1 September 2021

Why All Teachers Should Consider A Postgraduate Degree

By Hugh Leong

In the summer of 2006, I remembered myself as a young man, eager to begin my first step in higher education. I wanted to be the best English teacher that I could ever be so I enrolled in the Faculty of Education at University Malaya and had the privilege to study under world-renowned professors like Prof. Moses Samuel, Prof. Saratha Sithamparan and the late Prof. Hyacinth Gaudart.

Throughout my four years as an undergraduate student, I enjoyed every part of class, learning a myriad of subjects from classroom pedagogy to Shakespearean literature. One would think that graduating from one of the best education schools in Malaysia, one would have the skills required to teach for a lifetime.

The COVID-19 came.

Upon reflection on the severity and sheer disruption that COVID-19 has brought upon our students at all levels of education, I began to question whether my undergraduate education taken at the start of the new millennium would be adequate to meet the needs of the 21st century had I not gone on to complete a masters and pursue a PhD.

The truth of the matter is that a third of Malaysia’s teachers are over the age of 40, and attended university well before the prevalence of online platforms, educational apps or even Facebook. The teacher training that many underwent heavily focused on classroom management, engagement and pedagogy within a physical setting.

While I applaud the Ministry of Education’s current efforts in providing digital upskilling training programs and short courses to teachers to improve our in-service teachers’ ability to teach online, these quick fixes do not fully address the elephant in the room. That is, that many teachers were never adequately trained to teach in a digital classroom setting in the first place. This of course is no fault of the teachers, nor the universities, but simply that we as a global community never anticipated a global pandemic of such scale.

The pandemic has forcibly accelerated our need to shift to a digital learning world. In creating future-ready learners, we need to ensure that a generation will not lose their access to quality education.

At Swinburne, we have responded by ensuring that our 2-year Master of Arts ( TESOL) programme has fully embedded online teaching pedagogies and best practices for online student engagement. The program is structured and tailored to 21st-century education by teaching different essential skills in the English language classroom while adding on must-know techniques on leadership as well as curriculum development and effective online engagement.

Teachers play a significant role in supporting the recovery process. As teachers, we should embrace digital education, be adaptable, resilient and open to growth opportunities. By committing to continuous professional development we are making a conscious effort to teach better so that our students learn better.

With the lockdown, many of us have discovered newfound talents in baking or have tested the limits of our patience in making Dalgona coffee. Perhaps it may also be time to make a self-investment and consider a postgraduate education so that we may learn now, to teach better tomorrow.

Hugh Leong is the Acting Deputy Head of School & Course Director, MA TESOL, School of Design & Arts at Swinburne Sarawak. He can be reached at hjleong@swinburne.edu.my For scholarship and fee waiver opportunities at Swinburne Sarawak, log on to www.swinburne.edu.my