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Leadership, Networking, Studying in UK, and Post-Career Plan - Chevening Scholarship essays


davinnor 1 / 1  
Oct 18, 2015   #1
Hi all,

I'm currently in the midst of completing my essays for Chevening Scholarship. I would really appreciate your quick feedback on the general structure, tone, and coherence of my essay - as I plan to revise them several times more before finalising them. Thanks in advance!!! :D

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Leadership & Influence Question
Chevening is looking for individuals that will be future leaders or influencers in their home countries. Explain how you meet this requirement, using clear examples of your own leadership and influencing skills to support your answer.

(minimum word count: 50 words, maximum word count: 500 words)

I grew up being passionately curious about understanding human behaviors to empower lives and enrolled into University of Gloucestershire (UK) to pursue a degree in Psychology. My final year dissertation ignited an insatiable hunger for understanding minds using facts and grounded in data. Upon graduation, I launched my career in marketing research to further enhance my research skills before venturing into the education sector.

A year later (end of 2011), I took the leap of faith to join Teach For Malaysia Fellowship's inaugural cohort. During the Fellowship, I was posted in a high-need school in Selangor and had the wonderful privilege of teaching Mathematics to 13-17 year olds who were mostly from underprivileged background. However, through this humbling experience, I saw my students started to believe in themselves, and achieve what everyone in the community thought was impossible: 2 of my students achieved an A grade for the Malaysian Certificate of Examination after having failed Mathematics for more than 10 years. More than half the class was able to pass their Mathematics subject, from the weakest class (as they stream these classes and teachers have mostly gave up on them evidenced by the fact that they don't even walk into the classes during their subject-period) and proved to the whole community that they are extremely capable!

This is where I internalised the belief that no matter the background of a child, if they want to achieve, they can and will be able to! I worked closely with the all levels of stakeholders within the community to empower the children, but my work has only just started. It gave me a new sense of hope, and of possibility that we can push the educational outcomes of these students to compete at the global level for ALL children!

Hence, upon completion of my two-year Fellowship, I decided to join Teach For Malaysia organisation as a staff member. Since I was part of the first cohort, I believe it was necessary for someone who has done the Fellowship on the ground to be with the organisation to strengthen its cause and scale up the programme to accelerate impact. I joined the Partnership Development team, partnerships with both the private and government sector. The movement started within the peninsula region (covering both central and northern peninsula), and successfully expanded our placement of Fellows in East Malaysia starting with two districts in Sarawak: Miri and Subis. I worked directly with my Managing Director and Co-Founder, Dzameer Dzulkifli to ensure we had successfully raised funds to sustain the organization's' operations.

In conclusion, I had the privilege to teach and lead 13-17 year olds, believing in their potential, working closely with them and seeing them graduate high-school with significant achievement and a renewed sense of self-belief. I then went on to join Teach For Malaysia to develop and strengthen partnerships to scale up its movement. Now, I aspire to start a school to provide excellent education to underserved communities at low-cost, in collaboration with Ministry of Education.

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Networking Question
Chevening is looking for individuals with strong networking skills, who will engage with the Chevening community and influence and lead others in their chosen profession. Explain how you meet this requirement, using clear examples of your networking skills, and outline how you hope to use these skills in the future.

(minimum word count: 50 words, maximum word count: 500 words)

During my Fellowship, I was placed in a school that was about 1.5 hours away from the city, in a small village where the main sources of income for my students' parents were farming and fishing. However, it was crucial for me to strike strong partnerships with organisations that would be able to provide necessary coaching and support for my students so that they are able to experience the world beyond their village to crystallise their aspirations.

I strongly believe that to ensure all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education, it cannot rely solely on the classroom teacher. Or the school leaders. Or the parent. Everyone has a role to play, and there should be a movement to bring them all together to attain collective impact. As the saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child"

As such, I kick started an initiative in my school (I taught) called Speakers and Readers Club for my students who lacked proficiency in English. In addition to providing them direct coaching from teachers in the school, I successfully got one of our country's top telecommunication company, Maxis Communications Sdn Bhd to partner with us. As part of their partnership, they were able to formalise the support and this resulted in 10 month structured programme involving the participation of Maxis Management Associates who were going through an internal 24-month development programme.

