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:
René 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.
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.
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! ;)