Ending education inequity in M’sia

Each of us have a role to play in solving the country’s education problems, says Teach For Malaysia’s Abel Cheah.

Cheah conducting an activity at the Afterschool in Segambut.

Cheah conducting an activity at the Afterschool in Segambut.

TEACH For Malaysia’s Abel Cheah draws parallels between the battles in the country’s march for independence with the problems faced in education today.

“When I think about the Spirit of 57, I think about the fighting spirit that our forefathers had. Sure, we no longer have the same enemies that we had 57 years ago, but we’re still fighting for freedom,” he said.

“We need to recognise that our enemies today look very different: education inequity, racism and prejudice. If we don’t deal with them and overcome them now, they will rob us of our country’s freedom, so to speak.”

Cheah believes that TFM, an education outreach initiative to address the problem of education inequity in Malaysia, embodies the Merdeka spirit in its own way.

“TFM’s philosophy is really simple – it seeks to address education inequity in the belief that your education determines your outcome, which in turn, determines your life quality.

“In the schools that our fellows are sent to, the students come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Studies have shown that these students are more prone to be stuck in a cycle of poverty and education inequity as they’re less likely to receive a high quality education,” he shared.

“TFM’s vision is to see all children obtain the opportunity to a quality education by creating equal opportunities for every student, in spite of their background.”

Cheah completed his two-year fellowship under TFM, teaching at a high-needs school in a rural, secondary school in Gemas, Negri Sembilan. He subsequently joined TFM as their talent acquisition assistant manager.

The 26-year-old believes that anyone can contribute to ending education inequity in our country.

“It’s really not just a teacher’s job! It has been left too long to the teachers alone to solve our country’s education problems. It takes a community to do it, on top of a change in mindset.

“All of us have a role to play in education: we can all start with just talking to the next guy at the bus stop. Likewise, the best way to combat racism is by opposing it and TFM fellows are really fortunate to have the opportunity to do that everyday in the classroom.

“My classes had a good representation of students from many races, which allowed me the opportunity to go beyond the moral textbooks to inculcate this unity that we often talk about,” said Cheah.

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