Let’s talk about a pretty common theme, education. Given the importance of education in the upbringing of youths, it raises the question of “What has our country accomplished in terms of education standards and where do we go from here?”
Although Malaysia’s education system has developed and improved over recent decades, it is saddening to know that there are still students struggling with certain issues regarding education. Hence, with the goal of cultivating a heightened awareness of Malaysia’s education system, Sunway Student Ambassadors (SSA) has launched #Bangkit, providing every Sunwayian a platform for rethinking the education system and being involved in reshaping it with impactful solutions.
This 1-month program consists of a variety of activities, including case study challenges, attractive conferences, engaging workshops and guided mentorship. Here’s the timeline of #Bangkit!
Furthermore, SSA even thoughtfully provided everyone with an e-booklet containing all details of #Bangkit. Don’t worry if you have missed out on any of these events as they are all recorded on SSA’s Facebook page.
After about 2 months of promoting their event, SSA finally had their event launch on the 16th August at 2 pm live on Facebook.
An event launch wouldn’t be complete without an opening speech by Prof. Elizabeth Lee, the CEO of Sunway Education Group. In her speech, she expressed her gratitude for the initiatives taken by SSA to nurture young minds on education. She also hopes for the students to actively engage in lively discourse and open dialogues, which would contribute to identifying solutions for the education sector. A good topic would be the gaps present in the current education system that have been brought to light by COVID-19.
Next, it was time for Nelson Ng, the keynote speaker for the day to share his insights on the current state of Malaysia’s education system. Mr. Nelson is an engineer by training and an educator by heart. Because he was offered a scholarship, he strongly advocates for equal opportunities in higher education. Hence, he initiated ProjectEd, an NGO which provides scholarships and knowledge about post-high school pathways to underprivileged students.
He started off with stating the root causes of this issue, which is financial incapability and a lack of knowledge on education pathways. These causes are due to a narrow understanding of education and knowledge.
Having thought that knowledge is all about receiving, Nelson was inspired when his scholarship manager said to him, “this scholarship is given through you, not to you.” Such a quote changed his perspective on education and added a new dimension to his perspective. Now, he adds a twist to it, saying, “knowledge is given through you” in hopes to inspire others by applying their knowledge and contributing to society just like him.
Thus, everyone has the responsibility to make a conscious effort in reshaping the education landscape by providing equal opportunities.
1. Personal Experience in Confronting Educational Inequity
On August 18th, #Bangkit held their first conference, “Personal Experience in Confronting Educational Inequity”, featuring Mr. Chan Soon Seng, the CEO of Teach for Malaysia.
Educational inequity can be defined as the unequal distribution of academic resources to disadvantaged and oppressed communities. Mr. Soon Seng’s motivations towards combating educational inequity in Malaysia were largely driven by his personal experiences growing up. To provide some background, Mr. Soon Seng explained that he had the privilege of receiving his education at an international school in Malaysia but after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, his parents, who ended up spending most of their savings on him and his sister’s education, could no longer afford the same for their youngest son. As his younger brother of 15 years was put through a public school education that was decent yet needed a lot of additional support at home, he was afraid to ask questions in class. Mr. Soon Seng’s frustration grew towards the unfairness that two siblings could experience such a drastic difference in their quality of education. He was thus inspired to contribute to making a difference and first took on the role of a teacher in 2011.
Furthermore, Mr. Soon Seng listed three main factors that cause education inequity. One is socio-economic factors, such as the income level of one’s family and the location that one is born in. He illustrated that by the time children begin Standard 1, many who are unable to afford kindergarten are already that much further behind those who could afford kindergarten simply because of their financial hardship and lack of exposure. Another factor is the systemic factors in place. That is, an education system that rewards those who have more privilege and lacks adequate focus on children with the least privilege. For example, in local schools, students are typically organised into classes based on their grades. Thus, more efforts and resources are exercised on students who excel academically, allowing them to continue to excel, while leaving behind those who do not perform as well and widening the gap between those who are less privileged. Prevailing ideologies or preconceived notions are the third major factor of educational inequity, which perpetuate the cycle of inequity. The preconceived notion that children from low-income families do not have the interest to learn nor work hard enough is highly damaging.
