Learning From Teach For Australia to Help Transform Schools in Malaysia

Janice Chong, Co-founder of Edvolution and a Teach For Malaysia Alumna
(Left to right) Nadya Subramaniam, Noor Azzanny Binti Jamaludin and Janice Chong Yen Tsu of Edvolution, with Bernard Ow Ji Jing and Shankar K. Ehambaram of Global School Leaders Malaysia, attended the August 2019 Teach To Lead Workshops in Melbourne.

My partner Melissa and I entered into teaching through Teach For Malaysia in 2013. As teachers, we championed a school transformation initiative and realised that in order for any impact to be sustainable, district education officers (district leaders) need to be directly involved in supporting schools to implement the initiative. However, officers often face challenges in providing the needed support effectively due to lack of training and development. As alumni, Melissa and I co-founded Edvolution to pilot the Teacher Empowerment for School Transformation (TEST) program. TEST is a three-year leadership program aimed at building the capacity of district education officers to support schools in creating a collaborative and empowered work culture through quality professional development programs in the areas of school management, pedagogical knowledge, and students' holistic development. 

While we were developing TEST in 2017, we learned about Teach For Australia’s Teach To Lead (TTL) program. TTL’s mission resonated so much with what we envisioned for TEST, and we began looking for opportunities to visit Australia and experience the program for ourselves. This year, we are preparing to expand our program, and friends from Teach For Malaysia told us about Teach For All’s Community and Connections Fund for participants and alumni to connect with and learn from each other—we applied and we received the funds! It was also through the application process that Teach for All connected us with TTL for the first time.

The Community and Connections Fund from Teach For All has enabled me to reach out to like-minded individuals and made me realise that my team and I are not alone. We are all facing similar challenges in trying to create change for our children’s education, so instead of doing it alone, why not reach out and see how we can work together to create bigger impact?

A group of Teach for Malaysia alumni—the two of us from Edvolution and two from Global School Leaders Malaysia—along with another Edvolution staff member traveled to Australia to participate in TTL’s three-day workshop, where we learned not just from the facilitators, but  from TTL fellows who told us about the Victorian school system. They shared the impact of initiatives they are carrying out and the data they are collecting in school to improve student literacy, student voice, and teacher development. It was so inspiring to see so many school leaders who are driven to create change in their schools despite the challenges they face.

The delegates in Teach For Australia’s office with (left to right) Louise Dunne (Program Delivery and Coaching Manager of Teach To Lead), Eliarne Iezzi (Program Coordinator of Teach To Lead), and Georgie Swan (Head of Teach To Lead).

We also spent time in Teach For Australia’s office learning about  Teach To Lead’s approach to management, impact measurement, and content development. We appreciated the Teach To Lead team’s openness in answering all our questions and willingness to share tools or resources to help strengthen our program’s processes before we scale up. We visited a school on our last day and it was interesting to learn that the school also faces similar challenges in getting students to be engaged in lessons and in developing the capacity of its teachers to assume leadership roles.

When we returned to Malaysia, we got right to work incorporating much of what we learned from Teach To Lead into our own initiative. We held a workshop for all of the school principals involved in TEST and conducted a session on creating high-performing teams based on our learnings from the Teach To Lead workshop. We also determined how we are going to conduct a peer review for the officers and school principals as a result of what we learned about how TTL measures impact. And we’ve gained insights and clarity on areas we should focus on in tightening up our processes before we implement TEST in another state.

To learn more about our experience visiting Teach To Lead, read these key learnings from the three-day workshop and our four-day TTL staff visit.

Find out more about how Teach For All can support you to self-organize a learning initiative through the Communities & Connections Fund.