CEO Perspective

MESSAGE FROM CEO OF DIKA

2018 CEO’s message

by admin | Jan 22, 2018 | CEO Message, Latest CEO Message

“We always thrive to be competitive by embracing the ever-evolving early childhood sector and taking strategic steps to be industry relevant. As we bid farewell to an extraordinary year, we look forward to a new year of exploring new frontiers.”

Dear Students, Colleagues, Alumni, Partners and Friends,

Happy New Year everyone! I trust that you celebrated the arrival of the New Year in good spirits with your family and friends. Although we are few days into the New Year, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on 2017. First of all, I want to say that each and every one of you has been a game-changer in contributing to the renewed vision of Dika College, which we established last year as “To be leaders in nurturing socially and environmentally conscious individuals to actively create and contribute to high impact economies.

#Throwback 2017

2017 was a year defined by growth and innovation at Dika. While we are an established institution in Malaysia known for its comprehensive early childhood education and special education diploma programmes, we were focused on providing more opportunities to students interested in the ECE sector while exploring options to expand their reach.

We forged new and important partnerships to offer diverse academic programmes, which are industry relevant and keeping to the demands of the global market. This year, we will continue this effort by forming new partnerships to offer internationally-recognized programmes. Our focus is still aimed at providing a pathway for our students to obtain the exposure they need to fare in the competitive global market.

#Trine #NZTC

Last year, we partnered with Trine University in the US to offer a 3+1 bachelor’s degree programme in Elementary Education and Special (Mild) Intervention, including an internship opportunity in the US. This year, in May, we expected to launch our pioneer 3+0 degree programme, Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Education) with the renowned New Zealand Tertiary College (NZTC).

#UBIS

In addition, we partnered with the University of Business and International Studies (UBIS) in Switzerland to offer their Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA) at Dika. These degrees were introduced to offer top-up opportunities for graduates of the Diploma in Early Childhood Education, Special Education (Early Years) or the Executive Diploma in Early Childhood Education to gain their degree.

#DBM

Further, Dika now offers a Diploma in Business Management in recognition that business skills are required in every industry and that a business qualification will open doors to a wide range of job opportunities. I am also a strong believer that the mind has every ability and power to make our goals come true.

#Revolutionary Therapy

In our pursuit to continuously best equip our students with state-of-the-art knowledge and skills, we are offering the Revolutionary Therapy programme. The Revolutionary Therapy programme is run in collaboration with Inspired Life Coaching & Therapy Services. We expect to offer more short programmes to equip our students with relevant skills.

#YWCA-VTOC

In celebrating our efforts towards women empowerment, we applaud the achievements of the 33 young women who received their diplomas at the 19th graduation ceremony at the Young Women’s Christian Association – Vocational Training Opportunity Centre (YWCA – VTOC) recently. We look forward to our continued commitment to providing vocational opportunities to aspiring ECE educators not only in West Malaysia but also in East Malaysia through our strategic partnership with YWCA Malaysia.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone of you for your significant support and dedication in 2017. The new year promises to be yet another interesting year but it will certainly be a challenging one. However, I am certain by working together and being focused on the creating an impact in the education sector, we will realise our ambitions and dreams in setting new benchmarks in the industry. It has been truly gratifying to have you part of the Dika team. Keep up the good work!

Have a Great 2018!

CEO’s PERSPECTIVE

Chee Ling Pua
CEO

Shaping and Raising the Standards of Future Early Childhood Education

 

Chee Ling Pua, the CEO of Dika College has a great vision for the early childhood and special education field in Malaysia. At the helm of one of the thriving early childhood education (ECE) institutions in the country, she is focused on shaping and raising the standards of future early childhood educators.

The key strategy towards that aim has been the focus of Dika College since the beginning. It is committed to engaging highly qualified lecturers and providing industry relevant academic programmes. “It is very important to me that we prepare our students to do well in the industry. We facilitate this outcome through our Diploma and Degree programmes.”

The comprehensive academic programmes with its emphasis on practical placement that is offered at Dika College is one of strategies of its success. Its curriculum is specially designed to emphasise on the professional development of the students. Also, their academic programmes are constantly reviewed to ensure its relevance to its industry. This is achieved by being in touch with the primary industry players to acquire practical feedback.

A majority of these industry players are select kindergartens where Dika students get their practical training. Here, students not only are kept abreast with the current practices in early childhood education, they also get the opportunity to experience teaching young children with the integrated modules learnt at Dika College.
Dika College’s other competitive edge is its academic staff. One of the distinct qualities of the pro-grammes offered at this college is in the way it is delivered. This is owed to the adept lecturers who don’t only instill knowledge but also set the bar high by challenging their students.