Alas, despite these factors that threaten the landscape of education for marginalised groups, Mr. Soon Seng believes that educational equity is a cause worth fighting for, no matter if it’s within Malaysia or around the world. As the youth become more informed and advocative, society can become empowered to work alongside the systems that exist to help them. Teach for Malaysia’s mission is to ensure they provide the opportunities to do just that. Together with the Ministry of Education, it is a collective responsibility of society to transform education in Malaysia.
As proposed by Mr. Soon Seng, these are a few measures Malaysian students can take to confront educational inequity:
- Understand the problem
One must become aware of what the realities and issues are in order to figure out how to combat the problem. Ask oneself, how one can go above and beyond the daily expectations of work or studies in order to support others in need?
Lots of initiatives have sprouted for children who are unable to afford tuition, especially in lieu of the disruptions of COVID-19. College and university students, relatively fresh out of highschool, are perfect candidates to volunteer as tutors for children who need additional support!
- Consider pursuing a career
Teach for Malaysia is a brilliant NGO offering young university graduates various programmes to kickstart a profession in working towards a better education for everyone, just as there are many other existing organisations out there!
2. Social Issues Present in School
The second #Bangkit conference, “Social Issues Present in School”, took place on 21st August and featured three panelists, Professor Alvin Ng, Mr. Stephen Isaac, and Ms. Joanna Joseph, for a roundtable discussion about all things bullying, particularly in schools.
With a background in psychology, Professor Alvin said that bullying should first be defined as “the repeated effort to make someone else feel small, rejected, insignificant, guilty, [and/or] ashamed of themselves”. These are classified as anti-social behaviours (showing disregard for others’ feelings) and are often exerted by people who feel entitled to assert power or authority over others. It is also important to note that people who bully others need not necessarily be labelled as a bully because “bullying” describes the behaviour which should be separated from the identity. It is difficult to pinpoint a reason behind why someone bullies, as various factors could be at play, ranging from a person’s upbringing, to genetics, socialisation, personality, intelligence level, and the disability to empathise with others. Bullying comes in different forms, such as physical bullying, verbal bullying, and cyberbullying. But no matter what form it takes, there are grave effects that can take a toll on one’s physical and emotional wellbeing for years, even into adulthood.
Model Ms. Joanna Joseph opened up about her own experience with being verbally bullied from age 7 for being overweight. Despite her optimism and determination to make new friends on her first day at an all girls’ secondary school, she was met with nasty remarks from fellow students about her appearance. With no support from her teachers, who laughed along with her classmates’ verbal abuse, Ms. Joanna grew cautious to only eat where no one could see her, and became depressed and even suicidal. As a teacher herself now, she relayed her observations of children using profanities she had never expected them to use at that age as well as observations of her own students who confided that they no longer want to attend class because they are being bullied, to which she feels is unfair because every child deserves to have a safe environment to learn. Yet, the existence of just one child who engages in bullying others can threaten that learning environment. Often victims of bullying are too traumatised by their experience to even speak up and ask for help.
Teacher Mr. Stephen Isaac, who has been vocal about making schools a safer place and teaching students to be better human beings, concurred while speaking of the potential effects of bullying that can snowball over time. He recalled that a primary student he knew became very quiet as a result of getting bullied but once this student entered secondary school, the student began to retaliate by bullying others too. The student’s pent up and unaddressed emotional trauma eventually followed him into secondary school and caused him to behave violently as a perpetrator of bullying himself. Thus, the effects of bullying can manifest differently both in passive and aggressive ways. And it is essential for communities of peers, teachers, and parents, to come together to help in the prevention of bullying altogether.
Important pieces of practical advice from all three panelists to take away:
- Stop normalising bullying. Getting bullied is not a phase that everyone has to go through at some point in their life. It is destructive and damaging, not only to victims but also to their friends and families.
- Learn to speak up to someone, anyone you trust. One does not have to tough it out alone. Speaking out and asking for help is an act of bravery.
- Loving yourself goes a long way. There are no such things as flaws – they are what makes you human.
- For those who have been bullied, remember it is not your fault. Bullying is ultimately a choice that one makes, which is why it can be stopped.
