Star student gives back to school

Badge of honour: Yong beaming with pride as he holds an award he has won in a debating championship.

BEING an all-rounder motivated Yong Kai Seng as a secondary school student.

Besides setting academic goals for himself, he dove into extracurricular pursuits, notching numerous achievements along the way in debating, adjudicating, athletics, and mathematics competitions.

Now, the 19-year-old is paying it forward by coaching students in debating and public speaking at his alma mater, Hin Hua High School, in Selangor.

“I like cultivating students with personalities of their own. My way of teaching is to magnify and use their strengths as the framework for their growth,” the former captain of the school’s English debating team, as well as one of its high achievers, told StarEdu.

Since completing his secondary education last year, Yong has taken on the role of an English language teacher at his alma mater while awaiting confirmation of a scholarship to pursue electrical engineering at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Apart from his teaching duties, he regularly hosts talks and debate workshops, and is actively involved in preparing students for external tournaments.

“Debating is not about proving one’s opponents wrong. It is about communication and reaching a consensus in which one’s side benefits more innately, not explicitly,” he asserted.

Encouraging budding debaters to adopt personalised approaches when honing their debating skills, he shared that he literally “ran through” his course materials on the treadmill as a student.

In his current role, he said he motivates his students to share about their lives or troubles to foster their confidence, in addition to personalising assignments, notes and feedback for each of them.

“I want them to feel special, but feeling special is really about being proud of yourself. The way you speak is a detail that belongs to you, and I don’t want to take that away from them in any way,” he said.

Having gained confidence through the effort to understand himself, he affirmed that doing so is crucial for achieving success in one’s field.

Yong’s success is evident in his string of accolades, which include the champion title at the UOW Malaysia English Olympics 2023 and the best speaker award at the Asian Schools Debating Championship 2022.

“There’s no shortcut except for consistent grinding in practising speaking to polish your craft,” he said, emphasising the importance of cultivating humility and constant learning.

His passion for debating has led to him taking on the role of an adjudicator and receiving best judge awards in tournaments, including the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Asian Parliamentary Intervarsity Debating Championship 2023 and the Malaysia National Schools British Parliamentary 2022.

On how debaters can maintain their composure under pressure, he advised being honest about one’s capability when self-communicating, and ensuring consistency in one’s performance.

He said this guiding principle has benefited him not only in the debate realm, but also in his athletic and mathematical pursuits.

Representing both his school and district in cross-country, Yong has participated in races ranging from the 800m track to the half-marathon on the roads. Most recently, he clinched third place in the Setia4Malaysia Unity Run 2023 half-marathon men’s open category.

For Yong, running long distances involves a high level of discipline, such as organising training plans for himself and sacrificing leisure time for practice – even waking up at 4am for a long run on the empty streets of Klang.

He has also made his mark in the mathematics scene, securing the individual fourth place and team champion titles at the Malaysia National Mathematics Olympiad Competition 2023.

“I genuinely enjoy solving problems that require logical thinking, and I am excited to bring my passion for it to my tertiary studies,” he said.

In addition to his teaching and coaching duties, Yong is working on a psychological self-help book as part of a larger collaboration project with his school aimed at recognising humans as imperfect beings and exploring the manifestation of confidence.

On his advice for students, Yong had this to say: “Be willing to step up when situations are dire, and give yourself a standing ovation not for your own successes, but for the countless times you’ve pulled yourself together through failures upon failures.

“Knowing what you want is one thing; knowing how much you are willing to commit to it is another. So, ask yourself: ‘How much are you willing to sacrifice to get it?’”

Li Lian, 19, a student in Kuala Lumpur, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. For updates on the BRATs programme, go to

With the theme of the article in mind, carry out the following English language activities.

1 Think about a skill you could teach your juniors. Explain what the skill is and discuss with your friends how it could benefit the juniors.

2 Reflect on Yong’s attitude as a student. Write a journal entry expressing what you can learn from him and how you pledge to emulate his positive qualities.

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email

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BRATs , Star-NiE , Hin Hua High School


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