Teach for Malaysia: Doing their part in ending education inequity

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The late Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations once said: “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

If education is the impetus for positive change, how then will Malaysia be able to effectively progress as a nation when our statistics show that:

The bleakness of these results begs two questions: (1) why is this happening and (2) what can we do to change this?

Education inequity

Realise, for the majority of us reading this, that our children are fortunate enough to have unencumbered access to quality education. Unfortunately, this isn’t the same reality faced by many students from lower-income households.

The systemic problem of poverty and the resulting barriers to education are real. Their socio-economic backgrounds constrain many Malaysian children from gaining access to good schools with good facilities. Some are held to an expectation that working to support their families trumps their time spent in classrooms. Still, others find their hands forced by the prevailing ideology that poverty begets a lack of purpose. A damaging belief that society continues to perpetuate and the students themselves eventually wind up believing.

One organisation, however, is on a mission to break this cycle.


Teach For Malaysia (TFM) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that envisions a future where all children in Malaysia have the opportunity to attain an excellent education. One that isn’t defined or determined by the circumstances of their background.

Founded in 2010 by Managing Director Dzameer Dzulkifli and Keeran Sivarajah, TFM is a member of the Global Education Network, Teach For All, a collective of education organisations in over 50 countries worldwide that aims to “develop collective leadership to improve education and expand opportunity for all children“.

Dzameer Dzulkifli (pictured) founded TFM with his friend Keevan Sivarajah

Partnering with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and various private sector partners, TFM has served as an important agent of change in its bid toward education transformation. Its goal is a powerful one: to mobilise a movement of leaders and nation builders through education, and to empower students and communities to realise their full potential, eventually becoming “leaders of their own learning, their future and the future of our nation“.

In the nine short years since its inception, TFM has been busy doing just that.

Making a change

Fellowship Programme

As gradMalaysia’s 2018 Runner-up for Best Graduate Training & Development Programme and Best Internship Programme, TFM aims to make teaching in high-need schools a career of choice for graduates and Malaysia’s most promising young leaders.

Through its 2-year fellowship programme, TFM has recruited over 413 top graduates and young professionals (known as Fellows and Alumni). They teach in high-need schools and low-income communities throughout the nation on a full-time basis. Many of Malaysia’s best and brightest minds have lent their skills to support this cause, with 25% of TFM’s Fellows and Alumni being graduates of the World’s Top 100 Universities.

TFM’s Impact Report in 2018 showed a 36% academic growth in students taught by TFM’s Fellows compared to their peers and an overall increase in academic results. Aside from this, 74% of Fellows also involved students in extracurricular activities at the district, state and national level to improve their students’ exposure.

Alumna, Cheryl Ann Fernando, was the inspiration for the award-winning movie, Adiwiraku


TFM’s Alumni have also been key drivers of long-term systemic change. 73% of Alumni are actively involved in the broader education sector, with 30% continuing as full-time MOE teachers beyond their two years commitment.

TFM’s Teaching Alumni have remained dedicated to delivering quality education, with many receiving excellence awards (“Anugerah Cemerlang”) at their schools or district levels. The Alumni are also being appointed into leadership roles (such as State Level Master Trainers, Head of Subjects and State examiners).

Many Alumni have also launched initiatives directed at social or educational improvement in their communities. Currently, six Alumni are leading two new school transformation initiatives, namely Global School Leaders Malaysia (GSLM) and Teacher Empowerment Transformation (TEST). Some of these initiatives have themselves turned into nonprofits and social enterprises (e.g. Closing The Gap, Global School Leaders, Project ID, Arus Academy and My Readers).

One inspiring Alumna, Cheryl Ann Fernando, even had her journey as a TFM teacher chronicled in the 2017 local movie, “Adiwiraku“!

Success stories

With over 111,000 students having been impacted by TFM (and counting), there have been some amazing stories of these transformed lives.

Take, for example, the seven TFM students who in 2016, won 7 out of 10 places to study programming in Silicon Valley in a Malaysian digital economy competition.

Best of the best: Students of TFM that were selected to go to Silicon Valley

Or the TFM student from Klang’s urban poor demographics, who started off working part-time in a restaurant, earning RM5 a day. He only scored 2As in his Form 4. After much engagement with TFM’s Fellows and Alumni, he successfully obtained 5As and a CGPA of 3.75 in his STPM. His achievement was followed by a full scholarship in finance and accounting. This student has since graduated and, we’re happy to report, has just completed his internship at PwC!

How can I help?

We’re glad you asked.

Fundraising remains a crucial component of the TFM equation to realise all its plans. Apart from the financial support received from the government and various corporations and foundations, TFM relies on public donations to continue operations.

As little as RM50 per month can help to impact two students to gain an excellent education and move TFM a step closer towards its goal of quality education for all Malaysians.

To donate, please click here.

Image credit: Teach For Malaysia

As a litigation lawyer turned full-time mum, Kimberly Lee finds that arguing court cases never seemed quite as difficult as arguing with an obstinate toddler over carrots. She writes about life, loss, love and everything in between as she explores her greatest adventure yet- motherhood.

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