IT’S all for the students.
If either English teacher Samuel Isaiah or science teacher Norhailmi Abdul Mutalib receives the US$1mil (RM4.3mil) Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2020 award in October, Malaysian students can expect a better education.
Samuel, 33, aspires to continually bridge the gap between the Orang Asli community, culture, policy, pedagogy, and leadership.
“Beyond providing facilities and infrastructure for the school and community, I want to set up a sustainable network that empowers and educates.
“There needs to be a concerted effort prioritising community engagement.”
He also plans to use the funds to upgrade the school’s musical
instruments, get better tech, create more 21st-century learning classrooms, and empower other indigenous communities in Malaysia by collaborating with like-minded teachers on his methods.
Norhailmi, 39, hopes to use the cash prize to fund STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) facilities for students, teachers and the community.
“I want to set up a STEM hub with a library, tablets, computers, 3D printers, drones and robotics kits that everyone in the community can have access to.”
Both Norhailmi and Samuel were recipients of last year’s Guru Adiwira award for best classroom practices.
They are among the top 50 educators shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize 2020 organised in partnership with UNESCO.
The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people’s lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of millions of teachers all over the world.
With 10 years to go to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 - providing a quality education for every child - the Global Teacher Prize has partnered with UNESCO to ensure teachers are right at the top of governments’ agendas.
Samuel and Norhailmi were shortlisted from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world.
Now in its sixth year, the award is the largest cash prize of its kind.
Samuel, who taught at SK Runchang, Pahang, before leaving for State University of New York as a Fulbright scholar to pursue a Master’s degree in educational policy and leadership, was one of the 10 winners of Star Golden Hearts Award 2019, which celebrates unsung Malaysian heroes.
“I already have so many ideas of what I plan to do when I return, ” he said.
A champion of 21st century learning, he promoted the use of tablets and computers among the Orang Asli so that the children learned to love, embrace and use technology just like their peers in urban schools.
To accelerate his students’ learning, Samuel introduced an e-mail exchange project called ‘Asli E-Pal’, where English was used to communicate with volunteers from all over Malaysia and overseas.
He also enabled the first indigenous ukulele band called ‘The Originals’ that focuses on the use of songs and musical skills to learn English.
Samuel also banded together with amateur poets around the country and came up with a communicative project called ‘Speak-up With Poetry’, where the children recite poems based on interactive videos.
Such initiatives saw the school’s English pass rate rise to 80%, compared to 30% before he joined the school.
These resulted in a paradigm shift of what indigenous children are considered capable of academically.
“As learning became something meaningful to them, no task was impossible for my rural indigenous students who are now confident learners, and gleefully take charge of their learning.
“I believe my students have now created a new narrative of what rural Orang Asli students are capable of in Malaysia.
“They will no longer be viewed as children who can never make it but they will be celebrated with vigour and positivity of their limitless potential that is waiting to be unravelled, ” Samuel said.
In 2018, he was rewarded with the Best Teacher Award at the ASEAN-ELT Conference and Best Innovative Teacher award which was presented by the Prime Minister.
Norhailmi, who teaches at SMK Jerlun, Kedah, was the first Malaysian teacher to be selected for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) 2019 High School Teacher Programme.
His parents were not high earners, but they both believed that education was the only way to thrive, and they worked hard to give it to him. After he graduated from university, Norhailmi wanted to give something back to society, so he chose to help others and become a teacher.
At the school he now teaches in, many of the students come from humble backgrounds where low self-esteem problems often lead to behavioural issues.
To tackle these problems, his main teaching approach is to empower his students by letting them decide how they will learn.
His teaching methods include empowering students to decide the direction of their learning and enabling them to produce creative content online through blog writing and video-making.
Using collaboration techniques and flipped classrooms to increase students’ performance, he helped increase the number of students who pass their science exams.
The percentage of students who passed the subject at his school rose to 96% last year and those who scored A increased drastically from only 3.9% in 2015 to 29.85% in 2017.
Norhailmi’s education blog has gotten some 32 million views and he travels regularly to speak at workshops and seminars.
In 2017, he was named the Education Ministry’s first “Icon Teacher for STEM”.
“I knew that I had been shorlisted since last month but we were told not to saying anything until the official announcement was made on March 19.
“I was so excited but I couldn’t tell anyone, ” he said, adding that having two Malaysians in the shortlist proves that we have quality teachers.
UNESCO (education) assistant director general Stefania Giannini said every child deserves an inspiring teacher and inspiring teachers deserve wide social recognition.
In a world of competing priorities, today more than ever, governments throughout the world must invest in teachers to meet their commitments to deliver universal quality education by 2030, she said in a press release.
Congratulating those shortlisted, Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize founder Sunny Varkey said respecting teachers isn’t only an important moral duty – it’s essential for a country’s educational outcomes.
“I hope their stories inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and highlights the incredible work teachers do all over the world every day.”
The top 10 finalists whose names will be announced in June, will be invited to London for the award ceremony at the Natural History Museum on October 12, where the winner will be announced live on stage.
Madenjit Singh was the first Malaysian to be in the top 10 list. Yasmin Noorul Amin, Noorjahan Sultan, Vanesri Kasi, Mohd Sirhajwan Idek, K.A. Razhiyah and Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar Hussin, were among the top 50 over the last five years.
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