual feedback. According to Cooperstein and Kocevar-Weidinger (2004), the more knowledge a student has learned and with the ability to apply, the more exposed they will be to new problems that need to be resolved. That is, any transfer of learning is most effective when there is an adequate understanding of its fundamental principles. Two categories of entrepreneurship education as distinguished by Jesselyn and Mitchell (2006) are education about entrepreneurship and education for entrepreneurship. The former involves developing, constructing and studying the theories referred to the entrepreneurs, the firm creation, and contribution towards economic development, the entrepreneurial process and the small and middle sized firms. In this instance undergraduate, Masters and PhD students as well as policy makers and researchers are also considered as entrepreneurs where entrepreneurship is viewed as a social phenomenon. On the other hand, education for entrepreneurship holds the objective of developing and stimulating the entrepreneurial process, providing all the tools necessary for the



start-up of a new venture both within and outside an existing organization. From the context of local development, higher education transformation was seen as a direct consequence of the National Higher Education Action Plan (2007-2010). The impact was apparent from the shifting of focus towards R&D and commercialization activities. Public and selected private HEIs began to foster closer relationships with the public sector organizations and the industry. HEIs were also found to adopt initiatives that emphasize resource efficiency and quality management. Both approaches called for a certain level of accountability in finance and outcome. Along with this commitment came the effort to make it a reality. Universities in Malaysia responded by offering entrepreneurship discipline as one of the core programs offered. In the long run university had created its own economic value by becoming entrepreneurial. Malaysian HEIs soon were found to engage education entrepreneurship education consistent with what was happening in universities and colleges worldwide (Thompson, 1999; Yonca & Nuray, 2006). And as time progressed and in keeping with the dynamism of the business environment, new perspectives on this subject need to continually be reviewed. This is to ensure that course curricula and teaching methodologies move away from the traditional modes of delivery; that is from teacher-centered to learning-or student-centered (Jesselyn & Mitchell, 2006). Entrepreneurship education was pioneered by HEIs in the United States of America (Kuratko, 2003). Subsequent study by Yonca and Nuray (2006) indicated that the number of colleges and universities that offer entrepreneurship courses has grown from an insignificant number in the 1970s to more than 1,600 in 2003. With such growing significance in entrepreneurship education, it is obvious that a different teaching pedagogy is called for. Dwerryhouse (2001) suggested that it should be linked to work-related learning while Kolb (1984) proposed an experiential learning mode, followed by action-learning (Smith, 2001) and entrepreneurial training (Cheng et al., 2009). This view is consistent with that of Jesselyn and Mitchell (2006), where entrepreneurship education is seen as knowledge transfer occurring in the field where the acquisition of knowledge happens from a learning experience which later developed into competencies, skills, aptitudes and values.

Education in entrepreneurship was initially viewed with some degree of skepticism. It challenged the elements theoretical teaching the outcome of learning was more predictable. Therefore the discipline was slow to pick up in the beginning. However, once the momentum picked up, more universities began to offer a full-fledged degree program (Ronstadt, 1987) where the objective was to focus on providing a holistic education to potential entrepreneurs. Although this new paradigm brought about varying reactions from students and academics alike in the beginning, positive responses soon emerged (Nurmi & Paasio, 2007). A similar phenomenon was observed in Malaysian universities. With support from the government and other public sector organizations, soon local HEIs, public and private, began to offer a full range of academic courses in entrepreneurship (Faudziah & Habshah, 2006). As the nation shifted into the knowledge economy, greater importance was placed on developing and nurturing entrepreneurs among the knowledge workers in the IT sector. Multimedia University (MMU) responded by offering a programme called Bachelor of Multimedia (Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship) with entrepreneurship as a core course. Further, a subject Introduction to Cyberpreneurship was made a compulsory subject for all students in MMU, regardless of their majors (ibid). This view was supported by Nurmi and Paasio (2007), who stated that university level enterprise education should be made available to students in all disciplines, and not be confined to business students alone.



Currently, there are six Universities and Colleges in Malaysia offer full time Undergraduate Entrepreneurship courses (Uniguru, 2010). Apart from MMU, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) is another HEI that put emphasis on entrepreneurship education by offering different programs in entrepreneurship education and training (Faudziah & Habshah, 2006). UUMs brand of entrepreneurship programmes reflects a mix of the environmental influences and the processes of planning, researching and developing entrepreneurial education and training. Other local HEIs soon followed suit. For example, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM decides to offer one entrepreneurship its Bachelor of Business Administration programme. University of Malaya (UM) chooses to offer it at the Department of Business Strategy and Policy. Similarly, in Universiti Tenaga Nasional, an entrepreneurship degree is also offered. In fact, in many Malaysian HEIs entrepreneurship is offered as a core subject at the Master of Business Administration (MBA) level. The initiative should not just stop at the HEI level through a formal academic program. Other indirect efforts are reflect from the introduction of entrepreneurial activities in the school co-curriculum intended to instill such spirit among the younger generation (Ariff & Yanti, 2002). This is to ensure that the nurturing of entrepreneurial spirits may be sustained over a longer term; otherwise the initiative will end prematurely. According to Petridou, Sarri, and Kyrgidou (2009), although students are given exposure in the field of entrepreneurship, individuals generally remain uncertain to be involved in this field as it involves high level of risks.

This brief but meaningful insight into the development of entrepreneurship programmes and studies in several universities in Malaysia has shown considerable interest in recent years in nurturing high level awareness and creating an entrepreneurial culture among higher education institutions (HEI). However, the effectiveness of these programmes is yet to be confirmed by its success in matching students skill expectations with their skill acquisition (Cheng et al., 2009). The objective to create an enterprising individual can only be achieved when there is a corresponding offer of effective entrepreneurship programmes. Thus, a review of existing curriculum and a redesign appropriate curriculum to develop effective entrepreneurship programmes and enterprising individuals is required (Cheng et al., 2009). Notwithstanding, entrepreneurship programmes have begun to emerge as one of the popular programmes among graduates who see as having a potential to provide a rewarding and full time career. As such, the effort to train and educate graduates in this discipline should be maintained and enhanced. In this context, HEIs should be more rigorous and serious in offering entrepreneurship as one of the core programmes in an effort to create interest and nurture future entrepreneurs. Once this is achieved, a pool of job-creators instead of job-seekers is formed once they leave the educational system. With the employability rate becoming more unpredictable, graduates should be prepared to be more willing to take risks in venturing into deeper end of the zone by being more self reliant like building their own business. To create this trend HEIs requires radical change in policy which include faculty or school overall legislation and grow alternative specialized programs attract the interest of future entrepreneurs. A well written curriculum and aggressive promotion of such programme will certainly garner support from both the government and the private sectors. Nevertheless, to develop an academic entrepreneurial paradigm, the mindset in all the universities calls for a change in the organization and systems.



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