Monday, July 11, 2011

Teach For Malaysia

Recently, a group of young men and women have been making headlines. They are the cream of the crop, graduates from elite tertiary institutions like Harvard and Yale. They aim to inspire, lead and make change. Who are they? They are Teach For Malaysia (TFM). TFM is part of the Teach For All Network, which could also be found in the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Israel, Pakistan, China, India and Australia.

I attended one of their information sessions here in Sydney and walked away feeling happy because I was introduced to a group of like-minded people, who are passionate about making change through education in Malaysia. And having spent almost all the time of my nearly one decade away from home, I also walked away learning about things I was not aware of.

Did you know that:
  • One out of every four students in Standard Four classrooms does not meet targeted numeracy levels?
  • Three out of five heads of poor households in Malaysia only have a primary education or less?
  • Four out of five working Malaysians are only educated up to SPM level?
  • In Chile, 95% of children in the highest income quintile complete secondary school, while only 30% of children in the lowest income quintile complete the same level of education?
  • In Australia, students in the lowest income quartile are 2.5 years behind the average in science, reading and math?
  • In Lebanon, students in state schools are 29% less likely to attend high school than their private school peers?
  • In the United States, half of low-income children do not graduate from high school, and those who do perform on average at an eighth grade level?
  • In India, more than one in three children who begin primary school will drop out before reaching fifth grade?
  • In China, only 5% of students from poor rural areas go on to higher education compared to the 70% of students from China's major cities?
A child's origin often determines his or her education, and therefore his or her life outcomes (if the person reading this now was in any of my three sociology tutorials last semester, please tell me you have this drilled in your head). However, research has shown that excellent teaching and leadership in schools can completely change this correlation. High performing teachers have been shown to more likely improve students' performance. Low performing teachers, on the other hand, well, you make a guess.

So how does TFM address the education inequity at home? For the short-term, they are looking at creating an immediate impact in the classroom. As full-time teachers, TFM Fellows (i.e., you) will lead their students to increased levels of achievement and aspiration. Fellows will develop a deeper understanding of the unique challenges that students from underperforming schools and high-need communities face. For the long-term, they hope to make systemic change with the influential network of the TFM Ambassadors.

As TFM is new, they are looking for people to join their team. Who are they looking for? They are putting out a call for promising leaders who demonstrate:
  • Outstanding academic, extracurricular and professional achievements
  • A passion for TFM's mission and goals
  • Commitment to making a long-term impact
  • Strong communication, persuasion and motivation skills in both English and Bahasa Malaysia
  • Excellent problem-solving skills, critical thinking and creativity
  • Ability to organise and plan effectively
  • Exceptional determination, perseverance, resilience and love for challenge
  • Respect, humility and empathy
The journey with TFM begins with intensive training. A full eight weeks of it. The eight weeks of experiential, residential training begins at the end of October, 2011. The training was developed in collaboration with Teach For All, corporate partners and the Ministry of Education. The training practically provides guidelines on applying teaching, learning and leadership theories, based on the Teaching as Leadership framework. The training also provides the opportunity to practice teaching, live in a real classroom.

The training is continued throughout the two-year Fellowship. Each Fellow is assigned a Leadership Development Officer who provides personal coaching, resources and guidance; a Mentor based in the same school a Business Coach from one of TFM's corporate partners. There will be workshops by training partners to share innovative teaching methods and best practices, as well as seminars by corporate partners on a wide range of transferable workplace skills. Fellows will receive an education certification in the form of a Postgraduate Diploma in Education after the first year of teaching and credits earned towards a Masters degree. Although they told me that the training is all contextualised, I still wonder how contextualised it would be still.

Fellows make a difference in the classroom by leading students towards academic achievement that defies traditional expectations. They would need to engage, teach and challenge students in and outside the classroom, as well as work collaboratively with other teachers and school staff to build skills, share knowledge and obtain resources for the classroom. More importantly, Fellows make a difference by leading by example - be an inspirational role model by giving the students the courage to dream big!

In the community, TFM Fellows are presented a unique opportunity to design, implement and manage a sustainable, transformational project in the school or community served, with the help of the Business Coach and community leaders. This gives the chance to develop a deep understanding of the many barriers to achievement and complex problems associated with achieving equity in education.

By being involved in TFM, Fellows indirectly place themselves in a web of professional development opportunities. There will be internship and employment opportunities with top-tier organisation in Malaysia; professional development workshops run by corporate leaders and exclusive networking events with senior figures in private and public sector firms. Some of the organisations which support the Teach For All partner programs globally include McKinsey & Company, Goldman Sachs, PwC, Deloitte, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Citibank, ExxonMobil and Google. It is also possible to receive deferred confirmed employment offers and also defer or replace scholarship bonds. University programs that allow admitted students to defer for two years to join the TFM Fellowship include Harvard Business School, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Harvard Law School, Columbia University Law School, Princeton Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs and Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.

There is a five-stage admissions process involved in applying for TFM.
  1. Candidates complete an online application at
  2. First round interview conducted over the telephone
  3. 30-minute long online assessment
  4. Full-day assessment including a group case study, a mock classroom activity and a one-on-one interview
  5. Final offers made to successful candidates to join the First Cohort!

Intrigued? Well, check them out, bombard them with questions and if you think you would like to be part of this, apply. Their application deadline is next Monday, July 25, 2011.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Bersih 2.0 Sydney

On the ninth of July in the year of 2011, Malaysians from all walks of life regardless of ethnicity came out in full strength to show the world that they are no longer tidak apa with the goings-on in Malaysia. Likewise here in Sydney, I joined a group of passionate Malaysians in the second edition of Bersih:

While we were demonstrating our dissatisfaction through peaceful singing and speeches, we were also praying for our compatriots back home in KL, who were having a much harder time but who came out in extremely large numbers in the march of solidarity. I was especially worried for the safety and well-being of some of my friends, who I know were taking part. However, deep down inside me, I knew that they would be safe.

Watching the videos shared on YouTube and the photographs on Facebook made me have goosebumps. I was highly struck with emotion and awe. I take my hat off to the thousands of you back home who took the streets of KL fully aware of the potential risks involved.

I believe that today, we have shown what the true spirit of 1Malaysia really is like. 1Malaysia, after all, is all about national unity, is it not? So, when we really want something to happen, are Malaysians game enough?

If you ask me, today, Malaysia definitely boleh!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Let's paint the town yellow!

It has taken me some time to consider this but I have now made my mind up - I will take part in the event!

Yes, Malaysia-loving Malaysians who still think that the tanahair is worth it will be gathering in all major Australian cities. Join us to support BERSIH 2.0 for democratic, clean and fair elections. For a better Malaysia. Our demands:

1. Clean the electoral roll
2. Reform postal ballot
3. Use indelible ink
4. Minimum 21 days campaign period
5. Free and fair access to media
6. Strengthen public institutions
7. Stop corruption
8. Stop dirty politics

For Sydneysiders, the Bersih 2.0 Sydney will take place at Town Hall/Sydney Square at the universally-agreed date of July 9, 2011 (this coming Saturday). The rally will begin at 2:00pm and should go on until 3:30pm. There will be a guitarist and we will be singing the Negaraku, so be prepared to sing along! Oh, and of course, come in something yellow!

My first rally. Do not know what to expect, really, but ooh, excitednya!