“Personally, I feel that we need people who wholly and truly believe in developing Malaysia to come home. We have talent spread around the world and it would be great if we could consolidate it back home. If you want to see a powerful change, be part of making that happen.”
Law to Education
Jasmine Ong found out about Teach For Malaysia’s 2 year Leadership Development Programme, famously dubbed as the Fellowship, during her Easter term break back in 2010. Being a graduate from Aberystwyth University with a Bachelor of Laws and now armed with the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP), Jasmine was ready to take the legal world by storm. Yet, she carved out a different path and moved towards education due to her passion in wanting to solve social issues.
When Jasmine first told her parents about the Fellowship, they were quite apprehensive, upset, confused and puzzled. The “Leadership Development Programme” concept was very new to them and it has never really occurred to them that Jasmine might want to be a teacher. Jasmine’s parents were unsure about her career trajectory post Fellowship. “It was so different from law! My husband and I were worried that she would lose out on time and opportunities when it came to the legal world,” Jasmine’s mother, Choo Joon Keng, expressed.
“I guess this was a curveball for them. But as I progressed through the Fellowship, they definitely changed. I think they are now one of my biggest supporters! They love listening to my stories, offer to help mark papers and even sponsor some stuff. They even have the Teach For Malaysia car sticker on their cars!” said Jasmine.
“It was tough at first, especially having just acquired the CLP. Many family and friends questioned my choice but ultimately the call to action was much greater,” said Jasmine. Having the belief that education is the key to solving many social issues and is the possible solution to better prepare a new generation of people, Jasmine felt that her decision to join the Fellowship was all the more worthwhile.
Fellowship : Lessons learnt and life changing choices made
When asked what was the most prominent lesson she gained from the Fellowship, Jasmine answered, “the strongest element of the Fellowship is the leadership training and support given by my Leadership Development Officers. As this was my first job after University, I thoroughly benefited from the mentorship and support that was given. Not many new employees in any other companies are given this personal level of mentorship or coaching.” Jasmine also noted that having her cohort peers, Chan Soon Seng and Brian, around to bounce off ideas or solve problems helped a lot with her personal growth as an individual.
Right after Jasmine completed her 2 year Fellowship Programme, she took a breather and re-evaluated her career pathway. “In terms of career choice, my long-term goal is to one day start a school that benefits the underserved community,” said Jasmine. Due to this, she has assisted in the start and setting up of a private school in Puchong. Jasmine added that her experience from the Fellowship allowed her to contribute towards the school’s growth as being a private financially self-sustaining entity, which is still in the works. She was also able to manage multiple projects as well as stakeholders, because in school she had to deal with students, teachers and parents – all at one go.
A Chevening scholar and King’s College London postgraduate
Wanting to gain more knowledge of the education sphere, Jasmine began to explore options for doing a Masters in Education, and found out about the Chevening Scholarship through Joyce Ching, a 2012 Alumna. The Chevening Scholarship is an international scholarship scheme which allows students with leadership qualities to pursue a postgraduate study in universities in the United Kingdom. This scholarship aims to build a network of scholars who will be future leaders in their respective countries. Selection criteria for the Chevening Scholarship include identifying high-calibre graduates with personal, intellectual and interpersonal qualities necessary for leadership.
“The Chevening scholarship looks for future leaders and nation builders, very much like what Teach For Malaysia looks for in their Fellows. I used a lot of examples from my Fellowship days when explaining things such as leadership skills, managing people and most importantly articulating my goals for the future development of Malaysia,” explained Jasmine. With Teach For Malaysia being part of a larger global network of Teach For All as well as Teach First, the prestige Teach For Malaysia carried as an organisation helped Jasmine immensely in her application for the Chevening Scholarship.
Jasmine pursued Master of Arts in Education Management with King’s College London in 2017, a tertiary education institute known for its prestige and high calibre students. Sponsored by the Chevening Scholarship Program, this course enabled Jasmine to more successfully evaluate the conceptual and structural issues with relations to school effectiveness, management in schools, and the provision of teacher education.
Having recently completed her masters, Jasmine now wishes to continue to develop education in Malaysia. “Personally, I feel that we need people that wholly and truly believe in developing Malaysia to come home. We have talent spread around the world and it would be great if we could consolidate it back home. If you want to see a powerful change, be part of making that happen,” said Jasmine when asked about her reasoning for coming back to Malaysia.
Message for future Fellows
“To all future Fellows, I hope you enjoy your experience learning and growing as an individual, a teacher and a leader. Always strive to continuously increase effectiveness, remember to stay humble, be mindful of your health and don’t forget to have an awesome time!” said Jasmine.
Jasmine Ong Kim Li is a 2012 Alumna taught English at a high-need school in Selangor. She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from Aberystwyth University in United Kingdom. Jasmine was also a Chevening scholarship recipient and pursued her Master of Arts in Education Management from King’s College University.