Tag Archives: contribution

Delivering Holistic Education to the LAST, the LOST and the LEAST – the Essence of the La Sallian Contribution

On Saturday, 7 December 2013, I attended the National La Sallian Conference held in Kuala Lumpur, together with about ninety five other individuals from all over Malaysia. There were representatives from Sabah, Penang, Seremban and Malacca to name a few. Many of them were from the Board of Managers, the Board of Governors, Parent Teacher Associations, Alumni, Administrators, Teachers and the Infant Jesus Convents. There were also a few representatives from St Joseph’s Training College Alumni. They were all there to lend support for the conference on the theme: The La Sallian Response to the Malaysian Education Blueprint.

Four Distinguished Speakers

The event was promoted, marketed and organised by the Malaysian Federation of La Sallian Associations in collaboration with De La Salle Brothers Malaysia. The conference featured four distinguished speakers: Mr. Megat Mizan Nicholas Denny, Chairman of Board of Governors, St John’s Institution and St John’s International, Kuala Lumpur; Rev Bro Anthony Rogers FSC, Director – La Salle Brothers Malaysia; Dr. Francis Loh Kok Wah, Chairman of Board of Governors, St Xavier’s Institution, Penang; and Ms. Julia Willie Jock, Super Principal – La Salle Kota Kinabalu.

La Sallian Efforts at Adopting and Enhancing Initiatives

Mr Megat Mizan, who is Head of Group Business Development and concurrently Executive Director at K & N Kenanga Holdings Berhad, gave an insightful presentation on the National Educational Blueprint: A Focus on La Salle Schools in Malaysia. He outlined some of the 25 Key Initiatives under the 1st Wave ( 2013 – 2015 ) of the National Blueprint. His focus was on areas where the La Sallian Educational structure can adopt and enhance these initiatives to provide a higher standard of education in all the La Salle schools in the country.

Reviving the La Sallian Ethos towards Integrity, Unity and Spirituality

Rev Bro Anthony Rogers, who is Director of De Salle Brothers Malaysia and Chairman of Malaysian La Sallian Educationa Council (MLEC), highlighted the fundamental premise that the La Sallian Family in Malaysia has the urgent task to re-discover a new sense of hope. Rev Bro Rogers stressed that the world today is fragmented within and divided outside. The La Sallian Education has the task of restoring integrity, promoting unity and fostering spirituality.

Rev Bro Rogers believes this is possible because La Sallian Education is synonymous with a responsible education, contrary to an education model that creates one dimensional individuals, entrenched comfortably in their tiny world and pursuing their own interests, and incapable of connecting themselves with the larger picture. He made the case persuasively for our return to the Last, the Lost and the Least in our collective quest to build a new world order founded in Faith, cherished with Hope and expressed in Service.

Case for Decentralisation to Restore Excellence

The third speaker, Dr Francis Loh was Professor of Politics in Universiti Sains Malaysia until he retired in 2012. He is president of Aliran and a regular contributor to its Aliran Monthly. Dr Loh mentioned that there is much criticism of the state of education in our schools and universities. They range from: declining standards, especially in science and mathematics; biasedness in the history and civics curriculum; poor grasp of the English language; lack of awareness of the globalised world beyond Malaysia; worsening discipline among students; poorly trained teachers; inadequate attention given to weaker students especially in rural schools; and marginalisation of national type and mission schools in terms of financial support.

Dr Francis Loh made a strong case for decentralisation. In fact, he said, many of these problems stem from over centralisation of the education system. He called for decentralisation of this machine to allow parents, old boys and girls, and the community writ large to complement the roles of teachers, administrators and the MOE. Drawing from the experiences of several mission schools in Penang, he proposed some areas for effective community engagement with this massive machine, in order to restore a sense of mission in our schools. He challenged those present to consider deeply in the light of the sad reality that there are very few La Salle Brothers left, how we as caretakers of their admirable tradition should proceed.

Touching Hearts, Teaching Minds and Transforming Lives

The fourth and last speaker was Ms. Julia Willie Jock, Super Principal of La Salle Kota Kinabalu ( LSKK). She has held this post since 2006 and was incidentally a student of La Salle Secondary School, Kota Kinabalu from 1974 to 1976. She is also a Master Trainer with Institute Aminuddin Baki at the MOE as well as a Principal Coach for the MOE and mentors novice principals and aspiring principals.