3. Women in Education
The “Women in Education” conference was held on 21st August, featuring Professor Low Wah Yun, University Malaya’s Deputy Exec Director of Research & Internationalisation at the Asia-Europe Institute as well as a Professor of Psychology at the Faculty of Medicine.
It is important for women to be in the education system both as students and educators because, as education is expanding on a global scale and Malaysia has been internationalising its higher education, women have shown time and time again that as they are beneficiaries of the educational investments put into them, they can become successful scholars and teachers. For impoverished communities, bringing women into education helps to get them out of poverty and to reach their full potential. In general, society needs to encourage women to pursue a higher education and to not feel discounted simply because of their position as a female. In the long term, having women as students and educators of higher education can lead to sustainable developments in improving the literacy rates of women, narrowing gender disparities and accelerating nation building.
With that said, there are many sociocultural factors that impose invisible barriers for the advancement of women despite how qualified they may be, otherwise known as the glass ceiling. Starting young, many girls are raised to think they are a liability or an unimportant organism in society. Gender stereotyping causes less priority to be given towards sending girls for a quality education, instead emphasising their domestic duties. Similarly, there exists a stigmatisation/discrimination of women in the workforce, with the idea that women should undertake “easy” jobs that they can do from home as opposed to pursuing a managerial job. Work-family conflict is another significant reason that there are fewer women seen higher up the corporate ladder, as women leave. Furthermore, cultural stereotyping causes women to dumb down so as to appease men and not threaten their status, worsening the power imbalance.
Nonetheless, Professor Low had to give credit where it was due to the facilitators of the ongoing fight to empower women in education, which has come a long way. She commended many organisations in Malaysia, such as The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, to Tun Fatimah Hashim Women’s Leadership Centre, All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), and National Council of Women’s Organisations Malaysia (NCWO), among others, for championing women’s rights beyond just the educational sector and leading by example the duty that the country has to its women. Moreover, she praised the improvement in policies and initiatives to alleviate the burden on career women balancing their work and family. These include a longer maternity leave, setting up nurseries in some workplaces, and having breastfeeding rooms.
There is still a long way to go. Professor Low proposed that various responsible entities can take the following measures to empower women in the education field of Malaysia and, ultimately, strategise towards gender mainstreaming, which aims to integrate a gender equality perspective at all stages and levels:
- Educators/parents should be mindful about teaching from a non-gender biased perspective and correcting perceptions from an early age. This includes how one teaches a boy to see a girl and woman, too. Teachers themselves have an ethical responsibility to make school a safe place.
- As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango”, so society must educate men as well, which can come in the shape of informing one’s male peers, brothers, uncles, and even parents. What may have been overlooked in their generation does not have to sit well with or be tolerated in this generation.
- Microaggressions or internalised misogyny can be difficult to confront, while social and reproductive education can be uncomfortable; but radical and worthwhile change is never easy. It starts by sparking a conversation.
- Women should all stand together. The worst-case scenario would be to stir jealousy between women by seeing each other as their threats, more so in a system laced with hidden policies such as having fewer seats at the table for women to begin with. Respect and root for one another.
Lastly, Professor Low’s parting words of advice: If you are a woman and you have dreams, just go out and do it. You don’t have to think of yourself as a woman, lest be held back by the stereotyping, but rather as just another person. Believe in yourself, go ahead and get it done.
4. The Psychological Aspects of Learning
Learning is a lifelong process. It’s even stated by the World Economics Forum that active learning and learning strategies have become the second most important skills needed by 2025. Although being an active learner isn’t easy, #Bangkit is here to help by having Dr. Elizaveta Berezina, one of Sunway University’s senior lecturers on Psychology, to spill the secrets in becoming a pro in active learning.
Before diving deep into the tips and tricks, let’s understand the definition of learning.
Acquiring knowledge involves building neural connections in the brain, which is why there is a saying “use it or lose it”. If one does not actively recall the knowledge they’ve once learnt, these neural connections will be lost. It is only with good use of knowledge that allows it to be stored well in the brain.
So, how does one process information? Dr. Elizaveta has kindly provided a mind map of it below.
