Monday, February 12, 2007

Descartes Education Counselling Centre

It was a little more than a year ago in December, when I first mooted the idea on this blog of setting up a "non-profit organisation for education in Malaysia". I've always toyed with the idea of setting up such an entity, a non-profit organisation relating to education for Malaysians to help "ease" some issues such as helping students in the aplication process to the top universities overseas, providing guidance on degrees to pursue as well as career or employment advisory services.

Well, now that I've disposed of my stake in the company which I formerly owned and founded, the project is finally getting off the ground. I'm setting up a non-profit entity, named (subject to approval from the authorities) Descartes Education Counselling Centre and it should be up and running come March (this year!).

For those who are not familiar with the name 'Descartes' (pronounced 'day-Kart'), he's often regarded as the father of modern philosophy. As described in the Wikipedia:
RenĂ© Descartes (March 31, 1596 – February 11, 1650), also known as Renatus Cartesius (latinized form), was a highly influential French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer. Dubbed the "Founder of Modern Philosophy" and the "Father of Modern Mathematics", much of subsequent western philosophy is a reaction to his writings, which have been closely studied from his time down to the present day. His influence in mathematics is also apparent, the Cartesian coordinate system used in plane geometry and algebra being named after him, and he was one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution.
You might be interested to know that he was the man behind the maxim "cogito, ergo sum" or loosely translated at "I think, therefore I am (or I exist)". And his philosophy was key behind the Hollywood reincarnation of The Matrix. (Yes, philosophy can be that exciting! ;))

OK, before I get too turned on and carried away by the philosophical discussion of The Matrix, let's get back to the counselling centre.

Although I see the potentials of this non-profit organisation as immense, the immediate objectives of the centre will be fairly modest. And really, how the centre grows and how many people the organisation can assist, will really depend on how much help we can get.

One of the immediate activities which I hope to organise will be to hold plenty of talks, or better described as "information sharing sessions". There'll actually be an auditorium which fits about 100 people within the premises located at Damansara Utama (the place is currently under renovation).

Examples of talks which we will be actively holding will include:
  • Talks by alumnis of some of the top global universities in UK, US, Australia etc. These Malaysians will help by sharing their experience in those universities, their application process as well as anything else which prospective students would like to find out.

  • Talks on generic topics such as entrance examinations (e.g., SAT) or essay writing techniques by successful candidates to these universities.

  • Talks on picking the right subject choices from students themselves who have taken these subjects. This is also to eliminate the perception that the only courses worth pursuing are medicine, law or accountancy ;)

  • Talks on scholarships, applications process and other related issues.

  • Talks about maximising opportunities with regards to getting employed, such as interview and resume writing skills.
There are already in existence some of these talks by colleges and counselling centres. However, these talks are often not impartial as these colleges will want you to enrol into their programmes, while the for-profit education counselling centres today collects referral fees from the colleges for 'successful' applicants. (And we know that the top schools do not collect referral fees.)

I feel that it is important to have a non-profit, impartial and independent counselling centre so as to provide the most balanced of views to the prospective student. That way, he or she can make the right choices for him or herself, based on their personal academic strength and abilities.

Moreover, I envision that the experiences shared by current and former students of the relevant universities will be way richer than the "advice" provided by "employed" counsellors, who may have the tendency to make sales pitches.

Secondly, I hope to gather enough materials to create a useful resource centre for top universities overseas. Materials such as prospectuses are often lacking, and it is my hope prospective students will be able to browse all the relevant information in the small library which I'm setting up. Of course, I will require a little effort from all of you studying overseas today to acquire the latest collateral and send them to me to stock up the library.

Finally, I'm more than happy to have the Centre act as a sort of secretariat office for any student or education-related organisation to carry out their meetings and activities. Those who are funded can help defray some of the Centre's operating cost (we are non-profit after all), while for other volunteer organisations, we can always work something out. ;) It's also an office (when we can afford to get staff) which can help co-ordinate activities such as last year's very successful "Experiences '06" event.

