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Syakir Hisham: How An Engineer Relocated To Kuala Kangsar With His Wife & Toddler To Teach Underserved Children

For Syakir Hisham, 30, his passion and conviction lie deeply rooted in crafting something that would serve the greater good. With this deep-seated aspiration as his guiding star, he embarked on a path into the realm of engineering desiring to create and innovate to improve lives.

As an engineer, my goal was to create something new for the benefit of people. In engineering, you create machines or a system, something new for the benefit of people. – Syakir Hisham

Yet, Syakir quickly realised that the path to achieving these demands was more than just personal determination. It required a robust support system, a team of critical thinkers and problem-solvers who shared his vision. Unfortunately, while working as an engineer, he found this crucial component lacking among his peers.

As a devoted father to his then two-year-old daughter, Kaisa, Syakir harboured a dream that his daughter would grow up in a setting that nurtures her creative and critical thinking. He knew creating an environment filled with innovative thinkers and collaborators could not happen overnight. It was a challenge he was willing to tackle head-on and thus launched him into education.

I want the best [education] for my child] so I started dabbling into education. I volunteered, did charity work and taught [other] children. – Syakir Hisham

Amid the Movement Control Order (MCO), blessed with ample time and spurred by the rapid growth he witnessed in his daughter, he co-founded a small startup named Doodlecare. Their vision was crystal clear: to cultivate a brighter generation through enjoyable and purposeful learning.

Venturing into the educational domain, which stood somewhat distant from Syakir’s engineering roots, represented a courageous leap of faith. His determination remained unwavering, yet he recognised that continuing on his quest would necessitate all the help and support he could muster.

I wanted to excel and be better as an education provider. I needed to learn the ropes from scratch and the best place to learn all about education is in school because that is where education happens. – Syakir Hisham

The path ahead would require collaboration, mentorship, and a community of kindred spirits who shared his fervour for empowering the next generation through education. It was during this journey that Syakir discovered the Teach For Malaysia Fellowship programme, a pivotal moment that would shape the chapters yet to be written in his story.

Our Comfort Zone Is The Enemy Of Progress

The Teach For Malaysia Fellowship opportunity couldn’t have come at a more golden time for Syakir. He was drawn to the leadership development programme component embedded within the Fellowship. It resonated deeply with his aspiration to make a lasting impact through education, for society at large.

However, as he considered the requirements of the Fellowship which included a two-year posting to a local primary school in Kuala Kangsar, real concerns crept in. 

Syakir and his wife together with several students.

As a father to a toddler, the decision was weighty. It was a move from urban Penang to a small town. However, with the blessing and encouragement from his wife, Syakir took the leap of faith and decided to uproot. 

He shared that his wife was a huge pillar of strength and support. “She said that if I wanted to make a difference through education I had to do this. She said that our comfort zone is the enemy of progress.”

The decision to join the TFM Fellowship is not an individual decision or individual journey. For me, it’s a family journey because we made the decision together. – Syakir Hisham

Syakir enrolled in the Fellowship in 2022 and since then, it has been life-changing, to say the least. 

An Immersive Leadership Experience 

Before his two-year posting in Kuala Kangsar, Syakir completed the Rancangan Orientasi Sekolah (ROS) and participated in pre-service programmes (PSP) as part of the Teach For Malaysia (TFM) Fellowship. These rigorous programmes provided him with the essential knowledge, teaching skills, and leadership insights required for his role as a change agent in the Malaysian education system.

We learned about pedagogy, teaching skills, and leadership skills, and we had to pass these components before starting our postings. – Syakir Hisham

During this preparatory phase, Syakir’s conviction in his decision to join the Fellowship deepened. He discovered a shared belief in the power of a growth mindset among the TFM team. It became evident that he was not just a part of an organisation but also a community that shared his commitment to making a positive impact on education and the lives of the students he served.

With the incredible culture practised at TFM, I feel that I am part of a movement actively working toward our shared mission—to provide quality education for all children in Malaysia. – Syakir Hisham

Life In Kuala Kangsar As A Teach For Malaysia Fellow

A year and three months into his Fellowship, Syakir and his family found themselves comfortably settled in the tranquil hills of Kuala Kangsar. The change of scenery, shifting from the hustle and bustle of the city to the serene environment of a small town was in fact, blissful. 

Now I see mountains instead of highways. There are playgrounds for my children here. It is more relaxed compared to Penang. – Syakir Hisham

It was in this idyllic setting that Syakir’s dedication to his students and the community continued to thrive. The Fellowship offers coaching conversations where Fellows engage with their Learning Development Officers (LDO) every month –  the guidance and mentorship have been a compass to Syakir. He also has support from other Fellows.

We engage in monthly coaching conversations where we establish goals and discuss the challenges we face. These discussions have been beneficial, as they help unearth your true potential. – Syakir Hisham

Today, he has taken on the challenge of co-teaching Mathematics in the primary school where he is based. Many of his students have low numeracy skills and hidden social problems.

A lot of my students have literacy and numeracy problems. Most can’t read or understand numbers and equations and I found that quite a few of them come from broken families. – Syakir Hisham

Recognising that Mathematics could be intimidating, Syakir collaborated with his Host Teacher (Guru Hos*) to make Mathematics fun, attainable and practical. Syakir designed ‘Max Math’, a series of bite-sized lessons with step-by-step instructions on how to improve from one level to another. He aims to transform Mathematics into an engaging and enjoyable playground for all his students to explore and conquer.

I believe that every child wants to learn, but we have to provide good and clear stepping stones for them to jump on. I will go down to each student’s level and give them worksheets suited for their specific level. – Syakir Hisham 

His journey as a changemaker in education has just begun. This former engineer has found a new purpose and passion in creating a better Malaysia through education. The leadership tools, mentorship, apprenticeship and opportunities he has garnered from the Fellowship have given him the fuel and support to drive positive change. 

Reflecting on his time, Syakir can confidently affirm that he has grown in more ways than he had ever imagined. 

TFM Fellowship has been and is a life-changing experience because it has impacted who I am, what I talk about, my priorities and my motivations. It has shifted my perspective of a career from being money-driven to purpose-driven. It has taught me that if you can inspire a person to do good, then that person will create a ripple effect of ‘goodness’ to those around them. – Syakir Hisham

*Guru Hos – experienced teachers who are paired with Fellows

Join a movement for systemic change. Your Impact Career starts here: The Teach For Malaysia Fellowship is the foundation and starting point for your impact career towards future leadership roles and social impact opportunities. Embark on a transformative journey of leadership development and personal growth.

Through comprehensive training, coaching, and mentoring, you’ll equip yourself with essential skills while gaining a deep understanding of education inequity and community needs. Collaborate with experienced educators to create systemic change at the school level, and become part of a global Alumni network of over 90,000 leaders, fostering ongoing support, learning exchanges, and impactful collaborations. Alongside like-minded individuals, you’ll work towards a shared purpose, and through externship opportunities and community engagement, you’ll build connections and advocate for meaningful change in education.

Don’t miss this chance to be an education changemaker! To apply for the TFM fellowship, submit your application ( by 18 October 2023.

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