To celebrate and explore the potential of student leadership, Teach For All is collecting and sharing stories from across the network and around the globe. When students LEAD, we all LEARN.

Teach For Malaysia

The Mandarin Project

Student Leaders
Wee Yun Mei and friends from SMK Pujut
Adult Supporter
Age of Students
14 years old

Please describe how your students exercised their leadership and the impact they had.

My student (Wee Yun Mei) initiate a project called The Mandarin Language project, this project allowing mandarin speaking student to teach non mandarin speaking students by teaching the 1 mandarin sentence everyday. This project initiated when Chinese students in my school feels left out because they aren't able to converse proper Malay language. The Mandarin Language project provide a platform for non-mandarin speaking student to interact with mandarin speaking student if before this Candance only be seated where Wee is but now she can sit with other student and without qualm she can start a conversation with them. This positive impact that i witness in my class im hoping to see more of this in future. Wee demonstrate leadership by managing the program and organised the program content. She also recruiting other student to join this program. Wee's ambition on making this program as part of school program which will be practice not only in her class but also through out all form portray her leadership.

here it is the story of my kids:

One day my student, Wee Yun Mei approach me with the problem “Teacher, why are Chinese kids are not happy at this school?”

My school located at outskirt of Miri center. Miri is a small town in Sarawak, Malaysia. Like any other national school in Malaysia it my school comprises yet not equal number of many ethnicities. In my school for example Sea Dayak or Iban is the major ethnic group followed by other Sarawak indigenous group. Although in general, most ethnicities can easily mix with each other because they are more or less speaking the same language but minority group like the Chinese is struggle with it due to language barrier. Often time Chinese in my school are perceived as reserved or even arrogant because they only stick with their own race.

Later that that day, Wee Yun Mei approach me again and told me “If the other students can’t love my language, I will make them”.

From there, she initiated a little project to teach a non-mandarin speaking students a basic Mandarin conversation. She prepared 20 Mandarin sentences from “How are you” until “Teacher, may I go to toilet” to teach her classmate Mandarin language. The program took less then 3 minute to teach 1 mandarin sentence daily.

The first day of the program went rough when her classmate ridicule her by saying that she just wanted to gain people’s attention and non of them are actually interested to learn mandarin. This is when I shared my own experience of being rejected on my first interview simply because I can’t understand mandarin and I also showed my students the Washington post article on future language. It shocked my student when I told them for baginer conversation mandarin class it will cost them RM 600 ($ 148)/month. The next class went great when increase number of students started to pay attention on her mandarin language session. A week after that some of the students copied the sentences in a pocket book.Since then, more and more student own mandarin language pocket book. She even persuaded her Chinese classmate, Candance (which before this never talk to anybody but Wee) to take turn with her teaching mandarin to their classmate. My heart moved when I first saw Candace talk in front of public. Little that I know it’s actually more than 2 of them understand Mandarin in class and just like Candance, Wee recruited them to join her teaching Mandarin language.

A month after that, Wee told me that she wanted to expend the program to all from 2 students and she will personally recruit them to teach mandarin to their classmate. She told me she wants all of Chinese students feels accepted in class just like any other race and just like her she wants them to have more friend and not only Chinese. Soon we work on the project proposal and together we named this little project of hers “The Mandarin Language Project”. She met the school principle to proposed her project, my school principle approved this project because it build student’s soft skill. Thrilled with the approval she started to approach Chinese from 2 students and persuade them to join the program.
Currently 4 classes including my class doing The Mandarin Language project in their class. She told me by the end of this year she wanted at least all from 2 classes having The Mandarin Language Project in their class and she and her friend will personally persuade them to join the fellowship of THE MANDARIN PROJECT.

Now instead of instead of ‘selamat sejahtera cikgu’ or “Good Day, Miss”, my student also greet me in Mandarin “Ni hao ma lau shi”

What role did you play in supporting your students’ leadership?

Im supporting the program in term of emotional support and official matter like announcing to other form teacher and writing official proposal. Im also guiding her on her social skill especially managing the program volunteer.

What did you and your students learn in this activity that will endure beyond today?

The most important thing that we learn through this program is resilient and grit is the essence of success. How to be self motivated regardless how bad the situation is. I love to quotes from my student wee "if they cant love us, i will make them love us". I believe although this program is still new but i see a lot changes at least in my class, other student are more united and open to work with different races or religion which i think something that can't run off if you want to be part of the world.