Firstly, everyone is constantly being exposed to different senses. The key is that how we pay attention defines how we manage information on the second stage, that is attention and memory. For example, one’s name resembles one’s identity, and it is the most important information for every individual. Hence, when one is called by their name, they will start paying attention to the information after being called. By realizing the importance of the information, it will be stored as a memory in the brain for future retrieval. When the information is retrieved, then the individual is able to apply and carry out the information learned. Fortunately for everyone, our brain is efficient in information processing. But the bigger question psychologists ask is, how to make this process even more efficient?
In terms of paying attention, there are two choices: select and multitask. Select here refers to selecting important information or tasks to focus on one at the cost of ignoring those of lesser importance. Meanwhile, multitasking refers to working on two or more tasks at the same time at the cost of dividing attention. Through studies such as The Monkey Business Illusion and The Door Study, it is proven that information is lost during multitasking. Although it is inevitable for everyone to multitask, there are some tricks to multitask while still maximizing attentiveness.
It is advised to multitask with two or more low load tasks instead of juggling between high load and low load. Examples of low load tasks include washing the dishes. Besides, one can also multitask with automated tasks which are tasks that do not involve much attentiveness and avoid multitasking controlled tasks which require full attention; such as driving.
Based on the Level of Processing Theory by Craik & Lockhard (1971), deep processing results in better memory. This step involves information to me organized meaningfully by chunking information as groups. Besides, new information learnt can also be linked to pre-existing memories which is called self-referencing. It is also helpful to put the newly received information into context by imagination or making judgements on it for better memorization.
With all these tips, there is still one factor to ensure successful active learning. Motivation. It is important for everyone, especially students, to have motivation in learning and finding what drives them. There are two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. An explanation was provided by Dr. Elizaveta’s slide shown below:
One of the problems students face today is the way they are motivated to learn. Students today are rewarded for good grades and punished if not. Although this reward system provides students with extrinsic motivation, it diminishes intrinsic motivation, as students are just learning for the sake of it. A suitable question to reflect on this would be, “If there was no reward, would you still be willing to study?”. Besides, there is a hidden cost to rewarding. Increase in reward does not necessarily result in an increase in motivation.
Hence, the optimal challenge to learning is by achieving what’s called a flow. With flow, any individual will be capable of having the necessary skills to tackle challenging tasks while having fun with it.
5. Closing The Gap in Higher Education
For this conference, the audience were blessed with Ms. Raenuga’s knowledge on closing the gap in higher education. Ms. Raenuga is not only a Sunway alumni, but she’s also been championing fairer higher education access. She works with Yayasan Tunku Abdul Rahman as Marketing & Partnerships Executive to empower underrepresented students to reach higher education.
To start off, Ms. Raenuga started with this question: did you know that only 5% of young adults from the bottom 40% income group of Malaysia have earned a Bachelor’s degree compared to 40% of their peers from the top quantile?
So, why is higher education important? Education provides one with social mobility, employment and civic participation. With education, one can apply their knowledge to climb up the social ladder and at the same time increase their employability. Here are some stats to back these up:
Hence, these privileges have been robbed for B40 students who lack higher education. Now, an easy solution to this would be to get these students to universities. However, things are never that simple as there are many barriers for these students. These barriers include lack of opportunities and social support, financial struggles and their family background which lacks exposure to education. What’s worse now, is that this gap in higher education has grown further due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Programs Offered by YTAR
Following, Ms. Raenuga continued to introduce the efforts of Yayasan Tunku Abdul Rahman (YTAR) to help deserving students in attaining higher education through scholarships and development progress. YTAR hopes to empower students from low-income backgrounds through their programs so that they are able to have higher education and grow as a leader. Details of these programs are shown below:
Here are some of the testimonials from their scholars.
Besides, YTAR has also generously prepared a resource pack for post-SPM/STPM students to prepare for their pathway to higher education. To ensure the inclusiveness of all communities, this resource pack is made available in 4 languages, namely English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. The details of this pack include:
- pathways after SPM/STPM
- writing scholarship application essays
- interview preparation and tips
- introduction to scholarships.
To provide much more support for a university to thrive in their education, a 2-year leadership programme is provided to their scholars.
