PETALING JAYA, May 26: Education promotion offices will be set up in several countries to attract more foreign students to enrol in public and private educational institutions in Malaysia.
Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad said the offices would be in China, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Middle East.
He said he was confident it would help Malaysia achieve its aim of becoming a hub for educational excellence.
"These offices, to be manned by our officers, will promote both public and private education. The officers will have contact with our educational institutions and the respective governments of the countries they are serving in.
"We decided on the countries because they constitute our largest market. Many of their students are already studying here. We have about 10,000 students from China and about 6,000 from Indonesia," Musa said after opening a two-day national higher education conference organised by the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities at Sunway Lagoon Resort Hotel.
The participants comprised academicians and representatives from public and private institutions of higher learning.
At present, Malaysia has education attaches in several countries to promote the country as a destination for education. There are 32,000 foreign students in Malaysia.
Musa said the target was to have 50,000 foreign students by 2010.
Musa said the education promotion offices might be attached to the Malaysian students' departments or the embassies of the countries.
"We may expand these offices and allow them to function like the British Council. These offices can also act as information and reference centres.
"Education agents will, however, still be allowed to continue operating. But the promotion offices will co-ordinate the intake of students and give their stamp of approval." He said Singapore was Malaysia's biggest competitor in attracting foreign students.
In his speech, Musa said Malaysia saw private education as a "safety valve" to an ever increasing demand for higher education.
"Today, private education in the country has grown so fast that it is able to offer places to an ever increasing number of foreign students." The monitoring of quality should not be just the business of regulators but also that of the educational institutions, he said.
"I would like to see educational institutions sanctioning colleges that have betrayed the industry by offering poor quality courses and worse, by inducing the unsuspecting public to gain a qualification through fraud.
"We must also be wary of providers offering courses up to the PhD level through local agents and promising PhD qualifications in outrageously quick time, sometimes three months, without any semblance of research being done."