PETALING JAYA: The student-driven #StandTogether National Kindness Week campaign has a new vision for Malaysia in 2020 - to ensure kindness and empathy education becomes an official part of the school syllabus.
The campaign, initiated by Star Media Group’s award-winning R.AGE team and property developer SP Setia, will focus on developing an empathy and emotional intelligence module which the Education Ministry can adopt.
Other countries with such programmes, such as Denmark, have shown improved happiness and learning outcomes, while studies also show it to be an indicator of future success.
“We’ve spent two years creating awareness and tackling misconceptions about kindness, like the need for students to be ‘toughened up’. Now it’s time to take the next step forward, ” said R.AGE deputy executive editor and producer Ian Yee.
“This year, we want to make a systemic change that would impact all students - and we think the most effective way to inculcate kindness, empathy, and emotional intelligence in students would be through the syllabus.”
SP Setia Foundation chairman Tan Sri Wan Zahid echoed Yee’s sentiments, sharing the organisation’s delight at being part of the third instalment of #StandTogether.
“We believe kindness can further strengthen community-building, besides having manifold positive effects on our country, ” said Wan Zahid.
“With this campaign having received positive support from the Education Ministry last year, SP Setia is delighted to continue playing an active role in putting Malaysia on the map for kindness, and hopefully to make values-led education a part of the school syllabus this year.”
The students who have been driving the campaign are excited about the prospect of kindness and empathy education, given the positive effects on student happiness and future success.
“I’m really glad to hear that #StandTogether will be trying to get the Education Ministry onboard in this way - we’ve been learning about moral values since primary school but I’ve always felt that it was too theory-based and didn’t really help us in real life, ” said said former SMK Chung Hwa Miri student Denise Lim, 20, whose Kindness Project helped her school clinch the title of Malaysia’s Kindest Secondary School last year.
“I hope a new component in the syllabus that incorporates kindness and empathy will inspire us to be a warmer society that cares for each other.”
WATCH: SMK Chung Hwa Miri spreads messages of kindness
Lim’s enthusiasm was shared by 40 students who took over the halls of Parliament in November to share their policy recommendations to lawmakers - one of which implementing the #StandTogether National Kindness Week programme in all schools.
The event, called #KidsTakeOver Parliament: Kita Peduli, was organised by Education Ministry, Unicef Malaysia and Project ID in conjunction with World Children’s Day.
Hearteningly, it culminated in Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching pledging to implement the most suitable suggestions.
Many teachers are already convinced that kindness makes a big difference in school, after being impressed by how the National Kindness Week programme continues to have an effect throughout the school year.
“My school was a Category 3 school, which means it has problems like truancy, but our kindness projects inspired the students to come to school, ” said SMK Sentul teacher Mohd Farez Atan.
“Thanks to the #StandTogether campaign, even the (Education) Ministry has noticed us, and we were invited to participate in a national-level programme. We can’t wait to see how this year’s campaign will bring positive change to our school - we’ve already started coming up with projects, and we can’t wait to register!”
The campaign, which was launched in 2017, has seen stakeholders like Unicef Malaysia, the Education Ministry, Digi and Study Hub Asia come onboard as partners in an ongoing effort to keep children safe from bullying in schools and online.
“National Kindness Week is a fun occasion, but in it lies a serious message – we need to end all forms of violence against children, this includes bullying, emotional abuse, and physical violence, ” said Unicef representative in Malaysia Marianne Clark-Hattingh.
“Through this campaign, we are saying there is a better way, and more violence is not the answer. Being kind is a powerful way to make our communities safer.”
As many as 20 participating primary and secondary schools in the National Kindness Week programme stand a chance to win grants worth RM1,000 each.
On top of the grant, winning schools also get to play host to #StandTogether celebrity ambassadors like Harith Iskander, Chef Wan, Lisa Surihani, and Ismail Izzani, who are all returning to support the campaign in its third year.
Chef Wan was so moved by the stories and projects he saw during the previous National Kindness Week school visits, he’s raring to go again this year.
“It was wonderful to see students display discipline, courage and leadership qualities at this age - this year, I would love to be able to have dialogues with the students, and maybe even assist them directly in creating more interactive projects!” he said enthusiastically.
In addition to the kindness projects by students and workshops across the country, the movement invites schools to sign a pledge promising to implement three kindness guidelines during National Kindness Week.
WATCH: The #StandTogether National Kindness Week is BACK!
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