Ms Julia shared with passion the journey of Touching Hearts, Teaching Minds and Transforming Lives undertaken by La Salle Kota Kinabalu in their quest to reenergise their La Sallian heritage and traditions. This task, she acknowledged, was made that much easier with enormous help and support from the La Salle Board of Management, the PTA, the Alumni and the school population and partners in education. It was collectively decided that their focus should be on La Sallian values of faith, service and community. They also agreed to share a common dream and a common mission and to especially focus on the Last, The Lost and the Least. In that process, it was their intention to ensure that every La Sallian matters!

I must confess that I had not realised we had such a gem of a true La Sallian school in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and a jewel of a principal to steer it to greater heights of endeavour. What also struck me were the effectiveness, fellowship and cohesiveness of the tripartite partnership in LSKK. We have much to learn from them. We were also informed that the Minister of Education in Singapore made a special visit to the school to learn first hand how they managed to achieve so much. That is real recognition.

“ The mediocre teacher tells,

The good teacher explains

The superior teacher demonstrates.

The great teacher inspires.”

Ideas Labs

The purpose of the ideas labs, thereafter, was to allow the participants to examine some of the pressing issues that need to be addressed collectively by all. The participants were divided into four working groups: Group A – Issues related to the Board of Governors and Managers; Group B – The Reality of Students in and outside Schools; Group C – The Situation of Administrators and Teachers; and Group D – Parents and Home Environment, the Community and Alumni. Each group was expertly steered by a moderator and it also had a recording secretary. The ideas and recommendations that were agreed are currently being compiled and will be published in due course and thereafter a copy of the publication will be sent to all registered participants.

Our Priority and Challenge as La Sallians

The conference managed to highlight with renewed zeal our identity as La Sallians in Malaysia. We are a community of diverse races and ethnic groups, religious and faith traditions aspiring for unity as Malaysians. As La Sallians, we see the holistic and integral, human and spiritual formation of the young with preference for those who are weak and poor. The dynamism of the La Sallian community in Malaysia is linked to a new partnership with the La Salle Brothers, Parents, Board of Governors / Managers, PTA and Alumni.

There is no doubt that the challenge before us, in this country, is an enormous one. It is up to each and every La Sallian to rise to the challenge and demonstrate that the Last, the Lost and the Least really do matter.

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Keys to Aging Gracefully – in the 2nd Half of our Lifetime

Two weeks ago, I received quite unexpectedly a brief text message from an unknown source.

It read as follows: ‘The ability to not dwell, to let go, to accept what you can’t change, is key to aging gracefully’.

Whoever sent that quote to me made me pause for a while and consider the full implications of that nugget of distilled wisdom.

While there is some merit in that statement, there is far more involved in the process of aging gracefully. In the second half of our lives, we have a unique opportunity to give form, substance and class to making this half of our lives different, more focused in non traditional ways and more meaningful.

Whether we realise it or not, we should actually be moving from a life of clearly defined work, pressures and priorities to a life that is now seeking creativity and wisdom. It should also be about adding value and leaving a wonderful legacy.

Move with Purpose to Seek Significance

Whilst we were in full time employment, the natural and understandable focus was on making a success of our jobs and in building satisfying careers. We sought good salary increments and promotions on a regular basis.

In this second half, if we care to make a meaningful change, it should be more about moving from seeking success to seeking significance!

The great Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘ The secret to finding yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others.’ Someone wise also remarked that it is in giving that one receives! One needs to ponder deeply on these two wise sayings to better understand the full meaning.

Take Time to Smell the Roses

I am amazed and sometimes troubled by the sight and instances of individuals continuing to carry on with their careers without any change in approach or even in purpose. They are reluctant to accept that this is the second half of their lives and that it is now time for some reflection and re-direction in their whole approach to life. Some continue to work in exactly the same job, keep the same hectic hours, spare little time for their family and friends and continue to save.

Little do they realise that this is their time to shift gears, so to speak, take a break from the stress and strains of working life as they know it, re-charge their batteries and consider other more relevant and appropriate activities. They do not seem to know how to relax, how to treat themselves to a vacation from time to time and how to spend time interacting with family members, former colleagues and friends. It is as if there is no second half to their lives.