In addition to engaging corporate stakeholders when I was a teacher in the school, upon completing my two-year Fellowship, I joined Teach For Malaysia organisation as a staff member, specifically in the Partnership Development team - to work on securing long-term partnerships with corporations and government agencies. I was also able to strengthen the relationship with Khazanah Nasional, which is the Malaysian Government's investment arm - and strengthened partnership as the largest donor for 2014-2018. I also worked closely with our global network partner, Teach For All; and secured global partnerships with DHL Express which resulted in both monetary and nonmonetary support such as DHL employee volunteering hours in schools Fellows are placed.

I have a genuine passion for working with people. Hence, one of my strengths over the years have been that I am a great active listener and find a lot of joy in having deep conversations with individuals from all walks of life. The Malaysia Education Blueprint acknowledges that there are still considerable challenges facing the education system. I aspire to work on developing a private-public partnership that is conducive for Malaysian education system, so that it would be possible to move Malaysia up another notch on the PPP continuum and ultimately increasing student outcomes.

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Studying in the UK Question
Outline why you have selected your chosen three university courses, and explain how this relates to your previous academic or professional experience and your plans for the future.

*Please do not duplicate the information you have entered on the work experience and education section of this form (minimum word count: 50 words, maximum word count: 500 words)

As I entered school as a teacher for the first time, I was shocked at how far behind my students were in terms of their development (both academic and non-academic). The Malaysian Education system is a highly centralised system, and basic infrastructure is not the main issue.

The issues that plagues our education systems can be narrated in three distinct points:

Inconsistencies: The changes of policies such as the usage of English in Maths and Science had students confused.
Poor implementation: The implementation of new accountability measures, and school based assessments for students that were unstructured, and rolled out prematurely left students even more confused.

Unclear expectation and lack of stability for children: Especially for students who come from low-income communities, where they lack stability in their homes - the education system was a mess for them.

As a result, students confused, unsure of what is expected of them, and ultimately no way of identifying if they have any opportunity for growth. I felt an immense responsibility to fix their world. Attaining an excellent education is key for these children to have the opportunity to making choices that will empower both them and their community.

I chose UK to pursue my masters because our education system and syllabus was inherited from the British Education, I want to further deepen my understanding and acquire new knowledge in either of three areas; Educational Management, Comparative Education, and International Development. Two of these courses are in UCL Institute of Education, whereas for Educational Management it would be in University of Leeds.

The reason I have selected UCL Institute of Education is due to the institute's expertise in education (evidenced by its world ranking) which continually influences and shapes educational policy across the world through its alumni. I look forward to meeting like-minded individuals, who would continue to share ideas and debate what's best for our education system in our home countries.

I want to study and analyse education systems implemented in other countries - and identify how they have worked within their culture, and adapted it to achieve best student outcomes. Studying these courses in UK would provide me greater access to debate and critique what works and what doesn't, eventually developing an idea that is robust and adaptable for Malaysia. As Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America once said, "if the problems of educational inequity are universal, then the solutions must be shareable".

Education and International Development course will also provide me with the opportunity to look deep into contemporary policy issues regarding education in low and middle income countries; as Malaysia aspires to be a high income nation by year 2020.

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Career Plan Question
Chevening is looking for individuals who have a clear post-study career plan. Outline your immediate plans upon returning home and your longer term career goals, considering how these relate to UK priorities in your country.

* UK priority areas can be found on your country page of the Chevening website (minimum word count: 50 words, maximum word count: 500 words)

My long term career goal is to run a network of schools that provides excellent education to underserved communities in Malaysia at a low cost; ideally in collaboration with the Ministry of Education leveraging on the government's plan to increase public-private-partnership.

