Malaysia Teacher Prize

The Malaysia Teacher Prize is the first of its kind in Malaysia, where teachers are being sought to share their practices and their ambitions for the classroom. Aiming to give autonomy back to teachers, the Prize seeks to highlight the prominence of teachers in the classroom where teachers are at the forefront of designing the best interventions. The grand prize is a monetary award of RM50,000, with the other four finalists receiving RM5,000 each. To learn more about the founding of the Malaysia Teacher Prize and its aspirations, we spoke with Cheryl Fernando, CEO of PEMIMPIN GSL and Samuel Isaiah, a Programme Coordinator at PEMIMPIN GSL and notably, a Top 10 finalist of the Global Teacher Prize.

The Prize was initially conceived in 2021, during which Samuel was a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, an award by the Varkey Foundation which rewards one teacher with a US$1 million cash prize for their outstanding contribution to the profession. To form a localised version of the Prize, Samuel and Cheryl reached out to the Varkey Foundation following which, a collaboration with YTL Foundation was established.

Ten finalists, out of a wide pool of nominees, will be selected in line with a host of criteria. As Cheryl explains, there are four main elements. ‘We want to see innovations in the classroom because that is where the highest impact is.’ These are not necessarily novel ones, she notes, but rather, ‘everyday classroom practices where teachers have managed to see an impact.’ Just as importantly, the journey of the individual matters – their story as a teacher will be a factor. There is also an emphasis on going beyond the classroom, where external interventions conducted matter, and the teacher’s contribution to the teaching fraternity. In short, it is about a teacher who embodies such holistic experiences.

Similarly, as Samuel stresses, ‘we want to see a clear plan of what they would like to do with the [prize money of] RM50,000.’ Part of the Prize is about its support for the Top 10 finalists, who will undergo professional development to further develop not only themselves, but their classroom practices through varying perspectives. Professional development will involve how to brand themselves and scale innovations in the classroom, with the prize money going towards executing classroom interventions or ideas that would further enhance their classroom practices.

Applications for the Prize have now been extended until 17th July, and all eligible teachers can apply at https://malaysia-teacher-prize.awardsplatform.com/. If you know an inspirational teacher, you can nominate them using the same link.


25th Anniversary Special Features

Flashback: Book Prize Winner

The Puan Sri Kai Yong Yeoh Book Prize, established in 2011, was founded to celebrate the life of Puan Sri Kai Yong Yeoh and her vested interest in the education of young minds. The Prize is awarded to those of school-going age, with a monetary reward as well as support from the company. As part of a series of stories to commemorate the Foundation’s 25th anniversary, we spoke to Tiffany Wen, one of the first winners of the Prize, to find out more about how the Prize has shaped her sense of self. 

“The Book Prize kickstarted everything. It led to everything I am and have today,” says Tiffany, now a Brand Executive at YTL Construction. She commends the Prize for having given her a sense of striving for her goals, while urging her to think about issues in a more sustained manner: “The Prize is about stretching your creativity and applying yourself.” It is due to this engagement that she went on to pursue a degree in law, subsequently working with YTL Legal. After two years in the legal team, Tiffany has since moved to a career in communications, a path she believes is more suited to her personality.

As part of her submission for the Prize, she was tasked with writing an essay about her ideal world, which she perceived, at the time, as one where everyone would be ‘hungry for nothing and everything’. Though she believes she would not be able to write the same essay today, the essay was a way for her to consider future possibilities. As a result, Tiffany encourages all YTL employees to challenge themselves by giving the Prize a try. She notes, “To have the willpower and determination to participate wholeheartedly in the Book Prize will teach you the most valuable lesson: You can do anything you set your heart and mind to, and it’s seed money to do whatever you want – you can’t ask for a better platform.”