Sadly, sometimes they leave it till it is too late to realise that there is more to life than a job and the thrill of making money. It takes a major illness or the death of a close family member for these people to realise the folly of their ways. For these hard driven individuals, there is no room in their lives to occasionally pause for a while, take time to smell the roses or enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Other Keys to Aging Gracefully

a. Adjust to New Reality

It is important not to dwell too much on the past and to let go of previous positions of power and prestige. Do remember that these came with the job and the designation. Once you have retired and moved on, you need to let go of the trappings of power, re-adjust to the new reality and downsize if necessary.

For instance, you may have lived in a four room bungalow with your wife and three children for over twenty five years in a nice, friendly suburban area. Now that your two daughters have married and moved out and your son has relocated to his own condominium, should you continue to live in that same house for sentimental reasons? Or should you be more pragmatic and relocate to a smaller apartment style complex which is easier to manage and which has security features?

Too often an inability to appreciate the current reality and to sensibly re-adjust in such a manner poses unnecessary problems for the couple.

b. Draw up own Programme of Activity

When you were in full time employment, you were subject to the demands of your employer. You had a five or five and half day work week, you enjoyed two weeks of paid vacation a year, you were entitled to free medical care etc.

Now that you are retired, you have the chance to draw up, for instance, your own programme of activity for the week. You can decide to go to the gym in the morning, four times a week for an hour each time. You can decide to attend a play or concert once a month. You can also decide to explore the far corners of your home state on week ends and after that the rest of the country at a pace comfortable to you. Once a year, you can treat yourself to a nine day cruise or travel to an exotic destination.

There are endless possibilities.

c. Make Time to Contribute to Society

i. This can easily be a very satisfying period in your life. The focus here is to maximise all your latent talent, expertise and experience for the greater good of society.

You can do this in a couple of simple ways: you can choose to assist a senior citizen in an old folks home keep in touch with her children overseas by helping her in writing letters on a fortnightly basis; you can carry out some simple shopping chores for another senior citizen on a weekly basis; you can offer transportation to a nearby hospital or clinic for a poor, sick individual without means of transport from time to time.  

None of these are huge, demanding tasks but these are much needed and deeply appreciated by these senior citizens. I know of friends in Melbourne and Petaling Jaya who do actually carry out such behind the scenes services quietly and with much satisfaction. What a great way to add real significance to this half of your life.

ii. Another way to contribute to society is to volunteer and serve on NGOs. You can always choose one that you can identify with comfortably and serve with dedication. There are many such worthy societies and you can easily find one where you can render such service. Do not look for the limelight in this phase of your life but rather focus on the need to serve with sincerity.

In my case, I have chosen to serve with the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) as a co-opted management committee member. Much of my contribution is done behind the scenes and the only people in the know are the president of the association and the executive secretary.

iii. In Canada, for instance, they have a programme where senior retired corporate executives render altruistic service to a NGO in a developing country. I am not sure of the other details of this programme but it is quite clear that this is an instance where the  skills, expertise and experience of a senior corporate executive is matched to that of an NGO in a developing country that will benefit greatly by his assistance for a brief period.

Through this unique scheme three goals are achieved: technical and managerial expertise is harnessed from one geographical area to assist a deserving organisation in a less developed country; the skills of that person are still made use of for a different and noble purpose; and finally, it earns great appreciation and goodwill for Canada from the organisation and the country concerned.

d. Meet up with Friends and former Colleagues

There is much joy and satisfaction in keeping in touch with friends, college/university mates and former colleagues. You probably did not have the time and maybe the inclination to keep in touch before while you were in harness. This is, however, a great time to renew acquaintances and bring back a flood of wonderful memories made sweeter through the passage of time.

On my part, I try to stay in regular touch with college mates from St. Joseph’s Training College in Penang. I keep in touch by hand phone, through emails and occasionally by face to face meetings over a drink or meal not just in Kuala Lumpur but also up north in Ipoh and Penang.

We also have had 2 day reunion get together events in Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca biennially. Between each such reunion, a few members pass on. These reunions, as such, take on greater meaning. We take time at each reunion to remember those who have passed on and recall happy moments and colourful personalities.

Aging gracefully is thus a choice that we consciously make to add greater meaning and comfort to us and those that we love and value. In the process, we also spread joy and happiness to those with whom we come in contact with. It is this ready willingness to share our talents and abilities for the greater good and benefit of others that helps soften, purifies and stretches our service in the true spirit of love and selflessness.