Now, getting back down to earth, it's back to the earlier point on how much we can achieve in helping Malaysian students will really depend on how much help we can get. I will certainly not be able to do all of the above alone. Hence, I'm now calling for volunteers who have benefited from top notch education overseas to help more Malaysians enjoy the same experience. How much time one wants to contribute is really up to the individual, but any amount of contribution is highly valued. I believe strongly that every little bit counts. Here are some of the areas (the list isn't exhaustive) which contributions are welcome:
  • Alumni of top universities sharing their tertiary education experience (current students are more than welcome to chat with prospective students while on summer vacations)

  • Subject matter 'experts', providing guidance on the subject detail as well as career options (Why should one study "History", for example)

  • Professional leaders providing guidance on industry domain knowledge (What's a career in Oil & Gas Trading all about?)

  • A pool of advisors who I can turn to, in the event information is required by a student, of which answers I do not yet possess. (For example, if someone asks about the Fulbright Scholarship, who can I write to or call to obtain more information?)

  • Students overseas who can help secure university information collaterals, such as prospectuses and application forms.

  • And most importantly, those who really believe in the cause and would like to dedicate a bit more time helping out to run the centre, organising activities, creating new ideas etc.

  • Of course, sponsors to help keep the Centre up and running will be more than welcome too. I'm obviously footing the start up cost of the centre myself, but any help with keep up with the operating costs will certainly be warmly appreciated.
For those interested in helping out, for those who care, and for those who wants more information, please do not hesitate to contact me with your details and what you'd like to contribute at tonypua@yahoo.com. I believe that a little bit of contribution from everyone will certainly have a very large impact on the future of bright young Malaysians.

The Centre will be located at 55A, Jalan SS21/1A, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. It's along the same row as Kedai Telekom, facing the residential houses.

I look forward eagerly to hearing from you guys! ;)

19 comments:

Liz Wong said...

Great job!

Anonymous said...

Congrats Tony :D

And does your academy centre cater to postgraduate
studies enquiries as well ?

just curious..

Anonymous said...

That'a a great idea considering that I myself am heavily involved in a few student forums and websites which compile such information. However, I think that the location is not easily accesible by students without their own transports. Just my two cents...

Andrew said...

Very cool!

One thing:

# Students overseas who can help secure university information collaterals, such as prospectuses and application forms.

These can be easily obtained online, especially from American universities. A lot of them send them to you for free. All you have to do is fill up an online form.

I think you have to pay for postage from British universities, though.

Open minded said...

Dear Tony,
I applaud your (team) effort in setting up the centre. I agree that this centre should be independent and impartial. There are certainly many people especially the local faculty members willingly contribute to this noble cause.

However, i must caution here that possibly the currently local uni lecturers may shy away from your centre if the perception is that such centre is affiliated to opposition political party. Hey, they just wanna play safe after signing the AUKU or Akujanji letter. No one want to compromise their career.

As much i would like seeing you being actively involved in politics, i believe certain of your effort (such as setting up and running this centre) should be free from political agenda.

Anonymous said...

everyone also want to go to top uni, but only a handful make it through. let's also do something to guide aspiring students in their quest for knowledge.
i wanna help, but if this centre only want graduates fro top uni...i will be excluded. :(

manhon said...

Tony, you have my contact details and I have yours. I will be in touch with you on this project.

Brian said...

Hey Tony,
Great work. I just sent you an email. Hope to hear more about your plans.

Black Mojo said...

I would not mind contributing my subject specialization, a view which often the private colleges try to hide.

koln_auhc said...

Maybe someone has already told you about this.They are having the US education fair in July.

Visit http://www.discoveruseducation.org/

chenchow said...

Tony, great job in setting it up~! It sounds like a fantastic idea! It would definitely be a great way to help consolidate various non-profit and voluntary efforts by various groups in Malaysia to help push the human capital development of Malaysia!

The Discover U.S. Education - KL '07 that koln_auhc mentioned is a successor of Experiences 2006 Kuala Lumpur. It is run by the same group of people who runs Experiences 2006 Kuala Lumpur.

Tony, I would be more than happy to help out in any aspect of Descartes Education Counselling Centre!

Tiara said...

Will there be any effort in making sure that the students pick the places that are the best fit for them, and not just choose places based on names or rankings?

jerng said...

Ahem... someone's news is all over the malaysiakini. Lol.

Great job with the non-profit org. Too bad I just gave away about 120 philosophy and social science books that I shipped home from the US. (Turns out bookstores here are much better than they were 5 years ago.)

