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Thursday July 17, 2008

Lifelong passion for education

TO CALL Datuk Noor Rezan Bapoo Hashim passionate would be an understatement, as she has so much love and energy for education.

When the Education Ministry deputy director-general (schools) talks about schools and children, her eyes sparkled with pride.

Noor Rezan: If I had to live my life again, I woulnd’t choose anything else.

“I was a discipline teacher when I first started teaching in 1975 in Penang, mainly because the principal felt that I looked big and strong and had a loud voice’,” the 55-year-old Universiti Malaya graduate said.

Her venture into education was not an accidental one, though she did toy with the idea of becoming either a lawyer or a police inspector.

“My late father was a teacher and he was my idol. He had a passion for educationand that rubbed off on me,” Noor Rezan said.

Her father, Bapoo Mohd Hashim, was a deputy director with the Kelantan Education Department and was one of the recipients of the national exemplary teacher award in 1978.

The Penang-born teacher was brought up in a strict household, which emphasised discipline, values and principles.

“A goldsmith who wanted his son to get into Form Six once tried to bribe my dad but my dad refused and told him his son would get in if he was qualified,” she said.

According to her, the stubborn goldsmith left an envelope in a jumper belonging to Noor Rezan’s brother.

“When my dad discovered the envelope, he took it back to the goldsmith and gave him an earful.

“He did not want to receive the money despite the fact that we were not well-to-do. However, we never went hungry,” she said.

Noor Rezan, who did her masters at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, also attributed her success to her husband.

“He has been my guiding light and a solid pillar of strength. He has given me a lot of spiritual strength in times of difficulty and stress,” she said.

In 1985, she moved to Kuala Lumpur and received her first promotion. She served in two secondary schools before volunteering to be a principal in 1995.

“The education department officer was surprised that someone actually came forward to volunteer to serve at the school, which was then infamous for the disciplinary problems. ,” she said.

Two more senior candidates turned down the job and Noor Rezan got her chance.

“I went in and managed to pull the team together. Vandalism was at its peak as the kids didn’t have any pride in the school,” she said.

To curb the disciplinary problems, Noor Rezan came out with several ideas including allowing several gang leaders to paint their colours in the toilets and corridors.

“I also made them prefects,” Noor Rezan said.

She also helped boost the kids’ confidence by encouraging them to excel at extra-curricular activities.

When vandalism and disciplinary problems ceased to cause headaches, Noor Rezan started to focus on achieving academic excellence.

“Most of the kids came from the squatter areas. We worked with the Parent-Teacher Association and had the students come back to school at night to study.

“The passing rate for the SPM examinations went up 10% from 54.7%,” she said.

In 2003, Noor Rezan entered the Education Ministry to serve as the deputy director (schools), and, in 2004, she became the education director at the Education Department Kuala Lumpur. In 2006, she eventually moved up to where she is now.

Noor Rezan is a firm believer in sharing her experience and knowledge, and she helped set up the educationists’ professionalism enhancement centre.

“When I was the education director at the Education Department Kuala Lumpur, many teachers tried very hard to do their masters and wrote presentation papers. We set up this centre to put these theses and scholarly papers on record,” she said.

There are three words that are very dear to Noor Rezan’s heart - delivery, accountability and credibility.

“Always remember that every cent we take is the taxpayers’ money, and we are held accountable. We can only claim credit and earn people’s respect through effective delivery and accountability,” she said.

Her advise to school leaders is simple - do not condemn teachers.

“If you condemn the teachers, you are condemning yourself because you are the leader.

“You should guide them and nurture them well,” she said.

“If I had to live my life again, I wouldn’t choose anything else. It has been a rewarding profession and I have no complaints,” she said.