This scholarship has been made equitable for students from various communities as the fees of a single student is not just merely tuition fees. Hence, a well thought-out financial plan has been outlined to ensure all scholars are covered with regards to all things they need to succeed in university.
Next, Ms. Raenuga invited Lee Yu Bei, a CTG(Closing the Gap) 2020 scholar to share her experience in Closing the Gap. She has benefited a lot from the workshops, especially the Google workshop which has equipped her with the skills needed regarding the function and services Google provides. She was also grateful for the sharing sessions provided which gave her exposure to opportunities in career pathways. Her mentor was also really friendly and helpful in guiding her to understand herself better in terms of her interests and ambitions so that Yu Bei can make a clear decision on her future. It was her mentor that constantly provided her with encouragement and support as well as the courage to try out different scholarships. Hence, she is really thankful to her mentor.
What can you do?
Lastly, Ms Raenuga asked the audience to ponder on what can be done to close this tremendous gap in education. She also provided the audience with a few steps to get started as seen below.
Feel free to stay connected via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Yayasan Tunku Abdul Rahman (YTAR)
Facebook: Yayasan Tunku Abdul Rahman
LinkedIn: Yayasan Tunku Abdul Rahman
Closing The Gap
Facebook: Closing The Gap Malaysia
LinkedIn: Closing The Gap Malaysia
6. Enhancing the Learning Experience through Gamification
Conference speaker Mr. Chuah Kee Man, Senior Lecturer for the Faculty of Language & Communication at UNIMAS, gave an exciting talk about how gamification could be applied into education to enhance the learning experience.
To begin, Mr. Chuah pointed out that a game, defined as a “rule-based system with quantifiable outcomes of different values, of which players influence by exerting effort into”, is much like the daily activities in reality. Every individual has rules to follow in a society and key benchmarks or performance markers to achieve in order to advance into their next stage in their education, career and life. There are inputs and outputs. Perhaps without realising, much of the education system is based on gaming systems. Following, gamification is defined as the “use of game design elements in non-game contexts” to entertain, but also provide meaningful takeaways or knowledge. Aside from education, gamification is applied in health, fitness, training, customer relations, human resources, and team resources, to name a few. Gamified elements are present in various apps, such as points systems of e-commerce platforms and leaderboards by DuoLingo and Khan Academy. Gamification is actually present everywhere!
Mr. Chuah encouraged teachers to consider gamifying their lessons, especially for learners in higher education, who can become more involved in the process of their teaching framework or in co-designing part of the game construction. He demonstrated how he once presented a course outline to his students in the form of a game map. The concept was that his students were players who had just landed on this island and had to escape by learning academic English. They had to follow the paths to different locations, complete challenges along the way, and reach the castle at the end, which represented their ticket to their final exam.
Advantages & Disadvantages of gamification in teaching and learning and its effects on students’ learning, behaviour and engagement:
Common misconceptions of gamification
- It makes learning “fun”: There is a constant battle of entertainment, engagement, and attainment (of educational outcomes) in gaming. Even if content is gamified well, it could still be boring but still engage students to get into a mode of thinking. After all, games can be serious.
- It can only work with rewards: With a craze about giving points/badges for everything comes the fallacy of leaderboards. Gamification can’t fix poor content. Gamification in education is meant to be about creating meaning, otherwise it devalues the learning objectives.
- It is only for young kids: When one is more mature, one engages in more critical thinking and reflecting. Hence, adults can benefit from this and gamification can be popular in the corporate world, too.
With this, Mr. Chuah gave the following tips and suggestions for how to effectively apply gamification in teaching & learning and how formal/traditional elements of teaching can be converted to gamified elements:
- Labels are powerful.
- Make sure meanings are clear: Link the gamified aspects with appropriate scenarios i.e. with Mr, Chuah’s example, when his students had to learn how to write information reports in “The Cave”, the reading material given to them was about bats.
- Tasks: Quests. Boss battles can be used to represent exams i.e. boss battle 1 is a midterm and boss battle 2 is the final exam.
- Groups: Guilds vs Solo. Use themes e.g. Harry Potter houses
- Grades: XP, Levels
- Focus on learning outcomes – do not forget these! It is important that gamification is used to enhance the learning outcomes, and that entertainment does not come at the cost of neglecting the important learning outcomes that they are dependent on, otherwise defeating the purpose of applying gamification in education.
