Information Technology (IT) has been a fast moving and evolving field. It has now evolved into Information Communication Technology (ICT) which is a general term spanning from engineering, telecommunication, computing and even multimedia. The Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) does not have a ‘Program Standard’ specific for ICT. Instead, the term ‘Computing’ has been used by MQA to define courses in ICT, with four distinct fields specified: Computer Science (CS), Software Engineering (SE), Information Systems (IS) and Information Technology (IT). It has been reported by National ICT Association of Malaysia (PIKOM) that many Malaysians employers are not clear about their differences. The same goes for the students and the general public.
Essentially, Computer Science and Software Engineering degree courses are designed to produce graduates who are technology creators. Meanwhile, Information Systems and Information Technology degree courses are meant to create graduates that are skilled to become expert users of ICT.
For employment, Computer Science and Software Engineering graduates can serve as software developers, while Information Technology or Computer Science graduates with the relevant electives can serve to administer, integrate, select and manage systems, databases, middleware, network equipment and computing infrastructure.
Information Systems and possibly Computer Science graduates with the relevant electives can work on areas of leveraging technology and information for business.
Employers will probably find Computer Science graduates being the most ready in filling most roles in ICT if they have the right attitude and willing to self-learn new technologies and tools. This is because compliant Computer Science courses are designed to prepare graduates with the broadest fundamental knowledge in computing that enables them to quickly adapt to the changes. Further, they would be the best candidates for R&D as they are trained to look at new ways of solving computing problems and typically have the strongest science and mathematics background. This view is consistent with Malaysians Digital Economy Corporation’s finding on the breadth of job types in their “Skills Competency Matrix” report.
It is worth noting that it is in general not easy to re-train Information System and Information Technology graduates to take on core business critical software development as this requires good background in a number of advanced mathematics and computer science concepts that are not typically or adequately covered in Information Technology and Information Systems courses.
For a nation that is aspiring to be technology producers, Malaysia should encourage the best and brightest to pursue Computer Science and Software Engineering courses.
Ms Wee Hui Bieh, AFMSA, Jan. 2018
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