I have two options after returning to Malaysia upon completion of my post-graduate. I have spoken to leaders of two organisations, one of them with my previous supervisor from Teach For Malaysia, and another who founded a school for refugee children in Malaysia called Dignity For Children as they have aspirations to scale their school to be able to reach out to more students. Specifically my plans for each these immediate paths are:

1. Teach For Malaysia: Return to Teach For Malaysia to join the movement at a senior leadership level for another 3-years to increase its effectiveness as a movement that is committed to collaborate with both private and public sector in ensuring children are receiving the best possible education they deserve. Teach For Malaysia aspires to reduce the achievement gap significantly by 2025, alongside the aspirations of the National Education Blueprint. To do this, Teach For Malaysia has to recruit more Fellows to join the movement, train them and place them in public schools. This would require significant resources and support from both public and private sector - which I could see myself immediately contributing with credibility upon graduation.

2. Dignity For Children: Join Dignity For Children as part of their management team to recruit, support and empower teachers. In addition, work closely with their Senior Leadership Team to explore best strategy to scale the schools in a way that is cost-effective and sustainable.

To reiterate - the reason why I want to join the above two organisations is that although they have done relatively well over the recent years in providing excellent education to underserved communities, the problem still appears too big to achieve scalable impact. As mathematician and planner Horst Rittel coined it, education is a 'wicked problem' (which he described as messy, confounding, aggressive) and the solutions have to be structured, consistent and stable to realise long-term impact goals.

I am particularly interested in answering how do we ensure that short term goals are heading towards achieving our vision of all children attaining excellent education - and how often to we take a step back to review our progress and revise the strategies to increase student outcomes? I believe it can be done with support from all stakeholders: students, teachers, parents, community and government, to build conviction and get them to invest in the education of children from all background.

bonboncase 20 / 45 15  
Oct 18, 2015   #2
Hi Karthik
For the first essay.I can not grasp your leadership ability first time I scanned over it.The first paragraph is somewhat irrelevant from my humble opinion so you should revise it to make your essay more coherent.

The second time I read it I can understand that you want to show your leadership in your example. However, I think you need to point out your leadership and skills directly, instead of letting the readers to conclude from your example. You talked a lot about the class you taught and the children. You can say more about yourself and don't be too humble.

Personal opinion for your reference.
OP davinnor 1 / 1  
Oct 18, 2015   #3
Thanks bonboncase. I found your feedback to be very helpful, and reassured me to revise it entirely. Please find below my revised answer to the first question.

Leadership to me is the ability to understand and empower others to the betterment of themselves. I completed my honors degree in Psychology, launched my career in marketing research and subsequently joining Teach For Malaysia's inaugural cohort to teach in a high-need school for two years. Upon completion of my 2-year Fellowship, I joined the movement as a staff member as a fundraiser to scale up the programme and accelerate it's impact. My life experiences has taught me a great deal of leadership lessons, and while I continue to grow as a leader; I have three key achievements of being successful leader:

1. As part of the Fellowship, I was posted in a high-need school in Selangor and had the wonderful privilege of teaching Mathematics to 13-17 year olds who were mostly from low-income families. 2 of my students achieved an A grade and more than half the class passed their final national examinations after having failed for years. It took me dedication, resilience and conviction in my students' potential to work with them relentlessly. I invest them in my vision for them, and how we are going to achieve it together. I laid it out for them to witness, and get their input to include them in finalising the goals we set as a class; and ultimately creating an immense sense of possibility and trust between them and myself.

2. As a teacher in the community, I spent a lot of time analysing and understanding root causes of my students' lack of aspiration. I realised even the highest performing students lacked confidence, and there were very little role models within the community. I worked closely with all levels of stakeholders within the community, bringing successful individuals to come coach and mentor my students on a monthly basis. I worked alongside the teachers, and school admin to formalise the approach, and saw my students represent the school and themselves at state level debates and public speaking championship.

3. As a staff member, in charge of fundraising from both private and public sector; I worked even more closely with key stakeholders in charting our resources map. When I started, we were running low on funding; and had to seek greater support from the Ministry to continue supporting the movement. I took ownership of the situation, initiated meetings with high-level government officials as well as private stakeholders - and open up the discourse on how each of us can play a significant role in narrowing the achievement gap. As a result, we raised enough funds in year 2014, and successfully met organisational goal of expanding the movement with placement of 39 teachers in East Malaysia starting January 2015.

