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This is my story. I am a 50 year-old Chinese lady who resigned some ten years ago, after a year of unpaid leave.

I graduated from the University of Malaya with a first class honours in B.Sc.Ed. in 1984, majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Biology. . As part of the B. Sc. Ed. Programme, we were required to do our practical training after our third and fourth academic year. To my horror, I was not automatically placed in a school in spite of having academic training.

Apparently there was an “excess of teachers”. Therefore, those of us who chose not to accept the offer from Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA) were not placed. Instead, places were given to MARA scholars who had then recently returned from abroad although they lacked the practical training that we had underwent. I was then advised to take up a post as a temporary teacher in a secondary school in my hometown of Malacca, teaching Physics and Form 6 Mathematics, filling in the vacancy of a senior teacher who migrated to New Zealand.

More than a year after I graduated, I went the Department of Education to apply for the aforementioned post. I was not allowed to hand in my certificate from University Malaya. Instead, I was told that they had to hire me under remuneration based on my Higher School Certificate. Subsequently, I was hired for a month.

During that time, I was in ‘limbo’. I had been giving tuition while waiting for a posting. During the first half of 1985, I sent a letter to NST, highlighting my plight, resulting in a reporter coming to interview my friends and I in Kuala Lumpur. Also, a course mate who turned to journalism during this time wrote an article on our plight for a magazine.

After our plight was discussed at the Cabinet level, some 22 of us who graduated in 1984 with the B.Sc.Ed. were offered a conversion course from Science to English. Apparently, there was a lack of English teachers then. After a stint at the Language Institute during the last quarter of 1985, we were due to start teaching in January 1986. My friends and I had lost 2 years of seniority because some untrained graduates were preferred over us. From what I gathered, some of them had degrees that were not suitable for teaching. When I compared notes with some of these 22 “converted” teachers, most of us went back to teaching Science and Mathematics. It was just an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes.

In my first school, I learnt that despite all my extra hours, everything came to naught. The principal wrote in my assessment form that I only did what I was told. Instead, the teacher who hardly attended classes was awarded a scholarship to study in Tokyo based on the principal’s recommendation. Perhaps it could be deduced that the ones who do not attend classes had the time to go at all lengths to impress the principle. From then on, I resolved to work hard, not to be promoted, but because it was righteous to do so. In my opinion, I worked hard in helping my students improve, aside from being concerned with their well-being.

In my third school, SMK Infant Jesus Convent, I finally found a level playing field under the leadership of Mrs. Cheong Teng Wan. It was unfortunate that she had to retire. Subsequently, everything was just a show. For us teachers, work kept increasing and teachers were burdened to a point which, their performances were compromised. Additionally, race politics and issues of religion came into play. The principle treated me differently because I was a Christian. However, I decided to not let this deter from working harder. Why? This is because I am a Christian and my God is a God of all humanity and I tell myself to forgive them “for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34.

This principal awarded me a double promotion; a “menegak” instead of a “melintang” because according to her, I was a graduate and the non-graduates needed the money more than me. Had she discussed it with me and if it were true, I would have declined the double increment because my colleagues needed it more.

After a couple of years with her at the helm, I took a one year unpaid leave. At that time, I was 39 and was hoping to opt out when I turn 40. I had to resign because I wasn’t allowed to opt out. Among the reasons to why I resigned was that the results did not commensurate with the amount of effort we put in. Without a doubt, I figured that the meaningful thing which was left to do, was to be a full-time mother and homemaker.

After 11 years, I am grateful for the choice I made. I salute the friends I left behind, as I know just how thankless being a teacher can be in this present day.

This article is a response to the letter, “Who checks teachers?” (NST, 6/4/11). I would like to ask, “Who would want to be a teacher today?” Frankly, I do not make the choices for my children but I am guilty of telling them this, “You can be anything but a teacher!” Perhaps you could conduct a survey to find out how many teachers have children that took the same road.

May Chee Chook Ying resigned as a teacher some eleven years ago in an effort to be a better mother. Eleven years later, she’s still in the dark! Sometimes, because of what’s ingrained in her vocabulary, she makes remarks or typecast persons, which her 4 kids deem are racist. She’s trying hard to shake that off, very hard, but believes deep down inside, she is not one. She feels blessed her kids can accuse both their parents of being racists! It is her kids who remind her, now and then, what it means to be Malaysian. She believes a true Malaysia is possible. She has to because it’s possible she may have a grandchild whose name may be Travis Tuppani or Emma Abdullah. She’s going to love them all the same.

May resigned as a teacher some 12 years ago in an effort to be a better mother. Eleven years later, she’s still in the dark! Sometimes, because of what's ingrained in her vocabulary, she makes remarks...

17 replies on “Teaching, still a noble profession?”

  1. Hi May Chee, I googled myself and chance upon your post. I am also ex-convent girl and I loved it.

    On one part I agree that teaching is a noble profession, and teachers must be well-paid. However you have not kept up with time. Today, good teachers should reinvent themselves into professional speakers and teachers at private schools. My children goes to private schools teaching Abeka system, from nursery to high school. There's also ICGSE.

