December Drill: Shirley Tan Sie Ling – Director (Universal Business Academy Sdn Bhd)

With over 20 years of experience in the education sector, Shirley has gone from an educator to being a successful entrepreneur. She established the British Academics in April 2015 which has since been renamed to Universal Business Academy (UBA) to better reflect the goal of increasing the market share locally and regionally. To date, UBA has more than 2,000 students from all over the world who have matriculated in their programmes and have successfully accumulated their internationally recognised programmes. UBA deploys a tradition of innovation and practical knowledge research whereby the centre has broken new grounds, pushed forward the perimeters of knowledge and has greatly impacted people’s lives.

You’ve gone from being an educator to a successful entrepreneur, what’s your secret mantra of success?

Life-long learning has been my long-held attitude and I believe that there is still room for improvement. So, instead of talking about my personal secret mantra of success, I would rather talk about entrepreneurship as a whole. I think success belongs to people who have faith and plans, and success will not be realised if people are only showing interest and not taking any action yet. Many people often listen and believe negative comments or discouragements that cause them not to be able to move ahead.

How has Iskandar Malaysia changed the education sector in the region?

20 years ago, being a Johorian, we did not have much choice to further study in our own state. Most of us had to part with our families and travelled to other states or overseas to pursue our dreams.  But nowadays, universities not only locally but also from overseas have set up campuses in “EduCity” at Iskandar Puteri. This has resulted in a significant increase in the size of Johor’s talent development in the region. Changes have been apparent and the goal of becoming a “strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing by 2025” does not look so unrealistic.

Do Singaporeans fancy crossing the border to study here?

Malaysia government is doing a great job in making Iskandar an Education Hub of Asia, and I believe that sometime in the near future, we will attract more students from overseas to study in Malaysia. In my opinion, it is unlikely for Singaporeans to cross over due to the persistent traffic congestion.  Besides, Singapore has consistently scored well in the world University Ranking, so they may not necessarily want to study over here.

Having said that, through our online study platform at Universal Business Academy, we have managed to attract many students from all over the world including Singapore, Dubai, New Zealand and other states such as Penang, Selangor and Sarawak who have directly registered with us for the distance learning UK programmes that we offer.

What’s your opinion on the education level in Malaysia as a whole?

Being a developing country, especially with the latest Education Blueprint, there will be significant changes on how the higher education system will operate over the next decade. In a global knowledge economy, Malaysia is heading towards creating a talent pool that is flexible, forward-thinking and progressive.

What makes UBA different than other educational institutions?

At Universal Business Academy (UBA), we have a reputation as one of the leading centres in the country that has collaborated directly with UK Universities for student support with academic staff operating an open-door-policy to offer our trainees the best possible guidance and advice. In the past 7 years, we have been helping students to acquire internationally recognised educational qualifications that allow students to study anytime, anywhere, and at their own pace without borders.

Distance learning has now become an accepted form of delivery at the university level and other educational institutions worldwide. A wide range of Foundation, Diploma, Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses are available to learn from home, work, or while travelling anywhere which students can choose from us.  Learning online means students can fit their courses around their work and family commitments.  Nothing can stop students from improving their skills and getting exciting dream jobs. However, part-time classes are still available in our centre as extra benefits for those who are only used to face to face facilitation.  Due to the reputation we have built up over the years, we even have students from Sarawak who fly over to attend our MBA weekend classes at our centre.

Being a partner school of London Teacher Training College, UK, UBA conducts 2 days free workshop to school teachers as we believe that in order to improve the level of English in our students, we should train the teachers first. So far over 700 school teachers have been trained in our English phonetics workshop.

Our Johor Sultan has been quite vocal about re-establishing the use of the English language.  Do you think this will catch on and as an educator, what’s your opinion on this?

English is an international language used in the education and business sectors. Many of the best MBA programmes are taught in English, so speaking it well can put you in a position for better advancement. Also, most multinational companies that offer better-paying jobs would require a high level of English proficiency.

English was the medium of instruction in Malaysian schools in the 1950s and 1960s with a compulsory pass in Bahasa and Mathematics. The medium of instruction was however changed to Bahasa in the 1970s but in 2003, the Policy of Teaching Science and Mathematics in English was introduced, but it was discontinued seven years later.

There was a trend in the 90’s that students would enrol themselves in 3 months Intensive English tuition programme while waiting for their SPM results.  Yet in 2010s, the age of those attending tuitions have become younger as many primary school children were rushing for many tuition classes after school. I believe if English is re-established as the medium of instruction, it will surely help our students.

With more than 350 million people around the world speaking English as their first language and more than 430 million speaking it as their second language. I fully agree as per what was mentioned by our Johor Sultan that Singapore has done well because of their adoption of English. He said Malaysia can learn from how Singapore has forged national unity through their education system, which I quote has not only helped develop their country but it has also brought their people together regardless of race and religion.

What would Shirley be doing if you didn’t go down the education path?

I would be doing charity work and run an orphanage.  I am passionate about it and would have loved to do it. Nevertheless, I’m glad that we manage to channel part of the profits from our UBA fees to help sponsor free education to some refugee camps. 10 free English schools in India have benefited and now we are having an education fund for children in India for every student that enrols in our MBA programme.

November Drill: Shirley Tan Sie Ling – Director (Universal Business Academy Sdn Bhd)

With over 20 years of experience in the education sector, Shirley has gone from an educator to being a successful entrepreneur. She established the British Academics in April 2015 which has since been renamed to Universal Business Academy (UBA) to better reflect the goal of increasing the market share locally and regionally. To date, UBA has more than 2,000 students from all over the world who have matriculated in their

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