To find out more about the Puan Sri Kai Yong Yeoh Book Prize, visit https://www.ytlfoundation.org/book-prize/

Flashback: SK Jalan Selangor (1)

In 2014, Puan Khor, the assistant headmistress at SK Jalan Selangor (1), had approached the Foundation for Chromebooks, ultimately sponsored by the Foundation alongside offering the Frog VLE platform to aid the learning of students. Following which, in 2016, the school was one of the first recipients of a Frog Classroom, as part of the YTL Foundation Frog Classroom Programme, which aims to transform classrooms across Malaysia into contemporary learning spaces. 

Cikgu Raj, a former teacher at the school, spoke with us recently to offer an update on how student performance at the school has grown since.

With 120 students from lower-income families, SK Jalan Selangor (1) teachers sought to transform the school into a high-performing one. As such, when 60 Chromebooks were offered as part of the learning experience, a noticeable uptake in student academic performance was noted. 

According to Cikgu Raj, at the time, around 70% of students from the school did not have computer facilities in their homes. When Chromebooks were introduced into their education ecosystem, teachers noticed major changes in students, so much so the school was noted to be the highest performing primary school in the district of Petaling Utama three years in a row!  

Students were not the only ones benefiting from the change – teachers found themselves loving the Frog VLE, where they could come up with their own lessons. The change was enormously helpful in heightening student participation while allowing teachers to take control of classes: quieter students, with the help of laptops, were now able to give their opinions and answers through lessons and emails digitally. 

In study by The University of Nottingham, where the usage of the VLE was weighed in the teaching and learning of mathematics, a positive change was noted: 

'The learners also expressed that they appreciated that they could learn mathematical concepts at their own pace, and keep retrying assignments on a certain concept until they got a score that was acceptable for them. This self-assessment was further made easier because they could take the chromebooks home and continue their learning without the pressure of the limited time in the classroom that both they and their teachers felt. In the survey, 71% reported they very strongly agreed that the assignments helped them find out areas where they need to improve in Mathematics.'

Ending on a note of thanks, Cikgu Raj is incredibly thankful because students have found enjoyment in the upgrades offered by the Foundation.

From Engineering to Project Management

Sarmila A/P Krishnan is a former YTL Foundation scholar, presently an engineer at YTL Construction. She is at the tail end of completing a Master’s in Project Management from the Universiti Malaya, sponsored by YTL Construction.

As the deputy head prefect at SMK Puchong, she had emerged as a high-performing student in a school where academic performance was not always the easiest to attain. She excelled in sports and was a national karate athlete until her aspirations were folded when a knee injury spelled the end of her professional karate career. Still, obstacles were present in her journey: she found herself struggling to cope academically due to familial circumstances, despite having previously received 12As at SPM level.

Nonetheless, Sarmila applied to study electrical engineering at the undergraduate level and received a YTL Foundation scholarship after her first term at university, having since graduated with an undergraduate degree from the Universiti Malaya as well. To Sarmila, the scholarship offered her constant coaching and support. In particular, she cites a two-day Foundation scholar retreat in 2016 where she learnt about personality types, setting her on a path of growth in her own personality over the years.

Upon graduation, she joined YTL Construction and has spent close to 3 years there. Recently, she was transferred from the Kuala Lumpur office to the Johor office, a transfer she was allowed to place on hold for a year and a half by her supervisor due to extenuating circumstances. What, then, led to her wanting to further her studies? She credits the department with sparking her interest in pursuing a postgraduate qualification:

“When I started, I had no intention of doing a Master’s. But I watched my seniors work, and I wanted to take the PMP (Project Management Professional) certificate, which requires 5 years’ experience. With the UM course, I was able to study project management and get the qualifications required.”

Yet again, it was not an easy journey – “I was thinking in the context of the MCO (Movement Control Order), when we had more time.” She found herself missing out on various departmental activities, too busy with her studies to do much else apart from her day job and the postgraduate degree itself. Having reached the completion of her course, however, she has no regrets and is set to only grow into her career aspirations in the coming months and years.


Leaps Holiday Programme 6.0 

For three days in June, Leaps Academy ran a series about ‘Empowering Students and Shaping a Socially Aware Generation Equipped with Social and Emotional Skills’. Three sessions were conducted each day, with an average of 40 children between the ages of 9 and 15. 

