Learning to be effective policy makers means being able to measure and understand research and analyses that address certain problems or policies. Students of the Master of Public Policy and Management (MPPM) programme reinforce their math skills from distinguished mathematician Professor Deborah Hughes-Hallet, from Harvard Kennedy School, who teaches an MPPM module on Facilitating Quantitative Methods.
The MPPM is an 18-month full-time programme offered by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), designed to cater to individuals seeking to make influential and relevant impacts in public affairs, offering concentrations in Islamic Governance, Energy and Environmental Policy and Management. The programme offers opportunities for global diversity through its partnership with fellow Public Policy schools including McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University; School of Public Policy, University of Maryland; Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University; and Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, where students will spend one semester of their study.
Professor Hughes-Hallet, an Eminent Visiting Professor for the MPPM programme, explained that being able to analyse data is an important part of effective policymaking and governance. “Now that data is so much more available, having the ability to read data, look at data, make sense of data, think about what it tells you policy wise is becoming a much larger part of what these (policymaking) programmes do,” she said.
Quantitative analysis applies to something people care about so, it is important that future policymakers know what they want to affect, what they want to understand and what they want to make policies of, Professor Hughes-Hallet elaborated. “It’s important to have questions and examples that are about things that make sense to people.”
However, Public Policy experts point out that strong quantitative skills don’t mean anything if policymakers are unable to put data into context, which is where qualitative analysis comes into play. As part of a classroom activity, Professor Hughes-Hallet works with the students on real-life case studies to discuss ways to make effective policies based on various circumstances surrounding the cases.
Due to the diverse cultural and professional background of the students, Professor Hughes-Hallet said that the class was able to bring in very interesting insights to the class discussions. For this reason, the MPPM programme, she said, has the ability to make the students able to be more effective policy makers, whether in Brunei or wherever they come from.
The unique programme offers scholarships to East Asia Summit (EAS) participating countries to undertake the MPPM Programme in Universiti Brunei Darussalam. The objective of the MPPM scholarship is to help strengthen cooperation in higher education and people-to-people linkages amongst EAS countries. Students shared that the programme allows them to learn to be effective policymakers in a dynamic and global learning environment through diversity of the students’ and professors’ experiences.
Anastasia Kotylo, who had a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from St. Petersburg State University Russia, chose the MPPM programme to gain hands-on knowledge in Public Policy. “The Asian region is very interesting at the moment because it is growing and developing. It’s a very good opportunity to be a part of it and to be part of UBD, because it’s a growing university and it’s a very challenging environment here,” she said, adding that working on case studies in class discussions allowed them to put their knowledge of policy-making theories into practice.
For Dina Roslina Hj Aliuddin, who works at the Ministry of Education in Brunei, the MPPM programme taught her how to read and understand data in order to make effective policies in her workplace align with the National Vision 2035. An important takeaway from the class activities, she said, is considering multiple circumstances in order to cover all areas to make a good an effective policy. By considering multiple circumstances and learning about other industries, she added that she gained expertise in new arenas.
Sovanpol In, who worked in the Ministry of Tourism in Cambodia, was interested in environmental policies, which attracted him to pick MPPM for his graduate studies. As Cambodia relies on Eco-Tourism for sustainable development, Pol believes learning about environmental policies in Brunei, which has similar focus on Eco-Tourism while preserving the environment.
All students agreed that the diverse pool of students in the classroom allowed them to learn from each other’s cultures and industries. Additionally, prominent professors from different parts of the world teach the programme, adding to the diversity of ideas and opinions in class discussions. “Basically, we have 50-50 of local and internationals (students) – I think it’s a good mixture, it’s a very good proportion, we learn from each other, and we communicate.” Anastasia said.
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