Top honours for young essayists

Well-deserved: Goh (standing, second from right) and Yung Wey (front row, second from right) posing for a group photo with other winners, and Taylor’s College campus director Josephine Tan (centre) and ESU Malaysia chairman Tunku Dara Tunku Tan Sri Naquiah Almarhum Tuanku Ja’afar (third from right).

LITERACY can take one far in life – that is the abiding belief of both Goh Li Lian and Chin Yung Wey.

So, when they chanced upon a national literacy-themed essay writing competition, they knew they had to put their thoughts down in words.

Their compelling writing won the judges’ hearts, culminating in them emerging champions in their respective categories at the “ESU-Taylor’s Essay Writing Competition 2023”, jointly organised by the English Speaking Union of Malaysia (ESU Malaysia) and Taylor’s College.

Themed “Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies”, the competition was divided into two categories with Category A open for students aged 16 to 18 requiring an essay length of 800 to 1,000 words, and Category B for students aged 13 to 15 requiring an essay length of 700 to 800 words.

Goh, 18, took home RM1,000 for her essay titled “Literacy-the-Age-old Metonym of Sustainability”, while Yung Wey, 15, RM800 for his essay titled “Greener Pastures” at the prize presentation ceremony held at Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus in Subang Jaya, Selangor, on Feb 6.

Their entries stood out among 80 essays vying for the top prizes.

In her essay, Goh discussed the relationship between literacy and human rights, while highlighting the role of youths in organising English literacy programmes for refugee children and the B40 children community.

“I feel gratified that my impassioned call to action and ideas for promoting literacy in the essay received the esteemed recognition of the judges,” the International Medical University student, who is also a participant of The Star’s BRATs Young Journalist Programme, told StarEdu.

She shared that in writing her essay, she took inspiration from her conversations during her community service with refugee children who spoke fluent English.

“They told me about their aspirations of being YouTubers, musicians and fashion models, and I began thinking about how they could be further empowered with literacy to realise their ambitions,” she said, adding that literacy also serves as a tool that empowers individuals to create content that reflects their individuality.

In her view, it is important to promote literacy as it directly aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: Quality Education.

“With literacy, individuals could be liberated from any initial constraints that life imposed on them, achieving the freedom to chart their own life trajectories to the extent they desire.

“Literacy also drives society to achieve SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities,” she said.

Yung Wey’s essay, on the other hand, advocated for the government and the private sector to work together to take on the challenge of sustainably creating more high-paying jobs locally, with the hopes of incentivising youths to improve their literacy, enhance their knowledge and upscale their skills.

In his essay, he also highlighted the importance of literacy in preventing youths from being caught in syndicates’ web of deceit.

“I have regularly read newspaper articles about youths who, in search of greener pastures, ended up missing after agreeing to work in another country, falling into ‘job scams’ advertised by unscrupulous syndicates,” said the SMK (L) Methodist, Kuala Lumpur, student.

He added that it was through his reading of The Star that he chanced upon an article calling for students to take part in the essay writing competition.

“This achievement has given me the confidence to further improve my English essay writing skills.

“I could not have done it without the encouragement and advice from my family, and as a token of appreciation, I plan to treat them to dinner,” he said.

“Additionally, I aim to invest in enhancing my digital literacy through online courses in the field of computer science,” he added.

Youths, he said, need to learn new literacy skills for in-depth understanding and critical thinking when diving into the vast ocean of information available.

On how she plans to spend her prize money, Goh, who is an avid reader, said she intends to purchase books with it.

“I would also donate some of the money to support causes such as funding for refugee children’s clothes,” she said.

Other Category A winners at the ESU-Taylor’s Essay Writing Competition 2023 were Ooi Jie Yuee and Amandev Sawarn Singh, who took home the second and third prizes, respectively, and consolation prize winners Joyanne Poong Qi Yue and Adam Danish Muhammad Azizi.

In Category B, the first and second runners-up were Xavier Lau Ee Zheng and Lim Tze Ien, while the consolation prize winners were Fredriana Feerdaus and Lim Xin Ying.

Charis, 21, 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

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