“Our lecturers are also very passionate about what they are teaching. They are constantly engaging with each other to ensure what they teach are current. The criteria to become a Dika lecturer are expectedly high. They must have at least five years of working experience. Lecturers are also predominantly Masters and Bachelors degrees holders. Mo st of the lecturers at Dika College are also invested in the development of early childhood education in Malaysia.

As much as Dika College leverages on the talent pool in the local front, it appreciates the expertise offered by more matured industries internationally. This is the reason Dika forged partnerships with four international institutions in New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore in order to give their students the exposure they need to fare in the competitive international market. Through its degree programme, students are given the option to study with an international partner in order to gain knowledge and experience of teaching trends at the international level.

“I have been seeking to collaborate with an international partner to offer a 3 + 0 programme at Dika to provide students with a professional education with international exposure in Malaysia.”

“As it turns out, this will be happening soon as Dika College will be introducing a 3 + 0 degree in ECE programme partnering with NZTC. The course content and assessment will be set by NZTC. Diploma graduates from Dika College are exempted for Year 1 and will proceed to Year 2 of the 3 + 0 degree pro-gramme. “
“This is a first for NZTC, to be partnering with a Malaysian institution in ECE. Dika has the biggest cohort in ECE of 320 active students, which is a good arrangement for NZTC. We are looking at a cohort of 25 students for the first intake.”

Another academic programme that is in the pipeline is the Diploma in Business programme. It is meant to complement the primary programmes offered. Students can pick it up as an elective to enhance their knowledge in setting a business in ECE. Moving forward, Dika is also looking to offer degree programmes in business, Special Education as well as Masters in ECE.

There is a great deal of opportunity and room for growth for Dika College. In three years, Dika College aspires to be located in full-facility campus where its focus will remain on the positive growth of student performance and diverse academic programmes.

According to Pua, there is more that can be done for ECE. Parents and the community at large should be driving the industry. They are the one with control. If you compare ECE in on the international front, high standards are set for educators in ECE. In countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand, to be an educator in ECE is a coveted position. “The whole paradigm needs to shift and then only we will see the industry transform here. If the society doesn’t see it, it will be a challenge.”

However, there have been a lot of positive changes in the ECE industry in Malaysia, which shows it is moving in the right direction. The National Educational Blueprint acknowledges and emphasises the importance of ECE. The Government has enforced for Diploma in Early Childhood be the minimum requirement for teachers in kindergarten. In fact they also intend to move up the enrolment of students from 6 years to 4 years old.

With the advent changes and awareness of early education, Dika College has set a benchmark in the Early Childhood Education field. It is focused on continuously innovating to best prepare students for the real world and train early childhood educators with the knowledge, expertise and attitude to meet the changing dynamics of educating young children.

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Moving ECE away from academic learning

Pua Chee Ling and Sean Dolan share their views about how a holistic approach is pertinent to facilitate the whole development of a child.

While parents in the 70s and 80s considered early childhood education (ECE) irrelevant in Malaysia, today, it is a vastly different story. Present-day parents are now more aware about topics like children’s developmental theories and stages. They have become increasingly involved in their child’s early development and want to see to it that their child hit the necessary milestones. All this has led to greater emphasis on ECE in Malaysia. While it is a positive development for the country, there is concern over parents’ expectations of their children. “It is common to have parents voice their dissatisfaction if the teacher hasn’t ensured that their child can recite the ABCs within the first month of starting kindergarten,” shares Pua Chee Ling, the Chief Executive of Dika College, one of the pioneering education institutions that offer early childhood education and special needs diploma and degree courses in Malaysia.

 

For so long, society has perceived education as a development of academic learning where the end game is good grades. It still does. Even if there are non-academic subjects in the curriculum, scoring straight As trumps everything else in the eyes of parents, educators and certain employers. Now, it appears that this system is encroaching into pre-school. But is it beneficial to a child’s development? More so, is it advised for a child below the age of 5? If we need an idea, just consider the results of our academic-inclined education system based on the calibre of Malaysian graduates today. Based on a 2017 report from Bank Negara, 78% of multinational companies stated that it would not hire Malaysian graduates for six reasons: lack of confidence and self-esteem, communication skills, leadership traits (they are good followers but not leaders), problem-solving skills, creative and critical thinking skills.

 

Child-centred curriculum

 

According to Chee Ling, parents need to stop dictating what their children should know at a given age. “The child should take the centre role in their own education and learning and not be concerned about meeting their parents’ expectations.” This is one of the key elements of the play-based approach where a teacher essentially plans individual lessons based on their observations of the particular child. “It’s a non-prescriptive curriculum so it doesn’t demand that the child must be able to do a set of things by this time or age. It’s a holistic approach that aims to facilitate the whole development of a child. So, essentially we’re saying to the child, the curriculum has to match you and not the other way around, which is normally the case,” shares Sean Dolan, the Academic Dean of New Zealand Tertiary College (NZTC).