4. First part of my stories aimed at empowering students and the movement to end education inequity. Continuing my efforts, I co-founded a crowdfunding platform specifically for education, called 100% Project. It's a non-profit initiative, to raise funds for teachers and school communities to provide learning opportunities for children. I started this alongside two co-founders; and this experience further reinforces the power of investing others in ideas that serves the betterment of others.

In summary, my leadership journey is to work closely with people, investing them to be part of a vision that can be shared, and I would continuously involve them and lead them till we attain milestones of both small and big successes. I have seen my students prove possible the perceived impossible. I have witnessed the fruits of collaboration. I have shared the joy of working together with both private and public sectors coming together in harmony for a shared goal. And lastly, I continue to lead and bring out the best in others through my initiatives. Now, I'm on a mission to start a network of school to provide quality education to underserved communities at low-cost.
bonboncase 20 / 45 15  
Oct 18, 2015   #4
Hi. As I am not a native English speaker, I can't give you lots of advice on the usage of English. The content is clearer now.

Let me give you some advice on the content first.
The first sentence of the first paragraph is not very closely related to the first paragraph.I revised it but I think there is still spaces for improvement.

Leadership to me is the ability to understand and empower others to the betterment of themselves.After I completed my honors degree in Psychology, launched my career in marketing research and subsequently joining Teach For Malaysia's inaugural cohort to teach in a high-need school for two years.

I think your sentences can be shortened and improved. I guess you made a quick revision on the content before carefully checking your grammar. Let me try my best to point out some mistakes for you.

3. As a staff member, in charge of fundraising from both private and public sectors;, I worked even more closely with key stakeholders in charting our resources map. When I started, we were running low on funding; and had to seek greater support from the Ministry to continue supporting the movement.

For numbers, use English words instead of 123. Also no contraction (like it's)

The electricity of my dorm is going to be cut out soon...so I will just stop it here. Good luck!
justivy03 - / 2,366 607  
Oct 21, 2015   #5
Hi Karthik, as I go through your essay, I saw how you turned your paper to an almost complete revision with the help of EF which is very good, this only means that you accept constructive criticism. Now, I'd like to share my thoughts and I'd like to take it per paragraph.

1st paragraph
- others to the betterment of themselvesfor greater welfare .
- and subsequently joiningjoined Teach
- For Malaysia's inaugural cohort to teach in a high-needvery demanding school for two years.
- staff member, as a
- fundraiser to scale upelevate the

1. 2Two of my students
- It tookThis thought me dedication,
- resilience and convictionreliability in my
- students'( omit the apostrophe on the word "students" ) potential
- I invest them in my vision for them,encouraged them to see my vision for them and how
- them in finaliz ing the goals
- we set as a class; and ultimately

2. time analyz ing and
- I realiz ed even the
- admin to formaliz e the approach, and saw my

As you can see Karthik, there's quiet a lot of remarks I made, I made this very thorough to help you out and make sure we leave no error in your essay.

Mind your spelling mistakes, this can be minor but this can make a difference in your essay.

I'll get back to you for the rest of the essay.
justivy03 - / 2,366 607  
Oct 21, 2015   #6
- 4. a crowdfunding platform specifically forfocused on education,
- co-founders; and this experience
- further reinforced the power
- of investingincorporating others in ideas
- that serves the betterment ofas a helping hand to others.

- them un till we
- attain milestones of both small and big successes.
- I have seen my students prove possibletheand perceived the impossible.
- AndL astly, I continue to lead and bring out

Well, there you have it, a few more remarks on this art of the essay, what I found and I would like to stress is that, you have to avoid the use of sentence that is directly translated by your thoughts, you have to come up with sentences that best explains your ideas and pen them down.

To close this remarks, I wish you the best of luck on this application and I hope you continue your humble efforts on sharing and giving good education for the youth.


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