My friend, Chan Yen Ping, or Yen as I call her, has an interesting story.
Malaysian born and bred, Yen’s early education journey was typical. She went to SJK(C) Kepong 2, a vernacular school for her primary education, and SMK Taman Bukit Maluri for secondary.
She then completed her A-levels at Methodist College Kuala Lumpur, or MCKL for short.
After her A-levels, Yen got accepted into a Bachelor of Arts programme at the University of Cambridge.
Yen never imagined she’d go abroad to study, what more the United Kingdom, and what more Cambridge.
It wasn’t so much an issue of limited ambition, rather her stumbling block was financial.
Maybe financial considerations did affect ambition.
“Thankfully, I had a really good school counsellor (in MCKL) who encouraged me to aim high and see if I could get a scholarship from the university,” said Yen.
“Cambridge happened to offer a course that attracted me (BA Education with Physical Sciences), and as I was always passionate about Malaysia’s education landscape and the teaching profession, I decided to accept the offer,” she adds.
“My family was planning to fund my Cambridge stint, however, more was needed to cover the costs”.
Fortunately, MCKL became her knight in shining armour. They offered to assist Yen.
“MCKL has always had teaching and nation building at the core of its institution, and when the CEO, Miss Moey Yoke Lai found out I was short on funds, the college immediately offered financial assistance”.
“Suffice to say, Cambridge was one of the best experiences of my life”.
Since that event in 2013, the MCKL Teaching Scholarship was established.
It functions as a partial support scholarship to fund the studies of MCKL alumni who are passionate about education, want to become teachers and contribute back to the college and Malaysian education.
To date, six MCKL alumni have benefited from the Teaching Scholarship, and the universities they have gone on to study at are Cambridge (2 people), Gloucestershire, York, Institute of Technology, Tralee, Ireland and Wheaton College, USA.
MCKL may just be the only Private Higher Education Institution in Malaysia to support their students to pursue teaching/education degrees abroad.
According to Mr Khoo Teng Sooi, Director of Institutional Development, MCKL, “We view teaching seriously. We want to encourage students who have interest in teaching and possess good academic qualifications to pursue their training in their field of study which is related to the need of education."
Yen adds, “I personally liken it to football clubs, where you can always buy and sell players, but nothing beats homegrown team players who live and breath the football club’s spirit and ethos.
Yen has since graduated and has just started teaching at MCKL, serving a 4-year bond.
Excitedly, she tells me “Being young and foolish, I would love to apply everything I’ve ever learnt into teaching locally, but I get that some things are more theoretical than practical, and others things more culturally bound.
“Nevertheless, I definitely see the value in training students to think independently through verbally asking them lots of guided questions in class, and also hopefully this leads to me asking myself bigger questions on how education can help develop Malaysia as a whole.”
Curious, I asked her what she thinks of our education system.
“So, I used to think our education system was bad, until I went to the UK and realised locals there complained about their own education system in exactly the same way as we do.
“I think no system is ever perfect, and especially if you are living in and feeling some attachment towards the country and its people, the (education) system’s flaws tend to appear more obvious compared to an outsider.
“What is important however, is for everyone to get involved and be on the same page to collaboratively improve the system.
“For example, if a parent came up to me and asked “Why doesn’t my child seem to be thinking like a chemist?” rather than, “Why isn’t my child getting As for chemistry?”, I believe it will help change my approach as a teacher.
Yen however, isn’t as optimistic on whether the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 can succeed.
Having read it from end to end, Yen feels that the Blueprint needs to be communicated clearly and that its spirit adopted by the wider community.
“If not, all the efforts will just depend on the government and Ministry of Education to execute, and that is a hefty burden to bear, especially when we are talking about the education of an entire nation”.
“All Malaysians, from the greatest to the smallest must sincerely ask themselves what they think should be the outcome of a Malaysian education experience and from there, actively try to make it a reality.
“For example, I have a friend who is encouraging fellow university students to go back to their schools during term break to give tutoring and reduce the teachers’ workload.
“I believe the efforts of people like her and many others, put people like me, who constantly sit around and complain, to shame,” Yen says with a smile.
I met Yen when she was interning with my office at the Ministry of Education back in 2014 as a Perdana Fellow. It’s heartening to see a private college support such endeavours to develop top teachers. This can only bode well for the future of the teaching profession in Malaysia, a step at a time.
(Thank you Yen and MCKL for contributing to this article)
Danial Rahman has education close to his heart. He tweets at @danial_ari and welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.