Hello everyone, here is a quick (and unedited) series of updates. This post might come across as rather stream-of-consciousness-like, but my thinking is that it is better to put this up in an unpolished form than to be so fussy about my writing that the post never comes to be (because it gets snowed under by other priorities). This is a blog, after all.
One of my main to-dos this year is to sit for SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia), the general secondary school leaving certificate in Malaysia.
Although I sort of now have a PhD–hold up, oh yes I passed my PhD viva, and since there were no corrections required, that means I have fulfilled all requirements for the degree, hooray! Now all there for me to do to actually be awarded the PhD is to say some Latin words while holding a stranger’s finger in the presence of An Important Person (I am referring to Cambridge’s archaic graduation ceremony). No idea when that’ll happen, for obvious reasons. But anyway, suffice to say I am very grateful. My thesis has been deposited at the university library and will eventually be open access, after an initial embargo period of one year.
Okay where was I? Ah yes — I do not have an SPM qualification because I did my secondary and pre-university education in Singapore (ages and ages ago now); this hadn’t been an issue for most of my career as I had been working in the private sector, but now that I am applying to be a member of Faculty at a public university, I need to get the qualification, especially in Bahasa Melayu (BM).
Unfortunately the equivalent BM qualification in Singapore (‘O’ Levels) isn’t recognised by the Public Service Commission, despite it also being benchmarked to Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. This is a long-standing requirement set for Malaysian applicants (a fun joke: the fastest way for me to qualify to work for the university is to renounce my citizenship, hence categorising myself as an ‘international applicant’ who also happens to conveniently be fluent in Malay.) I have known about this requirement all this while by the way, so I am entirely to blame for putting it off until now.
Anyway I am enrolled for the 2021 SPM sitting, which due to COVID is taking place in Feb/March this year. As we aren’t allowed to register for individual subjects, I have had to apply for at least 5, some of which are compulsory. And so I thought to take it a step further and register for subjects that (a) interest me, (b) I think I can manage in the short preparation time that I have, and (c) will be taught by the students I am currently teaching/training at U.M. I will be sitting for BM, English, English Literature, Sejarah (History) and Moral.
It’s quite nice to be systematically learning a language again actually, even if it is a language I already use almost daily. There might be an autoethnography about language learning in there!
In the meantime however it has still been possible for me to work part-time at the Faculty of Education at Universiti Malaya, where I plan to apply for a full-time position as soon as I can. Starting July last year, I started out as a practicum supervisor for undergraduates (a role that involves supporting and evaluating undergraduates posted for a few months at local secondary schools), and from October I have been a research methods lecturer for undergraduates. It’s been a lot of hard work designing the course and its assessments, and being ready to give my best every week for the students, but I have really enjoyed it. It is thrilling to have skin in the game and to begin working on the very thing I am so passionate about: the democratisation of educational research for all teachers, to train and empower them to be equal partners in the research eco-system, within which they leverage their inherent epistemic advantage as practitioners.
My spiel: educational research is a wide and variegated practice that requires participants who work on a specialised and more committed basis (academics like myself) but this does not mean that teachers cannot play an active and indispensable role in it, especially if we’re talking about educational research that is closely connected to practice and improves education (which to me is the eventual raison d’etre of the whole endeavour) — see, for example, Geert Biesta (2020). So to me at least, that’s why a research component is considered part and parcel of teacher training, at least the undergraduate level. And that’s where I want to work.
I really do find that I am happier and at my best when doing teachery things, building learning communities and passing on ideas and skills that I’ve had the benefit of learning over the years. As the saying goes, ‘Kemenyan sebesar lutut, jika tidak dibakar manakan berbau?
Faded signboard or not, at least ada free parking beb.
In addition to preparing for SPM and lecturing at Universiti Malaya, I’ve also had another part-time consulting + teaching job (will write about it next time if I can) and have been trying to keep my academic life going, like a do-it-yourself postdoc assembled out of scrap Lego. Writing and (sometimes) submitting abstracts, manuscripts, giving occasional talks, organising discussion groups, trying to keep up with the literature. All unpaid, such is the sad reality of doing this kind of work when you’re an academic orphan. But I am grateful for enough paid roles to keep the lights on until my SPM results are out and the castle lowers its drawbridge. Wish me luck!
I had the good fortune to present at UNMC School of Education’s Alternative Research Lounge lately. A really stimulating and diverse community they have there, led by a really sharp team of academics.