Other resources for opportunities – alternative education, youth empowerment, getting involved

There have been many opportunities for fellowships, conferences, scholarships, courses, and so on that come my way and should really be on this blog. However, I haven’t always had the time to post all the information that comes my way – especially when about 10 of them come at once in a newsletter.

I get my information mainly from a few sources, and I would recommend that you check those sources out to find more great opportunities for youth and alternative education. Here’s where to look:

TakingITGlobal – awesome resource for young people looking to make a difference. Events, scholarships, groups, projects, whatever – everything you need is there.

Have Fun Do Good – Britt Bravo’s blog has a lot of information and resources on making a difference in creative ways. I particularly like the books she recommends – she has great taste (and great luck because she gets the books for free!)

TinKosong – this blog, started by a bunch of Malaysian university students, contains regular information on opportunities for young Malaysians to get involved and expand their education. A lot of the information we have is crossposted between the two blogs, since we both have a similar scope (though they do come from a more Ivy base).

Education in Malaysia – the other top Malaysian education blog (haha), whose founder Tony Pua is now an MP! While EiM is more about analysis and commentary rather than opportunities, they do sometimes appear, and it’s a good resource for current affairs in education anyhow.

Ask MetaFilter – every so often there will be a question about travel, education, or opportunities, and the answers given would be top notch. The main site, Metafilter, doesn’t really carry much links about opportunities, but it’s worth a watch.

The Star: Education – Every week in their Sunday pullout, they write up about different educational opportunities and events across Malaysia, and it’s republished on the website. Youth2 is another good source in the paper; however, their website isn’t quite as regularly updated.

GoAbroad and TransitionsAbroad – both great resources for anything to do with travel and going abroad. GoAbroad also has a regular newsletter with information on different programs that you can subscribe to.

ActNow – This Australian-based website is all about educating and empowering youth to make change in their communities. Within their pages are plenty of information and resources on current issues, and ways you can get involved.

World Youth Foundation – this Malaysia-based organization releases a regular email newsletter with all sorts of updates and information on youth empowerment and making a difference.

Young Social Enterprise Initiative – they provide various programs and fellowships for young social entrepreneurs to gain funding and mentoring for their work and enterprises. Their social network, FutureShifters, allows young social entrepreneurs to connect with each other and share ideas.

Global Youth Action Network – the organization that links youth-based organizations together. Their newsletter, YouthLink Express, has all sorts of information on events, conferences, possible scams (which are unfortunately an issue with youth conferences), organizations, and many others.

International Young Professionals Foundation – not just for young professionals, but for any young person seeking to make a difference. Membership is inexpensive (and there are funding options if you can’t afford it) and they have tons of information on various opportunities across the globe.

Social Edge – Opportunities – such an AMAZING resource for anything to do with social change and social entrepreneurship. Check out their main site too for discussions and resources on the same topics.

Do you have any other resources for such information and opportunities? Post a comment and share them with us.

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Pop!Tech Fellowships – Now Open

Pop!Tech, a conference on social innovation, technology, and making a difference (as well as all its other related activities and networks), has opened up applications for their Social Innovation Fellows Program – and they are particularly interested in young people (under 35 years) and those from outside the USA:

Fellows will participate (all-expenses paid) in the 2008 Pop!Tech conference, the visionary annual gathering of thought leaders and change agents that will convene October 22-25, 2008 in Camden, Maine. Fellows will also take part in a unique, in-depth leadership and skills development program that will cover areas that are critical to success in creating “big bet” social programs, such as strategy, technology, communications, fundraising, media relations, digital storytelling, and how to take initiatives to scale, led by some of the world’s most successful social entrepreneurs and renowned specialists. Fellows will also have year-round access to Pop!Tech mentors and a network of support to aid in the advancement of their ideas, projects and collaborations.

Fellows will be selected based on their proven track record, as well as their interest in and high potential for generating significant cutting-edge, multidisciplinary, and socially beneficial innovations in fields such as education, energy, technology, global healthcare, development, environment, human rights advocacy, media, journalism and related fields.

Nominations can be made here and the selection of Fellows will be made on a rolling basis (so they process them as they come in). There isn’t a closing date, though I’d imagine they’d choose all their fellows before October.

Take Back Your Education

I just finished reading The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins, where she chronicles the life of a few high school juniors and seniors in a top high school in the US (her former school) as they pile themselves up with activities and other things to keep themselves qualified for college. Like in Denise Clark Pope’s Doing School, these students are going through extraordinary stress and pressure to keep up with the rest. In both books, most of the students would rather concentrate on things they want to do, but they are constantly pressured (whether by parents, students, counselors, or themselves) to perform more than is necessary – or sane.

