Rites of Passage

We don’t really have all that many rites of passages in Malaysia.

Each religion and culture has their own rites, sure. But there aren’t really that many that apply to the whole country.

Take graduations, for example. In many countries (particularly Western ones) high school students are sent off with a ceremony – acknowledging their effort, celebrating their success, and having someone from their community pass on a few words of wisdom as part of the graduation speech.

In Malaysia, you do your SPM/STPM, and that’s it. Yeah sure, three months later you pick up your results, but there isn’t much of a ceremony there. There aren’t any workshops, classes, or speeches on how to live as an adult. How to manage outside the boundaries of school. How to take care of yourself. Some private schools in metro areas do have proms and graduations, but not many can afford them – and they’re often glitz and glamour.

It’s not a wonder that quite a number of Malaysian students can’t deal with failure (such as the not-perfect results sheets or not getting a scholarship), or that they don’t often take risks and explore unorthodox territory. They have not been entrusted with the skills and knowledge of moving forward, moving on.

We coddle them and spoonfeed them throughout their school years, expecting them to always bow to authority, follow rules, go on the straight and narrow. Then we thrust them into the real world with nary a Goodbye, where they have to make their own rules and authority – and they have no idea where to go.

It’s not so much that they can’t think for themselves, or that they’re not able to be independent. I feel that the larger problem is that we don’t allow them to do so – we shelter them from the myriad of challenges of the world, making them believe that the world only operates on grade scales, and so they can’t deal with its complexities. It’s so alien to the tight school environment.

I propose that we introduce a Rite of Passage in school, after SPM or STPM. Something to herald their completion of 11-13 years of formal schooling. Something to give them support for the later years.

Let’s educate our students on life after school. (I did this and it was majorly successful.) Let’s give them some time for them to stop thinking about exams and try something else instead – an arts week, or a fun excursion, something different. Let’s build up strong alumni networks that support these students no matter what. Let’s provide resources for these students to tap into once they leave school.

And when the chaos of exams is over, let’s throw them a party, a celebration to commemorate their achievements – not just academic, but also personal – and their selves. Give them time to relax. Acknowledge the greatness that lies within them. Reaffirm that no matter what the exam scores say, they will still be OK. Send them off, and wish them luck.

How can we build a Rite of Passage for our school students?

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Brightest Young Minds – Malaysia?

I just came back from 5 days of the Brightest Young Minds summit in Sydney. The general idea of the summit is to get motivated and passionate young people together to learn about creating initiatives, while also developing actual workable projects to be pitched to potential sponsors.

Brightest Young Minds

It started in South Africa and it’s now that country’s most prestigious and well-known youth-based development initiative. It recently arrived in Australia and within the two years has created a lot of good.

I love the idea and I think it should be more widely available. I was wondering if people were interested in doing a BYM in Malaysia.

While there are people trying to encourage young people to form initiatives, such as BarCamp and Young Entrepreneur summits, there isn’t really any clear support and education system that’s comprehensive. Also, information on actually STARTING and getting legal/financial support for your project is pretty low. There are plenty of youngsters with ideas…just no idea how to get them off the ground.

Having 100 other energetic young people, plus the support and knowledge of people in their field (we had Hugh Evans, who is pretty much THE MAN when it comes to youth development in Australia) would go very far in getting these ideas into reality. There would also be actual opportunities for delegates to create and develop those ideas before they leave – thereby avoiding the common youth conference problem where people are so motivated to crate change during the conference, but afterwards their energy drops and nothing gets done.

To get BYM in Malaysia we need to know the following:

  • Legal aspects of using the BYM name and concept – is there some sort of “franchise kit”?
  • Finding and recruiting young people to be part of BYM(M) 1
  • Partnerships and sponsorships with companies and organizations
  • Convincing people that BYM as a structure can work in Malaysia
  • Getting BYM(M) off the ground and sustainable
  • Creating a team of people interested in getting involved with BYM(M) behind the scenes
  • Connecting BYM(M) to BYMs in SA and Australia
  • Timelines – when do we start work, and when do we have our first BYM(M)?

If you’re interested, or know other people who are, leave me a comment or message.

SOLS 24/7 – Education & Support for the Marginalized

The SOLS (Science of Life) 24/7 organization, founded by the family of young Malaysian social entrepreneur Raj Ridhvan Singh (recently shortlisted as one of KLue’s Blue Chillies) builds boarding schools across Cambodia, Timor Leste, and Malaysia for marginalized young people. In these schools, students learn 2 years of English, maths, business, leadership, character, and volunteering skills, amongst others. This enables them to reintegrate with the rest of society, obtain jobs, and support themselves.

Malaysiakini also has an interview and video profile with Raj about the SOLS 24/7 school in Malaysia.

I’ve met Raj briefly and heard him speak about his project, and I find him really passionate and sincere towards his cause. I do have some questions about the Science of Life system itself (some of the students talk about it being an actual subject, but there’s no actual information on it specifically) but overall this initiative is doing a lot of good to those that really need the help.

SOLS 24/7 is in great need of funding, support, and volunteers. If you can help, contact Raj at +6012 6398 442 or email him at raj@sols247.org.

Indie Youth Fest – Celebrating youth creativity

There’s a vibrant indie creative scene amongst Malaysian youths; however, it doesn’t often get much respect due to the conservative media and politicians’ insistence of painting indie youth culture as frivolous, dangerous, or rebellious.

The Indie Youth Fest, sparked by Doppelganger Open Mic, is an opportunity for young Malaysians involved or interested in indie culture to showcase themselves and check out other budding talent. Held between 4-6th July 2008 at One Utama, the Indie Youth Fest includes:

and much more to be announced.

This is a refreshing change for a Malaysian youth festival. Most other “youth festivals” so far have been corporate-organized, which often means they’re usually there as subtle advertising for the company instead of actualy supporting youth initiatives (see my experience with Levi’s 501 Day). The Indie Youth Fest, on the other hand, is youth-run and youth-managed, which means that the core crew are more attuned to the needs and capabilities of young people. Instead of exploiting their talents, they are appreciating and showcasing them in a manner that respects everyone.

I can’t make it to the Indie Youth Fest as I’m flying out to Australia on 4th evening, but good luck and have fun! Hopefully this will be the start to even more youth-organized events.