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Higher Education and Social Cohesion: A Study of Sabah and Sarawak
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Social cohesion is a societal condition that needs a continuous effort and practical approach to achieve. The fact that it has always been a concern for all in multicultural Malaysia has helped ascertain the aims of this research, which are to investigate the strength of social cohesion among undergraduates in Sabah and Sarawak, to understand how higher education contributes to promoting and preventing social cohesion, and consequently, to facilitate the formulation and implementation of unity programme policies in institutions of higher learning (IHLs). This study has found that social cohesion is closely correlated with curriculum and moderately correlated with co-curriculum, extra-curriculum and residential activities. As for compulsory courses offered in IHLs such as Ethnic Relations, Islamic and Asia Civilisation, Languages, and Basic Entrepreneurship, the results from this research has ruled out the Ethnic Relations Module as the course which is most important in strengthening social cohesion in IHL. It has also found that mastering the English Language is vital in view of globalization, and that the use of English as the medium of instruction does not undermine efforts towards the strengthening of social cohesion among Malaysians in IHLs. Outcome from the research is recommended in the policy implications for the ministry and universities. Policy implications for the ministry are in the development and improvement of curriculum, particularly on issues which involve social cohesion, in co-curricular and student activities, bridging the divide between science and non-science students and recognising the importance of the English language to facilitate national goal of transforming Malaysia into a regional hub of excellence in higher education. Meanwhile, policy implications to universities are, among others, to encourage oral communication in classes, incorporate cultural exchanges into course content, organise cultural festivities, and provide subsidies for guest students with host families.

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Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Beg Berkunci 2073,
88999 Kota Kinabalu

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Vincent Pang