 

This shared philosophy of ‘child-centred early education’ is what brought Dika College and NZTC together. Dika recently partnered with NZTC, New Zealand’s foremost private early childhood education institution, to offer its 3+0 Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Education) programme in Malaysia. The aim is to raise the calibre of ECE teachers in Malaysia. Through this partnership, Chee Ling says she also hopes to be able to learn more from New Zealand’s advanced early childhood education sector. “New Zealand is world-famous for ECE and has a lot to offer Malaysia in terms of knowledge and experience. Their established ECE sector is a great model of what we aspire to manifest in Malaysia,” shares Chee Ling.

 

For this to happen however, it is imperative for parents and stakeholders like early childhood centre operators and policymakers to realise the importance of ECE. Essentially, ECE is about the holistic development of the child. It concerns their social, physical, psychological, mental and spiritual development. Through ECE, children are taught and trained in decision-making and how to work in teams. They are encouraged to develop their imagination, creativity and leadership. And these are the very qualities that employers are seeking in prospective employees. “In fact, according to the United Nations, every dollar you invest on one child on ECE, the country saves seven dollars later on things like savings on welfare,” shares Dolan.

 

Embracing a child’s individuality

 

There is also an urgent need to shift from a structured curriculum that doesn’t embrace a child’s individuality. “Every child is different, they have unique interests, learning curve and background. A curriculum needs to be inclusive to consider these factors and accommodate the child,” says Chee Ling. This will not only require a teacher to view the child as an individual but to find ways to nurture the child as she is, help her develop holistically and grow confidence. And this is the goal of the play-based approach.

 

In a play-based curriculum, a teacher has a strong presence in the child’s development. “So, the teacher works with the child primarily to identify interests. It could be that the child is interested in cars. So, the teacher then develops a curriculum around his interests and builds in learning into those play-based activities as well. So this makes the child motivated. And because he is motivated in whatever it is he is doing, he is learning. And it’s because you’re not taking play away from the child,” shares Dolan.

 

Socio-cultural approach

When it comes to education especially early years, parents play a crucial role. “It’s a big part of the curriculum to partner with the parents. It informs the teacher on how to plan for the child’s curriculum. Especially in a multicultural society like in New Zealand and Malaysia, a teacher can’t know all the parents know about the child and what they do with the child at home. Every family is quite different depending on the culture that the child is brought up in. So partnership with parents is crucial, it’s important to learn as much from the parents to plan the ideal curriculum for the child that will encourage their holistic development.”

 

Dolan cites an example of a child in West Auckland, which has a strong Pacific Island community. One of the children called Hunter who was around 2 or 3 years old would just bang on everything he could get his hands on. “With the socio-cultural approach, the teacher recognised the importance of parents. She spoke to the parents and found out that drumming is a big thing in their culture and the father is actually the lead drummer of his community. After knowing all that, she could then plan for that child’s learning a lot better like promote his sense of leadership. If she didn’t have the conversation with the parents and weren’t interested in the unique contribution of that child, more than likely she would have said: be quiet, stop drumming and would take away the things he was drumming. And the boy would never be able to realise his identity as a boy from the Pacific community.”

 

Seeing the child as an equal

 

The consideration of a child’s socio-cultural background is possible because each child is not only treated as an individual but as someone who is here to make a contribution to society. “It is also about considering the child with respect and care. I think the world is gradually becoming more considerate of children’s rights. We’re starting to see children as people rather than little people training to be people.  This automatically shifts how we think about ECE as well. When we start thinking of children as having their own rights, we stop trivialising them. We understand that they should be allowed to be children and enjoy their years being children and allow them to play. And we start seeing that this is actually how children learn (through play). So, the worst thing you can do is to force the child to sit down and do what you want them to do,” states Dolan.

 

Dolan notes that it takes a lot of time for this shift to happen. Even in New Zealand, although a lot of people agreed about children’s rights, it took time to actually believe it and act on it. This is why he is enthusiastic about the “little” voice in Malaysia that is speaking up for children’s right to be children and not force-fed academic learning. But Chee Ling says there is more than this aspect to look into in Malaysia’s ECE sector. For now, she is focused on facilitating properly qualified ECE teachers through academic programmes at Dika College. Also, as a passionate advocate of ECE in Malaysia, she recently organised an inaugural symposium on ECE, bringing together parents, teachers and stakeholders to consider the holistic wellbeing of children.