One of the students in The Overachievers is Frank (or AP Frank in the beginning), a half-Asian young man who is pressured by his Korean mother to go to Harvard to study medicine or law. He and his brother Richard are not allowed to have a social or otherwise non-academic life; instead, they have to study under their mother’s watchful eye, with only half an hour in between allowed for a quick dinner (something reheated) and television news (they are not allowed to watch anything else). His mother actually forced Frank to take all the AP subjects the school offered, and called up the school to ask why they didn’t have an AP for Physical Education. She pushed Frank into Harvard (even when he’d rather be elsewhere) and went through all the documentation, choosing his classes and dormitory for him. When Frank tries to stand up for himself, he is physically assaulted by his mother. This leads to a series of incidents where the social services are called in, his brother Richard is taken into foster care (and lives in what he describes as a “mansion” – the home of a schoolmate – which allows him greater freedom), and their parents are divorced (with Frank’s mother frantically calling Frank telling him to deny the abuse). Eventually Frank regains his strength and confidence, finds love, sheds the “AP” title, and goes into environmental science and public policy – something he’s more interested in than medicine. (Reading the updates, it seems that the relationship between him and his mum has improved, and the mother has relaxed considerably. yay!)

While Frank’s story is a bit extreme, it isn’t that unusual. Throughout Frank’s story, Robbins talks about the pressure Asian students face in school. Korean three-year-olds have to prove their proficiency in a musical instrument before being allowed into kindergarden. Your life and social status in Japan, even when you’re middle aged, is largely determined by how you scored in your exams when you were 15. There’s a whole breed of mothers – kyioku mama – who sit in their children’s classes and take notes for them when their kids are ill. Suicide rates amongst schoolkids are alarmingly high. And this is the system President Reagan wanted the US to emulate in the 1980s? No wonder American students are driving themselves insane!

And before you say “oh that’s a different country”…it happens in Malaysia too. We all know it. If you don’t take Science for your SPM, you’re stupid or wasting your intelligence. You have to get straight As at every level to get into a good institution. Medicine is the only university subject that matters. Even if you’re bright and knowledgeable, you have to take tuition classes to keep up. All the talks hosted by schools are “How To Answer XYZ Paper”. Let’s not even touch on this weird hysteria people have for overseas “top schools” – Harvard/Oxford/Cambridge, or nothing. (By the way, the whole ranking system? Complete bullocks. Many US colleges are opting out of it because they find it unfair and unrepresentative. Some of the “top” schools fudge their numbers to get high rankings. It’s a game.) No one ever cares about the suicides – they just take up a small column in Page 2 of the papers.

Why are we going through so much insanity? Apparently it’s because we have to “live up” to something – school standards, counselor standards, society standards. We allow ourselves/our children to be bullied, stressed, abused by the system, just so we could get in to something supposedly prestigious. Instead of schools and universities acknowledging students’ various talents and capabilities, they force the students to be someone they’re not, just to keep up an image.

Let’s stop this madness.

You’re the one that’s going to school. It’s your money that’s being spent. It’s your time that’s being used. You’re the one that has to go through all this trouble. Stand up for yourselves.

Don’t buy into the trap of going to a “good school” or nothing. Choose the school you like based on your own factors. Do you prefer big schools or small schools? Local, regional, international? Academic, practical, both? Casual, business-like, formal?

Choose your own subjects. What to experiment with science, or create art? Curious about international economics, or want to debate literature and philosophy? My boyfriend’s brother is a sports buff, and had he been in a Malaysian school, he would be considered a “meathead”, someone not smart enough, just because he wasn’t very academic. Now he’s doing Sports Science in university, which includes Chemistry and Biology – subjects that wouldn’t be open to him if he was in Malaysia. He’s doing OK, because it’s what he’s interested in and he’s putting his energy into it. Why don’t we let other Malaysians have this chance? Why bind them to school grades, and assume that all straight A people are scientists and all straight Fs are artisans?

Don’t let grades tell you what to do. Don’t let anyone else make your decisions for you. Do what you want to do. Make your own choices.

Take back your education.

Edublogger Tony Pua now Member of Parliament

Tony Pua, co-writer of top Malaysian education blog Education in Malaysia, won his seat in PJ Utara in Malaysia’s recent elections, and is now a Member of Parliament. He is one of a handful of Malaysian bloggers that are now officially involved in politics.

This will be interesting. I knew about Tony’s nomination, but I didn’t think he’d win mainly because he’s under DAP and the Opposition hardly wins in Malaysian elections. However, this year’s elections have been surprisingly good for the Opposition (now not Opposition? haha), and Tony’s one of the beneficiaries of that good fortune. Another factor against him was that he didn’t have any political experience – and who expects a blogger to get into Parliament? Now we have 2 in federal and 2 in state assembly! Crazy!

Tony and I have been acquainted due to our similar blogs, and we’re often crossposting from each other. We sometimes have diametrically opposing views on education (for example, Tony’s big on determining the value of universities by their rankings; I think rankings are bunk) but we still respect and quite like each other.

Hopefully Tony will be able to introduce some changes to the Malaysian education system, making it more open and varied and supportive of students. Will Tony be Minister of Education? I doubt it (wouldn’t all the Ministers have to be from BN since they are the majority?) but I’d definitely like to see it happen – at least he knows what he’s doing!

Good luck Tony and all the best!