All entries for Wednesday 02 July 2008

July 02, 2008

How did I get my fellowship/ scholarship?

A week after I arrived in UK, there was a General Election back in my home country--Malaysia. After the election, the nation is experiencing great change. We can only hope for the best, while planning for the worst.

I always insist to be called Malaysian or Malaysian Chinese, instead of Chinese, because in the depth of my heart, I love my country. I love her because compared to other Malaysian Chinese, I am very lucky: I received two scholarships from the government, RM66,000 for my Bachelor degree, RM0.5mil for my PhD study. Some said I won Toto (Toto is a type of lottery in Malaysia), a lot of them see hope in me. I am an example of rare cases, where Malaysian Chinese gets sponsorships to further study. Of course, there are some other Chinese PhD students get sponsorship from the government to do PhD in UK, but the figure is relatively small.

Before I got the sponsorship, I was discriminated from equal opportunity to further study, merely because I am a Malaysian Chinese. When I nearly finished my Master study, I received two months of RM500 allowance from UniKL, like everybody else. Those who worked up to 2 years are eligible to receive the allowance. Then I was told that if I proceed to do PhD in Malaysia on part-time basis, I can get the RM500 allowance plus 2 days study leave per month up to 3 years. I was so happy and proud. I told myself that this is the workplace really worth staying. After I received an offered letter from Open University Malaysia, I tried to apply for the monthly allowance. To my surprise, the owner of the university, which is an agency of Malaysia Government, changed the policy: all non-Malay and non-bumiputra (bumiputra means indigenous people) are not eligible for the entitlement.

This was a turning point of my life, a big one. My initial plan was to do a part-time PhD and settle down living in Kuala Lumpur. I also planned get married on either 08/08/08 or 09/09/09 (might bring good fortune~). The plan was forced to be changed. The next day of the incident, I submitted my resignation letter to the Dean together with the allowance application form. The Dean was shocked. He himself was not aware of the change of policy. He kept the resignation letter and requested me to wait until he talk to the President regarding the matter. A week of so after that, he said, 'the top management of the university realise the seriousness of this matter and will fight for you, in a year or two time, please bear with us.' Indeed, I really appreciate what the top management did for me. In the whole university, there are only three Malaysian Chinese lecturers. I was the first person who apply for this allowance, and faied to get it. However, I remembered what Prof Gauth Jasmon (the ex-President of Multimedia University, MMU) told me when we attended a conference in Bangkok, 'Wee Hoe, come and join us. We (MMU) are the only university in Malaysia that has none of the deans is Malay.' Eventually, I insisted to leave the university, three months notice began from the date I submitted the resignation letter.

My ex-colleagues shared the joy of my success, and they too shared the my pressure. They felt much sympathy for me during my hard time (thank you very much, I won't forget your kindness!). Not long after I resigned, I was invited to join other universities. I started to realise my "market value". I also had an offer to join Codemasters Malaysia, to become a Production Assistant cum Trainer. As for UniKL, due to the lack of qualified lecturer to teach animation courses, I was offered a part-time position. Indirectly, I got 40% increment of salary plus only work two days a week. Meanwhile, I also accepted an offer to teach a programme under University of South Australia (UniSA) at Taylor's University College.

山重水复疑无路,柳暗花明又一村 。

I didn't delay my dream to pursue PhD. Instead, I scale it up. I realised that I was greatly underestimated and under-valued by myself. I believe I derserve better quality of education, I want to study abroad. As a result, I took IELTS exam (I got 7.5 overall score, phew~) and applied for universities listed in Times' Top Universities List. I contacted professors in MMU, asking for choice of suitable universities. My first offer was given by Tokyo Institute of Technology. I was very excited. Coincidently, the Ministry of Higher Education organised a lecturer recruitment in KL after I got a place in Japan. I was interviewed by the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Malaya University (the best university in Malaysia, I always believe), and he offered me scholarship on the spot.

