Culture of excellence

Students of Methodist College Kuala Lumpur are encouraged to work hard to reach their goals of going abroad, while keeping Malaysian values close at heart.

FRATERNAL twin sisters Loh Kai Tyng and Kai Syuen’s passion for the environment is infectious. The former Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL) students are all animated when relating their experience living with the orang asli community in the Belum-Temenggor rainforest in Perak.

“One of the most beautiful sights was the sky filling up with stars, unobscured by light pollution when night time fell,” says Kai Tyng.

The sisters, who go jungle trekking regularly, say they will miss Malaysia’s pristine tropical rainforests when they leave the country for further studies.

Kai Syuen has enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, the United States (US) to study philosophy, politics and economics.

Meanwhile, Kai Tyng will be pursuing a degree in natural sciences across the Atlantic at University College London (UCL), the United Kingdom (UK).

“I am a person with a very broad interest, so I chose to do a very broad-based degree,” says Kai Syuen, adding that her qualification will allow her to be involved in environmental conservation at the policy-making level.

“Most environmental NGOs are campaigning for more awareness but I believe that real change comes at the policy level by changing laws to make the country adopt green practices,” she says.

As for Kai Tyng, she plans to do her thesis on the rainforests of Peninsular Malaysia.

“Even though we have very beautiful rainforests in the Penisular, it is less well known compared to the rainforests in Borneo,” she explains.

“UCL is quite established in research and development. I hope I can use what I learn there in my rainforest research, which is very much at its infancy stage in Malaysia,” say Kai Syuen.

Patriotism abroad

Besides environmental issues, finance is another area that other former MCKL students currently studying in the US and UK are interested to explore when they return to the country upon graduation.

Chew Kwang Liang, who is the only Malaysian student accepted into Yale University this year, says what the country needs is more foreign direct investment and innovation in the small and medium industries.

“We have not seen any exciting creations since the invention of pendrive by Pua Khein-Seng.

“Futhermore, we are already losing out to neighbouring countries in drawing foreign investors,” says Kwang Liang, 19.

He adds that he has made the best decision to study economy in Yale University.

“Where can there be a better place to study economy? The US is the largest economy and also the most technologically advanced country in the world. Every single big thing from Google to Facebook started in the US — I hope I will be there for the next big thing,” he laughs.

Carrying similar aspirations is his former A-Levels coursemate Vickram Ragunath who is currently studying accounting and criminology on a Security Commissions Malaysia scholarship at the University of Keele in the UK.

“I’ve always had an interest in auditing so accounting and criminology is just the right course for me. Furthermore, forensic accounting is still a niche area in the country waiting to be tapped into,” says Vickram.

The 19-year-old shares that his time at MCKL had served him well as the prevalent study culture in the college helped to push his grades up.

“I came from a school where academic excellence wasn’t the top of priorities for every student. It was a good culture shock for me when I entered MCKL — study groups were found at every corner of the college during most hours,” says Vickram.

Building on strengths

Meanwhile, the success of getting into world-renowned universities is just the beginning of the journey for Tan Li Li, Lee Jia Sheng, Melvyn Leong Jun Lam — all former MCKL students currently studying in Oxford University, Imperial College London and London School of Economics respectively.

“London is a melting pot of culture. Other than studying, I hope to interact with people from diverse backgrounds in order to broaden my perspectives,” says first-year electrical engineering student Jia Sheng.

Agreeing, Li Li says that students should not just stick with their own countrymen when they are abroad.

“I expect to learn more about different cultures and the differences between people which all relate very well to my field of study in psychology,” she says.

Asked on how they are going to bring the Malaysian brand to the world, Li Li and Melvyn enthusiastically agree that the country’s unique selling point is our multiracial community and the food of course!

“While there may be negative reports surfacing about Malaysia, what the outside world needs to know is that politics does not equate to the people. Every country has its own problems but I am certainly proud of mine,” says Li Li.

Indeed, conversations with this bunch of patriotic students prove that all is not lost yet in the country’s brain drain quagmire. There is never a question in their mind on whether they should return to serve the nation after studying overseas.

“I love Malaysia; this is where I grew up and I can’t imagine working anywhere else,” concludes Melvyn.

MCKL chief executive officer Moey Yoke Lai says the students’ excellent track record in gaining entry to top universities is attributed to early preparation.

“The first piece of homework pre-university students receive is to find out about the entry requirements of the degree courses they intend to enrol in,” says Moey.

“We have to build up students’ expectations and get them to work hard towards their goals,” she adds.

At the moment, the college’s mainstay programmes are pre-university foundation studies, A-Levels, the Australian Matriculation programme (Ausmat) and the early childhood education diploma programme.

Moey shares that MCKL is preparing to offer more courses in education to train teachers, with a special education programme in the pipeline.

“The nation is at the crossroads and we want to do our bit for nation building.

“While educating the young is something we are doing, we want to do more by setting up teacher-training programmes,” says Moey.

She firmly believes that teachers are nation builders who should help build up the characters of students under their care.

“If we can train teachers to build citizens for the future, then we would have done our bit to help Malaysia,” she says.

Methodist College Kuala Lumpur is a contributor to the Star Education Fund.

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