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
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.
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.
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.
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.