From 1-3 May, Teach For Malaysia (TFM) had the honour of being a part of Perayaan Hari Guru Peringkat Sabah (Sabah state-level Teachers’ Day celebrations) in Semporna, Sabah. Semporna is one of our focus impact regions where we’ve placed teachers for 2 years running now.
It was an excellent opportunity to create awareness about TFM and increase our visibility through showcasing our stories and impact in the region. It was also a great chance to meet a wider circle of local stakeholders, and cultivate potential relationships for collaborations on community projects. Last but certainly not least, we were grateful to be able to show our appreciation in person to the teachers and educators in Sabah who work with us in the same education mission.
Attending the Education Dialogue
One major highlight was the opportunity to participate in the Dialog Pendidikan conducted by Datuk Dr. Amin, Director-General of the Ministry of Education. In the Dialog, Datuk Dr. Amin highlighted the importance of equity in education to narrow the opportunity and achievement gap between students. He stressed that quality of education should not be measured by academic results alone, but more importantly by students’ mastery of Higher Order Thinking Skills (KBAT).
In order to achieve this, Datuk Dr. Amin noted that a mindset shift is necessary to foster fun learning and dedicated teaching in classrooms. On that note, he aims to develop the capacity of teachers by introducing professional support systems, as well as create a stronger professional learning community (PLC) culture. Ensuring that all our students meet the minimum academic requirements, in Datuk Dr. Amin’s opinion, is our moral responsibility, and we couldn’t agree more!
To Serve, necessarily, is to Understand
Throughout the 5 days, we were privileged to meet with a wide range of local education and community leaders, from the Director of the Sabah State Education Department (JPN Sabah) Puan Mistirine bt Radin, to principals, teachers, parents, and students. Through the many conversations, we gained much richer and more nuanced insight into the Semporna community we serve. We learnt that even within the district of Semporna, the challenges students face are distinctly different between mainland and island communities, with different root causes.
Among the common barriers highlighted were a lack of exposure to opportunities, poor understanding of the importance of education, and poverty. From speaking to teachers, we also learnt about some of their challenges: the long commutes to school, a lack of resources especially on island schools, and difficulty in meeting the unique needs of different students.
The main takeaway of these conversations was the importance of putting the needs of the community first and foremost. From speaking to Encik Johan Okasa, the Principal of SMK Bum Bum, we heard that one of the most important priorities as an educator is the students’ well-being: everyone serving the education mission must always remember to care for students wholeheartedly. Puan Gertrude Jock, the Director of Institut Pendidikan Guru Gaya (Gaya Teacher Training Institute) also stressed the importance of prioritising teachers’ well-being inside and outside classrooms, to ensure they are able to deliver a high quality of education.
It was a powerful reminder to us and our Fellows to ensure the initiatives and interventions we introduce are tailored to the students and communities we commit to serving. It also underscored the importance of continuous dialogue and listening to local stakeholders, to foster a culture of working with communities, hand-in-hand.
Appreciations and Anticipation
We would like to thank, first and foremost, the Ministry of Education for supporting our movement, recognising our impact and allowing us to work together to bring change in the local community. We are grateful for the invitation, and the opportunity to bring TFM closer to the Semporna community and build relationships with local stakeholders in our mission to end education inequity.
We are extremely grateful to have connected with PPD Semporna officers, especially Puan Saidatul who has been a great TFM champion. With her help, we’ve been able to raise greater visibility about our mission in the local community. We would also like to give a big shout-out to our Sabah team and Fellows, who hosted us warmly and supported us throughout the event in every way!
We look forward to working more closely and collaboratively with the community in Semporna and Sabah, and are extremely appreciative to the many stakeholders who met, spoke, and shared their valuable insights with us during our visit.