M'sians Share How APEL Helped Them Get Higher Education Despite Not Having Qualifications

Hear the stories of these successful Malaysians who only went to university later on in life.

Cover image via Asia News Day & New Straits Times

This Spotlight is sponsored by the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia.

Higher education is important, but not everyone has the privilege to go to university right after secondary school

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For some, they may have missed out on scholarship opportunities and weren't able to afford university. For others, they may have been forced into the working world sooner than expected because they needed to earn an income and support their family.

Whatever the scenario, many Malaysians join the workforce without any proper formal qualifications. Later in life though, with many years of practical experience, they may decide to finally pursue higher education.

However, turning those years of work experience into a degree certificate is not always that easy.

For professional musician and gambus expert Raja Zulkarnain Raja Mohd Yusof, he always wanted to pursue a master's programme, but lacked the proper formal qualifications

Image via Berita Harian

Raja Zulkarnain first picked up the oud, or gambus, when he came across the instrument at a music shop in London. He spent two years learning the instrument from an Iraqi musician, and later on even became the first Malaysian to study at Cairo's prestigious Beit Al-Oud Al-Arabi music school.

When he came back to Malaysia, he played in the Subang Jaya Municipal Council orchestra, and taught the gambus to diploma, degree, and master's students in various higher education institutions in the country. But despite his years of experience, he wasn't actually qualified to do so, since he only had a diploma certification.

At that time, he considered pursuing a master's programme, but that would mean spending extra years getting his degree first. So, he put his academic dreams on hold and continued working.

However, when Raja Zulkarnain heard about the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) programme in 2014, he jumped at the opportunity

APEL is a programme established by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) to provide Malaysians who have work experience but lack of formal academic qualifications an alternative entry to higher education.

After sitting for an aptitude test and interview, Raja Zulkarnain was awarded the APEL A (Admission) certificate, which allowed him to immediately pursue a Master of Arts in Musicology programme at University of Malaya.

Now, he is the president of the Malaysian Gambus Association, and lectures at the National Conservatory of Arts - an organisation that offers art, culture, and heritage courses on music, dance, and theatre.

Another notable individual who has benefitted from APEL is Malaysia Federation of the Deaf Executive Director Mohamad Sazali Sha’ari

Image via Asia News Day

From advocating for more inclusive policies for differently-abled people, to highlighting the struggles faced by the deaf community in the current pandemic, Sazali is an influential figure in Malaysia who is always looking out for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

"First of all, I'm so grateful that there is such a thing as APEL in the country that helps support students or individuals like me. It opens the opportunity for people who don't have the chance to further their studies, but are still contributing to the development of the country," shared Sazali.

In 2018, Sazali received his APEL certification, and has been continuing his pursuit of lifelong learning since then. According to him, learning is just something that's built-in to him, and he hopes more Malaysians take hold of the opportunity in front of them to further their knowledge.

HotFM radio announcer Nordin Mardian, popularly known as Deen, also finds that APEL is helpful for Malaysians who have spent years working in their respective industries, but haven't had a chance to further their studies

Deen recently received his APEL certification in 2019, after working in the media and broadcasting industry for several years. For him, APEL presents an opportunity for Malaysians who want to leverage on their practical experience, and turn it into something tangible like a formal qualification.

"I'm so happy to know that I have an option to upgrade my level of academic achievement by going through APEL. So, thanks to APEL for providing us this option to all Malaysians," said Deen.

The great thing about APEL is that it was designed specifically to help those who want to further their studies, but lack of proper academic qualifications

Now, anyone can pursue their dreams of higher education, even those who only have a UPSR or PMR/PT3 certificate. With the APEL certification, you can gain admission into a higher education institution to get formal academic qualifications:

- Certificate | Level 3 MQF
- Diploma | Level 4 MQF
- Bachelor's Degree | Level 6 MQF
- Master's Degree | Level 7 MQF

On top of that, APEL for credit award gives you the opportunity for course exemption based on your accumulated work experience. Ultimately, APEL not only helps you further your education, it also helps you gain your qualification and graduate faster.

According to Prof. Dato Dr. Husaini Omar, CEO of MQA, over 4,000 applicants have successfully received their APEL certifications to further their studies at higher institutions

"MQA has provided the room and a pathway for those who are still working and want to further their studies, but don't have the proper qualifications... This is one of our efforts in supporting lifelong learning," explained Prof. Dato' Dr Husaini Omar.

Want to learn more about APEL and how it could help you further your studies? Watch the full video below:

Or, visit their website today to find out how you can apply online

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