Empowering Education for Young Refugees

Taylor’s College service-learning project offers refugee children a holistic learning experience 

Mr. Anandakumaresh Ratnasingam, Campus Director of Taylor’s College (3rd from left), alongside with Dr. Fairuz Ali, MRA Representative (4th from left), concluding the Make a Difference United programme at their graduation ceremony held at Taylor’s College Sri Hartamas campus.

With thousands of Rohingya refugee children currently calling Malaysia their temporary home, and with many lacking basic access to education, Taylor’s College Sri Hartamas has chosen to work with refugee children for its Make a Difference United (MADU) yearly service-learning programme. From May to June this year, 40 student volunteers are engaged in a six-week tutoring course for 40 refugee children from the Rohingya community school in Cheras.

Supported by the Malaysia Relief Agency (MRA), the project aims to assist the NGO in providing education access to all refugees, by offering a holistic learning experience for the children. The math-themed syllabus encompasses a series of critical knowledge and life skills lessons that educated children on the importance of mathematics, basic calculations and measurements, as well as the value of money in their everyday life.

Mr Anandakumaresh Ratnasingam, Campus Director, Taylor’s College Sri Hartamas, emphasised that the holistic education approach used in the MADU project’s 6-week module encourages the development of problem solving and critical-thinking skills that are crucial for children to succeed in life.

“It is essential for students, particularly those with a refugee background to be engaged in a school community that encourages engagement and the development of social skills. Given that many of these children do not experience the setting of a formal school, our students designed integrated curriculums that emphasise the fundamentals of mathematics which will help stimulate their learning styles.

Our student volunteers also benefited from the unique learning opportunity that allowed them to develop their leadership capabilities by managing the MADU project, preparing relevant teaching modules and nurturing social responsibility,” said Mr. Ananda.

Since early May, students in groups have conducted weekly three-hour teaching sessions in classrooms at Taylor’s College Sri Hartamas. The syllabus covered a large variety of topics within the mathematics syllabus such as measurement with weighing scales and rulers; basic financial literacy such as techniques for saving money and spending.

The children were also taught lessons relating to social skills and health, such as oral healthcare and anti-bullying measures to promote a healthy, stress-free life. The programme concluded with an excursion to the Taylor’s College Sri Hartamas campus where a graduation ceremony plus buka puasa session was held.

Rohingya children enjoying their meals during a buka puasa session held on their graduation ceremony.

Ivory Wong, 17, Student Committee Member of MADU, was pleased to be able to bring some benefit to the refugee children while accomplishing her project tasks at hand. “There were some challenges in preparing the components, as the children do not speak English as their first language and have varied ability to communicate in English. Our group managed to settle with an interactive model of teaching by introducing a mix of verbal and visual activities which allows the children to understand the topics easily.”

“I consider my experience with MADU the highlight of my semester. After each lesson, we stayed back to get feedback from the guardians and this enabled us to improve our teaching in the following week. Our group worked tirelessly to create a fun and welcoming experience for the children so they would feel more comfortable. For us, the satisfaction comes when the children return each week wanting to know more about the subject taught.”

Established since 2013, MADU (Make A Difference United) is a gathering of teachers and students from the South Australian Matriculation programme of Taylor's College Malaysia who share a common purpose and desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others. The group focuses on medium-term community service projects to benefit poor and at-risk communities.