What are you leading?
Arus Academy is a social enterprise focusing on making learning relevant, promoting 21st century skills and nurturing students’ interest in STEM industries.
Arus currently operates in two regions in Malaysia, Northern Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur, and focuses on four impact areas: curriculum development, teacher training, student empowerment and community impact.
Arus has worked with the Ministry of Education to provide lesson modules and a curriculum that is used nationwide. Arus has also collaborated up with various stakeholders to organize programs for students such as a national level innovation camp, a free education program in rural cybercafes, and Maker-centered camps for high-needs program. To date, Arus has run programs for close to 1,000 students directly, and has indirectly impacted 10,000 students via its teacher-training program.
Within the Northern region, Arus works with Penang Science Cluster, a state government linked initiative to promote STEM learning, to operate its Centre in Penang state. Internationally, Arus is a member of British Council’s Hubs for Goods initiative and its members are part of the U.S. Department of State’s Young Southeast Asia Leaders initiative.
Arus’ students have gone on to win international, national and regional innovation and robotic competitions. At Arus, we believe in empowering and giving students’ voices – our students have been selected to represent the voices of young people global and regionally through Teach For All’s Global Student Leader Advisory Council, Transparency International’s Empowered Youth Leaders camp, as well as MyHarapan’s Youth Delegates for Social Enterprise in Manila.
How did your experiences as a fellow inspire or prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Founding Arus was a collaborative effort by four Teach For Malaysia alumni. Completing the two-year program allowed us to understand the gaps in the education system. Arus’ co-founders are all alumni of the 2013 cohort. Our shared experience in the Teach For Malaysia fellowship, our friendship, and our vision for the students of Malaysia formed Arus’ founding cornerstone.
Alina Amir (CEO): In 2013, I started my journey as a Teach For Malaysia Fellow and was sent to a secondary school in a small town in Penang, located in the north of Malaysia. At the time I started teaching there, the school was ranked in the bottom 50 schools out of 2300 secondary schools in Malaysia. The number one disciplinary offense was classroom truancy—many students roamed the halls rather than attending class. The majority of the students came from low-income families and spent their time after school working or looking for jobs.
In the classroom, I was teaching 13-year-olds who could barely read or write and could not speak or understand the national language, the medium of instruction. For many reasons, most of my students were unmotivated to learn or achieve academically. To them, nothing they learned in school was applicable in “real life.”
Despite these challenges, my experience with my students has been my biggest motivation and inspiration to start Arus. I taught in the school for four years, launching Arus at the end of the second along with three other Teach For Malaysia Fellows in my 2013 cohort. With our diverse backgrounds and shared challenges, we wanted to create a learning
Everything that is taught in Arus is paired with a real-life project-based challenge that requires students to apply their knowledge for good. We try to bring relevance into learning to demonstrate to students how gaining knowledge can enrich their lives. At Arus, our students are driven by interest rather than the pursuit of academic achievements.
Since our inception, Arus has increased both the number of students we reach and the size of our staff. Of the nine current team members, seven are Teach For Malaysia alumni. Having a shared understanding the issues on the ground and aligned goals has helped Arus gain the momentum to create positive change within communities and on the systemic level.
Arus is working towards creating an equal ground when it comes to access to quality education. Our main beneficiaries are students who come from low income families and or low achieving schools where resources are scarce. Our goal is to inspire students to become lifelong learners and continuously explore and pursue their passion, creativity and innovation.
In the long run, Arus wants to change the education landscape by racing towards innovation and creativity. We are reducing the emphasis on possessing content knowledge but instead, focus on our students possessing the skills to do something with what they know and be assessed based on their respective abilities. Arus wants to redefine and reimagine education by taking our kids’ mindset to not see learning as a hurdle, but a vehicle that one takes to accomplish their dreams.