Magnification in Malaysia

by Saul Nassé, 02 September 2016
My first big trip as Chief Executive of Cambridge English back in 2014 was to South East Asia. I was riding in tandem with my colleague Michael O’Sullivan from Cambridge International Examinations, meeting partners and scoping opportunities in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. That was the trip where I found myself deep in Borneo meeting a go-getting mayor who wants to turn her town into Indonesia's Capital of English. 

On that visit, one of the things we were talking about was our baseline study of English in Malaysia, which looked at standards right across the country and had just been published. It's turned out to be pretty pivotal in the Malaysian Ministry of Education's thinking about English, and I have just been back in Kuala Lumpur to sign a five year collaboration to work with the government across a range of topics. 
Magnification in Malaysia Saul signing image 
I headed out yesterday morning with our Head of International Education Strategy, Hanan Khalifa and Regional Director Cheng Pier Lim to Putrajaya, the glossy new town where the Malaysian government is based, to sign the contract (pictured above) for our collaboration. For me, the whole project is about magnification. If you are truly going to make a difference to standards of English across a whole country, you have to lever the power of many people and organisations to magnify impact. For a start, the fact that the collaboration is between government and us is significant. It is very much the government's priority and their project. It's within a wider programme of Education reform which will see policy changes at a national and local level, the Malaysia Education Blueprint. But by collaborating with us, they will magnify the effects of those changes, infusing them with the latest pedagogical thinking and international standards. 

Project delivery will use the power of our international English magnifying glass too. We will be working to train master trainers. And those master trainers will in turn train trainers. And those trainers will in turn train teachers. And they will teach literally millions of learners. With that kind of approach we will be able to genuinely help to promote educational change across a whole country. 

Magnification in Malaysia launching machine imageI signed our partnership agreement yesterday with Tan Sri Dr.Madinah Mohamad, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Education, and I was delighted we were also joined by Dato' Seri Mahdzir Khalid, the Minister of Education. We announced our collaboration across a range of areas, from advice on curriculum to assessing learning materials to be used in the classroom. The minister also launched – almost literally with this machine (pictured left) which raised it into view – the Roadmap for English education reform which our work has informed and will help to deliver. 

I also had the chance while here to hook up with our Malaysian examination centre partners (pictured below) for a cuppa at The Shangri La hotel. We have some very committed people working with us across the country and they are doing amazing work, building up our Cambridge English exams school by school, parent by parent, learner by learner. The magnifying effect again. 
Magnification in Malaysia tea meeting group image 
That trip back in 2014 may have been a short one, but with the commitment of our partners in government and across the sector, it will certainly have been only the first of many as we seek to make a real difference to English learning in Malaysia. 

Saul Nassé 
Group Chief Executive, Cambridge Assessment

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