Vying to be world’s top educator


  • Nation
  • Friday, 20 Mar 2020

PETALING JAYA: Two Malaysian teachers are in the running to be crowned the world’s top educator.

Best friends Norhailmi Abdul Mutalib, 39, and Samuel Isaiah, 33, are among 50 educators shortlisted for the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize 2020 – an annual award that carries a US$1mil (RM4.3mil) prize money for one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

Norhailmi, a science teacher at SMK Jerlun, Ayer Hitam, Kedah, and an active blogger who writes on education issues, has known Samuel since 2018.

Their friendship developed after both were involved in education projects.

Teaching with pride: Norhailmi (left) and Samuel receiving their Guru Adiwira award last year.Teaching with pride: Norhailmi (left) and Samuel receiving their Guru Adiwira award last year.

Last year, both received the Education Performance and Delivery Unit’s (Padu) Guru Adiwira PAK21 award for best classroom practices.

“I’m happy to be shortlisted and even happier that my best friend is too.

“In life, being on top doesn’t mean having to topple another – there’s room for more than one on the podium, ” said Norhailmi.

He said having two Malaysians in the shortlist was testament to the quality of Malaysian teachers.

“We must continue to support and encourage one another so that we can become better together.”

Samuel, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in Educational Policy and Leadership in the State University of New York, was elated.

Describing Norhailmi as a brother and friend he looks up to, the Fulbright scholar said they both represent how capable Malaysian teachers are.

“We’re from different fields, face different challenges, and use different methods.

“But our beliefs and principles are similar whereby we attempt to make learning meaningful for our students, ” he said, adding that they both trust in their students’ capabilities as they face challenges head on.

While humbled by the recognition, Samuel said it was more important that he is able to represent the Orang Asli children on a global platform.

“I am most proud of how they continuously fight against stigmatisation, and displayed many capabilities despite the inequity and inequality they face, ” he said.

Last year, Samuel was recognised as one of the 10 winners of the Star Golden Hearts Award 2019 – an annual award that celebrates everyday Malaysian unsung heroes – for his work with the Orang Asli children.

Then a teacher at SK Runchang, Pahang, he introduced fun and innovative projects in class including setting up a “Sekolah Pokok” where he conducted English lessons by singing songs and teaching poetry at the Orang Asli settlement.

He dreams of creating a sustainable community network to educate and empower Orang Asli children if he wins while Norhailmi plans on setting up a science, technology, engineering and mathematics hub for the community.

The duo are among nine Malaysians who have been shortlisted for the prestigious award since its inception in 2014.

This year’s Top 50 shortlist was published on the Global Teacher Prize website yesterday.

“Over the last few weeks, in a world turned upside down, we’ve been daily reminded how much we rely on the world’s teachers.

“Now, more than ever, we must shine a light on their profession, ” a statement on the website said.

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