One young man, just back from working in Wall Street, wants to change for the better the way mathematics education is viewed in Malaysia. Ong Shien Jin aims to do it class by class of only 30 students each until he can scale his idea.
Armed with the belief that having knowledge of computing skills is going to be a critical carer asset for individuals moving forward, Shien Jin founded the Education Talent Academy with the mission to develop leaders who are technologically skilled and socially minded.
“We intend to provide a revolutionary education environment where learning is fun, and where education fosters curiosity, passion and creativity,” he shares.
What is unique about the academy is that it will offer a Harvard and MIT educational experience to talented high school students in Malaysia. Starting January 2013, the academy will offer weekend classes in Kuala Lumpur, where the target group is Form 4 (Year 9) to Pre-University (Year 12) students.
Why MIT and Harvard? Well, Shien Jin is a graduate from both universities. His impressive background spans finance, computer science and mathematics. Prior to founding the academy, he was a vice president of the quantitative strategist group at Goldman Sachs in New York City. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He will be teaching the Computer Science and Programming course.
Interestingly, besides the technical curriculum, there will be a communications skills one too but watch out, we are talking about students discussing and sharing opinions about the history of economic thought from Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand to Karl Marx’s Proletarianism to Gary Becker’s application of economics to social issues. There will also be a module on philosophies on justice and moral reasoning (based on Michael Sandel’s Harvard University course – Justice).
Nicholas Khaw, an economist at Khazanah Nasional Bhd who has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Harvard University, will be teaching the Economics and Moral Reasoning course.
If this and the MIT-based Computer Science programmes sound intimidating, perhaps they are meant to be. Which is why Shien Jin says the academy is, “looking for intellectually curious and passionate students, especially those who love problem solving. The best way to find out if Education Talent Academy is right for you is to attend one of our Demo Days,” he says. Parents are highly encouraged to come along too. Only 30 students will be accepted in the first year. And the academy is looking for mentors (to the students) and teachers to come forward.
Parents need not fret that the programme will involve copious amounts of assignments. “Our approach is discovery based, where students are encouraged to discover the concepts by themselves instead of being spoon-fed the information,” says Shien Jin. The focus will be on:
• Small team interactions.
• The Socratic debate environment to foster critical thinking skills.
• Learning to solve problems and learning to think, and not merely learning facts.
However there will be a final year project where students of the academy are expected to complete a final-year project in teams of two to three. “The project will be designed to promote self-learning, teamwork and an in-depth understanding of a particular topic,” notes Shien Jin.
The Education Talent Academy is not only about academics however as Shien Jin believes in educating morally righteous and socially minded individuals. Students of the academy are expected to be involved in at least one community service project every year. An IQ and EQ approach.
• Deadline I: 3 December 2012 (Monday).
• Deadline II: 17 December 2012 (Monday).
• Deadline III: 31 December 2012 (Monday).