    By staying in the decaying system in the public schools, you are left at their mercy, as a victim. There is a shortage of teachers today amongst Christian private schools (where 50% students are non-Christians). The couple who started ICGSE at my area was a couple of parents who pulled their kids out of public schools and start from Zero. Today there are >100 students, and the centre has a long waiting list. Teachers are well-paid, the kids love them, my kids look forward to go to the centre, even volunteering during the breaks.

    I hope you receive your calling in teaching. I also train others in financial education and to be paid RM2k – 5k per student per course is market rate now. The world of knowledge transfer is indeed a lucrative industry. Once you receive a good pay, you can CHOOSE to spend some time giving free tutoring to the less fortunate.

  2. @siewchin said : "I see you are supportive of the proverbial ‘throwing money at a problem’ to solve it – for that we need BN? LOL"

    Indeed I do admit money is needed to show committment. But the difference between BN and what I propose, lies in origins of the money, manner and *purpose* of dispensation of money, and the maintenance integrity of non-acceptance of APARTHEID and citizen dignity in EQUALITY rather than the erosion of non-acceptance of APARTHEID, and hence citizen dignity, are single most important difference you appear to have entirely missed in view of the cash issue.

    Mine is an investment, BN's would be further cementing of APARTHEID and 2nd class citizen's status. Also this will be private owned in a private citizen's cooperative unlike government owned and subject to bureaucracy and subversive propaganda rather than education, and lack of transparency to psychologically destroy a further crop of students, not to mention have bad syllabuses imposed and nepotistic teachers hired not on merit as I suspect is done in Singapore or England and USA.

    Are the differences and neceessities to do what was suggested clearer now? The principle and spirit of intent behind the simple act of giving money makes all the difference. And once we learn these differences, moving on to matters of ethics and eventually religion become that much easier. Accepted any indulgences for forgiving of sins? Think.

  3. Hi AgreeToDisagree – ATD was my abbrv. to you :)

    I see you are supportive of the proverbial 'throwing money at a problem' to solve it – for that we need BN? LOL

  4. @siewchin

    I'm not @ATD, someone else might be using this as an alias. But I AM using the pseudonym AgreeToDisagree which is also an alias being used by a few people.

    I could pledge/invest 5K at most (which I expect equitably returned when the first profits roll in), but to start the ball rolling, I doubt I am viable due to my political and especially social beliefs, these 3 senior teachers who obviously are still interested in education should take the gauntlet (no excuses as reputation and resource-wise are most likely more than what I have at my disposal), perhaps they could set up a facebook group to begin a low cost but quality private school? Keep the thread running or post a group to join up at.

    For me, unless someone is ready to call off the 'goon squad' or whatever insane citizens trailing people like me about, which doesn't seem likely unless APARTHEID and lapdoggery ends with BN wiped out, in a disavowal of the BN supporter greed tainted natures, my presence could be counterproductive. Contact and add/friend though if you'd like to discuss ideas for private education alternatives on my nick link.

    Citizens who accept '2nd class' instead of equality, selling away EQUALITY of other citizens to line their own pockets, then retaliating when people highlight the problems they cause, have identified your 'pariah' caste Malaysians.

    These are likely Indians fleeing caste persecution to Malaysia, or the cowards who fled China rather than fight, though not those who fled the Cultural Revolution later.

    But to accept inequality is a shame and shows the weak sense of ethics typifying the lower castes. No excuses given the wealth and networks of some Indians and Chinese to not challenge APARTHEID by at least offering up candidacy.

    How about you @siewchin, for education autonomy, are you willing to commit at least 5K? I think all parents who have issue with the education system as well could chip in this much at least for their children's future. Contact these 3 teachers if not. There are 103 year old judges still presiding cases in the USA, and 50+ is just too early to call it quits especially with the interest/remonstration displayed about the local education system. An alternative private system/franchise could be the strongest safeguard for education in Malaysia because it breaks any monopoly and in fact fosters independence among parents and teachers and by extension the electorate as well.

    Run for independent candidacy otherwise and attempt to change the system to something better. All these 'prime age' people should try abit harder and make their words mean something. What else is there for them to do that is more meaningful?

  5. AgreeToDisagree @ 11:34pm – THAT is an excellent idea!!!
    And YOU ATD should start the ball rolling :-)

  6. May, farha, Sinjoro,

    How about starting up a private school cum teacher's training college to make sure your good attitude traditions or quality of person continues being transmitted? The government and JPA scholarships in it's current form has no intention of preserving the mindset you guys have and if no effort is made by you to preserve or teach the next generation in a private school setting, all you represent would be lost when you pass on.

  7. I felt the same way as you are May. My Masters of Education from Deakin University, Australia is not recognised by the PSD. I am a little lucky that my former pupils still love me as much as before and I refused to teach now but intend to promote Esperanto for a social justice. Join us May, Malaysians need Esperanto to protect the mother tongue and also reduce the killing of talented pupils in art, music to have more time to learn and practise of their loved subijects.