Here are the free resources you can tap me for:

- Tutorials in philosophy. (Mind, logic, meta-philosophy, anything really...)

- Tutorials on applying to US liberal arts colleges. (What's it like there? How are academic courses structured in the US?)

- Tutorials on the concept of 'liberal arts', and 'liberal education'.

My number is 016 235 2931. I'll try to help when I can. Just let me know when you need it.

Anonymous said...

Tony I did write to you twice. I was a professor in Malaysia until December last year. I left I huff. Education and Malaysia are close to my heart. I have invested a lot of time and passion . Took initiative and uncountable thankless tasks driving thinking skills in the MBA in KL for a public university.

I was full time with good rapport and evaluations form senior executives. I brought in the best global educational trends in Asia as well as business leaders such as Tony Fernandes who before his IPO , guests the ICT in the west . No recognition, nor even just taking up the opportunities . Simply because of incompetence in being able to evaluate by the superiors and colleagues. A lot of opportunities were wasted.

The reason I left, no salary increments, nor support for research, publications, in fact I wasn’t aprpoveed for prestigious research agenda setting by international agencies by the university for some flimsy excuse. Yet certain “others” could for weaker reasons and scholastic endeavor. Finally I had to go on my own expense, overseas funding and time. The result was I promoted Malaysia and the university. At my own and international expense . I have published internationally) and no consistent teaching evaluations of colleagues. In fact not even administered. I am now in the US now. Did you u receive my e-mails?

My PhD is learning sciences . I was trained I the both the UK and Us . In the US on competitive scholarships from US universities. We were colleagues once in the MNC that you worked.




I was full time with good rapport and evaluations from senior executives whom I led . I brought in the best global educational trends in Asia as well as business leaders such as Tony Fernandes before his IPO , guests from the ICT cutting edge in the west . No recognition, nor even just taking up the opportunities . Simply because of incompetence in being able to evaluate by the superiors and colleagues. A lot of opportunities were wasted.

The reason I left, no salary increments, nor support for research, publications, in fact I wasn’t aprpoveed for prestigious research agenda setting by international agencies by the university for some flimsy excuse. No leave. Yet certain “others” could for weaker reasons and dubious scholastic endeavor.

Finally I had to go on my own expense, overseas funding and time. The result was I promoted Malaysia and the university. At my own and international expense . I have published internationally) and no consistent teaching evaluations of colleagues. In fact not even administered. I am now in the US now. Did you u receive my e-mails?

My PhD is learning sciences . I was trained I the both the UK and Us . In the US on competitive scholarships from US universities. We were colleagues once in the MNC that you worked. I believe I oriented you.


Links:
http://ict.satw.ch/SPIP/article.php3?id_article=44

http://www.springerlink.com/content/7866308447l01431/

Anonymous said...

From an Eastern perspecive , I would point out that 'Descarte had 'the cart before the horse'. Instead of "I think therefore I am" it should be "I am therefore I think".

Maharishi Yogi, The Buddha, Lao Tzu and the vedic sages of ancient India , St Trancis of Assisi, St Theresea of Avila, St Jospeh of Cupretino amongst 'westerners' all would proclaim this.

Deeper wisdom and Self realisation are beyond thinking. It is the divine Self of pure consciousness. It is transcendental and the basis of great creativity and insight for both sciene and art. The basis of 'unity in diversity' shorthanded as 'university'.

I'm the same guy in the preceding posting above. I'm not typist, forgive my typos, and its snow bound cold here in the midwestern US.

Congtrats on your new political role.

Anonymous said...

sorry for repeated pragraphs,above edit/delete if yu can. links are active. am in a hurry

Anonymous said...

UTAR and MCA - now this and DAP?

~

Anonymous said...

While certaintly there is a use for such advisory/counselling. The elitist tendency of this will be discomforting to many. My advise to try and mitigate this idea to larger audience.

20-25%% of non-bumiputra students now drop out without their 'o' level. Many more pursue diplomas/degrees and such without getting the skills and knowledge they really want which actually is preceeded by many more that don't know what they want or rather are narrowly focussed on a meal-ticket or some sort of ticket out of their marginalized predicament...

Tiara said...

The Anon before me is on the right track. We must be careful not to shove everyone into some sort of "top uni" label without finding out if that even suits them in the first place.