Each session lasted one-and-a-half hours, where participants explored how backgrounds and experiences form identity and shape available opportunities. Inequality in both a Malaysian and global context was also explored, looking at interactions between nations, cultures, religions and communities. Many remarked that the sessions were inspiring and motivating, knowing that they can play a part in catalysing change within their own family and community. Quizzes, videos, riddles and activities made for an engaging programme, allowing participants to have fun while simultaneously learning!

Financial Literacy Programme   

In April, Leaps Academy launched a financial literacy programme with Melissa Zecha, a Finance and International Business graduate from McGill University, with 13 participants between the ages of 13 and 17.

The first session focused on the concept of money, where students were introduced to the history of money and how it came about in its current form. Matters such as the inefficiency of bartering leading to the creation of money and the characteristics of money were delved into. Just as crucially, our students learnt about fiscal issues of contemporary relevance, such as inflation, cryptocurrency, and the Russian sanctions, enabling students to get a better sense of finance. Apart from which, commodities including food essentials and valuable metals were touched on.

The following session, focused on debt and data, with issues such as loans, credit cards, and refinancing. An emphasis on managing financial issues was raised, where financial accountability will serve participants well. 

Ruang Kita at Sri Perak PPR

As part of an initiative to impact the community at PPR Sri Perak, Ruang KITA – a community space and toy library was built within the Sri Perak PPR with the support of DBKL, Sentul Raya & YTL Land. 

A digital developmental assessment was held recently for children between the ages of 3 and 5 by TOY EIGHT, a Japanese educational company. Toy Eight carried out their free Child Developmental Assessment at Ruang Kita. The assessment addresses the 5 domains of development in children from this age bracket, to determine if children have experienced developmental loss in learning as well as delays in their physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and linguistic development as a result of pandemic lockdown measures. 

According to Tobey Low, Head of Early Years, the children assessed experienced ‘issues with fine motor skills, understanding instructions and a lack of confidence. However, major issues were not displayed.’  The toy library in Ruang KITA serves to facilitate their development, closing the gap through regular playtime. 

Acumen Academy Malaysia 

At Acumen Academy Malaysia, 2022 has been a year bursting with opportunity. In January, the 2022 Acumen Fellows Cohort was unveiled, and they are presently embarking on a journey of Adaptive Learning and storytelling to mobilise their audiences into meaningful action. In the meantime, cohorts from the last two years have separately organised their own retreats, recently spending a weekend together in-person rather than virtually, as they recharged and strategised for the road ahead. 

However, this has also been a year of celebration for Acumen Academy Malaysia, as multiple past Fellows have won valuable opportunities as members of the Acumen Foundry. Ian Yee (The Fourth Media), a 2020 Fellow, is a winner under Acumen Angels, a new funding opportunity by Acumen to support outstanding Foundry members with a grant worth US$50,000 each. Apart from which, Haslina Maleh (All Aboard Young Leaders), Wah Hoo Chun (NGOHub), Kelvin Tan (Project ID) and May Wong (Taylor’s Education Group, KL) were matched with pro-bono consulting teams from Bain, alongside 16 other Acumen Fellows internationally, receiving pro-bono support on vital strategic questions in relation to their organisations. 

ASLI Programme: First Workshop Cycle 

On 24th May 2022, PEMIMPIN GSL successfully launched their inaugural workshop cycle for the ASLI Programme, in 15 school leaders from Sekolah Murid Orang Asli (SMOA) are participating. A school leader from Pendang, Kedah, mentions her delight upon joining the first cycle:

“PEMIMPIN GSL has done a great job in organising and delivering the session. This programme is great and could spark new ideas from the school leaders.”

The one-and-a-half-year programme is designed to build capacity in school leaders from OA schools in various skills and branches of knowledge, ultimately upskilling them to empower their teachers and communities, on top of improving student outcomes.