- Rewards should be intrinsic over extrinsic. Instead of tangible rewards like sweets, reward students access to 5 questions which will help them with their assignment.
- Implement unlockable content/quests: Once a student completes a task, such as posting on a forum, they are then granted access to additional contents to aid their learning.
- Flexibility & autonomy: Allow students to try again and again in a “trial and error mode”. Avoid having “punishing modes”.
- Basic gamification tools: Wisc-Online Game Builder and EduCandy
7. Becoming an Informed Citizen
As a citizen of Malaysia, it is our responsibility to understand the government system to make proper voting decisions. Hence, everyone has to be aware of the current situation and be informed.
Before getting into the content, let’s review Ms. Syria’s background. She’s the Co-Founder & Education Director of UNDI 18. She is also a Fellow at the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) and a Democracy Discourse Fellow by the De La Selle University. At UNDI 18, she leads voter education initiatives by creating workshop modules and creative content to ensure that Malaysian youths are prepared to vote.
Intro to UNDI 18
Ms. Qyira shared her story studying abroad in the US around 2016. 2016 was a time where she was at the heart of global politics, as major events such as Donald Trump becoming president and Brexit happened. It was a culture shock for her as political debates and political campaigns were held in her university. What’s even more shocking was when she saw how youths as young as 18 year olds had political literacy to join into these debates. Looking back at Malaysia, the age for youths to vote is 21 and at this age, it is most likely 21-year-old individuals are nearing graduation or preparing for work. However, there remain struggles to start talking about politics in the workplace. Hence Ms. Qyira believes that the best time to talk about politics is during university years, which increases the need to increase Malaysia’s political literacy.
Thus, the birth of Undi18. It is a movement that engages in political divide to promote youth-centric agenda and democratic reforms. It also advocates for greater youth representation in politics and bridging the gap between the government and youths in Malaysia. One of their successes include the implementation of the Malaysian government to lower the voting age to increase political literacy.
- Awareness of current and political situations
- Education to be informed on politics
- Advocacy for individuals to become politically active
Besides, they also launched a new movement on the 31st of August which takes up from their success in Undi Sabah and Undi Sarawak campaigns so that they can grow and nurture more young leaders.
Understanding Malaysian Government
All of these different bodies exist so that there is no one body or person having absolute control and power over Malaysia. Besides, all of these bodies, including Yang Dipertuan Agong himself, is governed by the Federal Constitution (Perlembagaan Malaysia) as it defines what being a Malaysian is all about; as well as how Malaysia is governed.
A short summary of these bodies are shown below:
How to be an informed voter
- Do research
Know about the current issues as well as the positions of the candidates so that the decisions made will not be influenced by outside factors. It might be tempting but don’t get allured by the conspiracy theories put on the web. Do look out for the political rhetorics, symbolisms and advertisements during elections to have a clear understanding of the candidate’s positioning. So, research is key to knowing the minds of the candidate.
- Know your electoral district and decide what you are looking for in a candidate.
Knowing the district is important for filtering out only the candidates involved. Next, determine the issues and community problems that are important for the government to address. With this, one is able to find which candidate supports these issues and understand their stand towards it.
- Learn about the candidates and their campaigns.
It is helpful to look for the candidate’s campaign websites or social media. One can also directly mail them or observe their posters and banners. One may also be aware of the press releases, radio and television advertisements for more information. With the advancement of digitalization, candidate speeches and debates have been made accessible online as well for viewing.
- Recognize distortion tactics.
Understand the candidate’s past historical behavior which might give insight to his or her personality. Behaviors such as name-calling, rumor-mongering, failure to keep promises and more should be taken into account.
- Register and vote!
With MySPR Daftar, voting has been made easy, so what’s the hold up? Register now and vote as an informed citizen!
With that, it marks the end of all the conferences of #Bangkit! To end with a bang, an awards ceremony took place to announce the winners of the #Bangkit Challenge. Here is the list of winners of this challenge. Congratulations for achieving such great results!
Written by: Maki & Michelle
Edited by: Jamie