Meanwhile, in view of my actions, my then ex-girlfriend applied for Working Holiday Visa in UK. What!? The offer of the scholarship, covers not only my tuition fee and cost of living, but also covers one wife and up to three kids of mine. I would very much like her to follow me to Japan. I changed my plan, again. I applied for University of Warwick, and I got a place. Due to the change of university, I fell into a long long queue in the to be sponsored list. I was under great pressure. I told my family that, if I eventually failed to get scholarship, my dream is partially fulfilled--I proved that I am qualified to join top universities in the world. Also, getting a place in top universities is not difficult, but getting sponsorship to further study is really something.

Early September 07, I received a call from Sultan Idris Educational University (UPSI), calling me for lecturership interview. I attended the interview and told Prof Dato' Vice Chancellor that I got an unconditional offer from the University of Warwick, and in the queue of UM sponsorship list. She verified my offer letter on the spot, and offered me the scholarship I am having now. 

This is just the beginning of my PhD journey. I appreciate what I am having now very much. This explains why I am trying my best to get the most out of my PhD journey.  

Syllabus of Social University

I had a long chat with my brother Seong yesterday. We talked about his and my future. Though we don't look alike physically--ok, he is taller and more handsome (based on my ex-students' comments) than me, we do share the same genes from our parents. I always agree with my mom's comment: he is very smart, but sometimes too smart (like figuring out creative ways to be lazy or become multi-millionaire). At heart, I always hope that he could follow my footsteps to enter ivory tower. When he was about to take SPM, I drove all the way from KL to Bahau every weekend to conduct tuition for him, and some of his friends (hoping to make him more comfortable with friends' accompanion). Although after he failed to score in SPM eventually, I still hoped to figure out ways (together with his sisters) to make my hope came true. The problem is, it all about my hope, not his. Am I pushing too hard?

Two weeks ago, I met a big group of Malaysian undergrad students in a BBQ gathering (gosh! I turned out to be the OLDEST of them all). I talked to some of them and asked them what do they want to be after completing their undergrad study. None of them had a clear picture of their career paths. I told my brother that: in a way you are better than them because you do not spend RM500K to RM1mil like them and yet don't know what will the future like. Of course, as Warwick's degrees are generally very "laku" worldwide, their bright future are almost assured once they obtain their degrees. Try not to be Ah Q.

I suggest to assist Seong to design and develop a syllabus for his "social university". Yes, I am serious. Once I get a PhD in Education, I think I dare to offer such kind of consultation service to any Malaysian, not limited to my family members. Indeed, when I was a lecturer in UniKL, I did similar things for selected few of my students, those who loved me and continue loving me as their lecturer. I have various kinds of tools to be used to construct the syllabus, such as mind mapping, stickystorm, 5W1H, Six Thinking Hats, etc etc. As for the content, it should consist of selected Confucian's ideology, Sun Tzu's The Art of War, Aristotle's philosophy, theory of knowledge, Bloom's Taxonomy, etc etc. The duration of the study would be life-long, and the instructors of the programmes are everyone he encounters (like me, for example).

I once argued with a colleague about the differences between an instructor / teacher and an educator. I said I am not an educator, perhaps, I am yet to be qualified as an educator. The responsibility of an educator is too heavy, is life-long; while teacher's or instructor's is time-bound, temporary. To some people, being a teacher could be just a job to earn money for living (I think not in Malaysia, poor teachers~). Once a person stops to teach or instruct, he or she will no longer be called a teacher. Of course if the person teach till the day he or she retires, then the title "teacher" could be remained forever.

Being an educator, one should be able to provide insight or advice upon the syllabus of social university. The conception of social university, to me, came from Hong Kong drama series. In general, everyone works or lives in a society enters social university. The day you graduate might be the day you die. I am also a student of such university. I select the programmes or courses that I like (sometimes being forced to choose) and attend classes everyday. I am just luckier than a lot of my "coursemates"--I get Malaysian Government to pay some of my fees (Bachelor degree and PhD). But people normally see my lucky side and ignore those difficulties and painful pasts of mine. I designed my own syllabus in this university and I tried very hard to follow it. Now I am still trying.

So, interested to design one for yourself?

July 2008

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