  8. Dear May, I was frustrated too and I left. I really can't share the painful details of my experience, but suffice to say it was bad because the 'bureaucrats' don't consider me 'Malay' or 'Moslem' enough (in other words, I'm not in their clique, lah…) for 'special privileges' (like I care!). Yes, it's true. But deep inside, I still am a teacher…to my children, nephews and nieces. And someday, I want to teach the underprivileged for free. I understand how you feel because some people think we teachers complain too much….NOT!!

    Teaching is so underrated and so rewarding that I don't give a hoot if the pay isn't as much as life in the corporate world. But your due is your due. May, you're right in leaving because you deserve more yet someone who doesn't deserve it are rewarded instead.

    So my answer is : Come rain, shine, tempest, hurricane and all…YES, teaching is still a noble profession. May God bless you, May.

  9. Both my parents are teachers and they too faced similar experiences. I agree with Rasydan: "teaching is still a noble profession. Teachers are blessing to students. It’s just the organization system that frustrating." It is not too late to help change our country for the better!

  10. Dear 19-year-old,

    It wasn't like that before when I was 19 years old.

    Or maybe it wasn't so bad.

  11. I am sad and shocked to hear this happening to our country. It is terible that we allow this to happen. My young cousin was taught recently how to play musical chairs and spell big 'BIGH' in form 4 by his English teacher. It wasn't funny at all to me, to be honest. I have just returned to kl after 10 years in Australia, and the reason the education standard is lightyears beyond here? It starts from the ground up. The base teacher and teaching standard is high from primary onwards, whether its private or public schools. Teachers are respected and earn a wage which allows them a more than decent lifestyle, on par with most in the business district. No doubt the education system is different and evolutional, but the teachers themselves are well trained and well regarded. Not students many take tuition after school, they generally don't. The students time is spent exploring other aspects of studies from music to computer graphics etc. Not cooped in an air-conditioned room with others reading through what they were supposed to be taught at school earlier. I recently returned and offered to teach, at a private university. To my dismay, they forced me to produce an spm cert although I possess a masters and a bachelors degree in my field and have taught in a highly regarded world class university altogether. Unfortunately I have no idea where that cert is after so long away and to my horror, they won't even let me contribute my skills, even without asking for a single cent. The red tape is grinding this country to the ground and we as citizens are responsible to put a stop to all this nonsense, firstly by taking initiatives ourselves, seeking the logical. Not everything has to resolved by toppling the government solely. I support no one at this point. And my pure goal is towards our country and it's people's advancement in the face of a globalized world.

  12. A lot of public school teachers are more like bureaucrats instead of educators, in my opinion.

  13. I think it’s just sad that good teachers are a dying breed here. What is with the civil service being such a low-paying career? TEACHERS help the minds and character of young Malaysians. TEACHERS partly determine what kind of future our country has, especially since children spend at least 11 years of their life in school and more than half a day (if you count tuition) there. Being a teacher is tough today, I know. Not only is the pay low, there’s too much bias at play because of the unhealthy policies at play. What kind of teachers get attracted to such conditions? The ones who want things easy. People who want things easy, who feel they deserve it even if they don’t, usually aren’t very good at what they’re supposed to do. But is it totally their fault? I’d say most of the blame goes to the policy makers who want to make the numbers. When you love numbers so much, you do what it takes and when you do what it takes, you seldom pause to consider the long term effects of your actions on the country.

  14. So, i believe the answer to the topic ….Yes, teaching is still a noble profession. Teachers are blessing to students.

    It’s just the organization system that frustrating.

  15. May, set up your own (religion neutral if possible) school out of several adjoined shoplots or a plot of land with fellow disillusioned teachers. There should be enough resources among so many ex-teachers to do it. 50+ is just about nice to start up such things. 11+ years in dark? I think some of us despite being a fraction your age, have been in the dark since we started studying. Government has failed us. Has afflicted us with APARTHEID. Take up on the independence of education and give alternative to so many lost souls in the education system. Also don't overcharge beyond what allows you to match existing teachers' lifestyle. Should be about education, not profit then teaching will be (for that institution at least) a noble profession.

  16. Has always been. But the environment, policy and education system, even primary and secondary promotions criteria for training of teachers is impossible except in the private sector. Set up your own schools and stop looking for this govt. to help you. It won't even end APARTHEID.

    The below list will help voters decide that 3rd Force Coalition as proposed below is the best choice for the people :

    Barisan Coalition – Apartheid, Corrupt and Nepotistic Oligarchs

    Pakatan Coalition – Corrupt and Nepotistic Oligarchs

    3rd Force Coalition – Corruption Only

    Independent – ??? (maybe no corruption AND good policy?)

    So it is simple, just choose the Coalition with the LEAST flaws.

    Proposed 3rd Force Coalition is made up of KITA, MCLM, PCM, Borneo Front, Konsensus Bebas, HRP, PSM should call in MIC, Gerakan, PPP as well! End the APARTHEID and work with any non-Oligarchs in Pakatan! We have the numbers!

  17. Sorry, it should be….those of us who did not take up the Public Services Department (JPA)scholarships ….

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